Thursday, 15 August 2013

T-Shirt Friday 21 !

...An Astra-nomical t-shirt!
T-Shirt Friday is back!!!! In it's new slot of a fortnightly post, are you all set and excited?! well to get your whistles wet here is the answer to the T-Shirt Friday Quiz Conundrum! It was quite a tricky one as they were more famous for being signed to EMI's progressive label 'Harvest' I was told on good authority that the label took the name 'Harvest' after signing Barclay James 'Harvest' and a famous music label was born! Now firstly I must apologise to my sister... as we only just yesterday, had a discussion about the answer to this and... She was right about what the answer was and I was totally wrong... Sorry Lil Sis, I read some mis-information about who they were signed to... BJH where originally signed to Parlophone for just one single in 1968. So that means that Misaki and Dawn Rey are this weeks winners of the now prestigious T-Shirt Friday Quiz Conundrum badge of honour!!! But as always, the all important question is... how will you celebrate? - Do let me know what your celebration ideas are....

Today's T-Shirt can be found directly here: http://www.astratheband.com
or here: http://riseaboverecords.com

Do you ever find yourself wandering around... say HMV or your favourite record shop, actually not really knowing what your looking for...? It actually happens to me quite a bit. Sometimes I find myself in HMV, hoping that something will leap off of the shelf at me and it will be the 'holy grail' the 'golden fleece', the 8th wonder of the world of an album that I have been searching for all my life... the reality is that sometimes you'll find something really exciting and sometimes you end up buying an album by a band you already know, just to add to the collection, mainly because nothing else did 'pop' out and say "I am 'that' album of legend, that you have been waiting for..." Except that one trip to said HMV in 2009 did actually result in the discovery of a band that truly are on the way to becoming prog rock legendary wonders...!

In the midst of going through all of the Gentle Giant albums in the rack at HMV, something swayed my concentration from re-buying their back catalogue on CD... a sound that my ears had not heard before... a number of fully fledged musical journeys warped and absorbed the very air in the shop.... deep meandering, thundering riffs wrapped themselves around my very structure, cascades of sound spilled out of the speakers as if the amps were at that very moment being turned into liquid form, the sound lashing out like immense tidal waves... but who was this? The sounds and the music were quite retro, but it was almost impossible to pin-point the band... All at once sounding like King Crimson suddenly the music would shape-shift moulding itself into the Floyd, to last but a few seconds before segueing into Yes... the most surprising thing was that although all those influences were in there, this band still managed to keep their own identity too. Was it a long lost prog band from 1971? - maybe they had influenced all of the previously mentioned bands? The music was so awesome that I had to find out, luckily there weren't too many people around and it turned out that the chap that I spoke to was in fact the very person that had shared the album and it's treasures with the world, we spoke for a good while about them and he showed me to their rack. Only one album was left, nestled in the space provided... it felt like destiny calling! As it turned out they had only made the one album, I thought for a moment that this might be a 'Growers Of Mushroom' but it was just the beginning and what I had been hearing was an amazing debut album...

2010, We stood outside the doors to the London Scala, waiting in anticipation... My brother-in-law, Dave and myself that is... It has to be said that we didn't really blend in, there were a great deal of hardcore prog fans (if hardcore is the correct term?) in the queue, Dave commented, all be it very 'quietly' that "You can always tell a prog fan" and it's true... or at least it certainly was that night! Astra, the creators of the album that had cosmically blown a worm hole in my head at HMV, were playing that night and debuting said album (2009's The weirding) to a UK audience, along with Astra, were Diagonal and Litmus, who we had seen before at The Standard (Blackhorse Rd, Walthamstow) we were lucky enough to be a part of the first 100 people into the venue which meant that we were given by Rise Above records an Astra/Diagonal shared vinyl single, Wow! we already felt on top of the world and then the prog began... all three bands were fantastic! it turned out to be an amazing night, and a great showcase for the very best in new prog rock bands, Astra were just off the planet, which they are of course anyway, but they were orbiting a totally different universe that night and then... that same question that always creeps into your brain at some point at any great gig, started to seep in... how do we mark this incredible occasion? Dave wanted to buy the Weirding on CD, which they were selling directly at the venue and my brother-in-law and me spotted Astra T-shirts! Arik Roper designed and created the artwork for The Weirding as he did for Astra's second album 2012's The Black Chord... there in front of us lay an Astra t-shirt illustrated and designed by him too! It really was a no-brainer, until that is, we had been through the whole box full of t-shirts, only to not find any size above a medium....

T-Shirt sales brainwashing is a reality....

"You don't happen to have a large do you?" we asked the t-shirt chap, we got the answer we weren't hoping for "Sorry gov, we've run out of large and extra large mate...." he paused, but we could see that his mind was working overtime, we were waiting to be pulled in by what ever he was going to say next... as if the tee's were somehow the treasure at the end of a rainbow... the answer came in all it's glory... "You could always stretch the material" I wanted to believe in that idea, "great" I thought... "I'll go with that" My Brother-in-law saw straight through the rather weak concept that the t-shirt chap had just made up and decided not to pursue... On the other hand my brain was saying "Astra.... Arik Roper.... T-Shirt... stretch it... it will fit" and it kept repeating it... over and over again...

We left the venue, leaving behind us a night of amazing musical memories, me with my Astra t-shirt swept over my shoulder so that the artwork was on show to the world and the label slightly askew read 'medium'. Every now and again I would give the material a bit of a tug so as to stretch it, in readiness to be able to put it on when I got home, we each said our goodbye's and began to make our journeys into the night, I charged up the stairs of our building to the flat, so excited to show Miss Russell the now ready-stretched tee (or so I thought) Excitedly I told her about the gig, then bare chested and pre-t-shirt ready, I held aloft the t-shirt of Astra-nomical power and began to put it on... until... Oh!... I struggled... it wouldn't even go over my head, it was stuck there over my forehead, I pulled again at the material, maybe it needed some more stretching I thought... After all the t-shirt guy never stipulated how much stretching would be needed... I tried again, but still to no avail, tugging at the material to try to at least get one arm through... after about 30mins of stretching and contorting myself into strange shapes, while Miss Russell creased up with laughter! It suddenly dawned on me... it was as if I could suddenly see what everyone else was privy to... I had indeed seen the light (...and not only because I'd finally removed the tee from over my head and eyes!) this t-shirt was never going to fit me... A very important lesson was learned... stretching t-shirts to make them fit is not really a very viable idea at all!

That very same night Miss Russell became the proud owner of the Astra T-Shirt... and She still has it now... only last night She put it on in remembrance of this very story....

Well here we are again, it's the T-Shirt Friday Quiz Conundrum! This weeks question is indeed Astra based... and it is:  What Californian city do Astra originate from?

More about Astra: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astra_(band)
Astra's prog archive page: http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=4492
More on Arik Roper: http://www.arikroper.com
Gentle Giant? : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentle_Giant



Miss Russell, channels the power of the
non-stretching Astra-
nomical tee!