Friday, 8 December 2017

Review: Songhoy Blues, 1/12/17; Anson Rooms, Bristol

“As we say in Africa: Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”

I meet J on Stokey and we walk up the big hill towards Clifton.  It’s ruddy cold, but the stomp up the big hill takes our mind off it, as we head to meet O and her friend in a nice wee pub I’ve never been to before (I tell J I think I’ve been there before, with DL, but full disclosure:  I hadn’t.  You don’t get this kind of detail in your average newspaper/website gig reviews, do you?  No.)
It’s in a university, so obviously there’s a maximum amount of time-consuming bureaucracy: have you got a hand stamp?  Then you need to go round to the front entrance; you need a hand-stamp on the way in, please queue round the other side, go to the right, to the right!; no drinks downstairs, sorry; no glass, here’s a plastic cup, etc.
I haven’t been here for a show for years – the last one, I think, was Godspeed, at least five years ago.  I tell O & J that I saw my first ever gig here (Echobelly in 1994, in case you’re interested – I did a crowdsurf, and everything, it was brilliant), and subsequently saw a few of the British Indie bands of the mid-90s.  It was exciting in those days, wasn’t it, do you remember?  Being a teenager, going out to things like this, loud music, crowds, psycho-sexual hormonal adventures, anxiety, melodrama….
Those days are long gone, and good fucking riddance.  It was right for the times, and times were tough.
We wonder if we’re too early: it’s nine, and the tickets said doors at seven, which seems too early.  It doesn’t seem busy in the place.  (You never know when to arrive for these things, do you?  Small gigs are absolutely ALWAYS much later than advertised (except the few times they’re not, and no one’s there), and big gigs don’t tend to advertise a time, but do vary a lot from venue to venue, and depending on the day of the week.)  The room is like a school hall, but bigger.  I tell OJ that some people think the sound here is shit, but I’ve always thought it was very good when I’ve been here. 
J is waiting on a call from R, cos he’s got a ticket for him.  But J’s got no signal in here, so I text R: “Yo, J got no bars, so call me when you rock up. My bars is the sickest bruv, I got bars for days.”  (HahahahaI’mhilaaaarious)
The website where I bought my ticket invites me to review my experience, so here it is.  However, since they insist that they will own the copyright to my post, I’ll just leave it here so that I’m not providing free labour to be used for advertising purposes by a service industry giant.  Because that’s bollocks.  Even if it’s normal that we all review things these days, and make those reviews available for the discernment of our fellow consumers.  So, I’m just providing it for free on a platform where it will be read by seven people, and no one – especially not me – will make any money from it.  Because I’m an Artist, yeah?
Songhoy Blues are from Mali, and play a really interesting mix of rock n roll, R&B and Afrobeat.  Like, the sort of West African style of guitar, but playing rock n roll.  Or vice versa.  You know what I mean?  Well, look them up and check it out, then. 
Just in case you’re interested in this kind of thing, the band use Orange amps.  They’re supposed to be very good, aren’t they?  They look cool, anyway.  The lead guitarist has got a Gibson SG, the singer plays a Telecaster.  And late in the show, a wee white fella sneaks in on a Les Paul.  The singer plays guitar on some songs, but on the others, he dances and is a really energetic frontman.  But really, the wee lad at the back does look like he’s just sneaked on stage and no one has noticed.  Like me at Ashton Court in 1999, remember that?  CE and PM tried to stop me coming on from the back of the stage, they thought I wasn’t supposed to be there.  Great days. 
The singer is talking about all the terrible things happening in the word right now, and he lists a few of them.  To be honest, I find it a little bit tricky to follow what he’s saying, as he has a strong accent.  But his speech ends with something like:  “What can we do?  We are artists.”  But not in a plaintive, shoulder-shrugging way, more like he is answering his own question.  If we are Artists, we can make Art.  That’s what we can do.
My dear friends, we live at a time in which the Christmas adverts of companies who sell tea towels and dinner plates is a news story and some kind of “event”, because that’s how shit our culture is.  It’s hard to think about that without concluding that we are worse than the ancient Romans, more hubristic than the Vietnam war-era USA; but nights like tonight help to redress the balance – and that’s the role of Art, isn’t it?  To remind us that we are also capable of transcendent beauty, of making the darkness of our existence explicable, relatable.  To deal with all the awful things we do to ourselves and each other without simply diverting our attention away from them for a brief period (which is, I would argue, the purpose of Entertainment).  And to dance.  Because we are alive.
Well, it’s part of the reason anyway.  I think.  I’m only thinking that while writing this, I didn’t think about it at the gig.  So, it must have worked.
“We know you have worked hard all week and you need to have a good time on Friday night.”  
Well, exactly. 
We are Entertained.  It is also Art.  They are very good.
After the show, we get a drink in a local pub, which I remember being a bit of a shit pit, but is now quite nice.  Which is ironic, because it’s in the posh part of town.  When the process of gentrification reaches its zenith, maybe every post code from BS1 to BS16 will be posh, and 90% of us will be living in les banlieue.  And then we’ll make great art that dull posh people think is shit until it sells a lot, and then they’ll come and buy our Art and our houses and we’ll swap over and start the whole thing over again. 
In the meantime, we’ll make Art, I suppose.
“As we say in Africa: Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”





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