The last time I wrote, I gave an excuse as to why I don’t write more often - that excuse being that I honestly can’t be bothered in most cases. That remains the case, as actually there have been a few things recently that would have been worth writing something about, but I just haven’t. One common theme, pre-Covid at least and once during, for this blog is now about music and the gigs I go to. Obviously during the pandemic, opportunities for me to go to gigs have been few and far between. It is something that I’ve missed very much, but I don’t think I realised how much until recently. In the last month-ish, I’ve been to 3 gigs. Two of these gigs were socially distant affairs and one was as standard as a gig as you can imagine. I thought about writing three separate reviews of each gig, but instead settled on writing a blog covering all three of them. So without further ado, these are the gigs.
Beans On Toast (Socially Distant). Saturday 12th June (Matinee) - The Clapham Grand, London.
Briefly, Beans On Toast’s music is something I only properly discovered during lockdown and working at home. I decided once to listen to his then complete discography in a day or two, and I found that for the most part, I very much enjoyed it. I decided it would be cool to see him live at some point, and then this opportunity came up, and I decided to go.
I got there far too early, so I strolled around Clapham for a bit, though not too far from the venue.Due to the staggered entry, I didn’t have to queue and was in the venue pretty quickly. The rules were masks on when walking around the venue, but could come off when you were in your seat. Drinks could be ordered to the seat via an app, which I did once and was pretty straightforward. I thought the staff I encountered were all great. In terms of the upper balcony seating, the instruction was to sit on any bench, but to keep 2 metres away from people as best as possible. This wasn’t a challenge really.
On to the gig itself, it was opened by a solo act called Tensheds. I enjoyed his set - more than once it made me think of a stripped back Bruce Springsteen at a piano/keyboard, which in my mind is a compliment. I’ve since gone back and listened to his music on Spotify and enjoyed it, so I’m sure I will listen again. Beans On Toast was the main event and it was just ace. He played a number of his songs that I love, which certainly helped matters. There was a really cool moment where he played a song from one of this new albums that he wrote about a former teacher (positive song!) and the teacher was in the audience. There was also a nice moment where his young daughter came on stage to dance to one of his songs (about her).
I was slightly worried about going, because doing so would involve the first train to London since the end of 2019 (I think when I went in 2020, it was by car or coach) and, as well, it wasn’t as if Covid had just gone away. I hoped the gig would make it worthwhile though, and I can say without hesitation that it did. It was the first gig since the test event at the Kings Theatre in September, and the first non-test event since March 2020, and it was a really good first experience. And, I got home early enough to do a food shop on my way home (I was still fucked the next day mind...that’s probably an age thing though!)
Fleetingwood Mac (Socially Distant). Saturday 17th July (Matinee) - Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth.
Fleetwood Mac are a band who I’ve never really listened to their albums, but in my view should be in any conversation about bands with the best “best of” compilation albums. Additionally, I’d heard nothing but good things about Fleetingwood Mac as a tribute band, so as an opportunity to see them came up, and at my favourite local venue, I decided to grab a ticket. Firstly, a massive thumbs up to the Wedgewood Rooms - I booked three tickets, a 1 person bubble ticket for me, and a 2 person bubble ticket for 2 friends, and the venue clocked this and put us on a 4 person table together, rather than splitting us up to two separate tables for two. I was very pleased with how that worked out. Again, drinks were ordered via an app and this was a painless process.
The support act were called The Hill Brothers, and I very much enjoyed their stripped down interpretations on some songs I really like, White Stripes Seven Nation Army immediately springs to mind from their set, as well as a cover of a song from The Black Keys (I want to say Gold On The Ceiling but my memory might be failing me now). Fleetingwood Mac themselves were excellent. As above, I had only heard good things about them, so went in with high expectations and they were comfortably met and then some. They are an excellent tribute band, and I will definitely see them again (all being well, December!).
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls - Grand Aid 3. Monday 19th July - The Clapham Grand, London.
When this gig was announced for “freedom day”, I found myself wanting to go, but anticipating it would sell out immediately, I decided initially to not bother getting a ticket. I have a ticket to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls as part of Lost Evenings festival in September, and a ticket to see Beans On Toast (main support) in December on a headline run (not mentioning, as I did earlier in this post, that I had just recently been to a Beans headline show). However, when it didn’t sell out immediately, I looked to see if I could get the day after off work, and I could. I then found a cheap hotel room round the corner from the venue and decided to take the plunge. I was nervous in the build up to the gig, which I think is fair enough considering it was to be the first full capacity show I’d have been to since March 2020. I wore a Frank Turner shirt from the “Get Better” range, which out of context could be taken as insensitive during a global pandemic, considering it says “Not Dead Yet” on the front. However, the only comments I had about it (to me, at least) were positive. One note is that the show was a Revive Live show in conjunction with the National Lottery, which meant I could bring a friend for free, however I got my ticket at short notice and the 1 person I asked said they couldn’t make it, which was a shame. I kept my mask on, as I wasn’t sure what the situation would be, and I would guess less than 5% of the crowd had them on. Mentioning this isn’t me being critical, but I was surprised at how few people did.
I arrived as Ciara Haidar was performing via satellite, which was cool. I couldn’t really hear much of her music as people around me were talking. What I heard sounded good though. Next up was Gerry Del Guercio from SixNationState. I didn’t know any of his stuff, but I enjoyed his set. There was a moment during his set which was cool, as he covered Oasis - Half The World Away, and that was the first singalong of the night - I have missed singalongs! Beans On Toast was next and that was ace as well. It felt very different to the show I saw at the same venue a month earlier, though were you to ask me why, I would struggle. He played a few songs I really like, and some new songs which sound good as well. Essentially, what I’m saying is I enjoyed the set, and there are no complaints from me.
After a wait that felt like eternity (whereas in actual fact, it was about 30 minutes), Frank and the band came on stage and launched into Get Better and 1933 (which seemed to have an extra bit of venom behind it...can’t imagine why). From the off, every song was accompanied with a big singalong by the crowd, which every so often I would just pause and take in. It was a high energy gig all throughout, which was cool. I think the only time it slightly dipped was when a new song (Punches) was being played for the first time as a full band, which makes sense. There was a moment later on (in my mind, I want to say between the two solo songs in the set, but I might be wrong) where it appeared Frank was very emotional about the whole experience, which is entirely fair enough. The second of the two solo songs was The Ballad of Me and My Friends, a song which is usually well received anyway, but on this night it appeared the reaction it got was something else. The encore of Frank’s set, and the end of the night was a solo rendition of Balthazar, Impresario, and then the full band coming back out for Recovery, I Still Believe (a short video of one of the singalongs for this song can be found here) and Four Simple Words. It certainly will be in the conversation, should I ever have one, about the best times I’ve seen Frank Turner live, that is for sure. I put on social media that the gig was genuinely life-affirming, and nearly a week on from writing that, I completely stand by that. I left the venue with a massive grin on my face.
Some photos of all three gigs can be seen via my Instagram (as well as other stuff when I remember to post stuff there, which isn’t often).
And, that is that for now. I was tempted to go and see Black Spiders this week just gone, when they were due to play The Joiners in Southampton on Friday night. However, that gig has been postponed for now due to a member of the band getting pinged (something I suspect will be more frequent in the run up to the date on which fully vaccinated people can test and release if they are pinged). My next gig is scheduled to be at that same venue next Wednesday night to see Bob Vylan - I very much like the album We Live Here, so I’m looking forward to the gig as well as going back to The Joiners - my last full capacity gig before the pandemic was there. There is already chat about restrictions coming back in some form, though as is the case with the current lot in office, messaging has been mixed and confusing so who bloody knows. I have a lot of gigs booked for the rest of the year, so I am hopeful I will be able to write an end of year list - fingers crossed that either restrictions aren’t needed, or something can happen to allow gigs to continue going ahead.