An audience with Marian Call and Scott Barkan

A little while ago, while noodling around YouTube, I came across the videos for w00tstock – and in amongst the footage for 4.0, my brain exploded when I discovered the joys of singer-songwriters Marian Call and Scott Barkan

Marian is based out of Juneau, Alaska, while Scott hails from New York, and the two of them clock up thousands of miles, entertaining fans in the USA and Europe. Marian asked me if I was on her email list, so I could be notified about the UK section of their tour schedule; I was off like a shot to her website to sign up!

And it paid off: Back in mid-October, an email showed up with details of the European gigs – and there was to be one in Sheffield, only 20 miles or so from me! And given that the gig was taking place in mid-November (yesterday, in fact), it’d give me plenty of run-up to get the money together.

Trouble is, as excited as I was (i.e. very), I was also very nervous, because I didn’t really know how these things were meant to go. That sounds very n00bish, I’m sure, but in the entire 42 years of my life, I have never intentionally attended a concert or gig. A few weeks ago, I was in Cask Corner in Doncaster, and a gig was taking place – but I was there to meet my best friend, John Croucher, so that definitely doesn’t count (and I wasn’t paying attention to the band; the venue seemed nice, though).

Still, if Marian and Scott were really as nice as they came across on the w00tstock vid, it would all go OK. Right. Right?

Marian (and Scott), live at The Harlequin, Nursery Street, Sheffield.

Marian (and Scott), live at The Harlequin, Nursery Street, Sheffield.

So this is the part where I have to avoid gushing too much… *deep breath* OK, here goes…

My tweet during the interval.

Ah. Meant every word, though.

Well, there goes that plan.

Now, I’ve watched videos of other artists’ live performances before, and all too many times, they’ve sounded much better in the studio versions. Marian is one of those rare artists who makes great music in the studio, but her live performances are very special indeed.

I’m sorry to say that I’m not as familiar with Scott’s work, but I loved the performances I saw on video. And it was even better to hear him in person, singing his own songs as well as providing the backing melodies for Marian.

Speaking of which… Marian and Scott work so well together. Call it “professional chemistry” (I did, when I was trying to explain to Marian), but the level at which they’re in sync with each other really stood out for me.

I wasn’t expecting audience participation, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the grouch who sat it out! Besides… er… I was already quietly singing along with “The Nerd Anthem”, “Good Morning Moon”, and “Karaoke”; hopefully quietly enough so as not to ruin the experience for the other 15-or-so audience members. (The Harlequin Pub is small, charming, and cosy. Loved it.)

During the interval, and after the show, we got to hang out with Marian and Scott. They’re so personable, charming1 and sweet! *squee* I hope I didn’t make (too much of) a dork of myself; it’s an unfortunate trait of mine (as previously documented). Though I did ask a deliberately dorky question of Marian: “Was your first five-syllable word ‘cartilaginous’?”2 Hope Marian can forgive me for that ;) (For the record: her first five-syllable word was apparently ‘indubitably’, from Mary Poppins.)

Marian and me. Marian is not as blurry as that in real life. And despite appearances, I was drinking nothing but cola all night!

Marian and me. Marian is not as blurry as that in real life. And despite appearances, I was drinking nothing but cola all night!

Scott and me. As friendly as he is talented, which is a lot.

Scott and me. As friendly as he is talented, which is a lot.

I did probably let slip a little too much of my life story (*facepalm*), as well as unveiling my super-villain name (“The Enabler”), and showing off my evil laugh… It helped somewhat that there was still a couple of other audience members/friends of Marian that stayed behind after the others, so I didn’t feel too awkward. (At that point, I still had half an hour before setting off for the train station, so I was relieved when they all kindly said it was OK for me to sit with them.)

I’m pretty sure I blew Scott’s mind when I told him it was my first-ever gig (Marian already knew), and he – like Marian – said he was honoured that I had chosen their gig as my first. I was honoured to have the chance to see them, so close to home (and I wasn’t the only one from the audience who used that description while talking to the performers).

And when it was time for us all to say goodbye, I got autographs and hugs from both Marian and Scott, which was just awesome. Thank you so much for undertaking such a gruelling touring schedule, Marian and Scott. Naturally, I can only speak for myself, but if your other fans enjoy your shows even half as much as I did last night, then I hope we all make it worth your while.

Marian and Scott very kindly autographed one of Marian's postcards - yay!

Marian and Scott very kindly autographed one of Marian’s postcards – yay!

For me, the whole experience really was magical3, and should they return to the area for another show, I’ll be doing my damnedest to go again (so long as I’ve not made either of them too uncomfortable from this blog post’s gushery!).

If you’re in the UK, and want to experience Marian and Scott’s awesomeness for yourself, the following tour dates remain:

Bath, UK // Wednesday Nov. 13 – Friends Meeting House
An intimate concert right in the heart of Bath, downstairs in the old Quaker meeting house. Free, 19:30, £10-15 donation recommended, all ages. At the Friends Meeting House, York Street (between Terrace Walk and Abbey St. near the visitors’ center), Bath, BA1 1NG

Manchester, UK // Thursday Nov. 14 – NEXUS Art Café
The Nexus Art Cafe hosts Marian for a big show! Special guest Scott Barkan, plays a set featuring his new album Flightless Bird. Bring your friends for what is sure to be a great evening. 20:00, Nexus Art Cafe, Dale Street (opposite Vinyl Exchange), Manchester, M1 1JW.

Birmingham, UK // Friday Nov. 15 – Urban Coffee Company (Church Street)
An evening at Urban Coffee Co. with the entire venue dedicated to the concert. Free, 19:30, £10-15 artist donation recommended. 30 Church Street, Colmore Business District, Birmingham B3 2NP

London, UK // Sunday Nov. 17 – White Lion Pub
Join Marian for a repeat show at The White Lion, a lovely cozy pub in London.  19:00, free with £10-15 recommended artist donation. Quick heads up: Google Maps may bring up the wrong pub, but the address definitely is Central Street. White Lion Public House, 37 Central Street, London, EC1V 8AB.

You can sign up to Marian’s email list to be notified of shows; you get two or three emails per year. USA fans sign up via her own website’s contact page, while fans in other countries should head on over to her page at Fanbridge. And Marian’s main website is, of course, mariancall.com; links are available on that site to listen to, and buy, her music.

I couldn’t find a sign-up page for Scott’s email list – at the show last night, he asked us to write down our email addresses on his clipboard. But you can find his website here, where you can also check out his music – particularly his latest album, Flightless Bird (I bought it last night at the show!). Click the “Download” link  if you want to purchase a digital version.

Flightless Bird, Scott's new album - BUY IT!

Flightless Bird, Scott’s new album – BUY IT!

If you do find yourself in a position to be able to attend a live performance, I urge you to jump at the chance. You won’t regret it…

1 The pub was charming, and Marian and Scott were charming. Deal with it ;)

2 In case you’re not aware, the “first five-syllable word” lyric comes from The Nerd Anthem, while “cartilaginous” appears in Shark Week, both of which you’ll get to hear if you check out the second link in the first paragraph!

3 Marian commented, after seeing that tweet, that she’d thought I might have been exaggerating. I pointed out that, due to my own issues with self-esteem, I don’t like to screw with anyone else’s. In short: I don’t give false compliments :)

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FINALLY: My first book is published!

OK, I think I’ve managed to stop quivering with nerves and excitement to tell you what’s actually happened… I’ve finally published my first book, Henry, as an eBook at Lulu.com! It’s also pending approval at the iBooks Store, and the Barnes and Noble Nook Store, so keep your fingers crossed!

Annabel Fisher has practically given up on finding the ideal gift for her daughter Marcie’s birthday. But when a kindly old toy-shop owner gives her Henry the teddy bear, Annabel’s and Marcie’s lives are changed forever… because Henry can walk, talk and think for himself!

The book, for children of all ages, contains six of Henry’s adventures with the Fisher family, and it’s selling at just £2 (about $3).

I actually wrote the book back in 2004 or so, as the result of boredom and the need to expend some creative energy. But it’s been languishing on my hard drive for a long, long time – until I showed it to Kristal one day, and she said that I really ought to get it finished, edited and published. Thank you, Kristal, for giving me the final push I needed to get it out there!

ePUB books can be read on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android with special reading software – Wikipedia has a list of that software, for easy reference. Wikipedia also lists the devices which can read ePUB natively. Unfortunately, the Amazon Kindle is not one of those devices – but there’s a free program for Windows, OS X and Linux called calibre, which can convert the book into a format suitable for Kindle and other devices which don’t support ePUB.

I’m really proud of what I’ve done, and I hope you enjoy it. And, please, spread the word!

Posted in Creative Writing, Personal News | 1 Comment

SWM and SWF WLTM RPG w/ GSOH

Now that I have a much beefier graphics card, I’ve been able to play most of the Steam games I’ve not been able to touch previously – and one of them is Skyrim. Yes, yes, I know I’m way behind the curve, but I’ve been having a blast with it!

However… Kristal commented the other day that she wished she was able to play multiplayer Skyrim – we do have a ton of fun when we’re able to game together. But of course, it’s just not possible – and I checked to see if there was a mod that allowed it. Mind you, that would have needed a load of rewriting to make that possible.

So, what we’re looking for is suggestions of RPGs or adventure-y games, for Windows, that we can play multiplayer… but not MMOs, please. We just want to have it for the two of us, questing, noodling around, that sort of thing. I tried looking with Google, but the results were overwhelmingly MMORPGs. Only two that I could think of myself were Borderlands, and GTA IV.

Leave your suggestions in the comments,  please, and we’ll check back every now and then to see what you lovely people have come up with. Thanks in advance!

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Tabletop Gaming for Android

Having watched and enjoyed Wil Wheaton’s “NOT The Flog 3”, I took the liberty of researching which of the featured games are available for Android. The good news is: almost all of them! And those that aren’t available, they will be soon(ish)!

And so, to the links:

All of them have to be paid for, but the prices are (IMHO) incredibly reasonable. So, as Wil says… Play more games!

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Trains of Thought: Shopping cheaply with a time machine

I’m one of those people who have trains of thought where the destination is completely weird and unexpected… and I thought I’d share this one with you, which I had just a few minutes ago.

I was eating some beef and vegetable pasties from one of the local supermarkets, and to keep costs low, they increased the ratio of vegetable to beef. So I got to musing how some food was originally of a very low price, because it was considered inferior, until some key event happened which made the food sought after, and thus caused the price to radically increase.

Which got me thinking about lobster – since that was considered such poor-quality fare, that it was thought that giving lobster to convicts in America was said to be cruel and unusual punishment if they received it too frequently…

I reckoned that, if I had a time machine, I’d go back to such a time, and therefore be able to have cheap lobster. It wasn’t a big leap to go from there to using the time machine to shop cheaply for everything (I suppose you’ve got to save money somehow, after obtaining a time machine…). But I realised that you’d have to be careful not to bring money from a later time period than the one you were visiting. And then it hit me:

That’s why people collect coins… so they don’t get caught out when they go back in time to shop!

Don’t worry: I’m afraid of where my brain goes, too… ;)

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