Category Archives: Gigs

Revere and Toumani Diabate tour diary – Manchester

I’ve lost count of what day we’re on with this tour, on account of spending three days at the NCRI Cancer Conference while the rest of the band – including my harp – went up to Edinburgh and Kendal without me.

I picked up the tour again in Manchester, playing in the Concert Hall at the Royal Northern College of Music:

In case we forgot

Here’s all our stuff, including the harp safely back from her solo adventures. Thanks to stand-in harpist Camilla Pay for looking after her and playing her beautifully, by all accounts:

Our stuff!

Toumani came on stage to join us for the end of our set – we did his song Be Mankan and an amazing acoustic cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. And he and Steve wrote a song together which they did as Toumani’s encore – here they are soundchecking:

Toumani and Steve soundchecking

We had a huge backstage room!

Backstage at RNCM

Here we are live on stage:

Revere live on stage at RNCM

The venue didn’t provide any food, but we managed to track down a phenomenally greasy pizza and some wine after the gig:

Post-gig nutrition - yummy, but not healthy

And then we headed back to Stephen’s parents’ place in Liverpool to stay the night and play with their little dog Penny:

More puppy love!

Next stop Southampton!

Revere and Toumani tour diary day 3 – Leeds

Our next destination was Leeds – city of goths and gorgeous Yorkshire accents.

The gig was in the Howard Assembly rooms – a smaller venue than the previous two nights. We were dogged by problems in our soundcheck, which made us feel very apprehensive about the gig. Toumani and his band also had a few problems with the sound, and ended up borrowing cellist Kath’s DI box.

Toumani soundchecking in Leeds

But then our nerves were forgotten when Stephen and Kath ended up in Toumani’s dressing room jamming with him! It was such a privilege to watch them playing together, and we’re now working on a very special mashup to play at our gig in Manchester on Wednesday. If you look carfeully in the pics below, you may be able to see that Stephen nearly wet his pants with excitement…

Jamming backstage with Toumani 3

Jamming backstage with Toumani 1

Despite the dodgy sound and our nerves, our gig went well – check out the relieved faces!

Revere backstage in Leeds

We snuck in through the Grand Theatre to watch the end of Toumani’s set:

Kath and Steve outside the Leeds Grand Theatre

Yet again, he and his band were incredible. Watch this space for a sneaky video of his encore, as soon as I’m somewhere with decent internet access!

Toumani in Leeds

After another night in a Travelodge (we went for the super-budget option of all sleeping in one room), Kath, Ellie and Stephen got in the van and headed to Edinburgh with my harp but without me. I trekked off to Liverpool to spend three days at the NCRI Cancer Conference with my work hat on, but felt absolutely gutted not to be going with them. Meh.

I’m blogging from the conference and producing audio and video coverage on behalf of Cancer Research UK and the NCRI.  Although it’s nowhere nearly as much fun as being on tour, our Science Update blog has been nominated for a Pfizer Excellence in Oncology award so I’m looking forward to the awards ceremony on Tuesday night. Fingers crossed!

NCRI banner

I'm now at the NCRI Cancer Conference. It's nowhere as cool as being on tour

Revere and Toumani tour diary Day 2 – Birmingham

After a cracking breakfast, courtesy of Steve’s mum, we headed back down the motorway to Birmingham, and an even bigger venue – the Town Hall.  We had a lovely backstage room, complete with goodie bags on the rider!

Birmingham rider!

I kept myself busy knitting a pair of stripey socks, made from some beautiful handpainted Misti Alpaca (the colour is called Reggaeton, for all you music fans out there!):

tour sock number 1

I was impressed by the technical wizardry in the Town Hall – the monitor mix engineer did everything with an iPad, which was brilliant, as he could just wander round stage and talk to us, rather than shouting across the stage. Here he is in action with Toumani Diabate and his band during their soundcheck:

Toumani soundchecking in Birmingham 2

It was a big gig for us – there were around 1,200 people in the audience, but we played really well and it was a fantastic venue. Here are our instruments on stage, waiting for us to bring them to life:

Our stuff onstage in Birmingham Town Hall

Afterwards, we headed off to our luxury accommodation (aka Travelodge) somewhere in the wilds of Derbyshire. next stop – Leeds!

Revere &Toumani tour diary – Day 1, Liverpool

The Revere tour, supporting Toumani Diabate around the UK, started on Thursday with me sitting for an hour on the stairs like an over-excited 5-year-old, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the rest of the band.

Once we’d unpacked and repacked the van in the pissing rain, we set off for Liverpool. The venue for our first gig, St George’s Hall, was more than a little imposing:

St Georges Hall, Liverpool

We escaped backstage to our huge dressing room to chill out/panic (delete as applicable):

Revere on tour

I snuck out to watch Toumani Diabate and his band soundchecking:

Toumani soundchecking - Liverpool

It was a fantastic venue to kick off our tour, with an amazing chandelier:

Shiny! The chandelier in St Georges Hall

Our gig went brilliantly well, especially considering it was the first time we’d performed our acoustic set. I was nervous as hell as I was doing the set from memory for the first time too, but the audience reception was wonderful. Kath and Ellie from the band were suitable relieved afterwards:

Ellie and Kath breathe a sigh of relief after our first gig

Booking agent Charlie and manager Chris were also pleased with our performance:

Booking agent Charlie looking imposing

Manager Chris, online as usual

We also got to hear Toumani’s set, and it was incredible. I love the sound of the kora, and his playing is superb.

Toumani on stage in Liverpool

Overall – a great start. We headed back to Steve’s parents’ house on the Wirral for a late-night snack and some puppy love:

Enjoying a midnight snack at Steve's parents' house

Doggy!! Kath and Penny the dog

Next stop, Birmingham!

I’m going on tour! With Revere, supporting Toumani Diabate


Toumani Diabate in action

It started innocently enough with a tweet from Stephen, lead singer with the brilliant acoustic pop/indie band Revere. Regular readers may remember that the Shadow Orchestra played with them at the Tabernacle almost exactly a year ago, and a jolly good time we had too.

He asked if I liked the famous Malian kora player Toumani Diabate – the kora is a rather bizarre harp-like instrument. I love Toumani, and his album In The Heart of The Moon with Ali Farka Toure is on heavy rotation on my CD player.

Next thing I know, I’m being invited to join Revere on tour around the UK, supporting Toumani! EeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeee!!

We’ve been rehearsing hard for several weeks and our set sounds fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to getting out on the road. We head off on Thursday (that’s tomorrow – argh):

  • 3rd November – St George’s Hall, Liverpool
  • 4th November – Birmingham Town Hall
  • 5th November – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds
  • 7th November – Usher Hall, Edinburgh (I’m not playing this one, I have to go to a conference for work)
  • 8th November – Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal (not doing this one either)
  • 9th November – Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester (I’m back for this one!)
  • 10th November – Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton
  • 11th November – Union Chapel, London (sold out)
  • 13th November -Brighton Corn Exchange

I’ll try and blog from the tour, so watch this space.

Get up offa that thing! Adventures in harp playing

Pedal harp players like me play sitting down, right? Always have done. It’s how we’re taught, and it’s how everyone does it. I don’t know why I’ve never questioned it until now, but I recently saw a blog post from Deborah Henson-Conant (described as the “Jimi Hendrix of the harp”) which showed several pedal harpists plaing standing up. It looked fucking cool.

For technical reasons it’s tricky to play complicated music standing up – pedal harps use pedals on both sides of the instrument to create sharps and flats, so if you need to make a lot of changes, you’d probably fall over. Then I realised that the Shadow Orchestra’s songs didn’t have much pedalling in at all, so after a quick practice at a rehearsal, I thought I’d try and play a whole gig standing up.

Kat standing up playing harp

First gig standing up - I can dance! (Pic by Ginny)

I found it incredibly liberating – I could dance and throw myself about, I got a lot more oopmh into the bass notes, and it felt like a real energy lift on stage.  Frankly, I felt like a rock guitarist! It also helps that I’m quite short, so I don’t have to bend over too much – the less said about the state of my back, the better…

I can’t wait for our next gig (14th November at the BarFly in Camden with Matthew Halsall and Yult), to have another go.

Shadow Orchestra back at the Queen of Hoxton – Soundcrash with Anchorsong and Elan Tamara

Soundcrash billingFor the second time in as many months, the Shadow Orchestra found ourselves back at the Queen of Hoxton – this time as guests of Soundcrash, playing with Anchorsong and Elan Tamara.

I’m really growing to love the place as a great venue for a gig (although the sound system was a bit badly-behaved compared to last time…) – it’s easy to get to, the stage isn’t teeny tiny, it’s a good size but feels intimate, and there’s a great green room to chill out and get changed in, unlike many venues in this fair city.

Despite a tricky soundcheck, we played a great gig to a fantastic crowd. It was my first gig standing up (more of that on the blog later this week), and I had a great time. Not so impressed about spending 30 minutes painstakingly putting my stage makeup on, only to sweat it off in about 30 seconds. It was as hot as Hades up on stage, and not much cooler in the audience.

Huge thanks to Rob and the Soundcrash team for pulling together a great night, and booking us, of course 🙂   I only heard Elan Tamara’s set distantly from backstage as I was getting ready, but it was great to meet such a nice and friendly band (and help them lug their equipment upstairs – any time, ladies!). They seem to be playing a lot around London, so I’m sure I’ll get the chance to hear them properly soon.

I was totally blown away by Anchorsong’s amazing set – meaty beats and dreamy harmonies, played by a guy hammering away on a keyboard and mpc, and backed up by live strings. Awesome. Can’t wait to see him at KOKO in November at the Soundcrash/Tru Thoughts night with Belleruche and a whole bunch of other great acts.

There are some fantastic pics of the night taken by Vent Photosgo and check out their Flickr set. This one is my favourite (luckily you can’t see how much I’m sweating…):

Shadow Orchestra @ Queen of Hoxton, London, 5th October 2011

Pic courtesy of - thanks Jon!

And here are a few rather less professional snaps from me:

Shadow Orchestra

New fairy lights! Flowers on the harp, pink lights for Mary's mic stand


Anchorsong in action

Backstage Queen of Hoxton

Dave and Mary chill out backstage