Winter Mountain. The Canteen, Bristol.

Band who I discovered as gig 13 of 40 gigs. Venue that’s a bar/restaurant/puts on free live music that I’ve not been to for ages, in a part of town I rarely venture to.

Winter Mountain were the not at all unlucky 13th gig of this whole thing, I picked them because I liked their name. By the end of the gig I firmly liked their music too. So I was excited about seeing them again. When I saw that the tour included a stop at Bristol, albeit in a very different venue to last time I knew I would have to be there.

The last time I was at The Canteen was for an evening of music upstairs where we were laying on the floor on giant cushions, about 7 years ago. Stokes Croft is not my part of town. I find it edgy and unwelcoming. I feel so utterly out of place there that I just don’t venture anywhere near it. The Canteen itself is a bar/restaurant/live venue/pilates & adult ballet class venue/home of Bristol Bike Project/about 85 other things.  It is far too confusing for my brain to work with all its possibilities and the signs are so poor (and its so badly lit) that I cannot orient myself within its space.

Stupidly I was early and as I walked in to try to work out what the fuck was happening I bumped into about 5 people (somehow, all my fault despite not having eyes in the back of my head and when my apologies fell on deaf ears I felt tears prick). I felt the panic starting to rise and I walked out. It took me half an hour of walking down a quiet side street to feel calm enough to go back in.

I outline all this to show how much the music means to me. I dislike crowds. I find low ceilings, lots of conflicting noises, low light and environments I don’t know really hard to deal with. So for me to go anywhere like that for music, to put myself through layers of discomfort, shows you what it means. It is also some sort of attempt to ask you all to be a little kinder to people. You don’t know what’s going on inside them. They might be freaking out silently. If someone bumps you accidentaly, perhaps they have trouble orientiating themselves in space. Smile, say “hey, that’s ok” instead of being aggro with them. Accessibility is about a lot more than having a wheelchair ramp.

Once my gig friend, Janine was there and some friendly folk offered us space at their table I felt a lot happier. I was also relieved to see Joe and the rest of the band bringing in their instruments and setting up. Phew, I wasn’t in the wrong place on the wrong day!

We were lucky and some people sat at a table at the front left about halfway through the first song, so I was able to move right to the front and get the sounds of the music in my ears loud enough to drown out the background chatting. This was a huge bonus as I love Joe’s voice, its warm and comfortable like a favourite blanket. They played my favourite tracks in the first half, Open Heart and Stronger When You Hold Me. Open Heart has become a sort of anthem for me over 40 gigs, living life in an open and loving way has been such a part of this year. It has been my only human response to all the tragedy and discord around us. Politically things have been the worst of times and I don’t mean to diminish this in any way, just to say that the only way I feel I have been able to react and respond to the hatrid I have seen around me is with love. To draw together with kindness. And I have been met with so much love and kindness in return, strangers have become friends and I have allowed myself to be open to wonderful possibilities.

The first time I saw Winter Mountain I was still closed and a bit lost. So the themes of I Swear I  Flew resonated in a different way than they did tonight. This was also a very different type of gig. In a crowded and noisy bar with punters not paying attention to the band. Which is a real shame, cos they can play and deserve to be heard. It must be frustrating as a musician putting your heart and soul into your music to have it ignored in such an obvious way. All I can say to that is that I really enjoyed hearing a band I like play live again and that whoever wasn’t paying attention are the ones missing out. Missing out on open and honest music, tinged with folk, blues and country influences, talking about universal themes of love and lost possibilities.

Lucky Ones is a song about Joe’s little sister, and as a little sister recently reunited with her estranged big brother (partly through music) I can only say thank you. There really aren’t a lot of songs about sisters and this is a beaut.

I put myself through the discomfort of crowds and noise for music I love because music has given me everything. It continued to give to me tonight, and I am sure it will whenever I next get to see Winter Mountain.

Thank you Joe and the rest of the band. Thank you Janine for going to yet another gig with me, you have been the most frequent companion on this journey!

40+8 done. Another 4 gigs await before the end of my gig year.




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