The Coral – Tramshed, Cardiff

Thursday 14th March, 2019

Well this is a very overdue entry. I am in a gig funk and not feeling it at all at the moment. Would indie kids The Coral pull me out of it?

I’ve been to Tramshed a couple of times,  as a photographer/fan of some of my favourite artists and those were both special nights. Cardiff is an easy hop by train from Bristol so when Tom said he’d get tickets for this I said ok.

I remember The Coral from that wave of indie guitar bands in the early noughties when they had some big, catchy hits and thought it would be interesting to see how they’ve fared. I’d also heard good things about them live.

The venue I like, nice room, decent sound, friendly staff, so that was all good.

There were 2 support acts, Marvin Powell and Cut Glass Kings. I preferred Marvin. He was all long hair, gentle voice and acoustic guitar. Cut Glass Kings were a drummer and guitarist who were very, very loud. Not to my taste.

The Coral shambled on, two of them in shades, with barely any patter, giving them a pissed off arrogant attitude that did not endear them to me at all. When people pay good money to come see you, is a hello and a smile really too much to ask for? And I wouldn’t want to be the road crew who the singer kept throwing daggers at every time they needed to fix a problem with his guitar cable.

As for the music. Well, I recognised about half the set and some of the songs are alright. Nothing hugely special though. Generic jangly indie guitar pop with some decent guitar work. Not my bag. It is music for lads who don’t want their world to be challenged or disrupted in any way. Ergo almost everything I dislike. This is music so male it may as well be a bottle of Old Spice from the 70’s. Outdated, nowhere near as good as it thinks it is and smells bad.

A few years ago I would have shrugged my shoulders at all this, looked at all the young and wished they were still young men in the audience and just gone this isn’t for me. Now. Now I see just how hard it is for women to make any headway in the music industry, how it is almost suffocatingly male at every level and I think no, we cannot stand for this anymore. Until I looked at the stats for the last 2 years of gig going I didn’t realise how few women I had seen play live. 70% of the acts I saw in 2017 and 2018 were male. And I was making an effort to see women! Scan the listings of any venue, any festival (other than Glastonbury) and you will see how few female musicians get booked. We have to stop accepting averagely talented white boys with guitars as being our cultural norm and cast our net more widely.

I’m also beyond accepting that bands like The Coral and their music provide emotional outlet and release for those same male fans. We need to teach boys and men that it is ok to have a range of feelings, and allow them to express them in their everyday lives. We have to find a better way that doesn’t lead to this sort of tribalistic music nerdery. I’m fucking fed up of it. I want to raise my boy to be the sort of man who isn’t selfish, reliant on alcohol as an emotional release valve. One who respects women enough to treat them as equal human beings.

The best thing about The Coral was Bill Ryder Jones and he left a decade ago to write much more interesting, diverse and emotionally rich music that demonstrates vulnerability, fragility and truth about modern manhood.

So no, The Coral couldn’t shift me out of my gig funk. I have tickets to 6 concerts as part of Bristol Jazz Festival next weekend where I am hopeful of finding something more uplifting and exciting.

Advertisements

Ibibio Sound Machine – Trinity Centre, Bristol

Saturday 9th March, 2019

I think I am falling out of love with writing. And with going to gigs. I used to be in a terrible rush to write, words tumbling out of me as soon as I got home from a gig that I had almost always enjoyed. Not so much lately. The words have been a struggle and the gaps between attending and writing getting bigger. It has felt like a chore I have to complete rather than something I love. I’ve also been deriving less enjoyment from going.

I’d seen Ibibio as part of the Downs Festival line up in 2016 and vowed to see them again, on their own and in a small venue, as they were such fun. Energetic, vibrant and with a great front woman. When the opportunity came up for this gig at Trinity, a venue that seemed to suit them perfectly, I was excited.

Come the day and I almost didn’t even go. And when I did, I didn’t want to be at the front. We found a spot on the side where we thought it wouldn’t get too crowded. Wrong. A bloke stood on my foot during the support act and a row almost ensued when I stood up for myself. Thankfully he moved. There was also a lot of talking among the crowd and everyone seemed to need to move to the bar/toilet/outside for a fag every 3 minutes. I wasn’t feeling very comfortable so moved to the back, where I could only just about see Eni on the stage and none of the rest of the band at all.

Given how lively the rest of the crowd were and how infectious Ibibio’s music is, I was surprised to find myself unmoved and stood stock still.  I was even checking bus times and planning what time I could escape.

Mostly I’m sorry that me being at this sold out gig denied someone else the chance to be there, someone who may well have had the time of their life. Plenty of people in the crowd were smiling and sweaty from dancing. Even Tom shook his booty. So it was very clearly me and not the band.

If I hadn’t another 47 million gigs already booked I think I would take a break from gigging. Perhaps I’ve just been to too many. I’m gig jaded and that’s about the last thing I ever want to be.

 

 

Sean Shibe softLOUD – St George’s, Bristol

Friday 8th March, 2019

A third trip to St George’s in as many days, I really do love this place and the range of music they host. I was recommended this gig by the venue, who know I like less mainstream music. I’ve not seen a solo guitar player before, and don’t think I’ve seen a classical guitar player either, and I’ve certainly never heard lute or flute or bagpipe music recomposed for guitar so tonight was always going to take me to new sonic territory.

Sean had put together a programme called softLOUD with gentle then angry music. The soft section opened with 18th Century lute music played on classical guitar. Music so old, that Scotland (the land of Sean’s birth) was an Independent and European facing nation and America was still a colony of England. From this Sean jumped straight into the 20th Century with music that “would comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” which I found to be comforting. Make of that what you will.

After the interval things became LOUD with an electric guitar, tape loops and reverb. The Steve Reich piece Electric Counterpoint was ace, as you would expect of Reich. Lad, originally composed by Julia Wolfe for 9 bagpipes was ear-splitting, droney and challenging. It was angry, born of grief and played with controlled fury by a young man with a passion for making classical music stand away from being a dusty library. Somehow Sean made his electric guitar sound like bagpipes and as brilliant as it was it was also quite hard to listen to. The final piece, Killer by David Lang had Sean kicking a bass drum whilst riffing which lent an urgency to the music.

This was music on the edge, creative, challenging and interesting. I would like more classical musicians to get this angry!

As a listening experience to enjoy the first half, the soft, was much nicer. As an experiment in what you can do as a classical guitar player the LOUD was more interesting. Sean Shibe is a young musician to watch for sure.

 

Laura Jurd + Dinosaur + Guests – St George’s, Bristol

Thursday 7th March, 2019

Modern cutting edge jazz in an ensemble led by a female trumpeter who has been Mercury nominated. In a gender balanced group with strings, double percussion and brass. This so should have been right up my street. Yet is wasn’t and I feel kinda sad about that.

So many factors contribute to whether a gig is a good one or not that I will not lay the blame at Laura Jurd’s feet. I was very tired. I had to hot-foot it to St George’s from my son’s first Secondary School Parents Evening and all its associated chaos. I hadn’t eaten properly. All things that weren’t conducive to listening to experimental jazz.

I’m still a jazz newbie and finding my feet so this sort of deep dive into jazz was perhaps not going to suit me. What was positive was seeing a bunch of young musicians playing with their genre to continue to bring new life to it; all music and culture requires a vanguard of youth to push it forward. It was also great to see that 7 of the 14 musicians were female and that most of the composition was from the female members of the collective. The future is female! I also liked parts of each piece, there was some eerie violin work that was a little bit disturbing and the improvised piece played before the interval had some promise. Overall though it was too jarring and difficult for my ears on this occasion. Perhaps on another day, in a different state of mind I would have enjoyed it.

This was my 16th gig of 2019 and the 15th where I did not know the music beforehand. I do go by programme notes and recommendations, but I guess I will always end up with some clunkers, Not everything fits. This gig was a bit like the petite fit, navy jersey jumpsuit (with pockets) that I bought online in a sale not long ago. On paper all seemed to be perfect. Then in reality the cut just wasn’t right.

I am still glad I went, and that my ticket money went towards supporting young female talent. It is a bit of a shame that the music and I were not as well suited as I thought we would be, but I can’t like everything.

 

Coven – St George’s, Bristol

Wednesday 6th March, 2019

Coven were formed for International Women’s Day 2015 so for once writing this a couple of days late seems  appropriate. Feminist folk music; of course I was going to go to this gig.

To get a folk Coven you add Lady Maisery to O’Hooley & Tidow and add Grace Petrie. Stir well and enjoy the results.

I’ve wanted to see Lady Maisery live for AGES but the times they’ve played Bristol I’ve not been able to make. Having seen Grace live before I knew she would be worth showing up for. O’Hooley & Tidow were new to me, but in this company I felt confident that I would like them and I did.

I cannot tell you how ruddy fantastic it was to see 6 women up there on the stage. Not a man to spoil the view! They performed all together and in their own combinations, passing the baton between them, having equal time to show off their individual styles and blending together brilliantly.

O’Hooley & Tidow bought the humour with witty, pointed songs about fabulous women from history, Beryl sounds like a top lass, and Gentleman Jack a right sort. I wish I could get to Downend Folk Club to hear them, but alas it is sold out. Lady Maisery play more trad folk, with gorgeous harmonies and instrumentation. I am rather pleased that they will be playing Bristol Folk Festival in May so that I’ll get to see them again. Grace raised the roof with her passionate, political, protest songs from the heart. When all 6 of them combined the sound was pretty awesome. Beautifully blended and harmonised vocals covered This Woman’s Work and Woman In Space (fitting as it was Valentina Tereshkova’s birthday – now there is a nerdy feminist fact for you).

As a demonstration of how varied folk is a genre, and how bloody wonderful women can be when they work together, this was unparalleled. There were different styles of folk and a range of emotions but it all worked. What held it together was the warmth and affection between the musicians. The respect they hold each other in was evident. This is most definitely a coven I want to be a part of.

 

 

 

 

 

Yola – Rough Trade, Bristol

Wednesday 27th February, 2019

Rough Trade has been such a bonus to Bristol, both as a record shop, and as a live venue that I keep an eye on their listings keenly. It is perfect for events like tonight, record launches and intimate shows. It was the first time I’d been seated there, I’d like more of that please Rough Trade.

I got the ticket for this quite a while back, based solely on the description on Rough Trade’s website.  Then the more I read about Yola, the more I knew I would like her. A local lass, from Portishead, and with a fairly interesting life behind her, I was expecting songs full of heart and soul. I got them.

Soulful, country tinged and BIG is all I can say about Yola’s voice. You just believe her. When she sings about walking through fire you know, just know, feel in your bones, that she really has. Even without her telling the story of actually being on fire and watching her home burning, the power, control and storytelling of her voice carries you on the journey with her. Allegedly tonight she was tired, having flown in from Nashville on Monday, but if this was Yola half asleep I’m kinda scared as to what she would be like fully awake! I’m not sure the microphone was entirely needed, I’m pretty sure we would have heard her without it. From next door.

Powerful of voice and personality she deserves all the plaudits being thrown at her. I can imagine hearing most of these songs on radio in 20 years and singing along, the way I do now to Aretha or Dusty or Loretta Lynn. Anyone who can marry perfect technique with emotional clout is a superb singer. Anyone who can sing country and soul with a tinge of blues at the same time is a superb singer. Anyone who can take their story and make is universal is a superb singer. Anyone who can sound fresh and timeless all at once is a superb singer.  Yola is all that.

She tours towards the end of May, hitting Bristol again on June 1st. Sadly I won’t be able to get to that show, as I would love to hear Yola with full band. If you can, you should. You should also buy the album.

I love country music and I love soul music. Yola is both in the most beautiful blend. The sort of great pop tunes I thought no one made anymore. The ones that make you sing, dance and feel things. Proper, well crafted pop songs with stories, heart and great production. You should hear them, you’ll love them.

Daylight Music – Union Chapel, London

Saturday 23rd February, 2019

My second trip to Daylight Music this year, another early coach on a Saturday morning. What could tempt me out? Could it be the cake, the music, the beautiful venue or the lovely people who run Daylight Music? Perhaps all of the above. If you are ever at a loose end in London of a Saturday lunchtime when Daylight Music is on, just pop in. It’s ever so friendly and there is always someone on the bill worth listening to.

Today I treated myself to lunch as well as cake (I do hope you’ve been practicing how to say Quesidillas, Ben!) and an excellent decaf tea (rarer than you’d think) and took in the atmosphere of the stunning Union Chapel on a sunny day. Light streamed through the windows and it was lovely.

First up today was Victoria Hume on piano, with support on guitar and viola. A perfect way to start, lovely and gentle, just what a Saturday lunchtime needed.

The inbetween act (whose names I’ve forgotten, sorry) popped up playing sax in the gallery and double bass in the pulpit, which is typical of DM’s humour and relaxed style.

Robert Stillman was next out, playing tape loops and saxophone. This was more experimental and jazzy and I liked it. It got quite weird and dark at points, which I also liked.

Andrew Wasylyk had travelled all the way from Aberdeen to perform for us and played stripped back versions of The Paralian, his latest work. Just him on piano and Robbie on trumpet. It was lush. The last track, sparse piano and recorded speaking voice, had me moist of eye. Beautiful. Haunting. I bought the CD on the way out.

All of today’s acts were worth showing up for, DM is an ace idea and if I lived in London I’d be there every Saturday that it’s on.

 

 

Lau – St George’s, Bristol

Thursday 21st February, 2019

Again, the intention wasn’t for this to take so long to write, sorry Lau. Migraines suck is all I can say by way of explanation.

How many more times can I tell you how beautiful and lovely St George’s is? How good it’s acoustics are? Every time I go perhaps! This was another flash sale purchase, making the ticket £11.25. Making music accessible, financially, is vital and I am really grateful to St George’s for understanding that.

I walked in, having worked all day in the NHS, to a banner at the back of the stage declaring “WE LOVE THE NHS” so I already had a soft spot for Lau. The stage was bedecked with interesting looking lighting and props that hinted that this wasn’t to be a  traditional folk gig. Lau were billed as experimental folk, hence why I bought a ticket, as I like both folk and experimental music. I stayed in my 3rd row side balcony seat for the first half and couldn’t see Aidan on the fiddle at all, but I could hear him and he sounded ace. As did Kris and Martin. And Agnes, who you really need to see to appreciate in full I think! (Agnes is not human is all I’m saying). This first half was pretty good, with songs from their previous albums.

It was in the second half where it all really came to life for me, however. I had snuck across the aisle to an empty front row seat in the balcony so that I could see as well as hear everything (this is one of the things I love about St George’s – they never tell you off for this, as long as the seat was empty they don’t mind). We were treated to the whole of Midnight and Closedown, their newest release. An album all about isolation in all its forms. It was beautiful in its melancholy and I was weeping at points. There were raw nerves touched with music, emotions not named but explored and I loved it. The genteel lighting and stagecraft added and enhanced, a touch of theatricality helped expose the truth of the music.

Someone asked me on twitter what experimental folk was, buy Lau’s album and hear it, is what I want to say. It is the marriage of traditional instruments like the fiddle, guitar and accordion with electronics and keyboards to produce harmonies of acoustic/electronic music as well as voice. It is ensuring the traditions of folk are not lost, but that they speak of today, as well as yesterday. It is Lau and their wonderful album, which I feel very lucky to have heard live in full.

I promised good words, I hope these suffice.

 

Ohmme – The Louisina, Bristol

Wednesday 20th February, 2019

I wasn’t planning on this taking nearly a week to write, but there was work, other gigs, a daytrip to London and a migraine that all got in the way.

The Louie is a much-loved Bristol venue but one I swore off after an uncomfortable evening there when it was crowded. It’s the upstairs room of a pub, nothing grand or glamorous, but they do make the most of the sound and they have a wide range of acts playing on a very regular basis. The pub downstairs also does a pretty good Sunday lunch I’m told and the location, right on the edge of the harbour, lends it some history. I have felt uncomfortable in there due to the low ceiling and shape of the room. Being that the only way in or out is a narrow staircase and you can see why I’m not the happiest in there.

Yet I found myself willing to give it another try. The fault lies with Colston Hall, who put this gig on and that Ohmme sounded too good a prospect to miss. That plus the ticket, thanks to the culture flash sale, being only £5.72. I knew it wouldn’t be a sold out, crowded gig and that therefore I could feel safe(r). After realising just how few women I saw in either of the past 2 years of gigging, I am making concerted efforts to see female bands, Ohmme included.

I arrived just after the support band, local outfit Malarkey, had taken to the stage. They were young and pretty good. Aptly named, their look was pretty strong too. The coolest member by far was the bass player (obviously). If you like lads bashing out noisy guitar tunes then have a listen. It was nothing original, but they played well and sounded like a decent live outfit.

The small crowd all disappeared down to the bar, leaving me alone to perch on a speaker waiting for Ohmme. They came on earlier than billed, so the crowd was reasonably sparse, but that suited me. More people did join, including one annoying dude who kept being slightly too close behind me.

Here is a little tip for blokes; when a woman moves away from you and deliberately angles her body so that she is no longer stood directly in front of you, then you need to back away as you have made her uncomfortable. Quite possibly she has had this happen before at a gig, on the tube, bus, anywhere else and been groped. Happens all the fucking time in crowded environments and us gals have no way to tell if you are a decent bloke who just  wants to be close to the stage or is going to put his hands all over us ok? So, please and especially when the venue is not sold out, give women a little more room. I was on my own, making me feel that little bit more vulnerable. That’s also why I didn’t say something to him at the time, I’m five foot nothing and he wasn’t. I was alone. He wasn’t.

Him aside (and thankfully he went off to the bar a couple of times) I was a lot more comfortable at the Louie this evening. It wasn’t busy and I had clear line of sight to the door, as well as the stage.

Ohmme helped this enormously. They can both play the shit out of a guitar and their voices, one jazz low and full of smoke, the other higher in register, complimented perfectly. The songs were long, experimental in places and constantly went off in directions I wasn’t expecting. When they announced they were to play a Bowie cover, I thought, that takes some balls, then when they said it was from Black Star I was seriously impressed. They did it well. In the encore they did a B52’s number I’m not familiar with and that sounded pretty awesome too. As did all of their original stuff. If you like edgy rock music then I think you would like Ohmme.

Seeing two talented women wig out on the guitar was such a pleasure. I enjoyed the gig and had a good time. I shall happily venture back to The Louisiana again, just as long as it’s not for a sold out gig.

Silje Nergaard – St George’s, Bristol

Thursday 14th February, 2019

I should have written this sooner. Partly I forgot, partly I wasn’t sure what to say and partly it’s half term and I’ve been with my boy. I am finding it increasingly difficult to write this blog, something I didn’t think would happen. When I have incredible, amazing experiences at gigs it is easier, but when I have a perfectly nice time I am not sure what to say. I have become self conscious of having an audience and self censoring about what I say. When this was an exercise in documenting things for myself and 3 people read it, it was easy. Now that I know venues and artists read as well as total strangers I get nervous.

I had seen Silje in the listings and went back and forth about going. I like jazz, I am making a point of seeing more female artists, I had nothing else to do on Valentine’s night, yet my instinct was that I should sit this one out. Yet. St George’s is beautiful with wonderful acoustics and have been enormously supportive of me. So I went. Any concerns about it being a romantic evening were unfounded and the warm and welcoming atmosphere of St George’s and its patrons helped a great deal.

Silje has been around 25 years, spending time in London in the 90’s trying to be a pop star (with some success) before settling back in her native Norway where she has enjoyed a very successful jazz career. I’ve come to like jazz (I’ve 6 tickets booked for the Bristol Jazz Festival for starters) but as with most other genres of music the kind of jazz I like is a little less mainstream than Silje’s. This was smooth, dinner party jazz, perfectly palatable and pleasant but not really for me. She has a wonderful voice, which did sound utterly lovely in the gorgeous acoustics of St George’s, but it was a touch too controlled and perfect. I know that sounds silly, but the emotion in a voice is what connects and you don’t have to be a technically perfect singer to reach another’s soul. Silje is clearly an experienced and excellent performer and singer, but that magic something that made me fall in love was missing. It was too polished and rehearsed a performance for me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Silje’s music, the reaction of the rest of the audience showed that, I’m just more at home with less commercial music.

Of the songs I can remember, the ones about her children, stood out for me. There was a naturalness and emotion to them that I could connect with more easily. I also liked the track she sang in Norwegian as well as the Norwegian harp she played towards the end and I would have liked to have heard more of both.

Overall I am glad I ventured out. Silje does have an amazing voice, and there is nothing wrong with having a perfectly pleasant time. I guess it is about what music means to and for you. If, like many, it is for relaxing, passing time, having an evening out, then Silje would have been perfect. For me, where music is life force, essential and an emotional release valve, it wasn’t.