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.


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.


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…

I’ve Never Been So Sure

ImageI’m off to see Anais Mitchell tomorrow night, and am every much looking forward to it, but it’s reminded me that I still have some lovely Richard Hawley recordings from last week to put up.

It seems a while ago now, and the world has moved on apace, but last Wednesday’s evening at Colston Hall in the company of one of our favourite songwriters was a really ejoyable one.

Richard Hawley

Coles Corner in our house is, and will forever be, The Christmas Album, our go-to record for hunkering down and feeling comfy; and we’ve not deviated from it at all. But recently we’ve tried to branch out a little and Trulove’s Gutter has also been getting extensive playing in the car.

Arriving at Colston Hall, though, we went straight to the merch stall and plunged in (passing up the opportunity to buy from the extensive Hawley range of boiled sweets and gentlemen’s relishes), buying the new one, and getting the perfect introduction to it for the rest of the evening.

With his regular band and travelling companions, Hawley gave us a really warm show, with plenty of between song chat (he seems like a lovely bloke) and a genuine fondness for his songs and the business of performing them. Looking back on it, there wasn’t so much from “The Christmas Album”, but it didn’t really matter and for me there was a growing realisation that, good though Coles Corner is, there’s an awful lot more to the songs of Richard Hawley.

In fact his performance of the “new” material was so good that hearing them on the car stereo the next day was almost a disappointment to me. I’m growing to like the record very much but it doesn’t quite carry the power and affection of his live effort.

I recorded the show, and it’s come out OK (I always like the sound at Colston Hall) but unfortunately it sounds a little far back, my fault, taking the opportunity as I did to sit for most of the show, rather than stand near the front. Still worth a listen, mind…

Open Up the Door

Standing on the Sky’s Edge

Soldier On

There’s also this video, shot from the upper tier, I’d guess, that’s turned up on YouTube: