This is 2019 in gigs. In statistics.
For 2019 I had no goal and no agenda, I was just going to go to some gigs. I knew there would probably be a lot; 40 gigs had been habit forming, but I had no idea the total would end up as high as it did. That certainly wasn’t the aim at the start of 2019!
Gigs Attended: 103. Even I find this ridiculous.
By Location: 70 were in Bristol (68%) which is a slightly higher proportion than last year. London again came second, with 14 visits again (13%), I went to Cardiff 5 times (5%), Reading twice and everywhere else once, although I saw 2 gigs apiece in Manchester and Birkenhead despite visiting each place only once. Bath, Brighton, Exeter, Frome, Oxford, Caerphilly, Wolverhampton and Tonbridge Wells were all visited. Five of those were places I’ve not been to for gigs before and I’m pleased some new places were explored. You can tell that I don’t drive, as all those places are on rail routes. Imagine the possibilities if I had access to a vehicle!
By Venue: I visited 43 different venues, 23 for the first time so I certainly spread my wings a little more. St George’s was visited the most, with 33 visits, a full third of everything I saw in 2019 was within it’s walls. Colston Hall’s foyer had 7 visits, Bristol Folk House, Union Chapel and Rough Trade were all visited 5 times each and other than a couple of places I went to 2 or 3 times, there were 32 venues I only visited once.
By Artist: Gaz Coombes was again responsible for a fair chunk of gigs, I saw him 7 times in 2019 (7% of all gigs) but only two other artists more than once, Erland Cooper and Bill Ryder Jones, leaving 91 other artists seen. That is a lot of bands/groups/singers/orchestras! 24 gigs were people I had seen before (including the 7 Gaz gigs), leaving me to discover 79 artists for the first time. Or if you like them as percentages, 23% I’d seen before, 77% were the first time I had seen them live. I am quite pleased with this, it means I saw people I wanted to see for the first time and that I discovered a lot more new music. The increase in the amount of classical music I heard played a large part in this, and I suppose we could split hairs over whether I can count Bach and Beethoven as new, but if I’ve not heard it live before then it counts as new to me. It breaks down to 68 artists I had not heard of before I booked the ticket (66%) and 35 I had (34%) so I took a lot more risks in 2019. I leapt into the musical unknown a lot.
By Month: Jan 4, Feb 10, March 13, April 6, May 15, June 7, July 7, August 6, September 5, October 12, November 12 and December 6 or an average of 8.5 gigs per month, 1.9 per week or a gig every 3.5 days. It really is no wonder I am quite so tired. May was my busiest gig month, although March, October and November were also pretty busy. January saw gig action for the first time and gigging was spread slightly more evenly across the year.
By Payment Type: 10 were directly paid for by Tom, plus he gave me gift vouchers for Christmas that paid for a few more, 19 were either free or I was on the guest list or I was photographing, making roughly 70 gigs I paid for myself. It is no wonder my meagre savings pot has dwindled. It is pretty cool that 18% were on the house, and that about another 14% were directly gifted, but the remaining 68% coming out of my pocket has made a significant dent in my purse. If for no other reason that this I will be gigging less in 2020; simply put I cannot afford it at this pace.
There were a number of shared gigs, of course, 25 with Tom, 8 with Janine, 2 with my son and 1 with Claire. That means 35% of gigs were shared and 65% I went to by myself. Taking my boy to his first proper gig, Public Service Broadcasting at Caerphilly Castle was pretty special and dragging him to Rough Trade’s live room on Mothers Day to hear Merry Waterstone and Emily Barker was also rather lovely. He found both very loud and music is my jam, not his, so sadly I’m not sure I will get to share my profound love of music with him again, but I live in hope. I never expected to go out alone to so many gigs, but as with so many other aspects of 40 gigs I have been surprised by how it changed me. It is still seen as brave and somewhat taboo for a woman to go out alone.
By Gender: I was determined to improve the number of women I saw play music live in 2019 and I am very pleased to say that I did. I doubled the number of female artists I saw to 25 (24%) and there was a similar increase in the number of mixed gender bands to 30 (29%) which means that the number of all male line up’s I saw decreased to 47% (48 gigs). I said I would hear my sisters and I did!
By Ethnicity: This was an area I also wanted to improve on and although the numbers went up, only 18% of the gigs I attended were by artist of colour. This is a slight improvement on the 11% of the two previous years, but it remains an area I want to improve upon. Without the Asian Arts Agency or the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival this number would have been ever lower.
By Sexuality: I hadn’t included this in previous years reports, but as part of a diversity audit where known I want to include this. It seems churlish to monitor how many women and artists of colour I see and not how many are LGBTQI+ or have a disability, so I am planning to try, where I can, to monitor and increase the diversity of the artists I see. Of those who have made public who they love, 7 artists were members of the LGBTQI+ community which is under 7%.
By Disability Status: Again, not previously monitored and difficult to quantify as many of the artists I saw may well have hidden disabilities, but where knowledge is in the public domain, then only one group, the Paraorchestra, contained disabled musicians. I would like music and all art forms to be more reflective of the world in which we live. Among the working age population of the UK, 19% of adults have a disability. That increases with age, to 45% of total UK population. Shouldn’t there be a lot more disabled musicians? No wonder the Paraorchestra are such a force for good! As a disabled writer I really do want to do more to highlight the inequalities in access to music for audiences and artists alike.
Best Gig: This is always a difficult decision, I take something from every gig I attend and they are all in their own way special (even the ones I don’t like!) but this year there were only a few that moved me beyond words and those would have to be the joint best ones. Paraorchestra again, with the Nature of Why, it is one of the most joyous things I’ve ever experienced and I want to spend my birthday with you every year please! Gaz Coombes in the Sheldonian Theatre with the orchestra was sublime and along with Erland Cooper at the Arnolfini showed me the emotive and redemptive power of music. Sebastian Plano took me to another realm with his cello, a transformative and immersive experience I will not forget. So those four combined will be my best for 2019.
Worst Gig: For once, this is an easy choice. The Coral were by far the worst live band I saw in 2019. Not. For. Me.
By Genre: Another broad mixture. There was a folk festival, a blues and jazz festival, some big band, world music, Indian classical, pop, rock, indie, a lot of experimental music, classical and modern classical, avant garde, minimalism, country and lots of things I wouldn’t like to try to classify. My tastes have certainly broadened I think it is fair to say. I even found myself sitting in the dark listening to a three hour piece at a Deep Minimalism festival. That is not something I ever thought I would do.
Top 10: In a random order, the ones I loved the most in 2019 were;
Gaz Coombes and the Hot Fruit Orchestra at the Sheldonian theatre. Oh gosh, more tears that you could fill a bucket with. Gaz. With an orchestra. In a 350 year old Wren designed building. It was almost perfection.
Erland Cooper at the Arnolfini. Profoundly and deeply moving.
The Paraorchestra at the Millenium Centre. Joy, pure unadulterated joy. An overwhelming, enveloping sensory experience that I want to repeat as often as possible please!
Colin Stetson at the Round Chapel. Never, I mean never, turn down the chance to hear Colin play. He is supreme.
Sebastian Plano at Colston Hall. Took me to a different realm. Simply breathtaking. The reason I gig. The reason I live.
Poppy Ackroyd at Colston Hall. There is just something special and stunning about the piano that I adore.
Lau at St George’s. The finest folk music you will find.
Terry Riley. The master of minimalism live. Enough said.
Bill Ryder Jones in a Church. That fragile and beautiful voice, quivering and sending shivers through me.
Beverley Glenn-Copeland at St George’s. One of the most life affirming and lifting gigs I’ve heard in a long time. There was lightness and celebration.
That was my 2019 in gigs. In difficult times, when division and bitterness seem to have spread like a virus, music was my respite and hope. In music I have a purpose, a place, a community and a home. For each musical experience, if only for the time it takes for the artists to play, we are united and as one. There is real power in that. Music transports and heals and it allows us to feel in ways nothing else does. That is why I have kept gigging; looking for the light in the darkness. In 2020, when I expect the world to grow even darker, personally and all around me, I will draw on as much music as I can to envelop myself in as much hope and light as I can find.