Bedouine – Rough Trade, Bristol

Tuesday 30th October, 2018

A free instore gig at Rough Trade on a day I don’t work. I had no reason at all to not show up for this. Bedouine’s bio interested me, this is an artist who has lived an interesting life ergo should have some good songs I thought.

Rather than being in the Rough Trade live room (which is an excellent space) Bedouine played on the shop floor. The positives of this were that it was very accessible and open, the downsides being the road outside and the door to the shop provided competing noise. Which was a real shame, as these are gentle and intimate songs that deserved full attention. Bedouine sang without amplification, so at times it was difficult to hear her fully. What I could make out I liked very much, enough to purchase the album afterwards.

A rather different gig experience this, small, low key and gentle. Sometimes that is what you need.

Solomon Grey – Union Chapel, London

Thursday 25th October, 2018

I was itching to write this as soon as I could, but I had to write about Gaz in Newcastle first and that was a tricky one, emotionally. It is also my boy’s 12th birthday and the celebrations of that have understandably taken me away from writing. He is happily building and playing with Lego as I type.

I saw Solomon Grey earlier this year, as a random ticket purchase, and had instantly fallen in love with the beauty of their music. When they announced this gig, in the beautiful surroundings of Union Chapel there was no way I was going to miss it.

I’ve only been to Union Chapel in the daytime before, for the fantastic Daylight Music series (go, just go) so to see the space lit up at night was gorgeous all by itself. Atmospheric and pretty it was.

I missed a lot of the support act as my boy phoned me with birthday related queries, but they were an electronic group fronted by a singer with a great voice, therefore suited to Solomon Grey.

Just as before Joe and Tom came out and sat patiently waiting for the interval to be over, they are a very polite band! On the bigger stage of the chapel they had an impressive array of electronic wizardry, as well as a reel to reel tape recording system and a tape deck. It was an amazing mix of analogue and digital tech, all of which was used. The lighting was superb and really added to the atmosphere. Union Chapel is a special place with great acoustics and I loved being there.

There were numerous technical issues at the start, which resulted in a stressed looking Joe starting one song again. I don’t think any of minded hearing it again to be honest! The music was even more touching and beautiful than the first time I heard it, as this time I knew the songs. The album is called Human Music and that just about sums up Solomon Grey for me. These are heartfelt, emotional and incredibly humane songs of love and loss. They move me very much. Joe’s falsetto soared into the chapel with lamenting and haunting qualities. He and Tom work seamlessly to bring all of the musical elements together. I loved when both sets of hands were working the electronic motherboard at the same time, they are musicians in perfect symbiosis. With the staging and lighting there were times when it felt like they were sonic scientists, teasing and drawing life from the electronics and piano to create their perfect musical vision.

You can see and feel the emotion that goes into every song, the pain underwriting the love poured into every note is written all over Joe’s face. Yet he controls his vocal with precision. It’s a sound to behold and wonder at. Truly.

There is a redemptive, healing quality to music like this. When it is written, played and shared from human heart to human heart, there really is nothing like it.

I got to deliver the promised hugs after the show (cakes next time the gig is local, ok). This was a beautiful gig, beautiful music in a beautiful place with beautiful people. It was what my soul needed, the salve and balm my heart required.

Gaz Coombes – Riverside, Newcastle

 

Wednesday 24th October, 2018

This was to be my fourth and last Gaz gig on this tour. Getting there involved crossing from one side of the country to the other by train. The last, and only, other time I had been to Newcastle was back in the late 90’s for a Unison low pay demo. To encourage young people to join in they put on a concert. So, for a fiver, I saw (and head of heals fell in love with) Divine Comedy. Ash were the headliners, and it remains the only time I’ve walked out of a gig before the end as I was bored!

I checked, double, triple and quadruple checked my camera equipment over before I left the house on Wednesday morning to get the train. There was no way I wanted to miss this, my last chance to photograph the band.

There were a lot of emotions swirling about inside me for this gig. A sadness that this little adventure was coming to an end. Who knows when and if I shall be able to see Gaz and the gang again. Excitement that I would get another chance to see them tonight. Nervousness about my photography. A longing and aching in my heart that is born of the slow ending of other things, a heartbreak in slow motion is an indescribable pain.

Riverside is an odd place, and I like odd places. A bar and balcony above as well as the flat room below. Photographically, small pit at the front of the stage, relatively low stage and lights. Could be interesting I thought. Our plan was for Tom to hold me a spot at the front that I could get back to after my 2 songs worth of snapping.

I completely forgot to mention the support band in last weeks review of Brighton (forgive me?) so I shall make amends for that now. Willie J Healey are the name, a young 4 piece who play blues influenced rock. They have been doing a solid job supporting on this tour, are nice lads who can play a mean game of ping pong. I like them.

I was a bag of nerves before Gaz and the band came out. I usually am before I photograph. I know I can do it and I know, for someone with no training and an entry level camera, that I do a decent job. I am still nervous every time. Partly because I don’t get to do it very often. It is always such a treat and an experience I am grateful for. As a fan, and I am always there as a fan first, to be that close to the music you love, to have the opportunity to be creative around it, to try to capture some of what you find so joyous about music and distill it in a moment of stillness forever, is thrilling.

In the last week I’ve had some moments of real clarity and insight into myself and my relationship with music and art. “Drawing is a way of seeing” said the Ashmolean whilst encouraging us all to use a pencil to sketch the art in front of us. It’s something I’ve never done. I can’t draw or paint in the same way I can’s sing or play an instrument (my rudimentary bass does not count). I picked up a pencil and had a go, and it was amazing. Not my drawing skills, but the way in which it made me look afresh at paintings. It then hit me that photography is also a way of seeing. It forces you to look at angles and perspective and light in other ways. You see the world through different eyes. The only things I can photograph well are the things I love. Architecture, art (sculpture in particular), landscapes and live music. I cannot for the life of me do portraiture. I’m just not good with people like that. But I can shoot a band. With my fans eye. With my deep and abiding love of music running through my veins. This is why when I can get the chance to photograph a band I do. And why it means so very much.

Gaz only allows photographers two songs, the usual is three, so the pressure is on. They have been Worlds Strongest Man and Hot Fruit every time I’ve photographed him and seeing the band play 4 times in the space of a week has given me the advantage of knowing where to stand for the best shots (well I hope it has!)

After those 2 I got back to Tom at the front and became a fan in the crowd. And I have become a real fan of Gaz. Given that this January I’d never heard his solo music at all and hadn’t been a Supergrass fan when younger (I was more into Garbage, Skunk Anansie and Pulp) it’s fairly remarkable that I’ve been to see him 7 times in 2018. When music gets inside you like this, when you just connect with it, when it goes into your head and heart and will not leave, it’s pretty special. There aren’t many artists I would see 3 nights in a row. Gaz has become one of them.

He and the band played brilliantly, as always, and the sound and lighting were great. But. The atmosphere and crowd were strange. There was a pocket of quiet contemplation and other pockets of chatting. SHUT THE FUCK UP WHEN THE BAND ARE ON. Heckling, when it happened, was very rowdy and a touch random. It wasn’t a coherent crowd is perhaps the best way to put it. The more gigs I go to, the more I think Gruff Rhys is really on to something with his crowd theory musings. Every gig is different. No matter how many times I see the same band or artist, every night is different. Atmospheres change,what is going on for you, and everyone on that stage changes. For me, an emotional sponge, it really does affect how I feel about a gig. I cannot tell you how unbelievably confusing it is to be the sort of person who instinctively picks up on how everyone around you feels, mopping it all up like a giant J cloth, and yet simultaneously not be able to understand what those feelings are. I seem to spend my life in a permanent state of emotional confusion.

I need the music to explain it back to me, to give me permission to cry or laugh or soar skywards with joy. I need the rumble of bass in my chest, the visceral and raw power of a guitar and the thump of the drums at loud volumes to drown out all the other clashing, conflicting and confusing things that are around me. For the time the gig takes I can be lost in an all encompassing world of emotion, where it is safe to feel all the things I do. There were, as expected, tears. Girl Who Fell To Earth, The Oaks (although I do prefer the latter with the full band) and right at the end Matador. That last one almost broke me. Gaz’s vocal is so controlled, the yearning and reaching so brilliant, I was in floods. If my feet had not been stuck to the floor (yep, that sort of venue) my legs may have buckled from under me.

I danced as best I could to 20/20, English Ruse and Detroit – all 3 of which are kick ass tunes. It was ace to hear Weird Dreams for the first time, I hope that stays in the set, although the shift in tone and gear may have been slightly too early.

I have never seen Gaz give a bad performance and he delivered solidly again in Newcastle. I was in a difficult headspace and the emotional landscape so unchartered that I was unable to fully let go. That odd crowd didn’t help. I am still so thankful that I got to be there and experience it though. Live music is always worth it.

As Gaz always comes out to sign stuff and chat at the end of a gig I took the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye. That felt really sad, bidding farewell to this band of people who have welcomed me with open arms. Being accepted, as myself, is not something I am used to. I shall miss that very much. I shall miss the people, the laughter and the sense of belonging. Of being part of something. It has been one heck of a week, one amazing adventure and I remain thankful to everyone who has been part of it. And there will always be Cardiff. Always.

Daniel Pioro & Valgeir Sigurosson – St George’s Hall, Bristol

Sunday 21st October, 2018

After 4 gigs in a row in 4 different cities, I very, very tired and slightly concerned I may fall asleep in the corner of St George’s. The programme notes for this had proved enough of a temptation to draw me into buying  a ticket, knowing it was likely to be the 5th concert I went to in as many days. Yes this was a random ticket purchase, but everything St George’s puts on is such high quality that the risk is a somewhat mitigated. Violins, I like those, contemporary electronic composers, I like those, combining them seemed an interesting choice and worth £15 of my money.

Daniel and Valgeir were more than ably joined by Jonathan Morton on violin, Charlotte Bonnerton on Viola and Clare O’Connell on cello. The opening pieces showcased the string quartet at their modern best, before we moved into the electronic sphere. Both were wonderful and all the pieces on tonight’s programme worked together. The final piece in the first half was my favourite, however. It was the only non contemporary piece, although if I’d not been told so I may not have known it was centuries older than all of the others. Janine and I turned to each other and simply mouthed “wow.”

The second half was more of the fabulous same, string quartets are so amazing to hear live, and make all sort of emotions leap about inside me. They did save the best for last though, that was Daniel on violin (semi improvised I think) with Valgeir’s electronic wizardry and it was very, very good indeed. The control, strength and dexterity Daniel displayed with his bow was extraordinary. He uses his whole body to play and is absolutely at one with his violin, as if they are incomplete without each other. This boy can play.

I couldn’t have predicted that this would be exactly the end my gig week needed, but it was. I was bewitched and becalmed. The combination of classical instruments with contemporary music making works in the hands of passionate and brilliant musicians like this.

Ritual Union Festival – O2 Academy, Oxford

Saturday 20th October, 2018

Another chance to see Gaz Coombes, plus Nadine Shah and Ghostpoet. Well, I wasn’t going to turn that down was I? In lovely Oxford, at the O2 on the Cowley Road. Yes please.

I was supposed to be photographing again, but in a spectacular fail, I left the camera battery in Bristol and didn’t realise until 20 minutes before I was about to start. Despite all the other photographers being really kind, no-one had a spare that would fit my Nikon. I vainly went into the pit for Nadine Shah with my phone, figured I had nothing to lose in trying!

I had to watch the rest of her set from right at the back as the place was packed (being a Mercury nominee clearly makes you a draw) and the sound wasn’t great. This venue has odd acoustics and sound (it’s a chain place, they are more interested in making you pay over the odds for a beer) which is a shame as I really like Nadine’s stuff. It was hard to make a judgement on her performance when I couldn’t hear her well and could barely see the stage. I could make out the passion in her voice, I respect this woman and what she stands for.

I then lost my jacket. The recently purchased, vintage satin bomber jacket with the beaded sleeves that I love. So I wasn’t having a great night. I made my way to the front for Ghostpoet anyway, hoping to stay there for Gaz and salvage something of the night. I’m glad I did because I really liked his set. It got stronger as it went on and the later tracks were better for me (again, the sound wasn’t great) and a tipsy Nadine Shah came into the photo pit right in front of me and we had a chat. She took a selfie with me, which I am sure she will be bemused by now! It was so lovely to see her being a fan. To see an artist you admire loving the music as much as you. Pretty ace.

Julia Happy Cakes came to find me between sets and it was really lovely to see her. Enthusiastic, passionate people are always welcome to be my friend. Plus she makes awesome cakes. Who wouldn’t want know someone like that?

The major benefit of forgetting the battery was that I got to purely be a fan for tonight’s Gaz gig. I got to stand in the front row and simply get lost in the music and nothing else. I got to actually enjoy Hot Fruit, instead of chasing the lighting and photo opportunity and it’s a corker of a tune. Filthy mind, but a cracking song. The sound was much better for Gaz, this is a difficult venue to get good sound in, so well done crew.

It was a similar set to the night before, with the addition of The Oaks, which is another one that usually makes me cry. The plaintive howling of the chorus is beautiful. I don’t mention how good Gaz’s voice is often enough, he is a great singer on top of everything else.

Nadine was still there in front of me, along with some mates and one of the festival organisers who had tried to help me rescue the camera situation earlier on. She asked how I was doing and I said I was sad but still having a great time, as I am such a huge fan of Gaz’s music, “oh, I’m so pleased you are having a good time. You can watch from the pit if you would like” which is how I ended up watching the end of Gaz’s set sat in the press pit with Nadine Shah! Which is one of those moments I will never forget. It was surreal and thrilling. To be so close, no barrier, and have the music drive through me like a wild horse was just incredible. I may have been sat down but there was no way I wasn’t going to move and dance like a possessed banshee. There may have been air drumming, shoulder shimmies and what I was doing to make my neck hurt this much I do not know. Frankly I don’t fucking care. I got to be a fan and then I got to be in that amazing, fantastic and brilliant position at the end.

There was no way it could have been as good as Cardiff had been, but it was a memorable night all the same.

Thank you Ritual Union for a well put together event, run by people who clearly care. Thank you Gaz, band and crew once again for making my little holiday from real life so special.

 

Gaz Coombes – Tramshed, Cardiff

Friday 20th October, 2018

What a day this was! I spent the morning walking and paddling on Brighton beach. Then I spent a very long time on a lot of trains that went wrong. I was later than planned, leaving me stuck on a heaving commuter train to Cardiff from Bristol. It wasn’t fun and I had to use every technique in my armoury to prevent panic. Somehow I managed it and arrived at the venue with plenty of time.

I’ve been to Tramshed only once before and loved it. That was to photograph Starsailor a couple of years ago, when I saw them 3 nights on the bounce and fell in love with music all over again. That had been a special night, the crowd were well up for it and I had sobbed my heart out to Good Souls.

I was photographing again tonight and the atmosphere in Tramshed was equally as charged. Gaz was the opening act for the Swn Festival and I was therefore expecting a smaller and quieter crowd. Oh no. It was busy and there were plenty of Gaz fans in the audience.

This time, after my 2 songs in the pit, and what a privilege it is to be able to photograph a band I love, I was able to get back to the crowd and find a little spot at the end of the front row. I could see and hear the band and be part of it all, move seamlessly into being a fan again.

Words aren’t really going to do what happened next justice. It was the best I’ve seen Gaz play. It was extraordinary, powerful, emotional and overwhelming. There were times when I felt like I was flying, I closed my eyes and saw stars spinning off into the universe. I danced, sang and cried out all the emotions that have been building up inside me. Music is release, live it is everything, it just unlocks rivers and seams of emotion and allows them to roam freely.

The Girl Who Fell To Earth touches my heart in ways I cannot easily explain. Tonight I wept, tears fell and fell. It was written with a fathers love for his daughter, but tonight I felt it was being sung just for me. I saw and heard my life being reflected back to me. I was met with understanding, acceptance and love. You have no idea how powerful and precious that is. We went from that to the driving beat of Wounded Egos and Deep Pockets; my hips were moving me, I have no choice when music is this good. It’s a primeval response. We are hardwired to create music and move to it. Music is unique in lighting up every area of the brain at once. With my neurology that is a powerful force. 20/20 was astonishing. Detroit ditto. The only way I can think to explain what live music, played like this, feels like for me is this. You know when Doctor Who regenerates and all the molten force of the universe courses through their veins and fire shoots out their fingers? It’s like that. I wish I could share how that feels. It is life force, it is life giving, it is pure love and passion and heat and fire and it makes me feel more alive than anything else on earth. I tingle. I see stars and I fly. I soar. It is the most incredible feeling.

There have been moments in other gigs when I have felt all the above. Moments. From start to end this gig was emotional, powerful, life affirming, incredible stuff. There are goosebumps upon goosebumps thinking about it. Every time I think about it I start to cry.

Gaz, you made me feel that way. You have put together a special band of people and I cannot thank you all enough. It really isn’t often that I feel accepted, that I have a family or a home. Your music gives me that and it is the greatest gift.

There is an intellectual plain to Gaz’s music that moves me just as much. World’s Strongest Man is an album about what it means to be a man in 2018’s world. Inspired in part by Grayson Perry, an artist I really love, whose work explores the same areas. Both play with notions of masculinity, its crises and try to formulate some sort of response. One of the things I love about Gaz are the Roxies, female vocalists without whom the songs would be lacking. He is a creative, polymath of a musician, writing  great bass and drum rhythms. He is a man playing a guitar, not a boy and he isn’t afraid to show vulnerability or write a song like Vanishing Act about what it feels like to have a panic attack. These aren’t simple rock songs about girls (well, not all of them), they are complex, dense and layered with meaning. It has taken me months of listening and a dozen gigs to begin to get some of those. I like that very, very much indeed. Any music that can hit me in the heart as strongly as this does is exceptional, music that can hit me in the head too, well it’s not an everyday occurence.

I think one day I’d quite like to see a Grayson Perry exhibition scored by Gaz. Or a Gaz gig in the exhibition. Perhaps both. Can you imagine how fantastic that would be?! Art and music are my great passions, bringing them together. Wow.

The last time I has been at the Tramshed was a special night. Tonight was that with sprinkles, bells and whistles. It was a very special gig and one I shall hold in the memory treasure box very tightly.

 

Gaz Coombes – Concorde 2, Brighton

Thursday 18th October, 2018

It’s been a very long time since I went to Brighton, 19 years in fact. I have completely fallen in love with Gaz’s music this year. After first seeing him play live in March I just haven’t been able to get enough. Hence a Thursday night jaunt along the South Coast.

Concorde 2 is a strange place, which I mean as a compliment. I felt like I was entering a Victorian tea rooms, which had a stage at the end! Beautiful ironwork and sympathetic conversion has left this as a little gem of a venue. If you are tall. I do wish we could find a solution for short arses like me, so that we can see at gigs.

Not that this is a problem from the photograhers pit in the front of the stage of course. Thank you for allowing me to come and photograph you again, Gaz, it is my only way to be creative around the music I love and it is always a gift when I am able to do so.

After my allocated 2 songs I was kicked out, which left me backstage and having to leave the venue. Only way back in being via the front door. Leaving me to either fight through the crowd or to stay in the bar at the back watching the gig on a TV screen. You know I don’t like crowds, there was no way I was contemplating moving back through, so I took a seat and had a very different gig experience to usual. It is no bad thing to take a different perspective every now and again and although I couldn’t see much or hear as clearly I still had a great time. I got to review my shots as the band played for a start and see the happiness on the patrons around me. Usually I am immersed in my own world, so to watch it through the eyes of others was actually really nice.

At the end, as the crowd exited the venue, there were a lot of happy faces. I needed to see them. I needed to remember what a community music can be.

As a creative, as a photographer, this was a great gig.

 

 

Glasvegas – Thekla, Bristol

Wednesday 17th October, 2018

Glasvegas should be a huge band. Anthemic songs, thumping drums, loud guitars and a moving back story. Their self titled debut album is a decade old this autumn, hence the tour. If you don’t own a copy, buy it. It’s an album I’ve loved since I first heard it. So I was understandably excited when the tour was announced and the Bristol date was one I could make, on the good ship Thekla. A more perfect combination of band and venue I don’t think I’ve found. Theirs is exactly the sort of loud, in your face music Thekla is good at.

I was way later arriving at this gig than usual, and than I would have planned. For a good reason. I was attending the Sepsis Trust’s Bristol support group meeting. If you have been affected by sepsis in any way then please get in touch with them. Meeting other survivors and those who have been bereaved has helped me come to terms with what happened to me 3 years ago. I was lucky, the A&E nurse thought sepsis and started treatment immediately, my battered immune system responded to the antibiotics and I was well cared for by the amazing NHS staff of the hospital I now work at. But there were of course scars, both physical and mental. PTSD is common in sepsis survivors and I do occasionally get flashbacks myself. Physically I am left with scar tissue internally (yes this can be painful) as well as aching joints and my asthma may or may not have gotten worse as a result. Being with others who understand and with whom you can share freely is a real gift.

Music is partly what saved me. With antibiotic drips in both arms, feeling very ill from the powerful drugs with side effects that included nausea, dizziness, all sorts of bowel issues and a feeling like there were insects crawling inside my veins, I couldn’t read, use a screen or watch TV. About all I could manage was listening to music. So when I say music is my everything, I do really mean it.

What I have taken from surviving sepsis is the strength and courage to find who I am. To engage in my passions and to embrace the world in a way I wouldn’t otherwise. 40 gigs was a reaction to many life altering things, it was also a tale of survival.

Glasvegas. A band of survivors. Using creativity (loud rock n roll) to share and heal their own pain. To help others in theirs. You want songs about missing fathers, social workers, depression, drug use, gangs, knife crime and surviving all that? Then you come to Glasvegas. There is a lot of howling pain on this record. A lot of crashing, driving drums and wailing guitars. But there is so much hope and redemption in it too. They survived. And so did I.

So despite arriving barely 5 minutes before Glasvegas took to the stage and struggling to find a spot to enjoy the gig from, and needing liberal use of my asthma inhaler during the gig, this will be a gig I treasure.

I wound up at the top, on the balcony, overlooking the stage. Ah who cares about the netting I could at least see the band from here and had some space to cut loose. Which I did to Go Square Go which was fucking awesome. Those drums. To be able to jump and bounce and sing loudly and lustily along to the almost football terrace chant of the refrain gave me life.

I wound up having to leave during the encore as my asthma was getting worse and I needed cooler air and the safety of home.

If last week shook my confidence and faith in people, tonight restored it. Turns out all I needed was a little kindness, a cuddle, and some boys with very loud guitars.

 

 

The one I wasn’t going to write

This should have been a review of a gig I went to last week. But it isn’t. I left before the main act set foot on the stage. I had too. The venue felt unsafe and overcrowded to the point of danger.

I wasn’t going to write about it. I certainly wasn’t going to mention the venue, band or event organisers by name publicly. I was going to pretend it hadn’t happened and move on. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more upset I’ve become and the more I’ve felt the need to try to understand it.

I emailed Colston Hall, who had organised the show, last Friday. They have not yet replied. I feel deeply hurt by that. I’ve been a very loyal patron of Colston Hall. Many, many times I have sung their praises here.

The venue they chose to use for this gig was The Fiddlers. I shall not go there again. It was hot with horrible acoustics, appalling layout and staff that were at best invisible. It also smelt of damp. If you were to design me a nightmare venue this would pretty much be it. Cramped, crowded, fire exits not kept accessible and far too many people in too small a space. It felt dangerous and unsafe. I am fairly convinced they had sold more than the official capacity in terms of ticket numbers.

I had stayed through the support act, although I already felt very uncomfortable and despite trying to find any tiny sliver of space in a variety of spots I felt trapped, hemmed in and in danger. I left crying and shaking.

At the time I was in a state of high anxiety and I was visibly distressed. I could not see any members of staff to signal for help. Not a single person noticed or offered to help. I was on my own, in a state of distress and no-one noticed or offered to help. Let that sink in. In a crowded room of hundreds of others no-one helped me. Not one person thought to themselves “maybe I’ll just ask her if she is alright.” That hurts. I feel let down. By music. By the one thing that has held me up and held me together and given me a community.

My confidence has gone.  I had been looking forward to seeing Hypnotic Brass Band for months. I’d had a complete ball at Youngblood Brass on Thekla only recently and I felt this would be another great gig. Except it wasn’t. It was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

My plea to those who design venues, to those who promote and put on gigs is this; don’t ignore the needs of those with different needs to yours. Access isn’t just about wheelchair ramps and toilets with grab handles. It’s about making ALL your patrons and potential patrons feel safe and included. It’s about having enough visible staff in a venue, it’s about keeping exit ways clear, it’s about designing the acoustics of your venue to be the best they can, it’s about having clear well designed spaces that allow for the flow of people and it’s about listening to all feedback. Then acting on it.

I felt scared last Thursday night. Now I feel let down, disappointed and lost. I am supposed to be seeing Glasvegas this week aboard Thekla. And Gaz Coombes in Brighton, Cardiff and Oxford. And modern classical at St George’s. Right now I am not sure if I can face going to any of them, let alone all of them.

Live music has been everything to me. The only way I can feel a sense of connection and community. I often go weeks without meaningful adult company. Going to gigs, meeting people there who are passionate about music, including the artists that make it all happen, its my world. Take that away and I am lost. Bereft. Stumbling in an alleyway, crying and hyperventilating like I was last Thursday night.

The trouble with big emotions is how deep and powerful they are. There is no off switch.

 

Anna Calvi – SWX, Bristol

Saturday 6th October, 2018

This gig was incredible. It was intense. I loved it.

From the first moment I heard Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy on BBC6 Music I was hooked. Feminist rock music, oh yes. As a single mother to a son this song really resonates with me. I’d bought a ticket to this gig off the strength of that one track and the more I heard the gladder I was that I had. I got the album it’s from, Hunter, and loved every track on that too.

Come the night. I’m feeling pretty low. Lots happening all at once for me right now. I was not in the mood for going out. Alone. Dealing with people, lights, noise. No. Maybe I’ll skip this one I thought.

SWX is an odd venue, but I like it. When I got inside there was a catwalk extending out into the crowd. Hmmmmm. No space at the front, but one little Emma sized spot right at the end of the catwalk. There was no support act as such, unseen DJ’s span tunes instead. I felt a little uncomfortable with this, no support act to focus on meant an hours wait and dealing with all the chatter around me. Luckily, the Anna uber fan who was stood next to me, Tanya was friendly and talking with her really helped. As did being in a crowd of many more women than usual, it really does make a difference.

Right on time, out came Anna. Smouldering Anna. Red lips, boots and leather crop top. She plays the best rock guitar I’ve heard. Her voice is amazing.  She is one heck of a performer too. She spoke barely a word, she didn’t need to, the songs did all the talking. She prowled the stage, hunting for her prey and when she found it she played and toyed with the boys and she was always the winner. She was aggressive, snarling and damn sexy. I want to be Anna Calvi when I grow up. She is everything I wanted to be but never had the courage or talent to become.

Anna strutted down the catwalk with all the confidence and charisma of a rock goddess, making intense eye contact. She made me feel as if she was singing just to me. It was very, very cool. Swimming Pool was one of the best tracks, I had to close my eyes and felt my body floating away. That gentler track was followed by Chain, which I also loved. Oh and Alpha. Well. Let’s just say that did things to me.

The lighting was superb, dramatic and moody, enhancing the music. It was so good to see a performer taking lighting seriously. Anna really is the whole package.

“Thank you very much, goodnight” wait, how, no way, we can’t be at the end, this has gone by far too fast. Of course there was an encore, but the whole gig felt like it only lasted 20 minutes, not 90 and that is a sign of a high quality gig.

I hung about with Tanya and her friends for a little while, I didn’t feel like I wanted to leave the world of this gig. Anna graciously came out to say hello and I was shocked to discover she is as tiny as I, we even have the same ridiculously small feet! Anna if you ever want to swap shoes……..

This was an intense gig, an incredible gig and I am just a little bit in love with Anna Calvi as a result.