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.