Monday, 19 May 2014

Alright, go easy on yourself...



Last week (well it was when I wrote this) I stayed in The Netherlands with a close friend; he lives in Limburg area and seems to have the world at his doorstep. Being from a rural coastal area of the UK, I still find it amazing that you can access different countries in the time it takes me to get to the other side of Cornwall. It’s liberating, in 24 hours I’d been in four countries. There’s definitely something to be said for that and I rather liked it.
Visiting  places opens my eyes and my mind, I’d love to do more of it, unfortunately it costs money to do but I’d love more equilibrium – as does everyone I guess. Pearl Jam tours have fulfilled some of this in the last few years, and I hope will continue to do so this summer. 
My visit included two trips to Cologne and a visit to Antwerp, both beautiful cities. Cologne felt like a place I’d known for a long time already. You know when you get that feeling somewhere of just being comfortable, happy. I feel the same in Berlin, maybe it’s a German thing! Sunday, one of the happiest afternoons I’ve had in a long time, was spent wondering in the sunshine around to the Stadtgarten and then to the area around the Dom.
Whilst the main point of the visit was to see my friend, I was also there to see Augustines (http://www.weareaugustines.com/ ), my ticket being a present. I’d not seen them before but they have a brilliant live reputation, I was pleased to be seeing them ‘in the flesh’ finally.
They were playing at The Luxor (http://www.luxor-koeln.de/ ) in Cologne. We walked past it earlier in the day and the band tour bus seemed bigger than the inside of the venue and the sound engineering desk was taking up what room there was. Later, after finding street art and eating one of the best risotto’s I’ve had, we headed back to the venue. Once inside, there were already a good number of people there. The support band seemed fairly good from the few songs we heard, they certainly appeared to warm up the crowd.
We found ourselves in a good spot on Stone’s side (non PJ fans – right hand side). I gather that they give it their absolute all, and they did from the first song. It was all encompassing watching Billy the lead singer, rage and rise with emotion as he sung with gritty, heartfelt, passion. At times he appeared on the verge of tears and I felt the power of the experiences in his life awash in his performance (his mother fatally overdosed, his brother committed suicide and the band struggled to get where they are today). There is a honesty to this band, something which seems to be missing in a lot of the music industry today.
Whilst the lead singer in a band generally gets the focus of the attention, this band aren’t all about that. Each member of the band are needed and equal to produce this performance and they all excel. The on stage banter, the obviously bromances and respect shine through. Definitely a band which is the sum of its parts.
As the gig continued, the encores followed and then came( the half expected) acoustic unplugged session. Sitting on the bar of the venue, after pulling himself a pint, Billy (and the boys) brought the close personal gig to another level. It felt like you were a friend at their party. I want to be their friend, it gave me goose bumps and widened eyes.
 These guys know their art, they know how to get a crowd eating from their hand. I’m not sure if Cologne was the best gig of their European tour, but to me it felt like a stadium performance in an intimate venue. Cruel City, Chapel Song, This Ain’t Me and Now You Are Free were standout songs for me.
 I’m pleased I went, I’m pleased I shared the experience and I’m pleased I saw them in a brilliant city.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Shaft of a light. A warm breath and a scream.



It’s 2014. Heck. 

I never made any New Year’s Resolutions for 2014, I already know I have personality traits which I need to alter and a new year doesn't change them (worrying - a lot, feeling guilty even when there is nothing I can do about a situation – a lot, worrying about feeling guilty …and letting these things stop me from being me, and from doing what I want to do).
And I want to be happy, you can't really resolve to do that.

In 2013 my resolution was ‘to be braver’ and I’m not entirely sure how I did on that to be honest.  I guess there were some small aspects of it which I succeeded, I joined a gym (and actually didn’t feel self conscious, stupid or out of place), I said yes more than no (thanks for the advise FT – “You just got used to saying no, so get up and get outside”), and I took down my guard at times (I’m great at advocating for others, not so great at following my own advice). 2013, although it contained some highlights (a birthday weekend including seeing Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young was one), was a rubbish year for a lot of people close to me - too many loses, too many tears and too much upset.
For me and a lot of others it is time to look forward and to think of 2013 as providing experience that makes you who you are today.

The one thing which has featured in New Year resolution consideration in both years is this blog. I enjoy it, but never felt like I was good enough to write it. The focus on music/gigs is done much better by others and I, whilst I will chat away to anyone and have a lot of friends and acquaintances, am actually quite a private person. I’m not sure my general thoughts and experiences warrant internet space.

So, where does this leave me and where does it leave this blog?
Well, I don’t really want to abandon it, though it must feel abandoned. I’m not sure how it will develop; it’s likely to be more of my rambling than anything on specific topic or theme such as specific gigs. To be honest, I don’t really know who reads it, or why they read it, so I’m just going to keep it as a stream of consciousness.

2014 looks like it could be a good year. For a start there’s been more smiling around me and by me (so far),  Pearl Jam are touring Europe again this summer (didn’t really think I could do a blog post and not mention them did you?), I’ve already managed to visit a new place (Cardiff – yay for visiting Wales!) and I’ve been lucky enough to see Frank Turner (amazing gig, do see him, and his support acts, if you’ve a chance, the night made my heart smile and my feet dance – I wish I was seeing him again this tour), plus there are other things in my diary for the year which make me continue to smile.

In hindsight, maybe being happy should have been my resolution (along with helping to make others happy).  There are some days when trivial things get me down, and I shouldn’t let them, but these things really shouldn’t impact on my overall happiness, or writing this blog.

So, hello ‘A Breath and a Scream blog’ – long time no see!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I'm famous now for all of these rock and roll songs...



Time continues to run away, March vanished quickly and the Brad gig in Birmingham feels like ages ago.  


And so this blog... 
The Gaslight Anthem are a rock band from New Jersey, this has led to inevitable comparisons to Bruce Springsteen (however not to Bon Jovi!). Whilst there is a recognisable similarity in style and I guess in lyrical content, they aren’t ‘The Boss’ and I’m glad they aren’t. They knowingly ‘borrow’ from other bands including Pearl Jam, I imagine that Brian Fallon, the Gaslight lead singer, is behind that as he is a fan (and you thought I’d avoid writing about them in at least one blog!). I’ve seen mixed reviews, both of the band and of their live performances including them being described as dull and formulaic. I can’t judge the perception of others, music is a personal thing, that’s what makes it so special. To me though, that’s not how I feel about them, they evoke a feeling of almost rock music comfort I guess. There are no pretenses, this band work hard (and there are differences between albums).


One of the blogs I meant to write ages ago was about a TGA gig in Brixton. I was lucky enough to have gone to sound check before that gig. It was late afternoon and I was to be found hovering outside a stage door, which isn’t really my thing. Brian Fallon emerged from the door, says hello to us all and that he’d see us all soon. I was then in major swoon mode, he has amazing eyes. Anyway, after being guided through backstage, we found ourselves in an empty venue and they played a mini gig just for us, and then we returned for the real thing later that evening. 


Back to the recent gigs, arriving to the miserable weather of Bristol wasn’t joyous. We (just me and my mate Ian for this one) ventured to the O2 Academy just in time for the end of the Japandroids but we went to the bar. The gig was good although both the band and the crowd seemed a little well, sedate. After arriving on stage to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’, TGA played 22 songs, including most songs you would ‘expect’ them to play  plus covers of The Animals ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ and The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ (where Brian seemed to actually get really into it). ‘Here Comes My Man’, ‘Mulholland Drive’, ‘American Slang’ and ’59 Sound’ made for a great encore.

There was little interaction from the band with the crowd, it was very down to business in attitude, and although they seemed to be enjoying themselves, it felt like something was being held back particularly by Brian. I reasoned that it was the first gig of the tour, the band had not long flown in and I still came away happy, it was good to see them again. We decamped to the Hatchet Inn where we were joined by Eva for a few drinks, the general consensus of those in the pub was it had been good quality performance. Some of the band popped into the pub a bit later on and they seemed happy. 


Friday rolled by, it began with a full English at Dizzy’s Cafe (great food/reasonable prices), continued with  creating dream music purchasing lists and a cuppa at Rise Records (brilliant independent record shop and cafe with a great atmosphere) before heading back to the Hatchet Inn for the rest of the afternoon. Where our numbers grew by the addition of Mark and between all of us we put a fair amount of change in the jukebox over the next few hours. 

Heading inside earlier than the night before, we caught the Japandroids. Ok, so they weren’t awful but I just didn’t take to them. It was very enthusiastic, it was loud and raucous but felt a bit vacuous and the vocals seemed strained.

This second night in Bristol was more energetic, there still wasn’t a whole lot of interaction from the band to the crowd, they seemed to step it up in terms of general fun. The crowd were louder with impromptu and at times very odd moshing. Brian explained that it was ‘same band, different set' and he was right. This included ‘We Came To Dance’ and ‘The Navesink Banks’ from ‘Sink or Swim’ which were good to hear as were ‘Desire’ and ‘Film Noir’. ’59 Sound’ was definitely more enthused and there was a groundswell on the floor of fans. The night ended with ‘Backseat’ which could become TGA’s ‘Yellow Ledbetter’ but it felt right as a closer. The cover was a Bob Dylan track ‘Changing Of The Guards’, one we’d heard at that sound check gig in Brixton. It felt like a more rounded night, a really good live music experience. 


There appeared to be a more smiles leaving the gig, heading toward The Hatchet Inn. It ended up being one of the best nights I have had in a very long time. I drank a lot, sang along a lot, smiled a lot and luckily so did those accompanying me. It would be worth another trip to Bristol just for another night in the pub like that! My (imaginary) hat off to the DJ that night. 


Interestingly, it was mentioned twice in Bristol by people that I couldn’t have been there for Gaslight, I didn’t look like a fan. I guess I don’t have the high-top sneakers and sailor tattoos, but it was saddening in a way that other fans judged me based on what I looked like. 


And so, Easter weekend approached. I wanted to see some friends in Shoreham-By-Sea and they took priority over the TGA on Good Friday.  
London crowds can sometimes be a bit cliquey for me, lots of people at gigs as a place to be seen rather than for the music, but heading over to the gig at the Troxy in east London, with Ian and Sarah (latterly joined by Hinn), that didn’t seem the case. We queued...yes you read that correctly... queued. There were camera peeps videoing the said queue, roaming up and down, and strategically positioned along the wall which seemed a bit odd. As was the militaristic bag search for food, drink and camera equipment. 

I’d not been to the Troxy before, it’s a cool art deco venue, with a fully carpeted floor which felt strange at a rock gig but there was a great atmosphere  My opinion on the Japandroids unfortunately didn’t change, and was supported by others with me, although there were obviously some there who were absolutely loving them. 

This gig was different, there were pro cameras around the venue at strategic points plus roving in amongst the crowd. Something was up, possibly a DVD recording but beyond this, there was a feeling, you knew the boys would bring it – and they did. The set was great, unrelenting yet well paced and a lot of fun. Brian (in a dashing hat) was telling anecdotes and even invited a fan on stage who reckoned he could play guitar – he couldn’t, overstayed his welcome and may well have felt a tad daft on Sunday! They were enjoying this night, playing together, each member of the band grinning in delight at what appeared to be the enjoyment of just playing on stage. Brian looked at times like a naughty school boy who was about to be caught doing something he shouldn’t. The crowd singing back at them was brilliant and it seemed unexpected at some points. ‘Boomboxes and Dictionaries’ made an appearance in the set, but it was predominantly ’59 Sound’ and ‘Handwritten’ heavy. There were no covers, other than the snippet of ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ in the closing, quite brilliant version of ‘Backseat’  which was completed by bassist Alex Levine proving rock star prowess by smashing up his bass guitar on stage. This was The Gaslight Anthem stating -  we’re here, we enjoy this, we’ve good songs in our catalogue, come with us for a good time. 



Earlier on Saturday we’d gone to the Johnny Cupcakes shop in Carnaby Street. They’ve a slogan – ‘Do More Of What Makes You Happy’. 
Live music makes me happy, seeing musicians enjoying playing music makes me happy... The Gaslight Anthem made me happy.




Sunday, 24 February 2013

Before we get back in the wheel...

Oh my, I've not posted anything since October...somebody slap me! My New Year resolution should have been to blog more!

OK, so what have I done since I last bored you then, well a fair amount actually...
There was the brilliant Gaslight Anthem in Brixton (I'll gloss over my swooning over Brian during sound check - yes that did happen, sound check...and swooning - of course you wouldn't think that of me, I know I'm just not like that!);

There was Soundgarden at Shepherds Bush Empire who were bloody amazing, Chris Cornell is still huminah huminah, and the weekend involved a night when scarily PJ friends met one of my best friends from another 'friendship box' - they all remain my friends as far as I am aware;

There was Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls in Truro. I do love this man. It was brilliant to see him 25 minutes from home with friends from work, oh and to get a hug and chat to him after the gig was nice too (I managed not to embarrass myself); 

Oh of course there was Christmas where I was once again spoilt by my family and friends, I can never repay such kindness and some gifts reduced me to tears with thoughtfulness and generosity;

New Year was a PJ family meet up in Bristol, it was great to see everyone. We managed to find a fab Italian restaurant, drank copious amounts of alcohol and laughed a lot. Pretty good if you ask me. Oh and I managed to buy a fab new lipstick :) 

So, 2013 huh. Well  it's nearly March and that fact is scary enough. When I was a kid time seemed irrelevant somehow, it was somehow far longer. Now time seems to sweep by without being noticed. Thus far there's been ups and downs, a short but very sweet visit to Liverpool and a brilliant Brad gig. 
Those of you who aren't Pearl Jam obsessed may have missed this Seattle band, this is the first time they've played in Europe and they've been going 20 years. Yes, indeed amongst their ranks is a member of that PJ band I talk so much of, but this band is not about him. I admit I don't own everything they've done, I was intrigued, and prior to the gig it was more about catching up with people I don't get to see very often. However, Birmingham Academy 2 played host to one of the most honest and heartfelt gigs I have been too in a long time.
The night began and ended with a song called Buttercup, what happened in between was quite magical. Shawn Smith (singer for Brad) has an amazing tone to his voice, it fills the room in the most gentle of ways, wrapping around you as almost a comfort. The band gel on stage, they just seemed to be enjoying themselves, it almost felt like they were letting the audience into some secret they've held dear for years. It was genius. There are people who know the songs much better than me that will be able to comment on the specifics, but I loved the flow of the set list. Screen was amazing, Shawn Smith's solo part of the encore was simply beautiful (Crown of Thorns laid out bare on piano was a triumph) and a cover of Jumping Jack Flash which lit up the room. 
It was a genuine pleasure to experience them and I hope they come back soon. 

What's ahead I hear none of you asking, well I am going to tell you anyway... three Gaslight Anthem gigs in March (Bristol and London), Bruce Springsteen and maybe Neil Young in June (they know it's my birthday obviously!), Sarah Millican stand up with my bestest friend swiftly followed by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds both in October. Hopefully more gigs will be added along the way.
Amongst that there are some weddings of family and friends (not one for me, no man is that daft!) and peeps visiting me. 
Now I promise to write again soon... slap me if I don't!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Don’t It Make You Smile!

This Pearl Jam thing is a bizarre obsession to some. You all know that I can go on for hours about the music, the band...and the fans. So here I am, about to go on...


The fans, are probably the most brilliant thing about this band, they are the most amazing collective of people. There is the forum (I fully recognise it can be a bitch fest, but it’s where I’ve met some of the best people in my life), there is all of the #PJfam on Twitter (they’ve provided company, entertainment and friendship, which I am continuously grateful for) and there are lots of groups on Facebook. The madness that surrounds the collective is integral to it, producing lots of random acts of kindness amongst fans, from the ‘holy grails’, the fan created charity badges to the raffles and giveaways. 

A couple of years ago, one lovely PJ fan had a brilliant idea after coming across a ring containing 3 (crooked) hearts. This beautiful ring then began a journey around the world. A list of keepers was created with each lucky person receiving the ring getting to keep it for a week or so. During that week the keeper makes a donation to a charity of their choice and makes a journal entry. The journal tells the story of its travels, connecting fans, building a bond and documented shared experiences. It is a wonderful and beautiful idea. 

Three crooked hearts, is already something very special to me. Smile was on that 2009 list of songs I wanted to see. I got it at my first PJ gig in Manchester 2009, adding to the touch of magic. So much so that I asked a very talented jeweller friend of mine (http://www.niziblian.com/) to make a custom necklace based on the lyric card in my No Code CD. 


Very luckily the ring made its way to me a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't provide it with excitement, it was a normal week, full of the office and the odd walk so I could see the beach. However, there is a innate strength captured in this metal, like it has somehow absorbed the love, desires, hopes and passions of all its previous keepers. 

I am often the sort of person to seek reassurance and self justification and for me it was strange that a simple piece of jewellery can change your perspective. That when having those moments of doubt, worry, boredom and self loathing, I was able to look down and be reminded that I am part of a community. 
I know people will think I am mad, but it seemed to provide some form of strength out there not just in a link to music but in a wider capacity, from friends I may not know, from friends who have a place in my heart.
It is why my thoughts of a tattoo of this design has once again become stronger. I wonder if having a visual representation will provide me with that same sense. Inevitably I guess I should be able to provide it myself, be happy enough with who I am not too need something else, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

My time with the ring was over far too soon, and I wished I could have bottled some of the amazing ability to provide the reassurance it gave me whilst in my possession. I know it is a false sense of security but I liked it and whilst I am a person with very little creativity, I tried my best to equal the heartfelt journal entries. I had to send it onto another person from the keepers list. I chose a person who has herself provided me with so much friendship, love and support (Yvi, enjoy the experience xxxx). I felt happy knowing that the ring will travel onwards, bringing that same feeling to others. 


My donation to charity went to Epilepsy Action, they provide so much help for people who have or are being tested for epilepsy, and to their families. 

As I sit here pondering, under the influence of a few glasses of very nice rosé, I wonder if the band are aware of this generous, caring, and selfless nature that their music is partly responsible for. 

So, thank you Pearl Jam for fostering such an amazing community, this is one of the best communities anyone can be a member of! 



Three crooked hearts, with swirls all around...
It makes me smile!