Boris & His Bolshie Balalaika

Gig Recollections


Boris & His Bolshie Balalaika

Gig Recollections

Haddon Hall, Leeds 13-2-87 – The first outing of the original bolshie balalaika with cheapo stick-on pickup.  Started off doing Sunsong and Moonsong on acoustic guitar, then an electric balalaika version of Voodoo Chile brought the house down.  Support to (sadly missed) local heroes Wynde it Up!.  Led to demo recording sessions and long association with Pixie.

Stonehenge Midwinter Solstice 21-12-88 – The first outing of the Dayglo electric balalaika, mostly an extended jam session and live debut of Toadstool Soup.  Felt warmer than at Midsummer!

Ye Old Crown, Doncaster 3-89 – got around 3 songs in and everything kicked off – managed to bundle the gear up and get away just before the police arrived…

Treworgey Tree Fayre Cornwall 30-7-89 – The final night got a slot on the Wango Rileys stage, electric balalaika and vocals only – blew quite a few minds that night, and the odd amp or two!  Probably the gig that started my cult reputation, more people now say they were there than could possibly have been!

Sloanes, Wood St. Liverpool 30-11-89
Yoruba Social Club, Liverpool 20-12-89 – The Sloanes gig was as support to Nik Turner’s All Stars – not one of my best, had recently moved to Lancs, but the first at a ‘proper’ live venue, this led to the Yoruba gig which was in a squatted house on Croxteth Road used as a Nigerian social/blues club – the police arrived just after I’d finished my set and I got away as it was kicking off.  Getting to be a bit of a habit…

Leigh Miners Welfare 15-3-90 – The first of many gigs supporting the mighty Poisoned Electrick Head – I must have been doing something right!  Met the band at Ribblehead festival in 98 and hooked up with them after moving to the North West, used their Dead Fly recording studios to record most of Psychic Revolution.

Glastonbury Festival Wango Rileys 21-6-90 – a tea-time set on the free stage in the then travelers field (in recent years the Lost Vagueness field) with Hawkwind headlining, I seem to remember England had just beaten Egypt in Italia 90.  I was about 4 songs into the set when the heavens opened and, being totally exposed at the front of the stage, I was immediately drenched and nearly electrocuted before beating a hasty retreat.

Harvest Moon Festival Cumbria 1-9-90 – another free festival, this time I was attacked on the M6 by a kamikaze pigeon who punctured the radiator on the car.  Managed to limp there by stopping for water every 5 miles to stop the engine overheating.  Had a good set and chilled times.

Liverpool Planet X 13-10-90 – supporting the Ozrics, a short but decent set, notable for getting breathalysed on the way home and narrowly passing.  The copper was fascinated by the equipment!

Bradford 1 in 12 Club 30-11-90 – I believe someone filmed this on video, but if so I’ve never seen the footage.  Another Leccy’Eads support slot.

Leeds Duchess of York 26-3-91 – Debut of the midi-cube to provide fully automated backing – bass, drums, synths etc, so first time live with a full sound.  With Spacemen 3 and the Leccy Eads.

Bolton Crown & Cushion 21-5-91,
Wigan Cheers Bar 23-5-91,
London George Robey 25-5-91,
Avon Festival 26-5-91,
Oxford Jericho Tavern 27-5-91 – The first ‘tour’ 5 gigs in 7 days with full midi-cube backing.  A real mixed bunch, Bolton/Oxford were as Leccy Eads support with the usual good reception, Wigan was a couple of guys and a dog (yes, one actually had a dog!), George Robey (Club Dog) was an awesome and appreciative audience, and the Avon Festival was the biggest crowd I’d played in front of to date.  Was well knackered (and blistered) by the end of It all.

St Helens Show 27-7-91 – this is when I was famously supported by an up and coming boy band called ‘Take That’ – well they were on in the afternoon and I was on in the evening, so that counts doesn’t it?  Also did a live radio slot for BBC Merseyside earlier in the day.

Bradford Salts Mill Arts Centre 29-11-91 – notable not only for getting done for speeding in the mother-in-law’s car on the way there, but for being one of the few gigs with a live backing band (bass and drums) – totally unrehearsed and ragged as hell, but fun and maybe could do it again sometime.

Sheffield Polytechnic 27-10-92 – Support to the mighty GONG, saw a few old friends, first Sheffield gig since I’d left town 3 years earlier. Great sound and a nice big PA.  Crawled back over Snake Pass which had been ‘closed’ due to snow but made it home OK – only one bit was hairy – been through much worse since!!!

Hit the North - BBC Radio 5 11-11-92 – The first of two live BBC studio sessions for DJ Mark Radcliffe, the second was for his Radio 1 show (9-6-94).  Both sessions included interviews and 2x tracks.  Archive recordings presumably exist.

Southport Welsbys 27-11-92,
Oxford Jericho Tavern 1-12-92,
Stamford Quayhole Kate's 3-12-92 – The second mini-tour, 3 gigs in a week.  Bigger crowd in Oxford this time, good receptions elsewhere.  With the Leccy Eads.

London Club Dog (George Robey) 9-4-93,
Chelmsford Army & Navy 10-4-93 – The Club Dog gig was easily the best audience ever!  There is a live recording of this gig from an audience member, unfortunately most is not of usable quality due to cut-outs, but the encore of Purple Haze might see the light of day as a bonus album track.  Another mini-tour.

Liverpool Sefton Park 3-5-93 – the bank holiday free festival brought out a large and appreciative crowd into the spring sunshine, I was on around half way up the bill.

Nantwich – Civic Hall 17-7-93 – supporting Skelmersdale techno-prog band the Acrobats of Sa, not a large crowd but a decent performance with a mixer-quality live recording available for streaming.

Amsterdam De Kroeg Nightclub – 21-7-93,
 Amsterdam The Barge Gevleweg – 23-7-93 – Had to play the ‘Dam and blagged my way onto a gig at some unknown nightclub, went down very well and got asked to play the night before we left on a canal barge converted to a club.  Drove nearly 1000 miles the following day, unfortunately the car died before I did!

Sandbach, Rumours Wine Bar – 12-6-94 – This was one of those offers I get from time to time, being listed in the Musicians Union directory as a balalaika player, wanting one for a Russian themed night.  I did warn them but they insisted, this was where the Russian Medley from Gaian Odyssey came from – if you cannot beat’em, join ‘em.

Manchester GMex Centre 7-3-99 – This was another of those offers, a worldwide travelers exhibition but hell it was the GMex so I did it anyway.  Despite their having been warned, after half a minute of the first song the organizers asked Pixie, the sound engineer, to “turn it down”!  B*stards never paid me and a mike stand went awol!

Chester – Deva Conference 12-2-05 – First gig for nearly 10 years, included new dayglo boiler suit.  Performance and sound were terrible and showed much needed to be done before I tried another full-sound gig.

Tulln Austria – Donauhalle – 21-7-07 – well, our foosball team had just reached the final of the Nations Cup and I felt like celebrating, so got the balalaika and amp out, plugged in and had a damn good jam!

Tutbury Castle – 7-9-08 – An invite from good old friend Belch to play at a medieval castle with some alternative bands.  Small crowd but a nice day out and decent performance – balalaika and vocals only.

Reading – Déjà Vu – 18-10-08 – Another foosball-related gig, this time with a proper house PA to play through, but still just balalaika and vocals only.

Liverpool - Dovedale Towers - 8-8-09 – Got asked out of the blue on myspace by this local punk band/promoter to play support for them at this gig, second on the bill after a band of young local lads.  In the end I got asked to headline after the ‘main’ band’s guitarist had to leave early to look after his mum, so the main band went on second.  At first they were OK, although their fans did seem a bit short of hair, and we should have realized what was up as several had black shirts and George’s Cross badges.  However when one song had a ‘Zieg Heil’ chorus and the lead singer was giving Nazi salutes the collective feeling was ‘Oh shit!’ – I couldn’t back out without getting beaten up.  I’d just set up and played one chord when the landlord stepped in and (mercifully) stopped the gig.  They’d obviously not read my reviews which famously includes “This balalaika kills fascists”.  Trouble is it didn’t!  This had been scheduled to be the first gig with new backing arrangements but the set never got that far.

Liverpool – Casa – 21-12-09 – First outing of the new backing tracks now on computer rather than the ultra-heavy midi-cube.  Unfortunately the sound quality, everything through a couple of mismatched guitar amps, was so bad that I decided to invest in a small 500W PA to ensure decent sound quality at similar events in the future.

Castlerigg & Citadel – Spring 2012 – Not live performances as such – video shoots fir Toadstool Soup, both miming to the album track, recorded at a freezing Castlerigg by Annie B deMille.  The gig footage was recorded at the Citadel, St Helens between the soundcheck and doors opening at the Poisoned Electric Head reunion gig, with around 5 cameras videoing the footage.  Pity the UV lighting wasn’t switched on…

Llanfylin Steampunk Festival – 25-8-12 – Was rung out of the blue whilst shopping in Asda as to whether I’d like to support Poisoned Electric Head at the cancelled but reinstated as free Steampunk festival that night.  Held in a former workhouse cum alternative arts centre, finally a chance to try out the new backing system with a proper PA and mixer.  Unfortunately prime Balalaika decided not to work so I had to use the prettier but wilder one, but despite sounding more like Rod Stewart due to a croaky voice, and problems when the multi-effects unit decided to go into tuner mode mid-song, it was good to get the cobwebs out of the system.  Weird crowd, lots of top hats with mechanical attachments and Goths in big frilly dresses – and that was just the blokes!

The Cavern Pub – Liverpool – 6-5-13 - Played Goin' Nowhere and Toadstool Soup at the Cavern (Ian Prowse Monday Night Club) – a regular Open Mic night where covers are banned and you get a maximum 3 songs - was a bit freaked by raw balalaika sound without effects so Goin’ Nowhere was a bit rough to say the least (but raised a titter or two).  Toadstool Soup had the whole pub singing along by the end!!! Fab night with lotsa raw talent on show, brilliant punk poetry plus the odd ageing rock star or two...

CX3 Festival – Bickerstaffe Lancs – 23/24-8-14 - Great little festival in West Lancs, headliners were Here & Now and Poisoned Electrick Head.  Provided the 'Acoustic Tent' with PA as a second stage.  Saturday performance suffered from catastrophic laptop failure losing most backing tracks, followed by the PA (handling backing and vocals only) blowing half-way through the third song.  Set included Voodoo Chile, Russian Medley, Onward Christian Soldiers (with blown up PA) and Toadstool Soup played unaccompanied and staccato shouting the unamplified vocals.  As the laptop had virtually all the backing tracks the Sunday performance (Faith Healer, Ilkley Moor Ba'at 'Ed, Sunsong, Moonsong, Gaian Odyssey and Toadstool Soup) was mostly singing and playing along to recorded versions, including Sunsong & Moonsong on Strat!  Vocals through one amp, bala through second amp and backing through a third.  Seemed to go down OK...