Ben James Wood
Artist, maker, tour manager, driver, other.
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I write articles, memoir, project profiles and travel journals

TOURING: Matthew E. White, Autumn 2017

Moments before showtime...

I was dragged into a circle and forced to recite the pre-show ritual.

A group speech about spiritual unity, love and being the 'baddest' which in this context most likely meant the best. There was shouting and eye contact and mild expletives. In Reading, on the opening night, this was just about the only thing I hadn't prepared for and my frightfully British discomfort with the whole thing was radiant. 

By show eleven of twenty, I had my own solo part, "Bravery will be rewarded here". 

This initiation into the club, though awkward, was the perfect introduction to the work of Matthew E. White. Time, bravery and teamwork, in song-writing and business, have directly lead to his incredible successes. Multiple international record releases and world tours, a label/studio/house band/hit factory called Spacebomb that boasts some of the most exciting new artists in the world, brilliant collaborations (Including all the horn arrangements on one of my favourite Mountain Goats records, 'Transcendental Youth') not to mention a loyal, lavishly opinionated fanbase.

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This tour was especially daring. At 9:30pm, in many of the less frequented towns of Britain and Ireland, the lights went down and then immediately came back up. In front of the stage and off microphone Matt stood, holding a printed A4 form and explaining that he'll be performing entirely new material, accompanied only by guitarist Alan Parker and a drum machine. The form, that I then proceeded to hand out to each audience member with a box of biros, had a list of the song titles with rating tick boxes and space for comments. He'd made honest, human, audience connection and feedback part of the show.

The result was an interactive, sometimes raucous, often attentive, unique gig experience. There were a few nerve shatteringly difficult moments and loads of special characters whose stories became stage banter and hot topics all over the UK and Ireland. I'm genuinely itching to hear these tracks recorded on the next album and see what they do with the mountains of data that was collected.

Between excellent shows in places like Leamington Spa and Hebden Bridge, a mutual interest in history and culture lead us to interesting sites away from the motorways and city centres. It was an absolute pleasure to travel with these guys and our guests Andy Jenkins and Bedouine (Both up and coming artists on the Spacebomb label). It was also pleasantly eye opening to explore parts of the UK I've not travelled to in ten years or more and find new independent music venues and promoters who still like music.

Here are a few snapshots and stories from the trip. All pics were shot on 35mm film using my Onki 336, developed at Foto Eldra (Plac Ratajskiego 4, Poznan) and the negatives scanned at home on a Medion '2-in-1 Scanner für dias und negative'. I try to be respectful of people's privacy and often it's not appropriate to take pictures. That and I'm usually just doing my job, hence there are lots of gaps in the story. Trust that there was only occasionally a dull moment.