40:33

Jacob & Drinkwater. The Folk House, Bristol.

A folk duo I’ve never heard of, venue I’ve somehow never been to in Bristol with excellent reputation.

A while back I went to the excellent Downend Folk Club on the invitation of my mate Kate. We saw India Electric Co (about 10 gigs ago, I think) and through that I was invited to come along to this gig. I’ve always wanted to go to the Folk House, it has a very Bristolian vibe and a reputation for being really friendly. So I took the opportunity to visit and hear some more new music.

I wasn’t disappointed in the venue. It is an intimate space, with an excellently stocked bar for someone who doesn’t drink booze or caffeine! I had so much choice, it was fantastic. The people were friendly too.

Support came from Jack Cookson, as it had at India Electric Co. I was very pleased to get a chance to hear him play again. He was much better tonight, more confident and happier. Between the miserable songs he chatted away, making us laugh and warm to him. He played 5 songs I think, some different from last time I heard him. He plays acoustic guitar and harmonica (which I didn’t think I liked, but when Jack plays it I do) and sings lamenting songs. He is a talented musician and a lovely lad, his stuff is available on Spotify so listen to him say I.

Folk gigs are infinitely more civilised, you get a break between acts and during acts. Where you can buy bottomless coffee and, more excitingly for me, a range of gluten free cakes. I treated myself to a millionaires shortbread (yum) and received my first Jane Austen tenner in the change. I hadn’t realised how much this would mean to me, to get my hands on a note with a woman on. Representation matters. I was asked earlier today, why I had picked the bass to learn and not the guitar. There are other reasons but the main one is that there are a range of female bass players to look at as inspiration. Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads being mine. When you see someone like you, you feel comfortable and included. Female guitarists tend to also be singers and I cannot sing. I can, now, play bass a little.

Jacob & Drinkwater are a duo, formed of Tobias and Lukas (I think both also solo artists), one of whom plays guitar, the other double bass & piano. They both sing. Beautifully. Folk music can be heartbreakingly beautiful, aching and longing and full of regret. More than once tonight I was in tears, the music, the harmonies, Tobias’s gorgeous voice, just set me off. Parallel hit nerves I didn’t need exposing, as did Real Love. No amount of joking between songs (and they did a good line in surreal humour) could detract from the emotional content of the music. Lush, rich melodies spilling out of them and into my head and heart, reaching the places only music can.

A couple of the tracks were different, one I’d have to describe as flamenco blues (distinct Jagger vibes) and another just piano and voice that was darker and showcased Tobias’s voice wonderfully. I loved all of it and I wish I could get down to Exeter to see them play with a full band next week.It was a complete pleasure to see and feel this gig in such a lovely intimate and warm space.

40 gigs started as silly idea and has grown and developed into so much more. I went to tonight’s gig with open ears and an open heart. I was rewarded with music that hit me in the feelings. I walked home, alone and in the rain, with a feeling of looking for something I cannot find.  Despite the late hour I may just pick up my bass and see if I can express it that way.

Thank you Ant for showcasing the talent you help look after. Thank you Jack and Jacob & Drinkwater for sharing your souls with me, through your songs. Thank you Folk House for being you, don’t you ever change.

33 down. 7 to go.

 

40:32

Ryan Adams. Apollo, Manchester.

An artist I adore, who I haven’t seen live in over 10 years. Venue I’ve never heard of, let alone been to, in the wonderful City of Manchester.

I adore Ryan Adams and have done so for a number of years. One of the best gigs I’ve ever been to was him in Liverpool in February 2006, where he played solo for over 2 hours and held a crowd of Scousers silent! He also caned 2 bottles of red wine in that show and did a Slayer cover on the piano. I met him afterwards and one of the greatest moments of my life was him taking my hands, looking me straight in the eye and declaring “you are a beautiful, beautiful girl” before walking away. It was memorable and brilliant and I have been scared to see him live again ever since. I did see him once more, later that same year, when I was 8 months pregnant and although he was superb my mind was understandably elsewhere.

When this tour was announced, the 40 gigs celebration had already started, my then boyfriend bought me a ticket by way of birthday present. When we split up he told me to keep the gift. Thank you to him for being generous and decent.

For whatever reason, Ryan doesn’t play shows down South, other than London and I think I’ve made my dislike of London shows clear elsewhere in this blog 🙂 I knew I could fund cheap travel (hello Megabus) and hotel (hello Easy Hotel) and just knew that this would be a special gig.

The journey up may have been cheap (only £1) but it took a very, very long time. An awful accident had closed much of the M5 and the resulting tailbacks meant it took us 6 hours just to reach Birmingham. I disembarked there and picked up a train. I had to be there in time for Ryan. Just had to. Total journey time was 8.5 hours. My thoughts were very much with the victims family and everyone involved with the accident and its clean up, but I wanted to get to the venue in time to feel comfortable as I had never been there before. I was also nervous that Ryan wouldn’t be good enough to have made such a journey worthwhile. Prove me wrong, Ryan, please. Without spoiling the rest of the words to come, he did.

In the event I wasn’t early enough to get a front row spot, I could have been second row, but it was very crowded and I didn’t feel at all comfortable so I went to stand in front of the sound desk. At least I’ll have amazing sound, if not view, was my thinking. I got chatting (so much easier up North, people really are a lot friendlier) and relaxed.

Support was from Karen Elson, who stylistically suited Ryan at least. It was hard to make a judgement of her music though as the venue filled up and people were moving about and chatting in front of me. The sound was also not the greatest (which given where I was standing was a surprise). I’ll download her stuff on the strength of what I heard though.

Just before Ryan was due on I moved further back as despite the sloped floor, the sold out venue was too crowded and I couldn’t see a thing. Also Ben n Barry had appeared and so I found a spot with them to watch Ryan. It was a bit odd seeing them at a gig that wasn’t their own, but not as odd as seeing them anywhere other than a gig would have been I guess! This 40 gigs will be unique in that I got to share it with half of Starsailor.

Ryan came on to rapturous applause and began what would be a 26 song set, playing for in excess of 2 hours. The man is brilliant live. A genius. I have loved, no adored, his music for so long. The Cold Roses album saw me through separation, Gold my divorce. He gets labelled as alt country, but the truth is there are so many different Ryan’s. Sometimes he is country, sometimes he is rock, sometimes he is both, sometimes he is acoustic, sometimes with a full band. He is a polymath, a prolific songwriter and a poet. He played songs from throughout his 20 year solo career (yep, Heartbreaker is 20 years old. Blows my mind to think that).

He played some of my favourites, Gimmee Something Good and Two among them. Then he did a trio of songs that were almost too much. I felt slightly broken and if he had kept that level of emotion up any longer I would have broken down. Prisoner into Everybody Knows into Dirty Rain. I was in bits, weeping, tears flowing down that I had no control over. It was as if he’d reached into my heart and ripped it a little. Heartbreaking. And that is why I love him. He manages to make beauty from sadness. His music can be very sad, depressing even, and he often deals in heartbreak and loss. Themes of loneliness and lost love permeate most of his stuff. Yet, he shares that pain and in doing so it is lessened. We heal by knowing we are, after all, not alone. Not when we have his music. And at a gig, each other. There is comfort in the shared experience.

By way of contrast, he played Halloweenhead, which was a joy as all the blokes around me bellowed out the chorus loudly. Then Stars Go Blue. Oh, deep sighs and shivers and chills. This has always, always, been one of my favourites of his. It was the one I came away from that spectacular Liverpool gig singing (even though he hadn’t played it that night). It is the only one of his records every selected for Desert Island Discs (by Stephen King) and to have heard it live was spine tingling. The lighting became blue stars and beamed out across us all. It was wonderful. If I could bottle that moment, to relive forever, I would.

He played loads more. Ones that stand out were Cold Roses and Magnolia Mountain, both of which he played the hell out of his guitar for. He can play a mean blues/rock/country riff when he wants to you know. He was backed by a full band “the unknown band” all of whom were brilliant. Tight sounding and on it the whole show. Oh he played Let It Ride. And Fix It. It was all brilliant, all of it.

The final three songs. Well. What can I say? New York, New York, Come Pick Me Up and Shakedown on 9th Street. Wow. What a trio of songs to end on. Just superb. I was left smiling, slightly dazed and knowing I’d experienced a brilliant gig. There aren’t many artists who can break your heart, heal you, make you dance, make you smile and leave you with joy and gladness in your heart at the end of the show. Ryan is one of those. There also aren’t many who you can say sitting on a Megabus for over 6 hours is worth it. Well, he is. I would go back tonight if I could. I’d go back every night if I could.

Ryan Adams is a special artist. Live he is even more so. This was a special gig. I shall treasure the memories of it for a long time.

Thank you Ryan for all the music, all of it. Thank you Manchester for being so welcoming and friendly again. I think I’ve left a part of my heart with you this time. I will return. I will hopefully see Ryan again one day, he is such a special talent. I adored this gig. It was one of the best I’ve been to, not just this year, but ever.

32 down, 8 to go.

40:31

Penquin Cafe. Colston Hall, Bristol.

Less of a band, more of a collective, known for soundtracks/ambient music. Main Hall of a venue I’ve visited a fair few times over the past few months.

Penquin Cafe were the headliners, part of Erased Tapes is Ten, a short season of gigs celebrating the label. I missed the 1st act entirely, managed to catch the last 2 songs of the next but made it for all of Daniel Brandt and Penquin Cafe.

In a brilliant use of space, Daniel Brandt were in the foyer, so the audience had to ship up and move out to go see them play. This could have been annoying, but it worked really well. I’d never heard of Daniel and his band, and standing straddling the stairs to see them made for a unique and back ache inducing experience. Janine and I headed off the stairs to the side of the performance area, where we had a lot more space and from this vantage point I could see most of the audience as well as clear view of the band. If you add amazing drumming to a jazz trombone and a guitar with the most impressive set of effects peddles I’ve ever seen up close, you get Daniel Brandt & band. Heavy, industrial sounds that yet made me dance. It was a wonderful surprise. They were superb.

Then we headed back into the main hall for Penquin Cafe. Oh what a treat that was. A dozen talented musicians, playing a weird and wonderful assortment of instruments (a plastic case of chime bars, harmonium, assorted percussion and more) to create noises that ranged in style from ragtime jazz to South American beats. They played tracks from Penquin Cafe Orchestra, covers of electronic music (synthesisers replaced with wooden instruments – it was fabulous), original pieces, reworkings of a Cole Porter ballet using skill and flair and humour to tell short stories and make us all smile.

It was joyous. It was creative, witty and beautiful and I loved it.

Thank you Erased Tapes for signing and sharing such a unique set of artists, thank you Colston Hall for staging another brilliant gig and thank you Penquin Cafe for making me smile. As long as we have music.

31 down. 9 to go.

 

 

40:30

Soul II Soul, Ibido Sound System, De La Soul. Seasick Steve & Elbow. The Downs Festival, Bristol.

Everyone else I’d never seen live, Elbow who I adore, at a day festival on the Downs in my home City. The biggest gig of 40 gigs.

Look at that line up! I’d bought the ticket just to see Elbow but was more than happy with everyone else on the bill. All worth showing up for in my book.

As it was a sunny day I had to avoid getting there too early as I’m so sun sensitive that heat stroke would have been a real possibility! I’ve also not been that well and wasn’t entirely sure how I would manage a whole 8 hours of music. So I arrived a fair way into Soul II Soul’s set and had to sit down near the back. I heard Back 2 Life when I was 13 years old. If you had told me then that I’d be hearing them play live at a Festival in Bristol, where I would be living, I totally wouldn’t have believed you. At that point I didn’t even know you could go to gigs and was living in a rural Hampshire village where the most exciting thing that happened was a change in the bus timetables. It was a pleasure to have the music I liked way back then as a soundtrack to a sunny late summer afternoon.

If I’d have had the health I’d have got up and grooved to Ibido Sound System. I had to make do with sitting down at the back dancing instead.They were awesome. I’d been gutted to miss them play Bristol earlier in the year and so was excited when they were announced for this Festival. I fell instantly in love with the singers outfit (gold sequined catsuit, with the most amazing fuchsia overcoat that looked almost like a giant vulva) and I also fell in love with the beats. I shall have to see them play next time they come to Bristol.

I missed chunks of De La Soul as it was dinner time but again it was wonderful to have them as a backdrop. Having loved 3 Feet High  & Rising for years, hearing some of it live was brilliant.

My friend Janine and I were feeling brave and so decided to move towards the front for Seasick Steve, which was surprisingly easy to do. I should add a big congratulations to the organisers as the whole thing was well organised and well run. The vibe was friendly, there were just about enough toilets and certainly enough bars and food places to keep everyone happy. The shuttle bus service was excellent and made travelling to and from the site a breeze. I wish Bristol’s bus network was as reliable, frequent and well priced as this every day!

Back to the music. Seasick Steve is an artist I’ve admired for a long time and was really happy to have the chance to hear play live. I would happily have seen him as a headliner and he played a great set. The range of weird, homemade guitars he played, one described as “this one’s a piece of shit” was just the right side of eccentric. He makes sounds come out of guitars you didn’t know they could. With his drummer they make amazing blues and if you get the chance to see him, take it.

I wasn’t entirely sure about staying at the front for Elbow. It was more crowded than I was comfortable with and as we were about 6 back the view was  hit and miss. Sometimes being so short is a real pain in the arse! We agreed to stay for the first few tracks and move if it was too much. Which was smart of Janine as she must have known that as soon as I heard Elbow there would be no way I’d move anywhere. We’d befriended the folks around us, some Elbow virgins and some hardcore fans like me. When I told them about the Guy Garvey hug they all declared they hated me, but I knew it was a good-natured hatred bourne entirely of jealousy. Everyone loves Guy.

They opened with The Birds and as soon as I heard those opening notes I was away, in a wonderful place of warmth, security and emotion, the way only Elbow playing live can make me feel. I’ve been so lucky to see them live 3 times this year. I wish I could see them every few months for the rest of my life. If I could live in an Elbow gig forever I’d be happy. Music is my home.

This was gig 30, 3/4 of the way through (I know, its all gone so fast). Something unique happened tonight. A streaker. I’ve never seen one before, at a gig, or anywhere else. So to see a butt naked man run across the stage was, well a sight! Security came dashing on, but Guy stopped them and took the naked man for a waltz around the stage 🙂 He even had a cheeky feel of his bum whilst they were dancing. It was hilarious and encapsulates why we all love Guy as much as we do. He checked in to make sure the bloke was alright as well.  A bit later in the show he made us all sing “get some blankets, Liam” to the security guy at the front to make sure he fetched warm things for the bunch of blokes who were semi naked in their fancy dress. He’s a decent human being. An old romantic. A beautiful bear of a man.

The rest of the band are supreme players, musically holding everything together in such perfection that you could overlook them, which would be a mistake. They are brilliant and I love them all. Mirrorball tonight had in me in floods of tears. One day, I will love like that, even if it is just for that one day. I will. It is such an unashamedly romantic song, beautiful, lush & just lovely. Little Fictions a totally different kettle of fish. With beats and rhythmic patterns that shouldn’t work and yet just do, dramatic strings, changes of tone and mood throughout. Its storytelling through song and I love it. Its darker and yet still shot through with hope. Always hope. Even if the resolution doesn’t come, there is hope it will. For very personal reasons the lyrics, lets get old and love is the original miracle touch me. Elbow’s music helped to keep me alive in my darkest days. So every time I get to see them live its a celebration of being able to do so.

One Day Like This was as brilliant as ever, added to by the experience of being able to see the huge crowd on the big screens. Music unites, draws us together and holds us tight. This song is an aural hug, collectively and individually. It threads us together in this common experience, orchestrated by amazing musicians with huge hearts.

The first time I saw Elbow, in March (gig 6) was a very special night indeed. They were everything that night, just everything. It was hugely emotional and cathartic and healing. The second time (gig 24) was life affirming and joyous. Tonight was a bit of both. Seeing Elbow live will always be an emotional experience, their music is emotional and that is why I love them as much as I do.

Thank you Elbow for all the music, all the gigs and just being your talented, brilliant selves. Those 2 words, thank you, can never fully express what your music has meant to me in the past few years.

30 down. 10 to go.