Josienne Clarke Live at Bush Hall, London 19.11.19

Last night, Josienne Clarke assembled a dream cast of accomplished musicians & performed to a packed house at Bush Hall in London. It’s a lovely venue, beautifully faded but with attention to detail in all the right places. It has a wonderful sound system. Roland, the guy who comes & sets up tables & runs the bar is there to make it as good a night as it can be. The owner was there early to make sure everyone had what they needed & genuinely cared that it went well. The security bloke was just the right amount of friendly & terrifying. The sardonic girl on the door wouldn’t have let in anyone not on the list. It was a textbook load in & setup.

The band were total professionals & (according to someone who shall remain nameless..) total babes, so really, what’s not to like? Mary Ann Kennedy, who was going to play the harp, couldn’t make it as she wasn’t well. I am hoping her & Josienne will plan another show for sometime in the future… anyone else think thats a good idea?

Immy from Green Note, who was promoting the event, was gleeful to be involved from the start and her excitement shot the whole thing through with an infectious vein of delight. Thanks for everything, Immy!

It was beautiful to see so many friendly faces & loads to meet so many folks I know but had not met face to face before – I’m sorry that I didn’t get time to have an actual conversation with anyone, but I know you could all see that I was headless chickening 🙂

I spent the evening tweeting, instagram living, ferreting around, loading in, carrying things, making sure there was someone manning the merch desk – though, usually there wasn’t – I thought everyone would want to buy things at the end, but no, you wanted to buy things all night! Thanks to the folks who helped out selling & thanks to everyone who grabbed a CD, record or book. You are appreciated. I also tuned guitars, took photos, held microphones, retuned guitars, and generally looked encouraging. Josienne played two sets, so there were lots of low-level things to do.

The first set was some old classics of hers and a few new ones, then, in the second set, the band played the whole album. The encore was a Sandy Denny cover, ‘The Sea’ and then she finished solo with a new original called ‘Unbound’.

It was a beautiful evening. I’ve lived inside of Josienne planning & executing this, and I have to say, even writing about it now is kind of hard. I tweeted this from the side of the stage last night:

“can you see, it was always her, there never was anything else, she just can’t tell you that, but I can. last time i saw her sing Chicago in front of an audience, she was broken & now she is not, I am sat at the side of the stage shaking with pride…”

I don’t think I can say it better than that without being more explicit than I can be. You saw her. You know. It was perfect.

Thanks for coming, everyone. I’m humbled by it & I know just how deeply grateful Josienne is for you all, too.

Here’s my night in roughly chronological order…

My video for ‘Slender, Sad and Sentimental’

My latest video production was released into the world yesterday.

This one is for the new Josienne Clarke single, ‘Slender, Sad & Sentimental’ on Rough Trade Records. It’s a lurid & fun play on the self-referentiality in Josienne’s song. We see her in a series of strange scenarios, in each one, she’s watching herself in the others, reacting to what she sees. It was great fun to plan, film & edit. We still have the clouds, hanging up in our little house.

Those are the two pictures that the record company used to trail the video. The first was a shot of Josienne I took with the lightning tree and the second is a still from one of the scenarios. The song sort of explains why she’s sat in a crows nest that we made out of a builders rubble tub, cardboard & cotton wool.

Did you realise that the tree scene was a reference to a previous video of Josienne’s? Things go pretty wrong in the Fire & Fortune video. Thankfully, this time, all these years later, she has a fire extinguisher & a nice can of fizzy pop to cool her down! Things are looking up!

Here’s a gallery of the other stills from the video that I suggested could be used for the thumbnail. In the end, Rough Trade went with the crows nest. I think that was the right decision. Which one is your favourite?

We planned this for a couple of months, sketching out scenarios in pencil & paper, fleshing out the various scenarios and how they would relate to each other. My original concept was for us to see through Josi’s eye down the telescope, looking at herself from one place to another. I painted in a psychedelic kaleidoscope inside a toilet roll, and it’s the same telescope, but I couldn’t get it to look right under all the lighting conditions we would face, so in the end, you’ll just have to imagine what that would have looked like.

Interestingly, and this has been the subject of a furore of discussion on social media, it isn’t a toilet roll at all, despite my vast collection of those. I had been collecting them for this purpose, and now have hundreds, but it turned out that a standard Andrex size one was too short & a kitchen roll size one was too long to do the trick of the light I was aiming for. So, I purchased a card tube from hobbycraft that was just the right length. It was also slightly narrower & slightly heavier card. I know, you’re going to say, I could have cut one down. I tried that, but it messes with the integrity of the tube and anything that did that meant the paint didn’t look right. I had to cut it open to paint inside, and the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the join, fixed with duct tape. That was all part of why I could never get that shot to work. So, that’s the fascinating backstory of the card tube telescope.

Here’s the speech bubble from the ‘poet’ scene. Josi wrote it in sharpie & we still have it. It has all the lyrics to the song on. It’s still here, but I tore it a bit, taking it down at the end of the day.

It took a week of making the props & getting the right colour backdrops, cakes, balloons, etc, then we shot it in a day & a half in a village hall. We had two days planned, but thanks to careful planning & slick execution, it went almost perfectly & we finished early.

Here’s the video! This is the part of the article where you have read enough of my words that you get to watch it!

Here’s a couple more stills from the ‘Slender, Sad & Sentimental’ set, I love that sky & her beaming smile. She’s not acting, this was a hilarious shoot on a scorchingly hot day. Good times.

For all you technical folks, let me answer the FAQs…

I shot most of this video on a Canon 5D mkiii at 1080p / 24fps. I used a 24mm 1.4ii L lens for most of it. I think. I had my 85mm 1.2 L but I don’t think any footage from that made it in. The close ups from the dancing scene and the DJ footage is all iPhone XS matched at 1080p / 24fps. That garish pink light was what happened when a spinning disco light hit the lens just so. The iPhone is great at things like that, but the outdoor shot of the tree, for example, is pure Canon.

And here’s a still from the edit, putting things together in Premiere Pro.

Now, the song & video have been out for a day and folks seem to like it, which is very gratifying.

Visit http://www.josienneclarke.com for more of this, and don’t forget, preorder the album here.

Also, do get yourself a ticket to the Bush Hall London album launch party on November 19th. Josienne will be playing with a full band and believe me, you do not want to miss this rare show. It’ll be beautiful. Come say hello, tickets are here: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/josienne-clarke-album-bush-hall-tickets/9714885

Thanks for reading, I hope you like what we made, tell your friends!