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.


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