Ezra Furman – Colston Hall, Bristol

Thursday 24th May, 2018

When the tickets for this gig were booked a gazillion years ago I was pretty excited about it. Then all the other gigs got booked around it and it became the fourth gig on the bounce for this packed week. I was pretty shattered going in and made the pragmatic decision to sit in the stalls, rather than risk achy limbs and feet standing yet another night on the trot.

The crowd were much more diverse, the age range bigger, the haircuts wilder (I didn’t at all feel out of place as a woman with short hair) and the atmosphere pretty electric. This was to be my last gig at Colston Hall before it closes for the refit. I’m not at all sure what I will do with myself without regular visits to the main hall and the Lantern. They have become my second home. I know the music trust will continue to put on gigs in other venues and I also know the refurb is much needed and will be worth all the money and time, but I was still slightly sad tonight.

Du Blonde were the support and I’m sorry we came in a little way through their set and missed a chunk of it as they sounded great. They were fun and engaging and a good warm up for Ezra.

The rest of the band came on, dressed entirely in white like lovely angels and Ezra made a dramatic entrance almost like a ballerina. He in no way hides his light under a bushel and that is why we love him. He is a brave, confrontational and brilliant artist who wears his heart firmly on his sleeve. The audio visuals and theatrical performance made it almost feel like a live film soundtrack. His music has a very visual, evocative feeling. I only knew a few of his songs before going into this gig, but the long set list tonight showed off his creativity and flair for a witty lyric. I Lost My Innocence and one I thought was called Cookies & Cigarettes (it isn’t!) were utter standouts. Unashamed and honest songs about gay sex and love sung by a man in a dress and make up. This is genuine outsider music and I loved it. Ezra paced the stage, gathering himself at the back at times, finding the feelings to allow him to channel whatever character he was playing in each song. Or simply to find a way of dealing with all the emotions, I’m not sure which. Perhaps a mixture of both. There was an Iggy Pop kinda vibe, not just for the sexuality and gender blending, but the punk spirit and vocal style too.

The band were inventive and exciting to watch themselves. The bass player turned his instrument sideways and plucked at it like a double bass, then he used a bow. There were keyboards, a saxophone and some percussion too. Talented bunch they were.

Ezra saved the most known of his songs for the end and the place erupted during Love You So Band and Suck The Blood From My Wound. If I had been less tired and on my feet near the front I’m sure I would have done the same. They are great, great tunes. And this was a great gig. To be able to reach my tired brain near the back it had to be.

If there was a thread connecting the gigs this week it was what it means to be a man in 2018. Gaz Coombes offers up interesting interpretations of traditional male orientated rock with incredible female vocal harmonies on, sings about his own issues with panic attacks and asks questions about modern manhood. Ride, well they seem happy and content with where they are, but their music seems to be able to unlock emotions and act as a release. Ezra says men can wear dresses and lipstick and fuck other men and still be men. I’m considerably happier with the first and last of those. Patriarchy harms us all; men suffer when they are taught not to display emotions that aren’t anger and women are directly harmed by the violence that results.


Ride – Sub89, Reading

Wednesday 23rd May, 2018

I had already been to 2 gigs and had 2 job interviews this week and it was only Wednesday. The day I left my current employment. How to celebrate? With a trip to Reading to see Ride play a festival warm up gig of course. I would have preferred to have been in London to see Gaz Coombes again, but Tom loves Ride and I love Tom.

We met up with some of his Ride buddies in the pub and it is probably best that Brian’s pink hair dye story stays there! Suffice to say they were a nice bunch of guys who nerded out over vinyl and between them had seen Ride a scary amount of times.

The venue was very odd, clearly more used as a nightclub and for tribute bands or naff pop reunions. We were issued with a permanent marker cross on the hand and a stamp both of which proved very hard to remove. The floor was sticky. Really sticky. The low barrier was useful for leaning on though and the atmosphere was ok. I guess I’ve been in worse places.

There was no support, this was simply a warm up for Ride before heading to a couple of festivals. One of which, Common People, I shall be at on Sunday. I have to confess that since seeing Ride last November with Tom I haven’t really listened to their stuff so most of the songs remained mysteries to me! I recognised some of the tracks from the previous gig, including Pulsar which is probably my favourite of theirs. The sound mix was again difficult. I know this is shoegazer music and the vocals are supposed to be mumbly but I do want to be able to hear the singer sing and speak. Mark’s vocal mix was again so low as to make him unintelligible, which isn’t the case for Andy who I could understand so I’ve no idea what was going on with that. It was pretty easy to see and hear Loz’s great drumming as he was up on a raised plinth at the back and was spotlit to deservedly show him off. On bass, Steve, was also actually lit (quite unusual for a bassist, if anyone is to hide in a band it is usually them) and provided solid support.

I really enjoyed seeing Tom and Brian cutting loose on the front row. There was embarrassing dancing and everything. I fully understand that level of passion, commitment and love of music. This just wasn’t the right band for me to be lost in.

I enjoyed this gig, I just didn’t love it. Gigs are about so much more than the music, they are about what you bring in with you and I was already very tired and overwhelmed from it being such a big week.

There seems to be something about Ride’s music that allows a certain kind of man to connect to his feelings and express them. That is what music is about, after all, and I of all people know how important that can be. This just wasn’t for me. It’s still good music, produced by talented people who want to connect with their audience. And they do. I’m just not one of their number. Apolgies to Tom and the Ride Ubers but it would be dull if we all liked all the same things! I’m going back to my eostetic music on the fringes.





Gaz Coombes – Trinity Centre, Bristol

Tuesday 22nd May, 2018

Night 2 of the Gaz adventure, this time in my home City and the gig I had planned to be at all along.

I’d had 4 hours sleep before catching the coach back from Birmingham, put in my penultimate shift at work before this gig and frankly my feet hurt and all I really wanted was a nap!

Trinity is a great venue, one I’d not been to since BBC6 Music Festival back in Feb 2016 and that had been such a special weekend that this venue holds a place in my heart. I had another photo pass, such a treat to have another chance to take pictures from the pit.

Piney Gir provided excellent support again, but Bristol’s audience were more attentive and receptive. Almost universally Bristol crowds give good atmosphere. The lovely acoustics of a former church help, as did seeing Dave who I met at the Gaz instore again. Instead of watching from the side of the stage tonight I got to be a fan in the front row and watch the rest of Piney’s set from there. Garo gave it good guitar and Piney’s vocals sounded great. She has a lovely voice and happy, sunshiny vibes to her music that I like a lot.

I got myself into the pretty tiny photo pit nice and early before Gaz came on. I was the only photographer there, which is just as well given how small the space was! The lighting was awful, such a challenge, low, dark, swirling, not focussed on the singer and in such a small space impossible to get the requisite distance required. Somehow I have managed to grab half a dozen ok shots but boy it was hard work.

I wormed my way back through the crowd to find Tom and be in the front row and simply be a fan for the rest of the set. Boy am I glad I was. This was a much better gig than the night before, some tweaking to the set list provided better song flow and the atmosphere was so much better. I was able to let myself marvel and admire and get lost in the music. The backing vocals again enhancing every song they were part of and the whole band looked to be enjoying themselves.

Towards the end of the set Gaz threw in Slow Motion Life and that was it, I was fully engaged and from there to the end this was a superb gig. It has that incredible swirling build that I love, winding and winding towards its conclusion and they all really let rip with it. As they then did for 20/20, Detroit and The English Ruse. It was fucking ace. The best I’ve seen Gaz play to date. A brilliant, brilliant gig. Sometimes all you need is a boy with a guitar and a piano with his band playing loud rock n roll to make you happy.

Monday I had been a photographer, tonight I got to be fan. Both wonderful experiences. My only regret is in not having been able to get to more shows on this tour! Gaz, expect to find me in the front row again as soon as I am able. Thank you again.




Gaz Coombes – O2 Institute, Birmingham

Monday 21st May, 2018

It was a fairly last minute decision to go to this gig, made possible by a confluence of factors. It was a touch reckless and exciting but for music I love, and the opportunity to photograph Gaz, I was willing to have a Monday night adventure.

Britain’s 2nd City has some fine musical heritage and venues but I’ve only been to a few gigs here in my life. The O2 chain venues I’ve been at have varied, from the rather nice in Manchester, to the “I’ll never go there again” in Bristol so I had little idea what to expect.

It had been a fairly big day, full of nerves. Dropping the boy off to go to school camp was huge as he has only been apart from me or his Dad for 1 night before now. My baby going away from home for 4 nights. Then a job interview. Then work (never not stressful). Then a coach journey (traffic?!) and to top if off my first opportunity to photograph to Gaz Coombes.  I’m always nervous about photographing a gig, this was my first with new camera, first since last October and first in the venue and of the artist. Fortunately everything preceding the gig had gone as well as could be hoped and I had 2 hours of listening to music on the coach to calm me.

I was in early enough to scope the venue out and find vantage points from which to see the gig after my 2 songs of photographs had been taken in the pit. Thankfully a couple of balconies and stairs would be enough to ensure I didn’t spend the majority of the gig watching the back of other people’s heads.

This was to be the third time I’d seen Gaz Coombes live this year, after Tom introduced me to his music earlier this year. Why I hadn’t come across his music beforehand I’m not sure. He ticks all my boxes, supremely talented singer/songwriter who can play almost any instrument, varied and interesting output, intelligent songwriting about personal and political issues and a jolly nice chap to boot.

Support came from Piney Gir, gorgeous harmonies and rather nice guitar. A more polite support act I don’t think you will find and some of the audience met Piney with the same level of respect. I shot the first couple of songs of Piney’s set to help get used to the lighting and the venue and then watched the rest from of her set from the side. It was an ace vantage point and I liked what I heard. Puppy Love and the track after that were my favourites.

Then Gaz. Camera primed I swallowed the nerves & dived in. After not very long the memory card filled up and I had to dive off to retrieve another (thank you very much to the helpful road crew for his torch assistance) and then the camera had a flipout and it took what felt like ages to sort. My heart was racing and panic was starting to set in. I only had 2 songs dammit! My nerves were such I’ve no idea what those opening songs were.

The atmosphere was good, but not great. I know it was a Monday night, Birmingham, but you could have been more up for it is all I’m saying.

After those first couple of songs in the pit I gathered myself up and made my way towards the back where the stairs and balcony were to be able to enjoy the rest of the gig. And enjoy it I did. The sound was pretty good up there and I had a decent view. Gaz and his band are lovely to watch as well as hear, he was much more confident on stage tonight than the first time I had seen him. He played a decent chunk of the new album, Worlds Strongest Man, which made me happy as I like it very much indeed. The emotions evident as he sang them, this album clearly means a lot, and taking it on the road to share, more so.

The band were all brilliant. I couldn’t single a man or woman out, although I do have a soft spot for bass players as you know and Gaz has written some bloody amazing bass lines. And the harmonies offered by Emma, Amy and Piney as backing support adds so much that it would be churlish not to mention them.

I missed the final track as my boy called me from camp because he missed me and needed to hear my voice. I was thankful for being at the back so that I could nip out the foyer to talk to him. Talk about torn emotions, maternal love and musical love competing for attention!

The encore songs were my highlight, Wounded Egos one of my fav tracks on the new album and Vanishing Point (a song about panic attacks) seemed apt for how parts of my day had gone. I had also found a spot to watch, near the front of the venue, up some stairs where I was close and had space to cut loose a little. I also snuck in some great shots from there, fabulous.

The absolute joy of photographing a band you love is how close you get to be in the pit, nothing between you and the band at all. Being able to be creative around the music and feel a part of it in a visceral and physical way is such a privilege. The downside is that I don’t get to be a fan and get lost in the music as I am watching the lighting and stagecraft to be able to capture the right moment. It is harder than you may think, and with the advent of camera phones people seem to underestimate the skill required to be a photographer.

A huge thank you to Gaz and his management for allowing this fan to get her photography geek on.

Ex Eye – Milton Court Concert Hall, London

Sunday 13th May, 2018

I’ve been a fan of Colin Stetson since I first heard MaryAnne Hobbs play Spindrift on her Recommends show on BBC6 Music. When I saw him play live last year (gig 27 of #40gigs) I was captivated by his unique talent. Ex Eye are his band. I was excited when this gig was announced as part of the Sounds & Visions festival. Very excited indeed.

I’ve never been to the Milton Court Concert Hall before, I didn’t even know it existed. It is very plush.

I saw Adam, who I had met at Kamasi Washington earlier in the month, were greeted by Pete from Twitter and saw Mary Anne and John Hobbs. It felt a bit like a musical reunion. Then, and what are the chance of this, in the next seat to mine, was Scott, one of the original #colincrew from last years gig in Manchester! Serendipity. Between us we had travelled from Bristol (via South Carolina in Tom’s case), Manchester, Sutton Coldfield and Stockport to be at this gig which sort of says everything.

Max Richter came on to introduce session 5, and given that this was his festival, I’m not sure why that was a surprise, but it was. Our first act was Caterina Barbieri playing an electronic set comprised of wires, buttons and sometimes quite assaulting sounds. It was different and difficult whilst also being interesting. It wasn’t entirely to my taste, and whilst being stylistically quite different to Ex Eye, was still in keeping with the experimental nature of the festival. Whereas the previous nights programme hadn’t held together, this did.

I had forgotten my gig ear plugs again (after Mogwai you would think I would have learnt) and I was a touch worried as Ex Eye are a loud and heavy band. After the first track  I’m sure that the whole audience were blown slightly backwards with the power and force of the band. Ex Eye are Colin on sax, Toby Summerfield on guitar, Greg Fox on drums and Shahzad Ismaily on synths. I’ll wax lyrical about how brilliant Colin is in a bit, but the rest of the band deserve some attention first. Those drums! Sheer, reckless, driving force, wall of sound, rock n roll on steroids drums that pinned you to the back of your seat. The guitar, gold and sparkly, looking too small in the hands of a big man, played so fast you thought his fingers might melt, distorted and LOUD. The synths, balanced on his lap looking deceptively delicate but that made amazing and powerful sounds that melded into everything else, held the whole thing together and presented it in the most inventive fashion possible. Just those 3 would have been an assaulting experience. Add Colin on the big bass saxophone (the one as big as me) with his circular breathing technique and you have one of the loudest and heaviest gigs I’ve ever experienced. Wow. There was absolutely no danger of not being able to stay awake through this!

There were moments when Colin and Toby were playing together like a pair of dueling stags, or heavyweight boxers, dancing around each other, coaxing and teasing the noises from their respective beasts in a musical fight. By the end they were the punch drunk boxers, or exhausted stags who could barely stand. They gave us their all, that’s for damn sure. I think Toby was playing the guitar with his teeth at the end, and Colin was purple and I was quite worried he might burst a blood vessel or faint. This is not music for the faint of heart. There is a wildness in it, a  spirit running and escaping into the wilderness. The rumble that emanates from the bass sax hits you in all sorts of places. It is visceral and wild and I loved it.

Colin is a total master of his instrument, you feel as if he isn’t entirely complete without a saxophone. He is his craft and his craft is him. The practice, patience and fitness it must take to be able to play like this. He is unique, brilliant and fabulous. Every time I thought, no, he can’t keep going on and on like this, he must stop soon, he just kept going. And going. And going. The stamina, physicality and creativity it takes to produce such sounds. Wow. Just wow. And to have found 3 collaborators who are also brilliant at what they do, so as to take it all to another level. Well, I’m almost speechless.

Music has a power to take you out of yourself, into other worlds and emotions and connect you to yourself and others. Occasionally you are lucky enough to see a pioneer as brilliant as Colin Stetson. I have now been lucky enough to see him solo and with his band, both experiences I shall treasure.

If you get the chance to see Ex Eye or Colin Stetson play, anywhere, anytime, just take it.

Ex Eye turned everything up to 11. And a half.

Max Richter – The Barbican, London

Saturday 12th May, 2018

To give this its full title, Sounds & Visions Session 4. The BBC Symphony Orchestra: Ives, Berio, Richter, Colin Curry Group: Reich. Which is a full mouthful and as the reason I was there was to see Max Richter I’ve shortened it.

He is one of my favourite modern composers and this concert was only a couple of days after my birthday, in the City of my birth and Tom was going to be here, so I had no reason not to buy a ticket.

Before we went to the concert we visited the very lovely and talented John Hobbs, to see his studio and paintings. It is such a treat to see where an artist works and talk to them about their life and inspirations. Thank you John. If you like contemporary art, why not have a look at his website here.

The last time I went to the Barbican was for my graduation ceremony, almost 18 years ago. Then I nearly fell of the stage with excitement (or because I was wearing very high shoes). I have never been to a concert there. It has been a place of cinema and art for me before, but never music. It is a concrete bunker of a place, dark and cave like, with awful acoustics in the public spaces and a terrible restaurant if you are coeliac (Benugo who have the concessions at a lot of London’s art galleries are awful). However, I do have very fond memories of Indiana Jones marathons (all 3 films in 1 day) and some brilliant photography and modern art exhibitions. It is also home to the LSO so the concert hall sound must be good. This was also a gig, in part, to celebrate my birthday and I was born to and of East London stock, so to be in my Manor seemed fitting.

The start time had been moved back by half an hour to accommodate Max Richter’s ambitious programme for this evening’s concert. He was joint curator of the Sounds & Visions festival that took place over the weekend. This was session 4 of that Festival and he was to be playing his own works with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. This is the bit I was excited about.

The running time ended up being in excess of 4 hours and that was at least 1 too many for me! I wish the programme had been shorter and I think the rest of the audience did too. There were a lot of very tired people in that hall.

I enjoyed the opening piece, Steve Reich’s Tehillim played by the Colin Currie Group with Synergy Vocals. I know of Reich’s work due to Charles Hazelwood’s excellent series about minimalism on BBC4. The vocals, sung in Yiddish, with the sparse percussion and lush strings made for a moving piece about the nature of faith.

I have to apologise to the musicians who performed the next, short piece as I have forgotten it completely. I don’t think it is their fault, it was just lost in such a long evening.

After a short interval, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Roomful of Teeth unleashed music at us. I can’t describe it any other way. It was noise. A lot of disjointed and inaccessible noise with very strange vocals that I didn’t enjoy. I like experimental music, I like being challenged, I enjoy being exposed to things new and unexpected. I can almost always find something positive to say. Not for this.  The polite applause tells me and the conversations I had and overheard show me that I wasn’t alone in finding it difficult to know what to say about this piece of music. Ives The Unanswered Question and Berio’s Sinfonia if you want to hear them for yourself. It was the sort of music that, without training in classical music, or an ear for the very avant guard, you may not even like, let alone appreciate.  I think it was a mistake to include it in the programme at all.

Why I feel quite so strongly about this is that meant I was going in to the final piece bemused and tired, not how I wanted to feel at all. We were to be treated to Max Richter’s Three Worlds. Written as a ballet score in response to 3 Virginia Wolf works, it is beguiling and beautiful. I wish I had seen it as a ballet. I am sure, then, I would have been extremely moved by the power of the music and of hearing Wolf’s own voice describing Mrs Dalloway, as well as the reading of her suicide note. But I was far too tired. The auditorium was far too hot. It became difficult to keep my eyes open. It is such a shame because the middle of the worlds, the one based on Orlando, was other wordly and beautiful. There was some amazing solo cello and violin going on, balanced with understated use of brass and piano. It could have been so much more.

I had high hopes for this concert. I really love Max Richter’s work, he is clearly a very talented musician and composer. The movements I have heard of Three Worlds are so beautiful they take your breath away. Live I was expecting to be swept away with emotions. When that didn’t happen I felt let down, as if I had missed something extraordinary. Perhaps it was me, perhaps the rest of the audience loved it.

I have such an intense relationship with music, am so invested, so emotionally bound by the expereience, that when they don’t go how I want or expect, I feel a deep sense of loss.  I wish this had been a different experience.


Paraorchestra – Bristol Old Vic

Friday 11th May, 2018

The Nature Of Why as part of Mayfest.

I’d seen the Paraorchestra deconstructed only a few weeks ago, with my son and had loved them. When I saw this performance announced I jumped at the chance to get tickets. My birthday treat. An orchestra, dancers, at the Old Vic Theatre, performing a piece scored by Will Gregory of Goldfrapp, to celebrate the great scientist Richard Feynman. It had all the elements of something I would love. Tom gallantly agreed to come with me, even though this was well outside of his comfort zone.

Oh my goodness. I’m not sure how I explore and explain in words what this was. I shall try, but how I wish I could simply put you inside my skin and heart and brain and give you the extraordinary gift of the way I feel music.

The first surprise was that we weren’t just in the Old Vic, we were on its stage. How brilliant is that? We were encouraged to move about among the performers and not to stay still throughout the piece. The violins and cellos were at the front with Charles Hazelwood, the conductor, and the rest of the orchestra and the dancers were with us on the stage floor. Singers, guitar, hand held harp, clarinet and dancers weaved in and out of the audience. We were part of the performance. We weren’t there simply to politely nod and applaud, we were every bit as important to the show as each musician and dancer. Music exploded from everywhere, musicians all around you that you could or could not see depending on where you were, as well as speakers discretely placed so that you were completely and totally immersed in the music. A glockenspiel was spun around and around right in front of me, when it stopped the percussionist lifted into the air like the most beautiful arabesque ballerina you’ve ever seen, and she carried on playing. It was stunning and simply breathtaking.

Singers were inches from you, double bass’ were danced with whilst being played, tuba’s were driven among you whilst being blown, the harpist weaved in and out of us whilst playing. All while incredible choreogphy had dancers stretching, reaching, weaving and expoloring the beauty of human movement. It was brilliant.Wonderful. Mind blowing. At one point I stood in front of Charles as he conducted the most beautiful violins. Tears fell from my eyes at the sheer beauty of what I was hearing.

It was very emotional and involving and although parts were quite dark, it was also touching, moving and joyous. To have been close enough to the performers to have smelt their perfume, to see the hairs on their arms stand on end with the emotions of what they were playing, was an incredible privilege.

The dancers created a human pyramid, encircling a member of the audience to do so, we couldn’t have been more included. It was magnificent. Towards the end one of the dancers took my hand and drew me into the performance, circling me round the movements of herself and the other dancers. I was part of the performance, I was part of the art, I was part of it all and I felt as if emotions would simply burst out of me. It was joy. Such joy. And I have now danced on stage at the Old Vic! What a birthday celebration that was. I could not stop smiling.

That the piece ended with us in the middle of the stage, dancing with and among the paraorchestra could not have been more perfect. It was the most immersive, inclusive and enveloping musical experience I have ever had. Moments keep coming back to me, and I cannot wipe the grin from my face. It was extraordinarily beautiful and incredibly moving.

Thank you everyone involved with this extraordiary performance and please keep stretching the boundaries of what an orchestra can be and do. I cannot wait to see, hear and feel more. Music is lifeforce. It is everything.

Gaz Coombes – Rough Trade West, Bristol

Wednesday 9th May, 2018

An instore live appearance to support the release of new album, World’s Strongest Man the night before my birthday. Even though I was supposed to be at a classical concert at St George’s tonight I had to go hear Gaz play his new stuff. Tom wouldn’t have forgive me if I hadn’t! He is on his way over the Atlantic as I type this, such a shame Gaz wasn’t playing this show tomorrow instead. I went on my own instead and got chatting with Dave. Us music obsessives always find a way to make a connection to each other it seems. I had wanted to take my boy with me, but he had decided not to come on the basis it would be “too loud Mum” and although I wish he’d been with me, I also know he will be when the time is right.

I’ve been listening to World’s Strongest Man as much as I can since it was released last Friday. I love it. I had heard about half the album before release and liked those tracks very much. I like the other half even more. Oxygen Mask and Wounded Egos are probably my favourites and he played one of them tonight. The first time I heard Oxygen Mask I was walking through the oncology department the day I heard a twitter friend had died of cancer, and its an emotionally heavy song, so it hit me quite hard. Tonight Gaz went from that into The Girl Who Fell To Earth and I almost had a little cry. I am fairly sure I will when I hear them both played with the full band in a couple of weeks.

What was wonderful about hearing him on his own tonight was that it highlighted how lovely his voice is, how strong his songwriting is, and how good a guitarist he is. A talented man who is also very sweet and gentle. Why is he not a bigger name? As much as Deep Pockets sounded bloody amazing, I did miss the backing vocals, who add so much to the song. I am really looking forward to seeing the full band on the tour at Trinity soon. I wish I could do more than one date on the tour.

The live room of Rough Trade is intimate. The stage so low I could kneel on it. It was such a privilege to be up close and personal, able to see all the emotions in Gaz’s face as he sang. These songs clearly mean a lot to him and sharing them with his fans more so. As fabulous as 20/20 and Detroit are I wish he’d played more of the new album, but I guess it is always a balance of introducing new material and playing old ones people will know. As a new fan (yes, Tom, I’m a full convert) I’m coming on the Gaz Coombes journey at a good time it seems. Creative, interesting, emotional. His music makes you think as well as feel.

As an introduction to the new album live tonight was ace. For a new fan it was a real treat to hear 9 songs live, just Gaz, highlighting his talent as a songwriter and performer. As a way to start off my birthday celebrations it was pretty awesome. A happy birthday signed set list is a pretty great way to start being 41. Or end being 40, seeing as #40gigs was the odyssey that started all this. What a year being 40 was! I wonder what 41 will bring.

Kamasi Washington – The Roundhouse, London

Wednesday 2nd May, 2018

I got very excited when I saw the line up for this years Cheltenham Jazz Festival as Kamasi was on it. Then I looked at the dates and travel and costs and realised I wouldn’t be able to get there. Gutted. But I figured if he’s in the country he may well be playing some other dates. I checked.London, Manchester and Glasgow. None of which are particularly near to Bristol! Still, its King Kamasi and you do not turn down the chance to hear him. Wednesday night in London I can do I thought. Last coach leaves 23.59  and gets in 2.20am, who needs sleep?

Ticket booked courtesy of Tom’s Roundhouse membership (thank you) and cheap train/coach tickets sorted, I began to believe I really would get to see one of the greatest living jazz saxophonists play live.

This was my second trip to The Roundhouse and I really hope it won’t be my last. They deserve high praise for the quality of their volunteers and staff, all of whom were welcoming and friendly. That’s rare in any venue, let alone a London one, so thank you. Even the security, which is pretty full on, did their job with a smile and some humour. Everyone gave good clear directions and the space was about as open as it could be. Thank you and well done to your team for making me feel relaxed and welcomed.

I was early and so got chatting with Adam and John in the queue. One of the legacies 40 gigs has left me with is the confidence to be myself, to embrace the obsessional quirks and connect with the other odd balls who travel to gigs every other day just because they can. It helped my find my tribe. Swapping gig tales and stories, recommending new bands to each other, music binds.

I’m not sure if their look was influenced by George Clinton or The Mighty Boosh but the support band looked and then sounded pretty weird. A trio, bass, drums and saxophone, looking like they’d made their costumes from blue Ikea bags, they made noise. Jazz noise. I’m sorry I can’t describe it much better, I’m still a newcomer to this genre. It may or may not have been improvised I’ve certainly never seen a bass player get his plastic tentacles stuck in his strings before. I found him mesmerizing. Even before he took of his mask to reveal his beautiful face. He was like an African God, cheek bones you could slice things on and lips, oh my, lips that could rival Prince. The Onyx Collective if you want to look them up. It was certainly an experience to hear them play.

Kamasi and his band. Well. A whole other kind of experience. One I am so grateful and pleased to have been a part of. Two drummers. You know you are in for a good time with 2 drummers. Add bass, trombone (which was orange and blue lustred metal, gorgeous it was), a singer wearing a white, fringed dress and silver boots in her own sound proof perspex box, keys, synths and a laptop. Plus Kamasi and his Dad. What more could you ask for? Not much. And if you did you’d just be being extra greedy.

The crowd roared like a very happy beast and the energy in the place was fantastic. It was by far the best atmosphere of any London gig I’ve been to.

Every single member of the band was superb. Kamasi keeps good company. They were a tight unit and watching them watch each other was just joy. The drummers dueled at one point, each trying to outplay the other with sheer speed and inventiveness. How they played different, competing, yet overlapping parts in each song without dominating, such skill. The bass. Now, I may be a tiny bit biased as it is my instrument (when I bother) but that boy could play. He also had the most amazing look. Part Black Panther circa ’68, part Black Panther Marvel Superhero. Cool, sexy and full of tight rhythms that held everything together. The keys! Funky, groovy and hip. They added so much depth and layering. Trombone and flute complimenting Kamasi’s sax, adding layer upon layer of brass. Lush, rich, gorgeous. I loved it. I could not stop smiling. This was music as pure, unadulterated joy. To simply stand and marvel at the sight and sound of this immensely talented group of musicians playing. Well I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

We were among the first to hear some of the tracks of the new album (due for release in June) and the reworking of Fists of Fury is anthemic. The vocal, delivered with passion, anger and yet understated, perfectly fitting our times. Never did I think I would hear jazz kung fu music and enjoy it, but I did. I bloody loved it.

There were also tracks from Harmony of Difference, which if you don’t own you must buy immediately. It is a work of sonic genius. Truth.

I first heard Kamasi on MaryAnn Hobbs’ show (yes, her again) and she calls him King Kamasi. It’s an entirely fitting accolade.

This was a fine, fine gig. Up there with the very best I have seen. If you get a chance to see Kamasi play, go. Even if it means catching late night coaches and getting very little sleep. You will not regret hearing masters play live.

Bristol Ensemble, Notes For Women – St George’s

Saturday 28th April, 2018

This was another ticket I picked up in Bristol’s culture flash sale. It made tonight’s ticket just £9, which for live classical music is a complete bargain. Bristol Ensemble are a flexible orchestra, and the only dedicated one in the City. This concert was to celebrate the contribution of female composers, and was dubbed Notes for Women, the Early Years. A feminist classical celebration of creative women. For £9. You can see why I booked a ticket.

It was my second trip this week to the beautiful St George’s and I was back up in the gallery. As the front row was almost completely empty I moved forwards so that I had a great view, just over the tip of the stage, as well as a great position to listen from.

The concert began with a piece composed by Hildegard of Bingen, who died over 800 years ago. Famous as a writer and prophet as well as musician and composer, she left many pieces for us to still listen to centuries later. How amazing is that? That almost a milennia after she wrote it, her music is still being performed and heard.

Next we were treated to a harpsichord suite and some gorgeous violin and cello by the ensemble. Add in the supremely talented soprano, Mariana Flores, who’s dramatic and passionate performance carried the whole thing and you had a first half that flew past in moments.

After the interval there was the first violin sonata composed by a woman, Isabella Leonarda, in 1693, and it was lush. I found it very moving and a tremendous emotional release.

Mariana came back and sang like an absolute angel. It was proper spine tingling stuff, hairs standing on end and heart soaring to the sky stuff. What an incredible voice! So wonderfully backed by the cello and harpsichord. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore that I fall in love with styles of music I would not expect to, but I seem to be developing a love of the Baroque.

Bristol Ensemble had saved the best until last, however. We jumped forwards in time to early classical, for Violin Concerto 3 by Maddalena Sirmen and oh wow was it lovely. The violin soloist, Natalia Lameiko was astonishing. I had no idea the violin could be so delicate and beautiful. Her brilliance blindingly obvious even to me, who knows almost nothing about virtuoso performance. But talent is talent, and you know it when you hear it. Just like when Jeff Beck picks up a guitar. The programme confirmed what I had deduced, multi award winning Professor of Music, hailed by Lord Menuhin. I feel very lucky to have heard her play. It was pure brilliance.

My only complaint about this evenings concert, it was over too soon. I loved it. It was fabulous to have women’s contribution to music celebrated in this way, stretching back over the centuries to reach us anew in the 21st Century.