Friday, 8 July 2011

and we all stand together

Standing at the front of the stage – after allowing a Japanese woman to move into the space at the side of me and slightly in front of me ,so she could get a better view of Norman Blake – I found myself revelling in the joy of the ‘live experience’. And of course this meant I had a secured a Jonny ticket this time – as I said - I had gotten round to it a lot earlier than before. Not that this changes the way I felt way back then when I didn’t get a Jonny ticket.

Nonetheless – the guitars were set up – Euros with stickers of travels made – Norman’s simply signed by Daniel Johnston. A micro Korg, a Casio MT100 – possibly – and then a drum kit and Fender Mustang bass. Simple rock set up for a simple rock set. And as the other 40 some things started to feel the anticipation of the evening – the impending [non] stardom of the event – we all simply got down to it.

Not judging just jumping.

A glance at the set list – opening with Bread - already I had explained its love in this house to Euros as I overpaid for a mug in light of the fact I had not paid anything for my download of Pantiago at the National Elf Library – hands up for those who make Bread. We sing it often. We sing a great deal I have realised and although I find the moans come easily – my children have taken to asking who wrote the songs we play in the car and the house – and now could happily make a compilation tape – or should that be ipod playlist - featuring The Small Faces, the Beatles, Euros Childs, The Move , The Troggs and of course Jonny.

I would have loved to have taken my daughter to this gig. But in time she will find her way and hopefully it will be beyond the tastes of her father. She might even find Beefheart entertaining – because I haven’t as of yet – but it’s not over – give it time. I remember we got A Love Supreme on cassette by Coltrane – we could get into the first minutes but then it was like heavy – heavy load stuff. But over time I can dig it. I’m hep like that.

But there’s a humour in all of this that is lost by lots of other performers. I had witnessed the shitness – not the fitness - of the Glastonbury circuit as performers reached out to make a connection. You want to make a connection – play smaller gigs. See the whites of their eyes and stop pretending that this is your moment – your perfect moment. Perhaps it’s the music you make that allows for that connection – or perhaps it’s because you don’t take yourself so seriously. As I have to – all stiff suited and polished and booted as I walk the walk and often forget the talk. I experienced that another gig I managed to tear myself out the house for – a new band, a hip hop troupe called Inkrument. All humour but talent – putting on a show and not making one – as I am want to do on many occasions. I’ll write about INKRUMENT at another time when I’m feeling the hip hop bop – but they are a remarkable band.

They do hip hop better than most. They should be listened to more.

But back to this standing (and delivering) I’ve written about the mob – the throng, the feeling that you’re right at the heart of the action. And a few weeks ago I was wading through the past – and came across a whole heap of concert tickets. Those entrances to good times. It was odd to be back at the Borderline – I’d been there several times before but forgotten how intimate the whole thing is – I remember when Rob had graduated from the racket of The Williams and Scunthorpe tension to Adorable and sonic pretension and me and McGee watching the show and then moving on to The Gardening Club for a dose of the old plinky plonk via taxis and laughs. Or when Frank Black had taken the stage and left us all reeling with his command and craft. A truly awesome show guys – really like awesome.

Going to something live stays under the skin. And those tickets are the last hopes of tapping into the memories of the night. All the understated moments – I once fell in love over a weekend as me and a friend waltzed through the Wedding Present, Ian McCulloch and The Jesus and Mary Chain and ended up walking the distance home holding hands and smiling. It may have been ‘Lover, lover, lover’ by Mac that did it – all northern scowl and (this) charm (ing man). But you know what I mean the incessant rush of adrenalin as the song you wanted kicks in – I remember telling Paul before we watched the Smile concerts in London that it wouldn’t matter if Smile didn’t quite come off as long as Wilson played Time to get Alone.

They opened with it. It blew my mind.

I’m not certain where all of this is going – it started with me waiting for Jonny to come on in a small room in London and has reawakened the dormant gig goer in me. I know I’m forty now and perhaps I shouldn’t be hanging around in dark rooms waiting for young things to come and wow me – but Norman Blake is easily my age – a touch older to precise and it felt right. From the first concert to this there’s always been a thrill in seeing people make music.

Saying that the first concert I ever saw was Wham – on the Club Fantastic tour in 1983. Edinburgh Playhouse on the 11th October – packed with screaming scots and two northern brothers, DJ Gary Crawley warming up the house as they waved cheap silk scarves in the air and chanted George and Andrew in wild abandon. I have to admit I was caught up in the thrill of it too. It felt like my own introduction to Beatlemania – it was a frenzy man – a real frenzy. Emma’s brother has worked lots of these gigs over time – the boyszones and the westlifes – he says the front rows are full of piss afterwards.

I did not piss at the front of the Borderline stage.

Despite my excitement. But I did want to scream.

So here’s to Wham for starting it all off.