Sunspots: Reading South Street Arts Centre, October 8th 2015

After London, Reading was another 'home fixture'. I lived here from 1989 to 1997, having side-stepped academia to work at Our Price Records for a couple of years. The second 'Summer of Love', which I'd spent in Brighton and which did its best to distract me from my MA, was soon clouded o'er by Britpop and the seeping mist of shoegazing.

Still, I did get to see The Auteurs touring 'New Wave', was ecstatically deafened by My Bloody Valentine and I once heard the final chord of a Radiohead gig. If you're moving to a new town with no friends, working in a record shop is a smart move. It helps to be in your early 20s too. 

Anyway, my mum and sister and friends live hereabouts, so it all felt familiar and friendly, although performing in front of family certainly breeds a few extra butterflies in the stomach. The last time I played a brass instrument in front of my family I was 11 or 12 years old and my 'Onward Christian Soldiers' took no prisoners, in a bad way. So perhaps I had demons to slay.

The 'get in' to the South Street Arts Centre went smoothly and we soon had the Sun's little den set up. This is where the Sun, a little bit like Krapp, mulls over its mementos, the history of art, and rummages through our private letters and cards. 

Each venue is different, with a different shaped table and a different stage layout but the show rather nimbly expands or shrinks as required. After the opening poem (see the previous blog) I go straight into the first song/film 'Photon', which is one of my favourite segments of the show but one of the trickiest as it involves trumpet playing and singing and hitting all the cues, of course. But when it goes well (and it has done so far) it really gets the show going.

When I first started thinking about the show back in 2013, one of the things I was sure I wanted was a catchy pop song early on to set up, or confound, expectations. I chose a rather 'spacious' poem from the book, by which I mean a lyric that wasn't particularly dense and around which a decent melody might be woven. There are five songs in the show and picking the right poems to make into songs was crucial. 

Walking to work on a dark December morning, I finally cracked the melody and structure of 'Photon' and whistled it into my voice memos app, recording vocal and trumpet parts for my co-composer and arranger Oli Barrett that night.

Oli is well known for the beautiful, layered, complex webs of sound he spins under one of his monikers Petrels but I also know he has a keen ear for short, catchy pop music. Between us, we got as close to my initial vision as possible.

Jack Wake-Walker's pitch-perfect film, which darts between London and Los Angeles, brings the million-year journey of these photons from the centre of the Sun to our retinas into crisp focus. You can see more of Jack's work here.

Tomorrow: Manchester!

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