Posted in SHOFT on Sunday 27th February 2005 at 11:55pm
Thinking back, my long love affair with The Wedding Present began before the internet, before I'd settled into a regular job and before I'd lost most of my hair. I must also confess that they date back to a time before I had really experienced the miserable and painful situations that sometimes feature in David Gedge's lyrics. Strangely, they went 'on hold' in 1997 just as my troubles in the romantic arena began, although a Cinerama gig did once feature as part of a fin-de-siecle reconcilliation!
Strange then to be setting off to see them tonight. Our Rail Replacement Bus to Bristol sped through a chilly but sunny evening, and my mind was on other things through much of the journey. I stopped for a quick pint before wandering to the Bierkeller - a venue I hadn't set foot in for maybe twelve years - my strongest memories of the place being Nirvana, messy and punky on their Nevermind tour - and some sixth form girls from my old school running away from the stage in horror at the noise when Hole began playing as support on a Mudhoney tour!
Not much had changed, the same sticky carpet, tiny bar, inconveniently pillared auditorium and low stage. Bumped into a dedicated Irish fan who had followed the band on the early Irish dates of the tour and was now dashing around the UK by National Express coach to catch more of the tour. Support act Persil correctly divined that the audience didn't care what they did - nothing personal, but when you're about to meet old friends, its difficult to concentrate on making new ones. On the dot of nine o'clock, the band ambled on individually to the strains of 'On Ramp'. A particularly uplifting cheer went up for Mr Gedge himself, and soon enough it could have been 1990 again as the thunderous ending of 'Interstate 5' gave way to the shimmering opening notes of 'Crawl'.
But of course, it isn't. There is a whole new record of emotional, edgy music to hear live for the first time. Perhaps the most consistent and strongest since 'Seamonsters' in my opinion. The new songs are mixed with a little of everything from the past - including a frantic 'Once More' and a much appreciated 'Kennedy' (not a favourite of mine). A technical hitch gives a chance for the good-natured banter between stage and audience. The odd Cinerama song is thrown in too as a reminder that David hasn't really been away - 'Health and Efficiency' in particular is quite stunning. 'Careless' provokes a comment from DLG that people may not be familar 'with that part' of his career. In fairness, its mainly people of my age, their gleaming pates bobbing in the spotlights. David notes that he barely needs to tell us the band don't do encores because he suspects we may have seen them before.
By 22:40 I'm wandering through the building site of a bus station wondering if I can get the last bus home and not have to wait for the 00:40 Rail Replacement Service. In the midst of turbulent times, in the freezing cold and slightly menacing surroundings of St. James Barton, I am very very glad I came.
Posted in SHOFT on Tuesday 26th October 2004 at 10:55pm
Today I have a button on my radio I won't need to press any more.
Many years ago, I had a book. I used to write down the names of records, the obscure labels and just about every detail I could glean about the records John Peel played. Later, when I discovered Neil at Bubblegum, and then made direct contact with labels in the US I managed to finally track down most of them. I spent huge amounts of money on many obscure records, and I still own quite a collection of strange and wonderful music.
Occasionally, even now I will stumble across something from the book which I didn't managed to find back then. The record is eleven years to finally find an Ed's Redeeming Qualities cassette called 'More Bad Things'. Nowadays, in this remarkable internet age, I've even got a recording of the very night John Peel played the track, back in 1991. Times change. I probably wouldn't have a book nowadays, just a good connection and file sharing software...
And so farewell then John Peel, groundbreaking DJ, consummate family man and antidote to banal radio. The news arrived in the office late this afternoon. Didn't quite believe it at first - he is one of those people who has always been around, and seemed like he always would be. The few of us still around later talked a bit about his shows and the music he played. We're a diverse bunch, and perhaps the most remarkable thing was that everyone from 18-50 had a memory, an opinion, or some music which somehow was related to him. Some mentioned his unashamed pride and love for his family, which he expressed so strongly and frankly during his 'Home Truths' programmes, an unusual trait in these cynically detached days.
Thanks John, for opening my ears to lots of things I'd never have otherwise heard, and for one brief mention of a certain tape label a long time ago.
Posted in SHOFT on Monday 4th October 2004 at 11:59pm
I remember, a good few years back having to sprint across Bristol following a gig at the Louisiana by Dawn of the Replicants. Quite a pleasant night all in all. Too much to drink, a late start and the prospect of a taxi home if we missed the last train. A last gasp at teenage silliness perhaps.
So for tonight, there was no excuse. Staying a little too long to try to watch the Delgados' last song. Drinking far more than is strictly good for me, and experiencing the long awaited but nevertheless difficult final moment of an ancient crush as the band played on. Ten years ago it would have made a good song, a great sixth-form poem. Today it just reminds me how old I have become so soon, and in a rather cold-hearted way how much of the last decade I wasted on something futile.
But the Delgados have sort of grown up with me - producing album after album of epic, widescreen pop music. The most recent 'Universal Audio' is wonderfully free of pretension. A cheery romp by Delgado standards, and tonight some of the most spirited performances are from the new record. By the band's own admission, they are still finding their feet on this tour, but there are occasionally stellar moments where this seems unimportant. I remind myself that the band are in the unique position of having two songs on the 'Mike would dance in public to this' list. I manage to avoid embarassment thanks to an almost dangerously overcrowded venue.
The simple fact is that tonight, indeed over the years, nobody has hurt me or depressed me any more than I could have done. Enter the Delgados. A bruised, stumbling but curiously joyous tumble through a range of emotions. At one point I can understand how they end up on Radio 2, at others its all quite new and unexplored. Lots of noise and lots of melody. The new Bay City Rollers?
I must also mention Sons and Daughters - a deranged and discordant Glaswegian blues band, who made a big racket and kept me guessing whilst my fate was decided! Thanks folks. Buy their album - I know I plan to...
Overall, despite my ramblings a good night. I think I left a gentleman, even if my instincts made me feel an insufferable blackguard.
Posted in SHOFT on Saturday 17th July 2004 at 11:58pm
A quick dash across Bloomsbury from Senate House, down Kingsway, over Aldwych and to Somerset House in time to join the queue and obtain an additional ticket. Wonderful and strange to be able to walk to a concert, rather than the usual effort of arranging trains or persuading someone to drive. An incredible venue, the majority of the square being devoted to the show. The weather, which had been rather threatening, turned pleasant, and even the plague of flying ants which seemed to be roving the banks of the Thames gave up once we were inside the compound. Noticed Professor Sandhu (the final keynote speaker from the conference) arriving too - excellent taste, these academics!
Purchased vastly overpriced beer (even by London standards) and settled in for the music. The Shins were up first - pretty, clever power-pop stuff. I have one of their records, and like it a lot. They were a bit lost out here, but they had a great time and the audience seemed to like it.
Having seen Belle and Sebastian back in December I sort of knew what to expect, but they confounded me entirely with a strange set! Kicking off with the first four songs from 'Tigermilk', they confessed they only stopped because no-one remembered 'Electronic Renaissance'. Quite a bit of the most recent album, along with the usual surprises - including 'I Know Where The Summer Goes' and Stevie Jackson's take on 'Blue Suede Shoes' (after which he apologised to Elvis Presley).
A complete string quartet helped the sound to fill the venue, and was used to excellent effect on 'Lord Anthony' and 'If You Find Yourself Caught In Love' among others. As always I've completely forgotten the set-list, but another high point has to be 'Piazza, New York Catcher' with just acoustic guitar and Stuart's voice.
Somehow, the band wasn't quite as sharp as the Bath show, but a longer set with some unusual song choices, lots of banter from the stage, and an incredible setting more than made up for this. Left Somerset House happy, for a pleasant meandering walk home just as most of London seemed to be coming out to party - I must be getting old...
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.