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James Igoe – History of OOTB

Posted 25/12/2008 By admin

Jim Igoe – History of OOTB

Edinburgh 1992; acoustic music meant folk music played in folk pubs, talented musicians were writing songs in their bedrooms hoping somehow to meet like-minded musicians to work with and local bands competed against each other in the ever-increasing number of pay-to-play venues.

USA 1992; Tom “TG” McEwan took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee: “All over the city were open stages dedicated purely to songwriters.  On my return to Edinburgh, I vowed to do the same”.  There is a saying: ‘from small acorns do great oak trees grow’.

Tom teamed up with Niall McDevitt via the Edinburgh Evening News and in March 93 started Workers in Song in the Gallery Bar (now The Wash) on the Mound.  The idea was simple, songwriters would sign-up on the night to do 15-minute sets and the only rule was “no cover versions”.  Niall left for Eastern Europe in July but Tom kept it going through the summer until the venue grew cool on the idea “some of the songwriters could get a little outrageous (volume, nudity, swearing – the usual stuff)” and Tom turned up one night to find the plug had been pulled. The Tron Tavern and Ceilidh House offered the Tuesday night slot and in early October 1993, Edinburgh Songwriters’ Showcase was born.

In 1994 a joint CD “Gallery” featuring nine of the artists was released on the Deadbeat label.  Tom got a job that kept him out of the country all too frequently and Woodstock Taylor took up the baton in late ’95, running it for almost two years. In this time a six-band CD “it’s a life sentence…” (featuring a fledgling ballboy) was released. Craze took it on until he started Koala Music, releasing albums from five of the regular songwriters. Polly Phillips took up the helm in 1998 and a CD was released in the summer of 1999.  “Writer’s Block” is a fairly definitive collection featuring 21 Tron regulars of that era.  The music night remained in the Tron until the end of 1999 when the new management decided an open mic night didn’t blend with the pub chain’s corporate image.

(Norman Lamont has also written about the ESS – This Next Song … )

A new home at the Cas Rock was found and housed the Edinburgh Songwriters Showcase for six months until that bar too was re-branded… as a salsa theme bar. The Waverley Bar hosted the night until its demise in October, apart from August when a brief truce with The Tron was called for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival.  In December 2000 a special night was organised at Edinburgh College of Art’s Wee Red Bar with five handpicked bands launching what was hoped to be a regular Tuesday night slot.  The night was a great success but the Wee Red Bar priced itself out of the running. So Edinburgh Songwriter’s Showcase died… That’s the bad news.

But, right now the Edinburgh open mic/acoustic scene is very healthy and run by people who are passionate about live music and, of course, they’re great places in which to meet interesting people and see and hear things you would never see or hear elsewhere.  And just maybe you’ll be at a concert at Murrayfield Stadium one day saying “I saw him/her when they were really good. There was this open mic night…”

James Igoe, March 2002

Point of information: I set up the WORKERS IN SONG night single-handedly all those years ago.
About a year into it, Tom began supplying the use of his PA system.
He had nothing to do with the founding of the event.
I’m glad to hear this has evolved into Edinburgh Songwriters’ Showcase.
You can’t beat a good idea.
Niall McDevitt

Posted by: Niall McDevitt | 20 Jun 2007 13:11:17

Apologies for omitting you from the story Niall. I remember your
introduction to my second appearance at The Gallery Bar when I turned
up with my leather jacket, electric guitar and distortion pedal. You
mentioned I’d lost my open mic virginity the week before and you were
right! 🙂

Posted by: James Igoe | 13 Nov 2008 22:07:03

What to Learn from Performance

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

If you want to play at OOTB:

Get to OOTB as early as you can and put your name on the blackboard. Once the compere has arrived, he or she will speak to people in the order their names appear on the blackboard, offering them a slot. After all the slots are full, the next two or three are in the queue for a ‘squashee’ slot: i.e. one song.

If you’ve played a full slot one week, you can’t do it again the following week: you can, however, get a squashee slot the following week if one is available.

If you don’t manage to get a spot – come back next week! Numbers fluctuate quite a lot and just because the roster was full by 7:15 this week doesn’t mean it’ll be the same next week. It’s easy to forget that we are on stage to entertain the audience, and we need to find a way to connect with them rather than just become immersed in ourselves. To entertain, you need to perform the music, not just play it. There are a million different styles of performance, and you need to find one that suits your own personality, and the type of music you play …. we’re not going to prescribe one ‘correct’ way of performing, but practice practice practice will help you find the style that suits you…

Nothing beats just playing live as much as possible…

Performing the songs you have spent hours/days/weeks slaving over in your bedroom can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of your life . . . and it can be hard to control the nerves in order to do the song real justice. An amazing song can be lost on an audience if a dodgy performance distracts from it (conversely, a distinctly average song can get a great reception if performed well). So how do we get around this? As we’ve said, being well practiced beforehand is incredibly important, but we all know that however many times we can perfom perfectly at home, being on a stage in front of a pub full of expectant punters is an entirely different matter! Now, I would like to be able to give you an easy answer about how to control one’s nerves, but there is nothing better than just practicing performing. Play the open mic circuit, and try and play in a mixture of places – the places where everyone listens intently to you (OOTB, the Listening Room), as well as the places where you have to work at it to get attention (the Blind Poet on Tuesday nights for example).

Things to practice while performing:

1. Eye Contact. Look at the audience – it’s easy to get distracted watching your hands on the guitar or looking at the floor – the audience are more likely to ‘connect’ with you if you look at them. Try looking at the back of the room above people’s heads instead of the floor, if you really can’t eye-ball anyone; it can give the impression you are looking at people even if you are not (sneaky!).

2. Talking between songs. Try and say something between songs, even if it’s just a wee ‘hello’, or an introduction to the song. Although you might say nothing because you’re nervous, it can come across to the audience as just a bit rude (even more so if it’s a gig they’ve paid to get into…). You’ve got to be pretty amazing, and have a particular brand of ethereal noise-scape music (see Sigur Ros) to really get away with saying nothing at all. Some music needs less talking than others, but speaking once or twice during the set won’t do any harm. On the flip-side, don’t go on too long explaining the deep meaning of the song to the audience, let them work some of it out for themselves, and you dont want to eat into your playing time, or even more importantly, the next person’s perfomance time! ditto with faffing – see below.

3. Not faffing. This can be tricky at open mics if the guy/girl before has been hammering the strings and knocked them all out of tune, or if the house capo has gone walk-about, or the strap’s not the right length for you, or you cant find your set list etc etc … but try to spend a minimum amount of time faffing before/between songs – no-one wants to see it, and people in an audience loose attention very quickly, and once you’ve lost them, it’s hard work getting them back!


Be wary of excessive alcohol consumption to control nerves – you might think you sound great, but the chances are, your ability to play has gone downhill a bit!!

After the performance:

Try and think about what you did well, so you can consolidate it next time; and what you didnt do well, so you can do it different next time. You could ask a friend in the audience – “did i look up much?”. Sometimes you feel like you’ve been making eye contact but in reality you have only peeked up once or twice. Ask if your friend could understand what you said in between songs. I, for one, just mumble at top speed when i’m nervous.

Wetherspoon Nights

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Wetherspoon Nights

(Bush/Mackay and a wee shout out to Bronte)

Out on the tiles in George Street, we will roll and fall in goo
You had a temper like my jealousy: Too drunk, too needy
How could you leave me when I needed to possess you?
I stalked you, I loved you too

Bad dreams in the night:
The doctor told me I was going to lose my sight
And leave behind my Wetherspoon, Wetherspoon, Wetherspoons nights

Cheap drink, whisky, Caffreys
And then home, It’s so cold
Let me in at your window

Ooh, it gets dark, it gets lonely, on the other side of me
I drink wine a lot, I like a shot of Glenmorangie
I’m going back, though, for cheap drink: Hoegaarden, my only master

Bad dreams in the night:
The doctor told me I was going to lose my sight
And leave behind my Wetherspoon, Wetherspoon, Wetherspoons nights

Ooh! Let me have it
Let me grab your Skol away

There goes my kidney

Take Advantage of the Monitors

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

What are monitors?

Monitors are wedge shaped speakers that sit in front of performers on the stage. The job of these speakers is to allow the performers to hear what they are performing. Therefore it is important that you know how to make use of the monitor(s)

Monitors are controlled at the sound desk by the engineer, but we need feedback from the performers to understand if they are ok or what adjustments to make. The simplest way to do this is to tell the engineer what needs to be altered. You may have heard performers asking “could the vocals be turned down” or someone asking for “more guitar in the monitor”.

Sound at Out of the Bedroom

At Out of the Bedroom, we do not have time to sound check each person, therefore we rely on experience to get approximate levels and then alter this as performers play. Again we need the performer to let us know about the monitor levels. Leave the front of house sound to whoever is on the sound desk.

Sound checks at gigs

During sound checks for gigs use the time to make sure that the monitors are correct for you (and your band). Don’t worry at this time about the sound front of house where the audience will be the sound engineer will make sure that the sound is balanced and level.

At a sound check, the sound engineer will go though each of the instruments and vocals at a time to get an approximate level and try to get the eq. rights. Once the engineer is happy with these approximations you will then play together so that the engineer can get the balance right with the monitors and then the front of house speakers. At this time make sure that you and your band are happy with the sound on the stage, if you (and your band) are happy on stage then the performance will be more enjoyable for you.


If you need the monitors levels changed, say what needs to be changed in between songs and the engineer will make changes accordingly.

Not every sound check will be the same the above “Sound checks at gigs” is an example of what some engineers would do.

If you are giving a time to turn up to do a sound check, make sure that you (and your band) turn before this and be prepared to start the sound check at this time.

Song and Set Selection

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Song and Set Selection

We’re not going to try and tell you how to write songs: there’re 1,000,001 ways to do that, and one of OOTB’s strengths is that it encourages all of them. Therefore, as far as song/set selection is concerned, the only rules we’ll ever impose are that you only play three songs (in 15 minutes), and that you don’t play any covers!

Similarly, we could give hints on how to at least be entertaining within your set, but one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and there can be wild range of opinion on what styles people at the Canons’ Gait are into. If you’re just starting out, bear these pointers in mind, but the main thing is you express yourself.

1) Try to vary the set as much as possible. Even when it’s good, no-one wants to hear the same song twice in a row. Think in terms of varying tempo and key principally.

2) Take a step back, remember you’ve got an audience, ask yourself if you’re being excessively self-indulgent. Lyrically, try and give your listener something that draws them in/they can relate to. For metaphysical poetry to work, you’ve got to be damned good at it.

3) Play to your strengths in your songwriting. Find that stylistic thing that’s going to be different to the person before/after you, and be sure and let the audience know about it.

Three songs isn’t a lot of time to make your mark, so use it well, Gunga Din. If you do, though, and get offered the featured slot, that’s when you’ve really got to think about how your set’s coming across- people’ll tolerate 15 minutes of nonsense more readily than an eternity-esque half hour!!

Selling CDs and Downloads

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Selling CDs and Downloads by Norman Lamont

Ever thought you might get rich from your music? No, I didn’t think so, but you might still want to offer CDs and downloads for sale.

There are arguments for and against offering paid downloads – there are lots of people who refuse to pay for downloads, and can get anything they want on Limewire or whatever. Others sign up to subscription services like iTunes and Napster and pay 50p or so for a ‘legal’ download. As struggling indie songsters we can choose to give away our music so that it simply reaches more ears, or we can say that listeners will value it more if they pay a small fee for it. These arguments can and do continue on our discussion forum. For now we’ll assume you want to offer paid downloads and sell CDs.

We’ll also assume for this post that you have your own website, that is your own hosting space, not just a MySpace site. I’m sure there are ways to sell downloads and set up shops via MySpace but others who know more can write about them.

Free music
The easiest way, of course, to give away an mp3 of your song, is simply to put it on your webspace and offer a link to it eg: http://www.mywebaddress.com/downloads/myfabbysong.mp3

Anyone clicking that link will be offered the option to save the file to their PC and that’s that.
Another simple way to let people hear the songs freely but not download them is to use Wimpy Player. It puts a little Flash button on your page which plays your mp3. There are examples on my site normanlamont.com. The Wimpy Button script costs $19.95 and for that you use it as often as you want. Once you get it, if you want to reduce the amount of code on your page for each instance of it, contact me and I’ll show you how I make each link in a few words. Before I used Wimpy I used to make an mp3 for downloads then convert it to WMA (Windows Media) for streaming, and had to upload both files plus an extra text file that allowed the streaming. Wimpy is a simpler and more satisfying solution, as the same mp3 serves for streaming or, if you want to offer it, free download.

Setting up shop

The simplest and cheapest shop software I’ve come across is Digital Goods Store, which lets you set up an online shop for any downloads. It costs £9.99 and the producers will install it for you – they’re very helpful. Be aware, though, that if you want to group your downloads into categories e.g. albums, you need buy the categories add-on for another £14.99! The store is very basic – it allows you to customise the appearance of your store page (somewhat), and list items you want to sell, which must be in a designated folder on your server. The finance is handled by PayPal so you need a PayPal account in order to receive any money. It’s only intended to sell downloads, not actual CDs. You can see it in action at normanlamont.com shop.

A bit more upmarket but offering much more is DLGuard, which allows you to set up a ‘protected’ area of your site which includes a shop for both digital and ‘real’ products, but can also include members-only pages, free downloads, mailing lists and newsletters. There’s a good video walkthrough of it at www.musicianscooler.com/dlg

Finally, if you just want to sell CDs but not downloads, simply get a PayPal button – free – from PayPal. Look under Merchant Tools and you’ll find Buy Now buttons – you fill in on a form the name of the CD and how much you want to charge, and it generates a paragraph of encrypted rubbish, which you paste into your web page. When you view the page, there’s a PayPal button which your fans can click and buy the CD. You receive an email saying the money’s in your PayPal account and the address to send the CD. This one I know you can put in a MySpace page too.

Norman Lamont

Practice Makes Perfect

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re planning on playing a set at OOTB or anywhere else, the importance of having rehearsed can’t be over stated.

Many of us can get up on stage and knock out a tune at a moment’s notice, but a well-rehearsed set is almost always going to look and sound better. Even the most famous musicians tend to practise with regularity.

In the build-up to your performance, make sure you know your songs properly. Some people play on stage with a lyrics and chords sheet – particularly with newer material, and this is fine. But why not go the extra mile and learn the song? You’ll almost certainly give a much more convincing, better sounding, and better-looking performance if it comes from within. When you’ve balanced a crumpled set of lyrics on your knee and it falls to the floor half way through the song – well it doesn’t fall into the category of ‘endearingly amateurish’!

Wherever possible, play through your whole set at least once properly on the day of your performance. Make sure you can play and/or sing your entire set easily and with confidence. You might like to record yourself as you practise and listen back – do you really sound as good or bad as you think you do?

“Why is it I always sound better in my bedroom than I do onstage?”

There can be several reasons for this, nerves, acoustics, background noise … but one of the main explanations lies in the dark and oft forgotten art of microphone technique. All too often great singers become good singers and good singers become OK singers … all because of what they’re doing or not doing with the mic.

Reading this article will not give you great mic technique, but it will hopefully set you on the right path, and with a few sneaky tips in your pocket.

The true secret to good mic technique is practise. If you want to hone your skills in this and just about every other aspect of live performance, the best advice is to get yourself down to every open mic night or other stage opportunity you can find. You’ll be surprised how much you’ve learned after even just a few visits.

And when it comes to practising your mic technique, if you have your own mic and the means to amplify it, you’re off to a clear advantage, do you have an old karaoke machine at the back of a cupboard somewhere?


So, to get off to a start, let’s look at the technical aspects of microphone technique:

1)    Putting the mic too close to the speaker, or even pointing the mic at or near the speaker can cause feedback. Feedback is caused by the mic picking up sound from the speaker, sending it to the amp, which it amplifies and chucks out through the speaker as louder sound. The mic picks up the louder sound, sends it to the amp which amplifies it again, the speaker chucks out even louder again sound, which then gets picked up by the mic, and … well, you get the idea.

2)    Having the volume too high can result in feedback (for the same reasons as above) and distortion. In extreme cases you can damage equipment.

3)    Incorrect wiring and connections can cause electric shocks, equipment breakdowns, nasty humming sounds and can even pick up radio signals including the police or local taxi firm!

However, for most gigs you’ll play, these factors are largely outwith your control. If the person responsible for sound at your gig is worth their salt, you shouldn’t have to worry.


So what can you do onstage to make yourself sound better? Here are Out of the Bedroom’s quick and dirty tips:

The most common problems come from either having the mic too close or too far from your mouth. This can cause you to sound respectively muffled or distant, so practise and find a distance that sounds good with your voice.

Remember that if you tend to alter the volume of your own voice with quiet bits and shouty bits, you’ll need to alter the distance between your mouth and the mic. Move in when you’re going quiet, and back away when you’re getting louder / shouting.

The same thing goes if you sing parts of your songs in lower or higher pitch than the rest, move closer or further away respectively.

“How far should I move?”, I hear you ask. Well basically … go practise! It really varies from person to person.

As a rough guide, two to three inches is about the right distance for most people singing at normal levels, but do experiment. Even if you’re in front of an audience, try moving closer to and further from the mic and get used to the difference it makes. If you do it gradually they probably won’t notice much, but you’ll know yourself what sounds best and you can remember it.

This of course depends upon you being able to hear yourself properly. If there’s a monitor (which is usually a smallish speaker on the floor pointing up towards you) where you’re playing, try and get the volume of that right before you start your song properly. You want to be able to hear both your voice and the instruments that are backing it, but make sure you can hear your voice clearly above all.

Don’t be afraid to (politely) ask the sound person to turn either the mic or any instruments up or down in the monitor for you. You aren’t being bossy or telling them how to do their job … it’s almost impossible for them to tell without your help, and if they’re even half decent at what they do they’d much rather you asked than didn’t. Remember the monitor is there purely for your benefit, so it might as well be doing its job properly.

On the other hand, don’t try and alter any controls on the monitor yourself (unless you are told to). This is a very effective way of annoying a sound person … and if you’re in any way worried about sounding good this is probably the last thing you want to do!

Pops and hisses can be another common set of problems for inexperienced mic users. Due to the movement of air in the mouth, sounds like Ps and Bs can cause a loud thud or popping sound in the mic, whereas sibilant sounds like F, S and Z can create a hissing sound (as can whistling or breathing heavily into the mic if you do this).

As a beginner, you can often be tempted to try and sing everything directly into the mic. However, most modern mics are very sensitive to sounds from around about. This is useful to you as a singer, particularly for those difficult consonants. Simply aim your mouth away from the mic head slightly, the rush of air from your mouth will bypass the mic, but the sound of it will be captured and amplified. Bingo, no pops or hisses.

It can be a lot to remember and a lot to think about at first, but with a bit of practice good mic technique will come as second nature. Good luck!

Impossible Songs (FTM) – The Magicians Assistant

Beverley was the assistant to “The Great Gondolli” a travelling magician who worked the lower levels of the club, cabaret and occasionally cruise liner circuits. Based in Plymouth, because of the climate and some loose family collections they toured the UK in short but lucrative bursts. Tonight they were in Doncaster, tomorrow Chester, and next day Salford. Life was a series of long night time motorway drives, travel lodges and guest houses, snacks and crisps and rehearsal and live sessions. The act was in its twelfth year, “The Great Gondolli” having graduated from part time party work and kids conjuring shows to their now staple diet of clubs, bingo, discos and bill sharing with hypnotists, drag acts and pole dancers. Beverley had been his assistant since day one and as the act had changed and developed she had adopted a more glamorous and at times technically demanding role. Much of the act consisted of her handing him items, shielding him (blinding in the trade), distracting the audience and participating as a skilful willing victim in numerous stunts and illusions.

Gondolli (real name Bill Blair) was always hoping for the big break into TV work or into the high paying US or European cabaret circuits, but despite years of working and developing the act the big break was no nearer. The killer trick, the great illusion, the big bang he needed had eluded him and so their optimistic treadmill existence continued as he sought the idea and effect that would make both him and Beverly household names. Beverley had, as part of their visionary planning changed her surname from Hinchelwood to Hills some years ago, the irony of their current situation and their stubborn bad luck was now a constant source of annoyance. Bill and Beverley had been lovers in the early years, this feeling had now dissipated and though they remained together as a couple in practice their love and tolerance for one another was at a low ebb. Rooms with single beds were generally sought after though following a recent performance in Dudley and the consumption of a fair amount of champagne afterwards they had spent a night of unplanned passion together in a large double bed in the Station Hotel. Little was said about it the next day, both acting as if it hadn’t quite happened as the hotel bill was paid and they loaded their cases into the back of their Ford Transit.

This evening however Bill was grumpy, the creative muse was eluding him as he sat on the edge of the main hall at the Starlight Club, Doncaster nursing a glass of bottled orange and eating a packet of cheese and chives crisps. His feet were on a bar table and he was chewing a pencil and pulling faces. He thought again of a disappearance trick involving Beverley appearing to be cloned on return from her banishment. Somehow she would return from behind the cabinet she had disappeared from, but on both sides as a twin of herself for a personal confrontation. The problem was the size and angle of the mirror and how it was placed. Factors also were the light glare and portability all brought about because the scale of their act was too small for the kind of elaborate tricks a more sophisticated audience wanted. Bill knew that they needed to have and develop big working illusions in order that they got some kind of worthwhile media attention.

Beverley, wearing an embroidered silk robe was absent mindedly doing her nails on the opposite side of the hall, filing and inspecting each one, applying colour and polish, looking close, looking away and fiddling with the various bottles she had in her cosmetics case. She remained a very good-looking woman, tidy and fastidious and not prepared to drop her standards of appearance at all whilst on the road. She firmly believed, even after all this time that her face and figure were her fortune and that they must be cared for and maximised so that her part of the show was always as striking and well presented as it could be. Hair (mostly wigs and pieces), face, costumes (mostly skimpy), poise and movements were all given maximum attention in her preparations. She was dogged by thoughts of how she could have done better, had a part in a bigger show, worked with a name rather than a nobody but it was hard to change when that big break may be just off the next slip road. Finishing her nails and allowing them to dry she started on her eyebrows, squaring and plucking tiny hairs forming almost invisible lines over her eyes. She sipped a diet cola and tried not to look over at the doodling Bill.

Bill was sketching mirrors and angles, planning and designing a cabinet in a stage set and getting nowhere. The idea was good, dramatic, could be misunderstood though as Beverley II could simply be a double, so the clone idea had to be well emphasised, the audience had to engage, the patter and presentation had to be right. Bill scribbled on for another half hour without making any more progress becoming more and more frustrated over his inability to crack the trick. The punters were starting to arrive and by now Beverley had completed her preening so with the minimum of spoken contact the two headed to their dressing room to change for the show that was a little over an hour away.

In the dressing room they discussed tonight’s set as they changed. It would their normal £500 show with a set menu of tricks and illusions, lasting over an hour. Bill would wear his special tuxedo with pockets and string pulls and various other hidden features. He always was meticulous and careful as he loaded up the pockets and laid out the cards and cups he needed for the first part of the act. Actually putting on the tux had become a ritual of order and timing as had preparing the trolley and the cabinets. Bill busied himself with the final trick preparations and then began to dress fully, white shirt, trousers and black socks, special shoes with hidden compartments, and the fully loaded and prepped jacket. The black tie was the last detail added as he rechecked his mental list of items and their locations, patting each hiding place for luck. Beverley was made up and quickly dressed in a silver spangley two-piece over a shimmering body stocking; her hair was pulled up tight with a ponytail topped of with a tiara. She spent fully ten minutes picking at and smoothing herself in the mirror whilst staring at her own bum. Conversation during these times was minimal, both knew the routine and timing and as professional’s mistakes were not expected or tolerated and there seemed little new detail to discuss.

Their set CD music piped up from the sound system and they were on stage and plugged in. The show ran smoothly as they slickly moved through their routine paces smartly and to decent levels of attention and applause. The big illusion they did as their climax was a disappearing cabinet trick, one Bill liked to think of as his signature, not only did Beverley disappear, so did the cabinet and so did Bill. With Bill and Beverley reappearing at the opposite side of the hall and the cabinet simply gone. In these smaller clubs, with a close up audience it was an impressive trick that went down well, in the wider world it would be considered cheesy and old fashioned. So “The Great Gondolli” and Beverley Hills effortlessly pushed through with their act and being well received returned relieved to the dressing room to relax, recover and pack up for the road. The manager of the venue was pleased with their act also, though felt it was a little shorter than he would have liked, but the comedian and singer now on could fill time easily with an extra couple of songs or gags.

Once the whole show was over, about 1030, Bill was able to remove all his props and cabinet parts from the stage and stow them in the back of the van. Then once Beverley joined and helped to finish of the last of the loading it was of to the travel lodge for a cup of tea, a shower and as good a nights sleep as either could get. Both were a little more talkative than usual as they drove back, Beverley had enjoyed the venue and Bill though frustrated by the problems with his trick development felt the show had been a good one. They came close to congratulating one another, brushed hands and arms in an air kiss manner as they turned into the lodge car park. The girl at the check in was politely uninterested in them as she handed them the key card to room 333, “last left on the third floor, checkout by 1100!” Bill thought it an odd room number, half of 666, foretold as the Biblical Beast’s, the Devil himself’s   number, but never mind, he wanted a rest now, not a maths or theology problem to solve.

They lugged their overnight bags up stairs and along the corridor and found the half evil room, everything in it in the usual place, to the normal standard. The only thing Bill and Beverley noticed was a sweet smell that seemed to be hanging in the air by the door. They acknowledged it tiredly, set themselves ready for showers and bed in their routine way and flopped down into their single beds a little after midnight. Tired as he was Bill found sleep eluded him. That smell seemed stronger too, almost thick in the darkness. Disturbed he got up sniffing the air and opened the door into the lighted corridor. A sharp stab of cleansing light rushed into the room momentarily disturbing the sleeping beauty Beverley before Bill quickly closed the door. Nothing wrong, no obvious incident or noisy neighbour, just an increasingly pungent smell.  Bill returned to bed, Beverley groaned a little in her sleep and turned over. Silently Bill watched her, sitting up on his elbows and craning over in the dark for a few moments allowed stray thoughts and old hopes to run quietly riotously across his mind. Then he slowly lay back down and fell into a conjurer’s magic sleep.

It is strange to think that a magician occupying Room 333, a magical room in Doncaster at the junction of some ancient ley-lines, would fail to sense the signs or recognise its inherent magical properties. For a real, red bloodied magician, born of earth elements and from the universal riddle school the combination of numbers and air borne odour (plasmagratamn) would have been like an early warning slap in the face. Bill as himself or “The Great Gondolli” had no real appreciation of proper magic, it was like a blunt idea to him, a half formed religion, a science with no base and not his business as he (and Bev) were entertainers. The plasmagratamn and number combination were however at work now and not on the unbelieving Bill as he hugged the pillow like a lost lover. Beverley was the focus of the magic’s attention. Magic is a conscious force, it has a purpose and a life, it is mainly good and benevolent but it can be mischievous, cruel and vindictive, the recipient or victim’s attitude can play a large part in the outcome. Stumbling into a magic hole or finding yourself in its presence will be life changing and it is always best if the moment is recognised and handled properly by the individual, even in sleep. Tonight for reasons known to no one living or dead the magic was choosing to work on Beverley.

It was at one o’clock the morning, in the quiet and dark it all began to happen. The plasmagratamn was like a cone and conduit for magic, it rose and hovered over Beverley, the tip of the cone directly over her sleeping head. Silently invisible magic juices were dispensed by the cone into her ears, nostrils and mouth. Still asleep she breathed them in, absorbed and ingested them until her being was fully explored by the magic and its power. She trembled slightly, her skin flushed, slight sweats came and went, as the blood flow and the endless road map of veins and arteries carried magical gloop through every part of her body. She dreamed vividly through the process, wildly and colourfully, the magic told her stories and pulled through elaborate plots and conclusions. New explanations and knowledge pulsed into her mind, threading through every conscious level, magic talk, magic ideas, powers and transformation. Her dreams grew new vivid life as if in cinemascope, 3D and surround sound.

Firstly she was a white horse with great deep dark eyes and a golden mane and trashing tail, galloping and racing with no rider, thundering across endless sands and seashores all unrecognisable. Snorting and bellowing into the wind and surf, splashing in half formed waves in an ecstatic and never ending run. Then she was herself, naked and hugely pregnant, in a squealing tightening pain, fit to burst, her belly expanded in quick time then her waters broke out in a pink and blue splashing flood. The flood signalled an orgasmically delightful release of pressure, the multitude of new infants sailed away on the flood like laughing dolls come to life. Her breasts suddenly filled with milk and the babies returned from the distance to feed and grow fat and healthy – all played out in a time in the world when fat was healthy. She saw their little happy faces as they fed, paused and stared and fed again. Then she was a black dark witch, beautiful, queer and distant crouched over by a black Bakelite telephone on a hallstand in a stony walled and candle lit dungeon. As the phone rang she picked it up and devoured the receiver hungrily so that the caller and all their conversations were swallowed whole and into her digestive processes. She pulled back her witch’s cloak to reveal a glass aquarium tummy full of floating and swimming phone users babbling and squawking in frustration as they slowly disappeared and were consumed. Her two hands covered the greasy glassy front to protect and hide the telephoning victims she had feasted on. Then the phone rang and another victim was on line.

She was herself again in one of her silver stage costumes lying on a couch. A stemmed glass materialised in front of her containing a pale bubbly liquid, it pushed itself against her lips and she drank the lot.  Next she felt what seemed like a hot cocktail of buzzing herbs and hormones in the back of her throat tinged with lemon juice, she gulped the liquid back and screamed as instantly her genitals bulged out from her costume to form a huge penis and testicles. She grabbed the member with her right hand tightly digging in her fingernails and drawing blood, the penis thickened in a pulsing erection pointed up between her eyes and angrily came, splattering her mouth and face. She licked her lips and swallowed more, once again tasting that lemon juice cocktail. The cycle continued for many minutes, coming, licking and swallowing until she was exhausted. Then she was aware of a floating sensation, floating in air or water or something unknown with the plasmagratamn smell heavy in her nostrils making its way through her head like a small green snake. She could see the green snake pass through her nostrils like a ghost, swimming and squirming across her brain and inside her skull, then down through her neck and throat twisting in a new route round her nervous system and vertebrae. The clinging beast moved easily and slithered round each plate shaped bone, tingling and touching every nerve in the switchback railway system that her nerves relayed messages on. It coiled and uncoiled around her belly and intestines, through her womb and emerged from her glossy wet vagina a look of exploratory triumph on its little snake face. Then half way out it turned back on itself again, opened its mouth to reveal razor reptile fangs and promptly gripped and bit into her clitoris. The searingly painful and electric effect made her pass out, lapsing into a black sleep devoid of dream or feeling as her hands clutched firmly to her groin grasping for unperceivable comfort, pleasure and protection. Then morning came, the smell was gone and daylight was struggling to pass through the heavy hotel drapes.

“I’m afraid of this flow I’m feeling” said Beverley “I woke up this morning not understanding myself, my dreams last night were grotesque, crazy and I feel sooo tense like I have to do something, but I just don’t know what it is!” Beverley was speaking and spouting far more than ever she did so early in the morning and Bill had no idea what to make of it. Their breakfast was now almost over in the Little Chef next to the travel lodge, there was no make up or preening, she’d not eaten much anyway as she was preoccupied with talking about anything that seemed to cross her mind, and there was a lot of anything. Certainly he hadn’t enjoyed a great sleep in Room 333 and that sweet and sour smell had made him uncomfortable but why on earth was she suddenly so animated, so bloody annoyingly alive and in touch with herself? It had been a very odd morning so far, she had wakened him by jumping naked into bed beside him, mounting him and giving the hottest early morning sex he could remember, next she’d taken a twenty-minute (cold?) shower and then she’d started babbling almost in tongues about her sleep and dream experiences the previous night. None of which made any sense to Bill. It was with an acute sense of relief that he’d led her out of the room and down to the diner for breakfast, but now the drivel and chat and enthusiasm for everything wouldn’t stop. Was this the stress of the road manifesting itself, was she breaking down, what had she found?

He noticed that as well her continued chatter and observations she was fidgeting non stop, she had a hold of the salt cellar, gently thumbing it and as she put it back down Bill noticed that it was floating an inch above the table. She had picked it up, held it for a few moments and now it was floating, he stared transfixed by the phenomenon and then as it slowly lost the power to hover and returned to the table he looked Beverley straight in the eyes interrupting her in mid flow (she was talking about snake charming), “How the hell did you do that?” Beverley had been so busy talking she had genuinely not noticed what had happened so Bill explained. She picked the salt up again, rubbed it whilst suppressing the strong desire to talk about snakebites and once again let it go. It dropped as if to strike the table, then stopped once inch from the cloth. The sight silenced Beverley this time and Bill’s eyes grew wider and more focused. With a little thump and a few seconds delay the salt returned once more to the table. “Whatever has happened to you”, began Bill, ” I believe it and it’s something else!”

Beverly resumed her chattering, Bill listened with a new interest and seriousness as they returned to the van to begin the journey across to their next engagement in Chester. “There must be a way we can add this levitational power you have to the act, we have to test it, we have to know how powerful it is, how you can control it!” Bill ranted and explored levitation ideas as he drove the van, Beverley still was rewinding and processing, talking about the white horse, and the sexual significance of her dreams, and the lightness she felt all about her. By ten thirty they were on the motorway, busy as any morning but today with the added hazard of thick patches of seasonal fog that controlled the speed and flow of traffic, though some drivers paid it little heed and still hammered along in the fast lane relentlessly. Beverley felt a little tense as the fog thickened around the van and Bill duly slowed down, visibility was poor with only dim lights and traffic noise breaking into their floating frost fog world. Beverley was gripping the door handle on one side and the arm rest on the other, than van was travelling at about fifty, slowing down slowly for the fog when Bill exclaimed,” bloody steering’s gone!” The wheel was suddenly light and unresponsive, the van was moving forward in the fog but the speed and sense of motion were indiscernible as the fog flicked passed mirrors and screens and tortured the wipers by holding onto the freezing moisture.

Neither Beverley nor Bill spoke as they realised they could now see nothing but fog, they were moving, the engine was running but Bill was hardly steering or driving. The sensation was like flying through the clouds because that was exactly what it was. Bill suddenly looked over at Beverley, she was still gripping the door handle and armrest and he realised what had happened. He took a deep breath, met her eyes and started to speak quietly and slowly “Bev, don’t move your hands, don’t loosen your grip on the handle, your magic thing is at work!” Beverley didn’t answer, stifled a building scream but remained still, her mouth dropping open now as the van broke through the top of the cloud of frozen fog and they got their true bearings at last. Beverley had levitated their van from the motorway surface to well above the fog bank; they were not really moving forwards, only gently upwards as if floating in a hot air balloon. “Don’t take your hands off!” repeated Bill, his voice had risen an octave and he was trying to think what best to do, as if there was some obvious solution to their predicament that he must have missed and was about to remember. It was Beverley who came up with the only practical course of action. She spoke calmly but her eyes were wet with fearful tears, “In the restaurant, I did this with the salt, when I took my hands off it didn’t crash down, it floated, it came down smoothly, it did!” “Yes!” said Bill, “you are so right and we have more control than we think, this is worth a bloody fortune!”

Beverley relaxed a little but still kept her hands on the rest and handle, Bill was having his big idea. There was no need for his hands to be on the wheel as they floated, now about three hundred feet above the fog, the cold winter landscape unfolding and the patches of surface fog breaking to reveal roads and bridges and buildings, trees and farmland carpets below them. Bill picked up his phone and called his agent. “Fred? Bill Blair here, have I a story! Get all the TV and press people you can, Bev and I are performing the fucking stunt of the century right now above the M18! Our van is being levitated by pure magic, we’re five hundred feet in the air and we’re not coming down until you get us a £10 million contract to do this over Las Vegas, Niagara Falls and the bloody Great Wall of China!” Fred was naturally a businessman first and a passionate unbeliever but Bill persisted, Bev was screaming and wailing in the background, “He’s not kidding, he’s not drunk, it’s all true, we want £100 million!”

Fred relented and agreed to call back so that coverage could be arranged, however the secret was already out. Bill and Bev became aware of a chop-chop noise and saw a completely shocked and puzzled police helicopter patrol crew staring at them and gesturing whilst flying at their own level fifty yards away. The white Ford Transit was slowly rising and spinning, they had been in the air twenty minutes or so and were somewhere above the motorway bobbing impossibly on the breeze. Bev’s hands were now getting sore and stiff and she was sobbing slightly in a mixture of pain and delayed shock. Now the challenge of how to execute a safe and a controlled landing became the main topic of conversation in the van. “OK just keep doing what you’re doing, we have time.” Said Bill now as animated as Beverley had been at breakfast. “When Fred gets back to us with the TV details you’ll slowly loosen your grip and we’ll descend as smoothly as the elevator at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, avoiding all motorway traffic, and we’ll be on every news broadcast in the world tonight!” Beverley allowed herself an apprehensive smile in return but was trembling and shaking more and more. The chopper was shadowing them still and signalling and trying to communicate allsorts as they floated like competitors in some surreal balloon championship.

Bill’s phone rang. It was a newly and increasingly hysterical Fred, the news was out, they’d been spotted, the companies and agencies were going wild, vans, crews and reporters were speeding to the area and the agencies were all wanting patched to Bill’s phone. Fred told Bill to start talking, as the news agencies were recording and broadcasting live. “Yes this is “The Great Gondolli” you are hearing and I, accompanied by my lovely assistant Beverley Hills, am performing the greatest feat of magic you will every see or hear of in your lives. We have levitated a Ford (get that Ford! Get them on the phone!) Transit along with ourselves hundreds of feet in the air through pure magic. Nobody can explain or replicate this trick – it is the greatest feat of magic ever!” A series of questions followed from various broadcasters in assorted accents. Bill trumpeted and crowed whilst Beverley clinging to the arm and handle began to sweat and struggle more and more with the situation. “I have to let go!” she sobbed, “I can’t stand this!” “OK, OK,” said Bill, “It’s time, the crews will have our bearings, we must have drifted well away from the motorway, we’ll do it!”

Looking down they could see that from about their seven hundred foot height they had drifted south of the motorway and looked to be above open fields and woodland. “Beverley, we’ll go now, we’ll go now!” Bill sounded calm and confident, he was already thinking about the interview he would give as they stepped out of the van onto the grass and into the media spotlight and the offers that would surely follow. Almost petrified with fear, but able to make the move Beverley slowly loosened her grip with both hands. Down below three TV trucks, two police cars and an ambulance were spinning round a farmyard trying to predict where the van might touch down. Members of the public had joined the chase around the minor roads and lanes that edged the motorway and numerous digital and video cameras were trained on the white van. On the motorway itself the traffic was crawling as everybody stared beyond the vanishing fog at the sight of a 700ft highflying van. Bill had opened up his phone line again and was about to start to describe the descent to SKY News.

“Beverley, we’ll go now!” The voice came over clearly via SKY, BBC, ITV and CNN; it was “The Great Gondolli’s ” finest moment. The white van hung in the air as the cars and vans below stopped, it looked set to land on a soft green hillock backed by a hawthorn hedge about half a mile from the motorway. Lenses focused and crews recorded as the flight was about to end and “The Great Gondolli’s ” triumphant interview and explanation would be broadcast. The van hung as if on a thread that God held, dangling like his son’s toy from some unknowable heavenly location, nose slightly down, lights on with the two occupants visible and waving inside. The police helicopter maintaining a safe and respectful distance whilst gravity and all the known laws of maths, physics and nature were being so publicly challenged before a watching world.

Then as if God had cut the thread the van plummeted back down to earth in seconds, gravity and all the accompanying laws quickly returning to their rightful and proven places from their previous temporary suspension. As the van impacted the three quarter full petrol tank exploded in a red and orange flash and fireball, a delayed thump followed and then an all consuming fire that ended the careers, hopes and lives of “The Great Gondolli” and the lovely Beverley Hills for ever. “This footage is worth millions! How on earth did they do it?” Moaned a perplexed and shocked SKY News cameraman-reporter. “Magic!” said the Police Constable.

A List of 100 Download Sites for Unsigned/New Artists

Thanks to DigitalTRAFFIC for this current, active list of 100 top music download sites for unsigned / new artists. They all allow you to create an artist page, bio with your music uploads. Most are free, some require a small one off payment others charge a fee – check the small print on site. Some require label submissions only. Some are social networking websites that allow you to sign up as a band and submit your music.

1. http://www.musicfreedom.com/digitaltraffic/

2. http://www.glasswerk.co.uk

3. http://www.audiostreet.net

4. http://www.imeem.com

5. http://www.ubl.com/artists/digitaltraffic

6. http://www.pumpaudio.com

7. http://www.itunes.com

8. http://altsounds.com/digitalTRAFFIC

9. http://www.zooped.com/digitalTRAFFIC

10. http://www.we7.com

11. http://www.allmusic.com

12. http://www.synthtopia.com

13. http://www.sectionz.com/

14. http://www.indiestore.com/digitaltrafficmusic

15. http://www.soundclick.com/digitaltraffic

16. http://www.freemymusic.com

17. http://www.dmusic.com

18. http://www.artistlaunch.com

19. http://www.acidplanet.com

20. http://www.broadjam.com/digitaltraffic

21. http://www.showcaseyourmusic.com/digitalTRAFFIC

22. http://www.masscharts.com/

23. http://www.britband.com/bands/digitalTRAFFIC

24. http://www.extraplay.com/digitaltraffic

25. http://www.music.com/digitaltraffic

26. http://www.unsigned.com/digitaltraffic

27. http://www.garageband.com/artist/digitaltraffic

28. http://www.ArtistServer.com/digitalTRAFFIC

29. http://www.noisehead.com/mypage/digitaltraffic

30. http://www.mp3.com

31. http://www.arkade.com/digitalTRAFFIC

32. http://www.scotloads.co.uk/artist.php/digitalTRAFFIC/

33. http://www.last.fm/label/digitalTRAFFIC/

34. http://www.amazing-tunes.com/dashboard.aspx?hID=1582

35. http://www.musicane.com/Store/digitalTRAFFIC

36. http://bandmix.co.uk/profile12719.html

37. http://www.numberonemusic.com/digitaltraffic

38. http://www.projectopus.com/digitaltraffic

39. http://www.funender.com/

40. http://www.purevolume.com/digitaltraffic

41. http://bandwagon.co.uk/band/digitalTRAFFIC

42. http://www.isound.com/digitaltraffic

43. http://www.napster.com

44. http://www.tunetribe.com/

45. http://music.yahoo.com/

46. http://www.cd-wow.com/

47. http://www.tiscali.co.uk/music

48. http://www.hmvdigital.com

49. http://www.mycokemusic.com/

50. http://www.eMusic.com

51. http://www.audiolunchbox.com/

52. http://www.bleep.com/

53. http://www.bignoisemusic.com/

54. http://www.sonyconnect.com/

55. http://www.epitonic.com/

56. http://www.virgindigital.co.uk/

57. http://www.songslide.com

58. http://www.artistopia.com/

59. http://magnatune.com/

60. http://www.beatport.com

61. http://www.trig.com

62. http://www.cruxy.com

63. http://www.cdbaby.com

64. http://www.payloadz.com

65. http://www.beatsdigital.com

66. http://www.musicfinity.com

67. http://www.altsounds.com

68. http://www.scotloads.co.uk

69. http://www.mymusicstream.com

70. http://www.unsignedrevolution.com

71. http://www.bleep.com/

72. http://amiestreet.com

73. http://www.mindawn.com

74. http://www.sellaband.com/

75. http://elisteningpost.com

76. http://www.labelsound.com

77. http://www.bandlink.net

78. http://www.icompositions.com

79. http://www.napload.net

80. http://www.musicsubmit.com

81. http://www.loudbeats.com

82. http://www.reverbnation.com

83. http://iacmusic.com

84. http://www.soundsurf.co.uk

85. http://www.motionbeatz.com

86. http://www.blooter.com/

87. http://www.bebo.com

88. http://www.snocap.com

89. http://cdbaby.net/

90. http://www.electrogarden.com

91. http://www.the-muzic.com

92. http://www.musicdock.net

93. http://www.musicgorilla.com/

94. http://www.freewebs.com/digitaltraffic

95. http://www.audiosparx.com

96. http://indimu.com/

97. http://shadowglobe.com/

98. http://www.indie911.com/

99. http://www.music.coca-cola.com/music/digitaltrafficmusic

100. http://www.blastmymusic.com

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