2013 – Seven Gigs (plus one)

calexico-bellyup-590x390 (1)2013 has hardly been a vintage year for seeing live acts – a combination of low funds, apathy and a series of wet festivals in previous years has somewhat taken the fizz from the live experience for me. And so to be honest, I’m scraping around for seven top quality gigs; I went to some pretty good evenings, a few fairly good’uns and a couple of real stinkers. Looking back, I’ve also been a bit negligent in maintaining my recordings – there’s a few tapes which I just never got around to processing, in some cases inexplicably (they’re good!). So anyway, roughly in order of greatness:

Calexico, Bristol Academy, Feb ‘13

I’ve seen Calexico before and I remember being pleasantly surprised at what a good live act they were; and so it was this February. I’d been slightly underwhelmed by the Algiers record but went back to it in the following weeks on the strength of a bustling, classy set from Burns, Convertino and team, which I think comes out as my favourite evening of the year.

Puerto

Kurt Vile, The Fleece, December ‘13

I know I’ve only just got back from this gig, and it may well be a combination of this and the fact that I’d not seen any live music for, oh, ages, but I really, really enjoyed this evening. A good combination really, an artist I was new to, on top of his game and at one of my favourite venues. Win, win and win again.

Girl Called Alex

Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer, St Bonaventura’s, March ‘13

This one definitely comes under the heading of “inexplicably missed” from previous pages of this Blog. I don’t think I can have written about it at all, and the recordings were left sitting on my hard drive, untouched. I’m guessing the reason for this was that this March gig was in fact the third time I’d seen Anais Mitchell in a year and maybe I thought there was nothing more to add. Actually listening to it now, I wish I’d written more about it at the time, because some of the versions of songs from the Child Ballads record she released with Jefferson Hamer are just exquisite. Beautiful songs, beautifully sung.

Riddles Wisely Expounded

Suuns, Bristol Exchange, May ‘13

Actually, I think this was the third time I’d seen Suuns recently too, but that took nothing from the lustre of another spectacular evening in the company of Montreal’s sinister young gentlemen. Still unable to catch any of the words (although I think we’ve established that the first lines of Pie IX having nothing to do with a certain West Country town), no communication with the audience, loads of smoke and distortion. Fine, mean stuff.

2020

Richard Hawley, Colston Hall, February ‘13

Another early-in-the-year gig, in fact I think if I remember rightly this evening was in the same week as Calexico, phew! A sold out Colston Hall was treated to a long, heartfelt evening of Hawley favourites, each one enhanced by a top notch backing band and a real warmth between artist and audience. If not as exhilarating as Suuns and Calexico, every bit as enjoyable.

Leave Your Body Behind You

Sweet Baboo, Prince Albert, Stroud, April ‘13

Classic live band-in-a-pub, sort of an evening, although you’d hardly call Sweet Baboo a classic pub band. The Prince Albert is a terrific pub on the edge of Stroud, with top beers and food and a tiny stage, all a bit reminiscent of the old Slak Bar in Cheltenham. Sweet Baboo who I’m sure, I know (I’ve seen), has played much larger stages but he entered into the spirit of the evening, bouncing around enthusiastically on stage giving his Ships album a fair old (stripped down) thrashing. Oh, and Keith Allen turned up..

My Heart is Ready to Bounce Again

British Sea Power, The Guildhall, August ‘13

Maybe not quite as good as the other gigs here, (or even the unlucky eighth gig – Pere Ubu, since you’re asking), but for sheer excitement and as a peek into the BSP er “phenomena” (?), I really enjoyed this evening. I have a group of friends who are complete nuts for BSP and had travelled a fair old distance to be in Gloucester for this, (one of whom cheerfully told me he’d seen them seven times this year already, another of whom was on first name terms with the guys on the merch stall), so it was kind of a given that I’d need to get along to this a rare decent gig on my doorstep. In the end it was a rousing evening from a band who genuinely do have a bond with their audience. In-jokes abounded and I didn’t really understand the bears, but it all made for something of an experience which made their Green Man performances look a little pale.

Apologies to Insect Life

Of course, if we’re talking about exhilarating, one-off experiences, nothing will top this, my real “live music” highlight of 2013…

Alberto hits his brother on the back of the head…

ImageTwo gigs in a week? Sheesh! Slow down, old man….

Well, we hit the highway to Bristol, not once but twice this week (a school week, as well…), latterly to see Richard Hawley at Colston Hall (more later…), but the Monday belonged to the unstoppable Calexico…

Saw Calexico a few years ago at my first Green Man, and I remember being staggered at just how good they were live, so I’ve been really looking forward to this month’s Academy gig, the tickets have been pinned to our board for a good while now…

We caught the whole of the support band’s set, but (not for the first time) I’m afraid I didn’t really give them the attention they deserved, chatting boorishly throughout. If I’d twigged it was California’s the Dodos at the time I’d have done more to concentrate, but that’s one that got away somewhat.

On the dot of 9:30, though, Burns, Convertino and workmates marched briskly onto the stage and set to work, looking full of zest and confidence. And why wouldn’t they? They’re clearly at the top of their craft and from the evidence of Monday in a fine streak of form.

Burns led the evening, with the occasional foray to the front from Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wenk. We really enjoyed Valenzuela’s contributions, the best of which was a busy, soulful version of Inspiracion. Both his and Wenk’s brass injections were terrific too, stepping up the intensity of each song whenever they intervened.

A number of people had been raving about Convertino’s drumming before the start (somehow I’d missed him previously) and I have to say I was indeed impressed with his economical but spellbinding style. I’m not a great technician of rhythm sections but I could see that he dominated his areas of each song with a clipped, reserved efficiency that drew you in, in spite of all the brassy, extravagance around him. He was very exciting.

The set included a lot of the new Algiers album (a record that had made no impression on me beforehand, but which I’ll be revisiting now…) with a good smattering of selections from Carried to Dust and Garden Ruin amongst others and the obligatory Alone Again Or. A generous encore meant the set stretched out to an open-handed hour and a half in total. A fabulous way to spend an evening…

El Picador

Alone Again Or

Inspiracion

Roka (Danza de la Muerte)

Across the Wire