Saturday 6th July, 2019
I love Public Service Broadcasting and have seen them live before. Most memorably at the Royal Albert Hall, which was just about the most perfect marriage of artist and venue I’ve ever witnessed. My boy is a big fan of PSB, Go! is his favourite song and I’ve wanted to take him to his first proper gig for ages. Caerphilly isn’t that far from Bristol on the train and it felt like the right time to try and encourage him into my world of music. Besides, a gig at a castle is pretty cool! Nervously I booked us tickets, arranged a hotel and sorted the transport. Would my boy cope with the noise, the crowds, the event?
He asked not to see the support act, so I’m really sorry Boy Azooga but we missed you. I knew it would be enough for him to see PSB and that asking any more of him would be too much. As we arrived and walked into the throng, he gulped “are all gigs like this, Mum?” and asked for the ear defenders. We had access tickets and would be up on the platform at the back, so I knew that once we had made it through the crowd he would be ok. And he was. He kept the earphones on and was playing Minecraft on his phone right up to the moment PSB came on.
The setting was lovely. Caerphilly is the most castley castle you could ask for. The second biggest castle in the UK with a moat, crenulated walls, leaning towers and a dragon! It will be well worth us making a return visit for the castle alone. I had somehow forgotten that PSB’s last album, Every Valley, was written about the coal industry of South Wales and so hearing some of those songs played in Caerphilly was very fitting. Knowing that in the crowd there would be ex miners and ex miners’ families gave all of those songs an extra poignancy. All Out had an even more defiant kick that usual, that’s for sure. Sadly, there was no Tracey Ann to guest on the vocals of Progress but we were treated to Haiku Salut on They Gave Me A Lamp. One of the things I love about PSB is that the role of women has always been upfront in their music. Valentina is celebrated as well as Yuri. The women who were the backbones of their mining communities, the feminism inspired by their struggles, all championed as much as the men who were fighting for their livelihoods.
I had warned my boy that he would have to wait ‘til the end for Go! and there were points when I worried he may not make it that far. He did and he was up on his feet, dancing and dabbing and telling me I was embarrassing for doing the same. His reaction to that and the dancing spacemen during Gagarin was worth it. He loved those two. His favourite bit was “the music, of course” but “gigs aren’t really my thing.” He rather sensibly asked to leave before the end so that we could avoid the crowds and so sadly we missed the male voice choir singing Take Me Home, which I’m sure would have been very emotional and powerful to have witnessed. But this wasn’t my gig. It was for my boy. And he made the right decision to leave early. I am proud of him for staying almost ‘til the end, for giving it a go, and for enjoying the music as much as he did. It may be a while before he decides to do it again, but it was wonderful to share it with him all the same.
Thank you Public Service Broadcasting for being your usual wonderful selves. I still love your music. The mixture of social history and commentary, never sentimental, always celebratory, blended with electronic beats and wizardry, is much needed in our times. Remembering the stuff that makes us a great nation, without ever resorting to cliched flag waving nonsense, using music to bring us together and in some ways heal. I am glad I got to experience aspects of Every Valley in South Wales. In a castle that can tell 800 years of Welsh history. With a crowd that spontaneously sang Welsh rugby songs and chants. The warmth and spirit of Wales was felt in both the music you made honouring those communities and in the people around us.
Thank you also for the gifts for my boy. We plan to frame them and hang them in his bedroom as memories of his first gig. What a way to start him off, eh?!