40:26

Deep Trouble Trio. The Bristol Fringe.

Jazz trio. Pub with a back room that does live jazz on Wednesday nights up in Clifton Village.

I’ve been a long term follower/friend of Sarah Gail Brand, trombonist & top woman on twitter for years. Deep Trouble Trio are her, Paul and Mark and somehow I’d managed to miss that they were playing in Bristol until Monday. When I did I knew I had to take the chance to meet Sarah and hear her play. Which is how I found myself in this quirky pub in a part of town I don’t usually frequent.

The stage was small, the room not much bigger and when Sarah asked if I was prepared for them “not playing tunes, its free jazz” I had to say no and yes. 40 gigs was always planned as a musical journey, and I’ve been to so many random gigs that not knowing what to expect is a part of it now. After seeing Jay Phelps I’d said I wanted to go to more jazz, to visit a jazz club, so to be there waiting for free form jazz in the back room of a pub was, well, the fulfillment of that ambition.

Paul plays a double bass that looks like a boat, Mark drums & percussion (including something that looked like pram wheels, another shells on a string) and Sarah the trombone.  Which does no justice at all to the sounds they made. It was inventive, creative, unusual and brilliant. Three excellent musicians with what seemed a telepathic connection, playing extraordinary music. I loved it. I want to see them again and I want to listen to more jazz.

I’ve said it before, but it is such a joy to watch skilled musicians play, and when they are improvising every note, well, that’s just a whole other level. The skill, musicianship and craft involved is incredible. Sarah did things with a trombone I had no idea you could! The passion on each of their faces as they played, Paul especially, who was so deep into the moment he barely opened his eyes while playing. There were times I also closed my eyes and let my mind wander, creating visual patterns and musical paintings.

Between sets Mark asked me what I thought, he seemed pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t finding it weird. So I explained about Manu Delago playing the toothbrush, and Daniel Lanois. I’ve been to some strange gigs so far, I said, this isn’t one of them. It was also wonderful to meet Sarah in person, having known her online for such a long time.

40 gigs is changing me, opening me up to new experiences and genres of music I had not explored before. If I can love improvised jazz, perhaps I’m ready for more……..

26 down. 14 to go.

40:25

India Electric Co. Frenchay Village Hall, Downend Folk Club, Bristol.

I didn’t even know the name of the band I was going to see until an hour before the show, so I clearly had no idea what to expect. At a folk club in a village hall, never been there before either.

My friend Kate was photographing this gig and invited me to go with her (she’s a lovely person and a very talented photographer) so despite being very tired from the gig the night before and being at work all day I went along.

This was my second folk club experience of #40gigs so I knew the atmosphere would be friendly and welcoming, and it was. We were so early that the hall was still being set up! We had a cup of tea listening to the sound check, which was a unique experience all by itself.

Support was from Jack Cookson, a Radio 2 folk award nominee. He played a short set, which was stronger towards the end. The final 2 tracks, both new, were a lot stronger, perhaps showing the development of his songwriting? He’s a very talented young man, who can play the heck outta an acoustic guitar. One to keep an eye on if you like folk/acoustic music I think.

Then main act. In 2 halves (folk clubs are so civilised, you get a halftime break) India Electric Co. I honestly had no idea what to expect, so when they were introduced as being, by their own admission “sometimes folk, sometimes not” I sort of knew I was going to like them. Which I did. Enormously. Cole has a great voice and Joe appears to be able to master any instrument you put in front of him. He played violin/fiddle (what is the difference anyhow?!), accordion and guitar last night but also plays keys apparently. Being multi talented & really lovely appear to be traits of folk musicians I am discovering.

The music was lush, filling the hall with gorgeous melodies. They moved between styles and genres with ease, sometimes in the middle of a song. When talented musicians play like that its such a joy to just admire them. Despite a few technical issues (hey, even Elbow had them guys) the sound and lighting were really impressive. The volunteers who run Downend Folk Club should be rightly proud of the work they put in.

Watching the interplay between Joe and Cole was fantastic, almost like jazz musicians, communicating through the music and being totally in tune with each other. I also loved that when a song was emotional, Cole inhabited it so fully he had to take his glasses off and put them in his pocket. They did an amazing Springsteen cover that was a joy to watch as well as hear. It was beautiful. They also played songs based on poetry, where else do you get songs inspired by WH Auden than a folk club? Parachutes was a total standout track, all the feels going on with that one. In the encore they invited Jack up to join them and that was a real treat. Collaborate more lads!

Afterwards we had a chat with them all & Cole ended up trying on my glasses which is definitely a first for #40gigs and I doubt will be repeated! Thank you Jack, Joe, Cole, all of Downend Folk Club and Kate for making gig 25 another memorable and special night.

The contrast between 24 and 25 couldn’t be greater, one a crowd of thousands in a forest, one few dozen in a village hall. But #40gigs has always been about voyages of discovery, supporting musicians and finding new music. Folk clubs in village halls are as much a part of that. I appear to be a proper folkie convert now!

25 down. 15 to go.

 

40:24

Elbow. Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury, Glos.

Band I adore, who were gig 6, in a forest in Gloucestershire. Ticket gifted by wonderful friend who also drove us there & back.

Elbow. Wonderful, wonderful Elbow. A band I’ve waited years to see live and then, like buses you get 2 gigs come along in the space of a few months. Gig 6 was Elbow in Plymouth and they had been so special that night (it remains the top gig of them all, so far) that I was looking forward to seeing them again with huge anticipation. My lovely friend (also an Emma) picked me up from work and off we set, on a road trip to the countryside for a gig the likes of which neither of us had been to before.

We were really early and manged to get in the queue and right to the front. This, as it turns out, was to be a new experience for Emma. She’d not been to a gig for ages, had never seen Elbow and had never been at the front before. She did it all for me. What a pal. We made new friends in Lisa & Mark, who were also popping their Elbow cherry and Alan who was celebrating his 50th birthday 🙂 At just 40 I was the baby of the group and the only one who’d seen the band before.

Support was from Steve Mason, who I didn’t think I knew, but as I recognised about half his set, I clearly do. He came on looking ever so slightly like Robin Hood (which will be funnier when this run of gigs plays Sherwood Forest, which it will) and I really enjoyed his set. There were a couple of stand out tracks, but without a set list or decent memory (its been over 48 hours since the gig) I couldn’t tell you what they were. Just that you should seek him out, cos he’s good.

Then Elbow. Our boys. And you know, they are, Guy is known for being an affable chap. And a fantastic frontman. Which he is. Prowling the stage like a loveable bear, telling jokes, getting everyone to join in. Like a favourite uncle at a family party, the one everyone secretly wishes were their Dad/husband/best mate. I’ll never hear the words Forestry Commission again without giving a small whoop and laughing.

Any Day Now was a great opener, followed up with Bones of You and Flyboy Blue. One of the biggest cheers of the night came at this early point, when Guy kept everyone improvising as the sound crew attempted to fix Craig’s keys which had cut out midway through a song “we leave no man behind, keep playing lads.”

It was the first time they had played Head For Supplies live, and it sounded ace, I thought Guy was singing part of it to me, turned out to be an amorous couple a few rows back! I had a gert big grin on my face through the first half of the set, I was so happy to be there in the front row, singing along at the top of my lungs and dancing, drinking in the experience of being outside in the sunshine watching one of my favourite bands. It was amazing. It was equally as emotional as Plymouth had been, but for different reasons. That had been just 6 days after I’d split up with my boyfriend of 6 years. If Plymouth had been about releasing those emotions, Tetbury was about joy. Pure, unadulterated joy.

Until they played Switching Off. A song inspired by the love you would think of in your dying moments, as your life flashes before you eyes. Given that Presuming Ed (Rest Easy) by Elbow was the music that kept me alive, when I could fairly easily have been living my final moments, you can understand why I was overcome with emotion. Why the tears fell, and kept falling.

It was only for that one song, though, the beauty & humanity & love in the rest of the music made me smile and keep smiling. Just as the beauty, humanity & love in the people who cared for me, and in my wonderful friends and son make me smile. Even Little Fictions, which is as close to a novella or short film you’ll find in song, has hope shot through it. It’s why I adore Elbow’s music, and its why they have come to the fore when they have, their music touches hearts & souls to pass on humanity, kindness and hope. Things perhaps found wanting in recent times. Whenever I need something, I will find it in music. And usually in an Elbow song. Love is the original miracle.

They ‘closed’ with One Day Like This, and I cannot add to my description of it from last time, it is a beautiful gift given lovingly from the band to us. To each and every one of us in that crowd.

By the time they came out for the encore I think its fair to say they were all half cut. Guy delivered a heartfelt, slightly drunken speech about Manchester and how the outpouring of love & togetherness after recent tragedies was our only response. Could be our only response. If I didn’t already love him. Ah, you know.  The 3 closing songs were all as wonderful as the previous 15 had been. It was another emotional and special night. I get the feeling Elbow gigs always are.

Thank you to the crew; the lighting was superb, as was the sound, and whichever roadie gave me Guy’s setlist (complete with dirty footprints) so I can remember and treasure every moment. Thank you, again, to the band. Elbow you were magnificent. Brilliant. Wonderful. Amazing. And all the other good words. I adore your music, and I adored this gig. The smile was still there at the end. This was a gig about love and joy and celebrating life and it was wonderful.

24 down. 16 to go.

 

40:23

Starsailor. The O2 Academy, Oxford.

My most beloved band. Fourth trip to venue, which I have only ever been to to see Starsailor.

I am writing this the morning after. I was home at 1.45am after a 3 hour journey. Trains were routing via Reading (where I had a very long wait on a deserted platform which was cool yet eerie) rather than Didcot. My muscles are aching, my feet are sore, my ears are ringing & I’ve had 5 hours sleep. But I would do it all again tonight if I could.

Starsailor and I go back a long way. V 2002 was the first time I saw them live. And I fell utterly in love with their music. I don’t know, nor want to know, why they are MY band, they just are. Something in the combination of these 4 musicians and the noise they make just gets me, gets into me & has changed my life in so many ways.

There are dozens and dozens of Starsailor stories. I should tell them to you one day. Late nights, travel all over Europe, sharing hotels, weddings, births and a death. Music, above all, music. And community. And hope. This band have given me so much. The only thing I’ve ever been able to repay that with is my loyalty to the front row and the press pit 🙂

I’d last seen the boys in December last year, when I did 3 gigs in 3 nights (London, Cardiff & Southampton) where they were magnificent, the best I’d heard them sound. So I knew they were in fine form. Oxford was a warm up gig, en route to the Isle Of Wight Festival (which in 2005 I saw them play & embarrassed myself meeting the singers Mum – see told you there were stories) so more of a chance to regroup & grease the wheels so to speak.

I was way too early (old habits die hard, Nick) as I had a photo pass & could have rocked up 1 minute before the band. But I do always catch the support (and photograph them too) as Starsailor have had some great support bands in the past. Bang Bang Romeo didn’t disappoint tonight. Big, noisy sound, fronted by a noisy & charismatic singer with a great set of pipes. They were wonderful to photograph – they put on a real show and I would be very happy to find myself in a darkened gig venue hearing them again (I’ve checked and they are playing in Bristol in October so I might just do that).

Then my boys. And they really are. It’s like a Starsailor family now. Love them all like brothers.

The lighting was terrible for a photographer, it’s as if they want to set me a challenge! It might be tomorrow night before I get a chance to process the shots, but I am not hopeful. Which is a real shame because they played Alcoholic in the opening 3 songs, where James opens out more & is better to photograph. Ah well, I’ve plenty of other fantastic shots of Starsailor. And its all about the music. Always. Being in the super privileged position of the press pit is a thrill, through, every time. No barrier, just you, the band and a camera. Its real, raw & visceral.

After my 3 songs I moved to the side, where there was some space. But the sound wasn’t great and although the crowd was rowdy, they were good-natured rowdy and there was space so I moved into the throng. Usually this is the place I least want to be at a gig. But for Starsailor. They are just different. These are my people. I am safe here. And I got to dance, and sing and move and be among the crowd. I sang and danced my heart out to all the usual songs plus Best Of You which sounded even better than when I heard it first last year and another new track that I can’t remember the title of. Tie Up My Hands gets more immense with every passing year, its brilliance enhanced rather than diminished by the passage of time. Keep Us Together. My song. Boy In Waiting. Nick’s song (the little brother I never had and a Good Soul if ever I knew one). A Stone Roses cover! Tell Me It’s Not Over, Fidelity, Four to The Floor some other songs that will come back to me as soon as I finish typing this. All sounding amazing.

They saved Silence Is Easy for the encore. It tickles me that this very loud song, sung lustily by the audience. I was joining in with the best of them. There is something so cathartic and freeing about dancing and singing like that. Its freedom. Pure freedom. Its exhilarating and life affirming and joyous. It’s the reason I’m on this journey of 40 gigs. Its the reason that I love this band quite so much.

They finished with Good Souls, which is sounding a lot heavier than it did all those years ago. The world has changed so much in the 15 plus years I’ve been hearing it played live. I’ve changed, the boys have, the world we live in now is very different than it was then. James dedicated it to those we have lost, and those who worked to keep us safe. It was fitting, beautiful and understated. For me, this song has always been about both those I love and cherish (through this bands music) and those who have fought, and continue to fight for the greater good. If I call you a Good Soul it means something.

18 months ago this song took on a new meaning for me. When I was lying in the semi darkness, semi conscious, attached to 2 drip stands receiving life saving antibiotics, all I could do was listen to music. For about 10 minutes at a time. Good Souls (and Presuming Ed by Elbow) helped save my life. So when James sings, “this is not dying, this is living” at the crescendo of Good Souls I go. Emotions run wild like horses through me to an overwhelming point. I am here. I am here. And I am alive to enjoy this moment.

Thank you for another great gig, boys. My 40 gigs journey wouldn’t have felt complete without you being part of it. Number 23 was special, but then every Starsailor gig is special. The music means so much. It’s everything. Thank you for allowing me to continue to be part of it.

23 down. 17 to go.

 

40:22

Zoe Rahman/Jay Phelps Quartet. The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol.

Random ticket buy. Smashing venue that I’ve made my second home over the past few months.

I’ve never been to a jazz gig and as I love the Lantern so much (and have seen such a diverse and brilliant array of artists in it) I figured what did I have to lose? Discovering new music, trying new genres of music, hearing talented musicians play, feeling alive again were all parts of the aim of this project. This gig ticked pretty much every one of those boxes.

Tonight was also the One Love Manchester concert after the terror attack there. After that, and the attack in London just last night, going out to a gig feels like an act of defiance. Especially as a woman alone. 40 gigs has always been about a celebration of life (two major surgeries and sepsis in the space of 9 months tends to give you a new perspective) but I feel that even more keenly now.

Zoe Rahman was first on, a virtuoso pianist, playing a wide range of pieces from her own stunning compositions (Fast Asleep was gorgeous), to classical Asian composers to Duke Ellington to I don’t even know what. As an introduction to jazz piano it couldn’t really have been better. She played the piano in ways I didn’t know it could be.

Then. Then. Jay Phelps and his quartet. As an introduction to jazz, boy did I pick a good place to start. The rest of the quartet were all superb (I was in awe of the double bass player) but Jay on trumpet. Just another level. It was the most joyous, life affirming and brilliant gig. I could not wipe the smile from my face, nor my foot from tapping, nor my jaw from dropping. I wanted to get up and dance like I was Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Perhaps I should have.

They played songs from Jay’s new album (which doesn’t appear to be on Spotify and I couldn’t afford to buy. Grrrr) which was written whilst he recuperated from a broken rib sustained saving his Mum’s dog from a canal (I know, he’s handsome, talented & a good son – form a queue behind me ladies). The sublime Amphitrite, written overlooking the Thai sea and Ethnic were among my favourite tracks. All of them were pretty freaking amazing to be honest.

For someone who has never heard live jazz, nor even heard very much recorded jazz, I fell a little bit in love with jazz this evening. You might just find me in a jazz club sometime soon. Which are not words I ever thought I’d be saying.

22 down. 18 to go.

 

40:21

Furlined. Colston Hall Foyer, Bristol.

Free foyer gig at Colston Hall. As part of the charity trust that runs the Hall, they put on free foyer concerts from time to time. Usually when there is a band in the main hall and/or Lantern which makes the atmosphere in the bars and public space lively and fun. Except tonight there was no gig in either the main hall or the lantern. Which led to the audience being the bar staff, assorted friends of the band, a trio of tourists, a family with young kids who appeared to have wandered in by mistake and were too polite to leave. And me. Fewer than 15 of us at peak. So it was intimate. Oh and the drummer was late. As we waited for him to set up his kit I chatted to the band about this whole shebang.

This could have potentially been very awkward. If I’d not liked them. Which fortunately I did. Ordinarily Furlined have a cellist (I would dearly love to see them play with this full line up) but she was on holiday so we had to pretend. Other than that, and the weird set up (daylight, huge open space but teeny audience) I really enjoyed this gig. The sound guy, with his mobile sound desk had done a bang up job which really can’t have been easy in this space. And the band did an excellent job of filling the space & not making us feel at all awkward. My foot was a tapping from the start, and had I been in a dark gig venue I probably would have been dancing too.

Standout tracks were the country influenced Searchlight and the rather lovely Feardriven, which struck a chord given some of the reasons I started this celebration. I’m listening to it again now, and its proper lush. I can see why Mojo compared them to Hawley. If, like me, you are a fan of alt country, Americana, Richard Hawley or music in that vein, then I think you would like Furlined. This is a bunch of accomplished musicians making hopeful, yet realistic music, pretty much because they can. And what better reason to create is there than that?

If I get the chance I would very much like to see them play again, in a more standard format than tonight with the full line up. If I don’t then tonight will still be a lovely memory and I’ll have found more music I like that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It will almost certainly go down as the smallest audience of 40 gigs!

21 down. 19 to go.

40:20

Low Roar. The Exchange, Bristol.

Band recommended by the friends who took me to C Duncan and Vok at cracking venue, which is fast becoming a favourite of mine.

Jacqui wasn’t able to come with me to this gig, but I trusted her taste enough to buy a ticket and go on my own. The Exchange, on Old Market Street, is such a fantastic venue. Friendly staff, quirky building, I love it there.

Tonight was gig 20. Halfway point. I wanted tonight to be special. I wanted a really good gig to mark reaching 20 of 40. I got it. In spades.

I missed most of Casey Dienel’s support set, I’m sorry Casey ‘cos I liked what I saw/heard.

Low Roar came on to no fuss or fanfare and just played. Without introducing themselves, the songs, or anything. They let the music speak. And when its this good I forgive them. Experimental, creative, atmospheric, brilliance came out of dozens of instruments & a voice so beautiful I thought I might break. The bass thundered through my chest, reverberating my heart and I was lost. Lost in the music. Lost in the songs. Lost in the beauty of it all. I closed my eyes & drank it all in. I felt like I could taste and touch the music. As the music poured in and the emotions fell out I felt transformed, as if I was floating. It was extraordinary. I was immersed in the most gorgeous, stunning soundscapes that lifted me and moved me and took me places I’d forgotten music could. I adored it.

Ryan played a couple of songs on his own, acoustic guitar plus effects and they were magical. Tears were falling. One song was almost too much. My bottom lip was wobbling. I thought I might melt or disappear into a river of tears. It was powerful.

For music I didn’t know before the gig to have such an effect. It was special. So special. I wanted gig 20, my halfway marker to be special. I had no idea it would be so so good. Low Roar are up there with Elbow and Michael Kiwanuka at this point. High, high praise. It is moments like tonight that I live for. Gigs like this one are why I’m doing this. Discovering music so beautiful and ethereal, like gossamer, shimmering and shining like gold in the sun, well it is everything.

Thank you. Those words never seem to convey enough but they are all I have to offer. Thank you Low Roar for taking me on such a beautiful journey of discovery. Music has the power to heal and transform like nothing else.

20 down. 20 to go.

 

 

 

 

 

40:19

3 Daft Monkeys. The Fleece, Bristol.

Random ticket purchase because  I wanted to make sure I saw a gig at The Fleece as it is such a fan favourite in Bristol.

First gig of June. First gig of the summer. First gig, for me, since the Manchester bombing. However unrelated a little gig by an oddball band may seem to Ariana Grande concert at a massive arena may seem, music unites. And I was once a teenage girl with teenage girl dreams, crushes & fandoms. By circuitous route pop music is what led me to be standing in the Fleece tonight. And we are all fans. Whatever type of music we choose. And we are human. And music is our common thread.

I was early for this gig, so I had a little walk round some back streets near the harbour in the sunshine. It was lovely to get off the main drag & be able to see/hear people on the other side of the water at the Apple enjoying some cider in the sun, but from far enough away to enjoy the solitude.

I’ve not been to The Fleece in a while and I remember the stage being a lot higher! It is still a lovely space, nice and big and open (well, other than the pillars) making it feel safe and lending itself to good acoustics.

The support band, Arcadia Roots, came on to an almost empty venue which they quickly filled with sound. I was sat down at the back, but they drew me in, slowly, until I was up on my feet near the front enjoying their set. Whilst not entirely to my tastes (and the sound mix was too low on the vocals) there was much to admire in their sound and they did good a good job of warming up the crowd. Who, whilst small, were enthusiastic and numbered a few jugglers/performance artists (come now, this is Bristol).

The crowd were a lovely mixture tonight of old & young, all of whom were on their feet bouncing to the music. 3 Daft Monkeys came on to a warm welcome and insisted we all dance to the first few songs. Most didn’t need encouragement, but it was that shuffle bounce dancing that can only happen to a certain kind of music, which isn’t my kind of movement. I made my way back to the back to sit down again as I just didn’t have the energy or inclination to join in tonight.

On paper there was much to like about 3 Daft Monkeys, their name for a start (especially as there are 4 of them…..), the drummer was playing partly without sticks (gloved hands), the bass had more then 4 strings & no visible frets, a violinist (I love me some strings) & an open calling to remember to vote and to remember to vote Labour. But you know how things that look good on paper aren’t always good in reality? Or that what you think you want and need isn’t at all what you want and need? Tonight’s gig was like that. It just did not stick. I wanted to let go and enjoy it but something just wouldn’t give.

I guess it had to happen eventually – that I would find a gig I didn’t really enjoy. I’m sad it was this one though.Some you win and some you lose I guess.

19 down. 21 to go.