Wednesday 12th September, 2018
The Exchange is a cracking little venue at the end of Old Market Street and if you’ve not been, pay them a visit. They have a cafe, a record shop and do punk rock aerobics and yoga as well as gigs. They are also independent, Bristol is very lucky to have a fair few independent venues, but that’s not always the case across the country and as anyone who has been to an 02 knows, chain venues can suck the life out of a place. Save The Exchange is a campaign to do what it says on the tin. You can become an investor and help secure The Exchange’s future. They want to become Bristol’s first community owned venue. If you can buy in, do. If you can’t, spread the word. All music fans should support grass roots venues like this.
Speil out the way I’ll talk about the music.
The opening act were Mike Crawford and the Various Sorrows. They played to a small crowd, maybe 20 of us and I was acutely aware of being about the only one there who didn’t know Mike personally! I guess this wouldn’t have been a problem, other than that I didn’t like the band. The music was generic blues rock, delivered with macho swagger, and I am not the target market for that. I’ve had enough of boys playing guitars. They could play and Mike’s no spring chicken, so he knows how to present a performance. I do try to be positive in my writing and I know that the bands and artists are all putting themselves on the line to play. I also can’t lie though. This was not music that did anything for me.
Ordinarily I’d leave it at that and move on, but increasingly I am getting angry at how much of the live music circuit is dominated by white men. I try to see as many female artists as I can and I go to a lot of gigs, but there is no way I could hit a 50/50 gender ratio. Even a 70/30 split would be hard. Now that isn’t Mike Crawford and his band’s fault directly, but they are an example of how a perfectly average band of blokes get a booking. I bet a group of equally talented women would not be given such an opportunity.
Which made seeing Nicole Atkins bound on to the stage as the 2nd act all the more pleasing. She was backed by The Pollies who I liked the look of only because they included a cellist among their number and I do love a bit of strings. Nicole was brilliant. The highlight of the whole night as it turns out and the best thing on the stage by miles. She has on her a cracking set of pipes and uses them to sing blues/country nice and loud. I would be very happy to see her perform again, and have her album Goodnight Rhonda Lee downloaded.
Dylan LeBlanc was all floppy blonde hair, awww shucks me persona and guitar playing a bit like Jeff Beck. The Pollies, well instead of complimenting each other in playing, as they had done for Nicole, they all just blended together into a cacophony. That plus Dylan’s vocal being too quiet (not a mic issue as I could hear him talking fine) and I was not enjoying myself. I was tired and even contemplated going home before the end! I tried moving spots in the venue to help with the noise balance, to no avail. As the sound for both previous acts had been fine I can only conclude it was not the venues issue, but the bands. It was too much for me.
You can’t like everything and my tastes have become a lot less mainstream since I started going to so many gigs so perhaps this was just one not for me. The Exchange is still a vital venue and Nicole Atkins was worth discovering.