I was lucky enough to get some tickets to BBC 6 Music Festival last weekend. Really lucky.
Daytime at Trinity (such a glorious venue) started with the extraordinary Saul Williams. 11am isn’t usually a time when Bristol is up for anything, let alone beat poetry and political pop. After one song, Saul decided he was too far away from us and so jumped down into the crowd and performed the rest of his set from the middle of the crowd. It was as brilliant as it sounds.
Shaun Keaveney had the enviable challenge of following that with his comedy slot. I have to confess this was one of the things I was most looking forward too. His laconic, shambling breakfast show is one I don’t get to hear as often as I would like but I’ve been a fan since the X-FM days. He compared well, but it was Cerys Nelmes who stole the show. With much swearing and vulgarity. Cerys compares What The Frock and gigs locally so I’d recommend seeing her. You may want to cover your eyes when she gets THAT photograph out mind.
Day two also started at Trinity with a band who are clearly loved, This Is The Kit, who were good but not really my cuppa tea.
I was most excited about the in conversation slot between Cerys Matthews and John Grant, two artists I love. Neither of them disappointed. By the end I wanted to hug John, rub his back and assure him it would all be alright! I stayed on for the recording of Mark Radcliffe’s folk show, despite reservations. Boy am I glad I did. The first duo, False Lights, were so good. Two solo artists who’ve come together to record a mixture of traditional and modern folk – one acoustic and one electric guitar and two beautifully harmonised voices. They are rightly nominated for best album at the BBC Folk Awards this year. Jim’s electric guitar playing reminded me of Richard Hawley, who I adore and who is a traditional music fan. It made me finally get the link, so thank you!
Then we got Merry Waterson & David A Jaycock who played haunting songs. It’s fair to say that by this point I was a folky convert. This is a major achievement for Mark Radcliffe given that my only previous exposure to live folk involved a singer who made us sit on the floor whilst she sang a song about bumblebees as she wore handmade felt shoes which had frankly put me off the whole genre. Laura Marling did a surprise mini set and had me in tears. The emotion was evident on her face as she sang.
The atmosphere on both days at Trinity was so warm and friendly, as if Bristol had put on its finery to welcome everyone. It helped that I was so looked after by the Disabled Access Team (I’m recovering from one major op and am shortly to have another) who were stars.
It was also thrilling to see so many of the 6 Music presenters I love in person – they are real- and to know they were broadcasting live from a little room upstairs.
Colston Hall was a very different prospect. Bigger, noisier and with many more people. Still a great atmosphere with music fans who were clearly looking forward to seeing Guy Garvey. As was I. Love, love, love his voice (and him, he’s basically cat nip for middle aged women). His voice is so warm and lovely, like being given an aural hug. He got stronger towards the end of the set (and his pint) Electricity, Broken Bottles & Chandeliers and Angela’s Eyes were the standout tracks. Then, as quickly as Colston had filled it emptied again. It was evident who the audience were there to see as those who had held on for Julia Houlter slowly drifted away during her set. She had a tough job, and slightly strange songs which didn’t help. In another venue on another day I think I would have liked her. The huge gaps between acts didn’t help (over an hour).
During the very long wait for John Grant I started to get a little nervous. He would need to be very good to lift the crowd and mood now. He seemed so quiet, nervous even, of performing when he was talking to Cerys earlier. And I adore his music so much that my expectation was probably way too high.
Well, I should have dared to dream. He was incredible. Absolutely incredible. From the moment he came out he owned the stage, dominated the room and stamped an amazing atmosphere on the hall. He was grooving, twerking even, with a massive smile on his face and it was just infectious. I was smiling, chair dancing and laughing. His voice, so strong and powerful just filled everything, lifted and filled you with joy. Snug Slacks, a witty and brilliant tune anyway, became some kind of disco funk, electro pop work of genius.
And then. Then he brought out his guest, Jimi Goodwin from Doves and they dueted on Glacier and broke my heart. It was so emotional, so touching, so beautiful, so fragile. I was sat in awe of the power of Grant’s voice with tears streaming down my face. In the space of three songs he’d taken us soaring up and crashing back down. That is his genius, his unclassifiable music and voice taking you to all emotional points on the compass in the space of just forty five minutes. GMF was glorious, even if he wasn’t able to swear. He closed with Disappointing, a wonderfully ironic statement of all that the gig was not. It was the best performance I’ve seen on Colston Hall’s stage and one of the best gigs I’ve ever experienced. I think it will be a long time before I see another like it.
If your town or City is lucky enough to be chosen by 6 Music to host next year’s festival go. Just go. And I’ll see you there. Cos I cannot get enough of music played live. It lifts my heart, makes me soar & feeds my soul. Thank you BBC 6 Music.