Glasvagas: The Thekla, Bristol

17.10.18: Those who don’t know the Thekla venue in Bristol. It can be an uncompromising place for bands to play. There is no hiding place and over the years I’ve seen several a band and artist who’ve ventured out of their bedrooms, garages, and studios to perform at the Thekla and find their abilities stretched and exposed to the elements of this old ship anchored in the Mud Dock, Bristol. Tonight there is an air of anticipation, willing anticipation from the 400 capacity sellout audience to witness Glasvegas perform their 2008 self-titled and platinum-selling debut album. A decade has vanished, but the album still holds as a classic blending guitar feedback that marries the harmonies of the Ronettes with James Allen’s brittle lyrics of loneliness, love, and loss. There no sinking tonight. The first 30 minutes are as near a perfect rock n roll show one could ever envisage and by the end of the night, it is fair to say they Glasvegas had nailed it with 400 people singing word for word the lyrics of each song causing the band to pause their performance, stand back, listen and embrace the feedback and importance many hold their seminal piece of work.

 

Beautiful Shambles: Idles, Bristol SWX

16.10.18: Ding, ding, round two and back in the ring with Idles after first experiencing their rapturous performance on 8th April this year (here) at the Komedia in Bath. A lot has happened in that 6 months. A second album, which achieved a top-five slot upon release, a world tour,  TV/radio exposure and now a sold out UK tour, which has cemented them as the most essential band to emerge from these shores in recent years. It’s loud and fast here at SWX, Bristol as Idles rip through their set like the Village People on acid. Support is provided by the ever impressive Heavy Lungs. At the Bath gig, the live energy of the band carried them through their set, but here tonight with growing audiences their confidence is high and rightly so. It takes confidence for a band to bring audience members onto their stage, but it takes absolute confidence for band members to then hand over their instruments to audience members. The resulting noise is a complete shambles, a beautiful shambles, which adds to the raw energy of a band who are just on top of their game at the moment. There is a special relationship between band and fan base here. A relationship I’ve not seen since the heady days of punk in the late 1970s, or the stage invasions of early Smith’s concerts. Idles concerts are a celebration of positivity and life with all its faults and beauty. Something, so badly needed in an era where hate has become mainstream and fashionable. Tonight a rock band had their audience eating out of the palm of their hands, nothing new about that, but its rare in today’s over-produced, clean packaged musical output for a band to actually mean something beyond the product on sale. Thank fuck for Idles.

Narrow Screen

Our hero is on route from the retail park, smile, a tinge of excitement, a little pee dribbles down his left inside thigh. Having purchased 50″ of Samsung widescreen pleasure, that moist feeling, he can’t wait to get it inside. A re-re-rerun of action-packed shows, Netflix colourisation of bygone wars. An immersive marathon of X-box exhilaration sits waiting behind black tinted glass television stand doors. Our self-made hero can conquer mythical lands, battle armies, while joying his small joystick, fragile, bent, in the palm of their hand. Before embarking on his adventurous night where can the cardboard box purchased be dumped without sight? A small spark ignites in our hero’s vassal mind like a reptile he sliver and slides to the public park in the shadow of night. Back home feeling admiration and pride, our fuckwit sighs as his blank screen flickers, ignites and the room bursts into artificial colours of radiant rays green, red and pulsating blue. The wanker, he wanks, wanks and he wanks. 

Michael Nau & The Mighty Thread: Louisiana, Bristol

24.09.18: I inadvertently stumbled across Michael Nau in his early days when fronting Cotton Jones whose album Paranoid Cocoon (2009) remains a favourite and contains the majestic track I Am the Changer (seriously track it down!). His style is casual, an appearance of not being fazed, but what lays beneath his calm exterior is a musician and songwriter of the highest order. I’m at the Louie tonight and Nau is with his band The Mighty Thread promoting their self-titled new album. Uplifting beautiful stuff. Check out the link below.

They Might Be Giants: SWX Bristol

23.09.18: There have been many attempts over the years to categorise They Might Be Giants, a task akin to balancing on a set of shakey decorating ladders while attempting to nail jelly to a ceiling, so I’m not going to even attempt it here. All I can say is that if you take St. Peppers era Beatles, a bit of Beach Boys, some Liza Minnelli, Deep Purple riffs, Motown backbeats and the brass section from Earth Wind and Fire, place them in a tumble drier several times over a bright summers weekend. You might (just might) be lucky enough on one occasion to get the ingredients right and that is without the arduous challenge of blending in some of the wittiest lyrics being set to music today. Getting this right, of course, is a challenge for the musician. One slip, either way, can project the material into a smug self-righteous mess.

TMBG have found an odd relationship with my music collection. I adore their 1990 album Flood with its quirky set of songs, including the perfect pop tune Birdhouse in your Soul, sitting along the track Your Racist Friend, which coming from an American band seems quite an aptly timed anthem for their 45th President. Their music has popped up on TV shows like Malcolm In the Middle. They’ve written music for the Spongebob Square Pants, as well as winning two Grammy Award and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score.

With 4 million records sales to their name, I’ve dipped into their catalogue along the way and I now find myself at the SWX venue Bristol to finally see Brooklyn’s very own and self-titled ambassadors of love perform live for the first time. TMBG are providing two sets tonight covering material from their back catalogue and forthcoming album. The evening is a storming success, full of humour, amazing musicians who are simply on top of their game and at ease with one another. The dubbing of Aerosmith/Run DMC’s video to Walk This Way is a particular fun treat! Check out dates for their remaining tour dates here as well as accessing band information, free downloads, etc. I heartly recommend you go see them live. If you don’t come out with a rye smile on your face and a spring in your step the next morning then you are in need of professional help.

 

Gina Miller: Bristol Festival Ideas

Gina Miller @ The Bristol Festival of Ideas

04.10.18: Tuesday night and off to an evening with Gina Miller, who is known mainly for legally challenging the UK Government’s right to invoke Article 50 (Brexit) without reference to Parliament. In the absence of political moderation, for many, Miller has willingly, or unwillingly become the figurehead for those desperately seeking somebody to rally around. As a consequence, Miller has faced an appalling barrage of abuse, including threats of gang rape, beheading, racial harassment, murder and, acid attacks. Her personal office has received packages containing dangerous substances. Her legal team has been subjected to protests outside their offices, and at least eight people have been served with cease and desist notice by the police. In a self-declared act of ‘satire.’  Rhodri Colwyn Philipps, 4th Viscount St Davids, a British peer, described Miller as a “boat jumper” and added: “If this is what we should expect from immigrants, send them back to their stinking jungles.” The 4th Viscount St Davids also offered “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first generation immigrant.” 

How have we got here? A question I often find myself asking, whatever our views on the challenges we face in our communities. What has stirred up so much animosity, hostility and, hatred? It is a darkness that strikes at the heart. A hatred I have known to have existed in the few but not the many. The grumpy uncle, or neighbour who lazily points the finger at everybody else for their troubles while fearfully avoiding the hallway mirror. Last Sunday evening I spent over 2 hours in a public meeting trying to discuss the merits and genuine concerns of a proposed winter shelter for the homeless in my neighbourhood. These issues are always sensitive, often the catalyst for bringing the worst out of people with locals exasperated by the weak administration of the consultation process managed by the City Council. Yet, none of this provided any justification for the uncontrolled rage, and venom aimed at those most vulnerable in our community who face the threat of freezing to death over the winter periods.

The demands for the council to compensate people for a perceived loss of house value, if the project were to be granted, is one thing and a concern for personal safety is another, these are entirely natural concerns. The council must calmly explain how it will help mitigate these factors, justified or not.  How these adult discussions are able to take place in an environment of open hostility, lack of humanity and outright appalling behaviour is frankly beyond me. At one point I turned to witnesses a group of people poised continuously to interrupt when breath was taken by anybody else contributing to the meeting, tightly clenched hands, a reddening and angry facial expression, like volcanos awaiting explosion. This is not a legitimate expression of concern, but an embolden confident disregard for anybody else. In part a small reflection of where we are as a people at the moment, polarised and unable to reach out, share and lacking any empathy. A smaller reflection of what Gina Miller is relaying tonight.

There is much, which I agree with Gina Miller, Brexit, the general state of politics in the UK, government abuse of power, erosion of accountability and a need to find new ways of opening up dialogue across our fractured political divide. There are also issues where her analysis, on the surface seems naive with the reiteration of the muddle that a ‘kinder, more socially aware capitalism’ will help solve the deep-rooted economic injustice between North and South and in the micro-economies of the UK regions. Not everybody who works in the world of capital finance has, and will never have the values of Gina Miller, and waiting for this type of transformation to take place is a wait too long. Especially for those who have had to live with the consequences of failed 3rd-way market-based (kinder capitalism) solutions since the 1980s. A decade, which brought the promise of an end to ‘boom and bust’ economics by its advocates who often now like to start their narrative from the financial crash of 2007, and the onset of austerity.

Tonight and I can genuinely sense a feeling of the utmost loss, grieving, ongoing bewilderment amongst the audience. It is a feeling captured towards the end of the evening during the Q&A session when Miller to her credit talked about the need to reach out to those who voted for Brexit. The voice is one of that is reminiscent of many who cannot comprehend a loss of power, an elderly man who asks “how do we get into their heads to help change their minds.” A question I am quite sure sounds much more sinister than what the questioner meant but nevertheless gets to the core of the problem. As a proud North East migrant, who voted for remain, but wanted reform. It’s not a case about getting into people heads, but listening, demonstrating empathy and a willingness to support the implementation of policies that will address economic injustice.

Gina Miller is a remarkable woman, and I can list a lot of platitudes. I utterly reject and condemn the vile misogynistic and racists abuse she faces and will no doubt continue to suffer. She is an inspiration to anybody who values common decency, and more people like her are required in public life. Her decision to transfer political allegiances away from the Labour Party to the Liberal Democrats is regrettable but understandable as the Lib Dems seem to offer a better home for her ‘kinder capitalism’ ethos. It is a move that also contains an element of irony given some academics had drawn the conclusion that the seed of Brexit was sown when the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition Government embarked on their policy of austerity. I can only reflect that our appreciation of Miller’s work will be valued more in the post-Brexit landscape, after the storm, than it is today.

I finish writing this blog entry, I open my web browsers and read the headlines. The Institute for Public Policy Research have published a new report (link here) calling for “A radical overhaul of Britain’s economy as far-reaching as Labour’s post-war reforms and the Thatcherite revolution in the 1980s is needed to address the UK’s chronic failure to raise the standard of living of millions of workers since the 2008 financial crash.” As well-meaning and insightful this report maybe I am left thinking, while Rome burns.

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