Thank you for coming, thank you for going…

In another strange “World Comes to my Doorstep” moment, a genuine rock legend turned up at our special old Guildhall this week. Legendary producer, co-inventor of a whole genre, native of the galaxies, notorious arsonist and truly erratic genius Lee “Scratch” Perry showed up in my hometown.

The strangest of strange privileges.

Lee Perry, Guildhall

In these sort of events, I tend to worry self-consciously about a poor turnout and in what fashion the great and the worthy will be treated by the feckless citizens of my hometown, but I didn’t need to, of course. The chambers were pretty much full and the welcome was enthusiastic. In fact, the demographic was pretty strange – possibly the whitest, baldest gig I’ve been to for ages, with a good few middle-aged chaps who probably should know better, acting like they were indeed ina Kingston ghetto.

Pre-gig tweets (yes, he’s on Twitter) were a mixture of triumphant braggadocio (“MUSIC THAT HEALS YOUR SOUL, CLEARS YOUR HEAD, HEALS YOUR HEART AND LIFTS YOUR SPIRIT!”), photographs of his hairdresser and requests not to bring him greens (“BETTER TO BRING ME LITTLE MIRRORS THAT I ALWAYS USE TO DECORATE MY OUTFITS”) but in there he also named his band ERM (Easy Riddim Maker). At times, they looked a little like a Chuck Berry-style pick up band but were on the whole pretty tight, and were into their third number before Perry paraded onstage, resplendent in gold-braided admiral’s jacket, pink hair and beard and mirror-decorated cap.

In truth, he did look a little slower and older than the last time I saw him but as he’s now an unlikely 82 years old, clearly we’re just glad he’s here and still out there (in all senses). He sauntered through a few almost lucid songs at first but warmed up gradually.

In the end we were treated to a wholehearted and comfortably grooved set of unique takes from a man who was there. There were a few kung fu kicks, some malarkey with a lighter and the occasional break down in communications with his band, but an overall sense of warmth from the stage and from the punters. He’d played for about an hour and a half before he moseyed offstage singing “Thank you for coming, thank you for going, in Jesus’ name…”

Police & Thieves

Seven Great Live Sets of 2010

So, here begins my end of year review thingy, and I thought I’d kick off with live music.

The highlight of the year was once again (a rather soggy) Green Man and I could easily have picked a whole line-up of GM sets. Apart from that, however, I didn’t get along to see as much music as I’d have liked (nor as much as last year). But nonetheless there were some really special live performances from 2010:

(Some of the vids are mine, some are the closest I could get…)

  • Avi Buffalo, Green Man

Trooping onstage looking like three bewildered teens, Avi Buffalo swooped and dived through most of their wonderful , shimmering record with a confidence and accomplishment that you wondered if they were going to have at the beginning. Giving the impression of genuinely enjoying their set as they played, they made faces at each other between songs and generally looked like they couldn’t believe their luck. I think we all felt the same.

  • Beirut, The Winter Gardens, Eastbourne

Saw them on the main stage in the rain at Green Man as well, but I always felt they would be better under a roof, where everything could all get a bit emotional. The Winter Gardens is a lovely old fashioned venue that I hope to get along to another time, and which really added to a brassy, sweaty evening. Took The Boy along with me as part of his A level celebrations and I like to think he was well rewarded for his travails.

  • LCD Soundsystem, The Academy, Bristol

Talking of sweaty, Bristol Academy in the summer, wedged in towards the front of a jostling, jarring mass at an LCD Soundsystem gig is a pretty fine place to be. Hadn’t been a massive fan until that evening, but really enjoyed an evening of Byrne-inspired jiggy-ness and spent the rest of the summer catching up on the records. Get innocuous!

  • Lee Perry, Colston Hall, Bristol

Bizarrely, the day before LCD Soundsystem, I’d been to see The Upsetter himself around the corner at Colston Hall. A real surfeit. Unable to persuade anyone else to join me, I was also unable to pass up an opportunity to see the great man himself. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but Perry didn’t disappoint and well into his seventies showed himself to be just as wonky and funky as you’d hope he would be.

  • Field Music, Guildhall, Gloucester

Also saw, Sunderland’s finest at Green Man, where they played a fine set, but I have to say their quieter, more intimate gig at the dear old Guildhall was even better and all the more satisfying for being one of barely fifty Gloucester folk who turned out. Self-effacing, charming and dizzyingly talented, Field Music may well be “The Best Band in Britain” (© M Cole).

  • Gotan Project, Colston Hall, Bristol

Another gig at Colston hall, and this time with my good lady, we enjoyed a lengthy, intoxicating dose of dubby, Latin trip hop, the memory of which will see us nicely into our dotage. Augmented by an imaginative projector show behind them, and a bone-shivering top class sound system, Gotan Project went through most of their new record and touched a lot of their older stuff too. One of only a few gigs I went to where I managed to get a really decent recording, which we are still playing in the car. Rich stuff.

  • John Grant, Green Man

As I said I could have picked a good few sets from Green Man, but John Grant’s particularly impressed me, because I hadn’t really got on with his very-highly regarded (nay, lauded) record. His stage presence and personality won me over pretty quickly, and it stuck out as one of the sets of the weekend. Still not a huge fan of the record, but the man himself was pretty striking.

Honourable Mention:

Not a set as such, but another highlight of Green Man was the first public appearance from Andy Kershaw since his time inside. Looking very nervous, and (he said later) unsure whether anyone would turn up to hear him, Kershaw, once settled, was quickly recognisable as the energetic, plain-speaking enthusiast of a few years ago. Full of stories and working on his book, his appearance was both funny and genuinely moving.

It sipple out deh…

As I said, it’s been a while, nearly six months in fact, since I got along to see some music, and I’ve really missed it – but I’ve been back on it again with a Lee Perry / LCD Soundsystem double header in Bristol last weekend. Oh yes.

Scratch needs no introduction from anyone but himself and of the number of gigs I have lined up over the coming weeks, this was probably the most eagerly anticipated. One or two people had wondered why he had chosen to play at the rather genteel Colston Hall rather than a bona fide “rock venue”, and I can see why, but to be fair to the organisers they’d removed a load of seats from the stalls and it made a pretty decent-sized hall for people to stand and watch in. It worked quite well.

There were a couple of reggae acts on first from the 2Kings,er, Crew and they were actually pretty good. Was quite taken by Prince Jammo and Ceefax, and even got a recording of them (more of that, later…)

At about 10:15, resplendent in mirror cap, lame shirt, camo shorts and hooped leg warmers, the grand old gent shuffled genially onto stage, his hair dyed scarlet, and ambled through a suitably bonkers set that lasted an hour a half.

With a full band, including a brass section, jaw-shuddering bass and i-threes style female backing, he played a few Wailers songs (Exodus and Small Axe stood out) a few of his own numbers that I recognised (Sun is Shining and Inspector Gadget) and, bizarrely, a long song about sex in the tub.

I had mused on these very pages that I might be in for some sort of Davy Graham-esque car crash gig, given the man’s notorious eccentricity, but I am happy to report that he’s mellowed with age and seemed affable and having a good time. He only went off on one wonky diatribe about how we all come from Neptune and the origin of mankind.


he finished with, and there was a discernible awkward pause before the obligatory whoops and hollers from the stalls. I’m not sure they did understand, Lee…

There was a lengthy delay before the encore, as he changed outfit (red, mirror loon pants, as you’re asking) but a whomping “War inna Babylon” finished the evening off on a massive high point.

I forgot to take my camera and was unable to operate my recorder properly (!), so I don’t have anything of my own, but I did find this. It’s a recording taken earlier this year, which also features members of the Congos and Max Romeo, as well as the Upsetter himself.

(Brrrrrip! Brrrrip!)

It was a pleasure meeting you. What’s your name?

I’m turning into an irritable old bugger…

I’m breaking my recent gig fast next weekend by making a trip over to Bristol and catching the venerable, if barking, reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry, his first gigs in this country for a good few years (seven I think).

So I thought I’d put together a little mix of some my favourite tracks by the old nutter and had started work on this. But then having mentioned it to some of the cronies I stand next to at The Home of Rugby, it became clear that everybody has their own Upsetter favourites, and that as his output is just massive, we all knew albums that the others didn’t.

So, anyway, I’m thinking I’ll use the iTunes Genius function to throw up a few random Upsetter gems.

And that’s when it all went pear-shaped…

I won’t go into details, suffice to say a combination of a new computer, lost passwords and bloody iTunes made it all very frustrating… The air was blue…

Anyway, here’s a fairly random Upsetter Lucky Seven, which ideally will introduce you to seven new (and appropriately goofy) insights into the mind of a fine old Jamaican eccentric.

Hold of Death (title track of a 1993 album)

The Dragon Enters (from Kung Fu Meets the Dragon)

Django Shoots First (a single I think, I have it on Bashment)

Santa Clause (from Repentance)

Having a Party (from Scratch Came, Scratch Saw, Scratch Conquered)

Black Bat (No idea where from originally, but I have it on an album called Original Bass)

Noah Sugar Pan (from Heart of the Congos)

Upsetter Lucky Seven

Here’s a video of an interview the man did in Austen, which made me chuckle…

Of course, as more than one person has pointed out to me, the whole gig could go very wrong …

Good Brain

Clearly anyone with half a brain is a fan of the great and enigmatic Lee “Scratch” Perry. I do indeed have half a brain, so it follows…

A mere 72 years old, Scratch has now released three albums this year (and who’s to say there won’t be a Christmas release). I don’t yet have The Mighty Upsetter, but the other two (Repentance and Scratch Came, Scratch Saw, Scratch Conquered) are belters.

And I’ve just come across Eternal Thunder. A site lovingly put together by one Mick Sleeper which features, amongst other things, a great bunch of hour-long mixes, apparently sanctioned by the man himself and free to download. I’m not usually a fan of mixes (I’m trying to avoid saying “mash up”), but these ones really work and are a very funky way to meander away an hour or so…

Pay him a visit…