Some Gigs

It’s been a busy few weeks for gigs. I thought you might be interested in a summary of what I’ve seen recently.

9 Oct: The Sixteen

Starting with something a bit different. A nice drop of Thomas Tallis (and a few other things) in a local church. The Sixteen are great – but I’m not sure why there were eighteen of them singing.

10 Oct: Kirsty MacColl Tribute

It seems amazing that it’s ten years since Kirsty MacColl died. This tribute concert brought together many famous names to sing Kirsty’s songs with her backing band. It was good to see that it wasn’t just old gits like Billy Bragg, Eddi Reader and Alison Moyet who wanted to play tribute to her. There were plenty of younger people like Amy MacDonald and Ellie Goulding there too. Shame Macgowan was supposed to be there but he was indisposed. No-one was surprised.

21 Oct: Hallogallo 2010

Michael Rother was one half of the German band Neu in the 1970s. Hallogallo is the name of the first track on Neu’s first album. Hallogallo 2010 is the name of a group that Rother has gathered together to play some Neu music along with other music in the same style. The style got a bit monotonous at first, but eventually monotonous turns into into hypnotic and I found myself being drawn in. I’m not sure I’d rush to see them again, but I’m glad I was there.

27 Oct: Norma Waterson and Eiiza Carthy

I’ve been listening to various combinations of the Waterson/Carthy family for decades. I’ve seen Eliza Carhy about four times this year already, but I hadn’t seen Norma Waterson for several years. They’re on tour together as they’ve just released their first album as a duo and very nice it is too. The Union Chapel was the perfect setting for this evening of two fabulous singers singing some great songs.

28 Oct: The Psychedelic Furs

This was postponed from last year for reasons that I never discovered. The first half was the album Talk Talk Talk played all the way through and then after a very short break the band came back and played pretty much every other Furs song that you wanted to hear. It’s always a bit worrying seeing old bands like this as there’s a strong likelihood that they’ve lost it. But, happily, that’s not true of the Furs. They put in a great performance.

2 Nov: Afro Celt Sound System

I love African music and I love Irish folk music – so what’s not to love about a band who fuse the two forms together and make¬†irresistible¬†dance music? This was their first time in London for something like seven years and they were very good. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much dancing in the Barbican Hall. Oh and a tip to other bands – the Afrocelts were selling t-shirts for a tenner. That’s how you get me to buy one.

3 Nov: Lloyd Cole

Another blast from the past and another “has he still got it?” moment. And he has. Rather than a band, Cole now plays with two other chaps and all three of them play acoustic guitars. This means that the old Commotions stuff needs to be drastically rearranged and some of the new versions work better than others. But I’d never seen Lloyd Cole play before and I’m glad that I have now. It made me think that maybe I should track down some gigs by Edwyn Collins or Roddy Frame.

6 Nov: Tunng

After a few oldies, Tunng brings us right up to date. I hadn’t even heard of Tunng until a friend recommended them to me about a year ago. Now I have all of their albums and, on the evidence of this gig, I’d definitely go and see them again. I think this was the end of the tour so there was a bit of a party atmosphere going on. There was also a special guest star – former member Sam Genders joined them on stage for a few numbers. It’s a modern kind of folk music with a bit of other bits and pieces thrown in. I like it a lot.

10 Nov: The Divine Comedy

Bringing us right up to date, last night I was at the Royal Festival Hall to see The Divine Comedy. Actually, these days that’s just Neil Hannon performing solo. It’s been over ten years since I listened to a new Divine Comedy album, but it was great to hear the songs live – mostly played on piano but occasionally on acoustic guitar. Hannon is a great entertainer and he loves to chat to the audience both between and during the songs. I’ll certainly be checking out some of his more recent work.


Gigs for Old Gits

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for gigs. On the assumption that at least some of my readers have similar tastes to me, here are brief reviews of the three gigs I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks.

Fairport Convention, Union Chapel, 20th Feb
This is the second year running that I’ve seen Fairport Convention on their “Wintour” at the Union Chapel. Last year was the first time I had seen them (which is bizarre for a band I’ve been a fan of for over thirty years). I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this year’s show wasn’t as enjoyable as last year’s. I suspect it was down to the number of songs taken from later Fairport albums that I’m not at all familiar with. Oh, and the arrangement of Matty Groves was very strange. The long instrumental that ends the song was unrecognisable.

Thomas Dolby and Friends, Union Chapel, 28th Feb
Something a little more up to date. This was Thomas Dolby bringing back together the band who had recorded and toured his second album, The Flat Earth. As an extra twist, the band (who haven’t played together for over twenty-five years) didn’t rehearse at all. They met on stage and worked the songs out in a two-hour “live rehearsal”. They then went of for a brief break before returning to play a half-hour set.

The rehearsal was fun. And the band sounded great for a band eho hadn’t played together for so long. There were also a few guest stars – including Trevor Horn who played bass on “Airwaves”. The only slight disappointment was that the rehearsal overran so the final set had to be cut short.

John Cale, Royal Festival Hall, 5th March
I’m not a huge John Cale fan. I generally like the stuff of his that I hear, but I haven’t really heard much of it. This concert had him playing the whole of hist album “Paris 1919” (from 1973). This isn’t an album that I’d heard at all until I started to listen to it in preparation for this show and it’s really not that representative of the rest of his music. But it’s a great album and it was interesting to hear it all played live. It is, however, a rather short album (many were back in the early 70s) and that part of the show only lasted forty minutes. After a short break (and it was really short) the band returned to play another forty minutes of “the best of John Cale”. I was pretty surprised to realise that I recognised most of these songs. All in all, a great night out.


A Life Well Documented

Recently I realised that two seemingly completely different projects were, in fact, both facets of the same project. They both led me to putting more detail about my history into web sites and (once they are complete) this will mean that my life will become far better documented.

The first project started when I dug out an old box of photographs. I was relatively late into digital photography so I have huge numbers of photos which just linger in boxes and albums instead of being enjoyed on Flickr. Also in the box I found the negatives for most of the films so I decided to start getting the negatives scanned in and put on CDs (if anyone is interested, it looks like Boots are the cheapest place to get this done).

This scanning is still in progress, but when I got the first few CDs back I realised that there were lots of photos of holidays and that I only had the vaguest of ideas when some of these holidays took place. So over the last couple of weeks, I’ve done pretty much all I can to tie down the dates of all of the holidays I’ve taken in the last fifteen years. I’ve gone through old passports looking for stamps. I’ve searched for email confirmations of flight bookings. I’ve even gone through my invoicing records to see which days I didn’t invoice clients for (an unexpected advantage of being a freelancer). As I’ve been going through this process, I’ve been adding the trips to my Dopplr account.

The project has expanded from just covering holidays. I’ve been to a lot of conferences in that time and I’ve also added those details to Dopplr. I don’t think I’m very far from having a complete record of every conference and meeting that I’ve ever spoken at.

The other project which eventually led in the same direction was my discovery of Songkick. Songkick aims to produce a complete directory of gigs. Users can add details of gigs they attended and mark themselves as having been at gigs added by other people. Trying to track down the dates of obscure gigs you attended in the late 1980s turns out to be a surprisingly addictive pastime. I’m sure I’ll never get everything into my account, but it’s certainly fun trying. I don’t even mind that the first gig I ever attended was supremely embarrassing.

Songkick currently has one obvious omission. It would be great if they would publish a users list of gigs (or “gigography” as they call it) as an iCal feed so that I could subscribe to it in Google Calendar. I’m sure that something like that will be added to the site soon.

There’s an obvious crossover between these two projects of course. Some gigs (more usually, festivals) can also count as holidays. Every time I went to Glastonbury or the Cambridge Folk Festival, that’s going to need to be listed in both Dopplr and Songkick.

Two interesting projects. Neither of them will ever be 100% complete, but it’s fun trying to get as close as you can. Of course, they both appeal to the “High Fidelity” style list geek in me. If these tools had been available thirty years ago I would certainly have been using them. And that would have given me an incredibly rich set of data about how I spent my time. One that I’m now painfully trying to piece together a bit at a time.

I’m fast coming to the conclusion that you can’t ever have enough data about your life. I’m now looking for new data sets that I could add to my life history.