I played at a lovely little gig at The Thunderbolt on Wednesday night (don’t mean to sound patronising, it was little in the sense that it’s a relatively small venue and there weren’t many people there), and it got me thinking about all the wee gigs I’ve been at and played at over the years.
Big Up all the people that were there…
So, here’s the top 5’s, both in chronological order:
Top 5 Small/Quiet Gigs I’ve Been To:
My Dad organised an annual charity folk concert as a memorial for a friend who had died of Cystic Fibrosis. These were probably my first introduction to live music. And my first experience of performing live. There was always total quiet among the audience of just over a hundred – just as well, since the singers usually played completely acoustically.
A beautifully quiet and slow band, in fine form just after the release of my favourite album of theirs (Trust, in case you’re wondering). At a particularly quiet conclusion of a particularly moving and slow song, somebody at the back dropped what sounded like four grand’s worth of change. I think it was my mate Dan, though I have never asked him about it.
Men Diamler is my favourite ever live performer. I saw him maybe thirty times, and it was never the same twice. On this occasion, he played at a friend’s flat on Cheltenham Road, with thirty-seven new songs in a folder. At the risk of sounding pompous (I know, I know), I was deeply affected by this performance.
Afterwards, we all went to The Croft to see Dalek. Some night, I can tell you.
Great company and intense, beautiful music all the way.
The following week I went on tour with him and was in awe every night. By the end of the tour, he had sixty new songs. Some of them are on this album. A truly unique performer, and a ruddy excellent songwriter.
Babar Luck, The Farm, Bristol, 2011(?)
Another of my favourite live performers, and difficult to pick one from the many times I’ve seen him. Here he was in fine form, berating those in the crowd who talked all through his set. It was really obvious who, because it was the end of an all-day gig, and there weren’t many people left. I’ve never seen anyone so combative about being friendly – and I’ve met several Glasweigans.
(Funny enough, I know the kid he was berating, and I know he likes Babar, so it was a bit strange all in all.)
A wonderful treat to see this band become a threesome and have an attentive audience. The addition of cello and another guitar gave the original solo artist even more (emotional) resonance and his songs sounded fuller. It was good to see them given their due.
The man fell off the stage, backwards, pulling down the curtain that made a corridor to the Ladies’ as he went - and kept on playing, after only a moment’s pause.
So glad I didn’t have to follow him…Slak is always good – a small, rare gem.
This was the only gig I’ve ever played where I was trying to drag people away from a riot-climaxing roof-top siege. The night before the royal wedding (check the disrespect denoted by lack of capitals. Take THAT, archaic system of feudal privilege), there was a riot on Stokes Croft as three hundred thousand police in full Robocop gear turned up to kick three hippies out of a squat. Two of them made it up to the roof and fought a running battle with said riot squad, while a crowd below looked on. We started the gig an hour late, and I was amazed anybody could be coaxed away from the outdoor entertainment to watch me playing songs, but a few did, so it was a nice wee quiet daytime gig. In fact, the police and squatters kindly wound things down by the time I started, and it was all over by the time I finished my set.
On tour with Dr Spin, we were hosted by The Ruby Kid and the owner of this fine establishment. We played a mixed acoustic-electric set, and in the sound check I slated R.Kid in verse. (I think the kids call it a “battle rap”.) We played Crushed Bones by Why? to make it up to him.
We went on last, and a lot of people had left by then, but got a very warm reception from the small Sunday night crowd. A couple of old friends turned up to make it even more memorable.
Night-times in The PFR can get raucous, but daytime is generally relaxed. I’ve played so many times it’s hard to pick one, or remember one, but the first time I played at The PFR at Glastonbury in 2009 was an unexpected pleasure. Everything that I’ve done with them since stems from that.
Porter Cellar Bar, Bath, with Ratface, 2012
This was at the end of the tour for Ratty and I, and both of us had the worn-down throats to prove it. It was a Monday night. It was quiet. Really quiet.
Two people who had heard of me came to the gig, which they’d heard about online.
Which was nice. I think there were three other people there.
After the gig, I got drunk on free beer and danced with Ratty (who was sober and had to drive us home) and had a great time.