Friday 28 March 2014

Why I decided not to go and see Kate Bush, even though I could have got tickets, and could afford it

Here it is, my sinful confession, I am a musician, and I do not like going to gigs. I am not a good punter, and I do not go in for worshipping at the altar of my idols. When I was 16 I heard a song called “Jesus Loves you, but I don't” by a band called The Almighty (you may remember them from 90s heavy metal magazines. Here's a link: -

Maybe not the greatest song ever written, but I enjoyed the line “Kill Your Idols” which I believe they stole from someone else, however, it was the first time I came across it, and I liked it. It made me realise that Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Rotten and Jello Biafra were just blokes, and a lot of what they said was probably bollocks, and they were mostly just as fucked up as I was, but had more time to hone it into profitability. So when some smug twat says to me “I saw them live you  know” with a big smug grin upon his face, I am briefly jealous of the moment in time that they have grabbed, and then realise I would probably have been looking for the bar, or waiting to go home.
I know, in a sudden moment of clarity, I remembered that nearly every gig I have been to (big acts that is, not the down and dirty new bands in clubs and pubs, love those still) I have mostly been waiting for them to stop so I can go home and tell people I saw it. Usually I prefer the support bands, I don't think I can take listening to more than 45 minutes of any one artists music, or even the same genre.
I also remembered that while I utterly adore about 35% of Kate Bush's stuff, the rest is a bit tepid, especially to stand up and listen to after driving all the way to London and paying for a hotel. But that's by the by.
So I didn't buy a ticket, don't want to stand in a room where doubtlessly drinks are not allowed, wait years at the bar if they are, surrounded by people I neither know nor like, to squint for a decent view of kate, and not hear it properly due to some weird acoustic bouncing round my deaf ear, and being blinded by smartphone screens from all sides.
No doubt I may regret it, but I for one am looking forward to hearing the final mixed version, while watching it on my TV with a bottle next to me, and my feet up.
Middle age is fast approaching, and rock and roll is dead.
I like festivals, because you can go to the back, and there is space, and a bit of sky. Plus, if you get bored after 15 minutes, there are at least 5 other stages with stuff you've never heard before playing. I prefer to hear things I have never heard before in a live context. Not some old duffer churning out the same old stuff I've heard a million times before.
No sets over 45 minutes please. Ever.
This is the thing I like best about playing in an originals act, the multiband gigs where I get to see something I would never in a million years have bought a ticket for, or looked up online.“

I like music, not celebrity, and on the occasions I have met people whose work I admire (and it has happened) I am always struck by the fact that they are not golden gods, but ordinary, and usually tired. Except for certain folk musicians who may have to remain nameless, they turned out to think they were golden gods, but were in fact dicks (Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention, you are a genuine exception, you were lovely, thanks for the ciggy). I enjoy music most if I am uninterrupted, on my own, and preferably sat in a comfy chair with a drink (even a cup of tea will do in a pinch). And thus I find rooms full of people sweating on me and screaming with excitement at seeing their idols faintly nauseating.
Your mileage may vary, you may squeal with excitement at the prospect of a glimpse of a perfectly preserved Keith Richards, and possibly getting a photo of you and him with a hearty thumbs up.
I can think of nothing worse (though there is a picture of me and Mickey Mouse doing just this).

The last moment of jealousy I felt about somebody else's gig-going was from a woman I met in London who went to all those mad early Pink Floyd gigs with all the swirly oil lights. That probably would have been cool, not drive to the other side of the country and pay an entire weeks wages to get in and be squashed by a bunch of middle aged accountants in Dark Side of the Moon T-Shirts cool, but cool nonetheless. I would have had to be young, filled with lysergic acid and have never heard it before for it to be cool.
Your mileage may, once again, vary.

On wednesday afternoon I wrote this on a bass guitar forum that I am known to frequent  -

“Brought on by the rush of excitement at the delectable Kate Bush doing some live shows, I sat this morning with my fan's early release pass code to buy tickets, and then didn't use it.

A lot of people agreed with me, and some thought I just didn't like big venues, where you can't see, I added this.

“It's not about the venue size, it's the length of the sets, I rarely even listen to side 2 of a record i've put on these days. It reminds me of something else i like, and I put that on instead. And the adoring "this act can do no wrong" fans who would probably slice me up into little pieces if I were to say "oh i hate this song, it's a bit pony" who keep on cheering til the 6th encore, by which point, I want to make for the doors, but am worried that the 7th encore might be that weird b-side that never gets played ever, and that I love more than anything.

Somebody else said they didn't like going to gigs as an audience member ever, and I almost agreed, but then I said this instead

“I do get this, very much. However, every now and then I see someone who does something really interesting that I would never have thought of, and it sends my writing off into wholly new directions. But it's always a weird support act, or some guy in an obscure tent at a festival. Never someone whose records I own already.

Now that I have got all the preliminary stuff out of the way, I shall endeavour to explain some more,

A couple of years ago, I was at a festival I was playing at, and Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) was doing the entire of the Thick as a Brick album on the saturday night. This is one of my favourite albums ever and I was enormously excited to get to go and see it, as I didn't want to fork out the enormous ticket prices that the show was commanding around the country.

I went, it was very disappointing, Ian's voice is not what it was, the whole show lacked the energy of the original madison square garden shows, and I left halfway through to catch the end of New Model Army (who were great). Other people told me it was brilliant and they loved it, which just goes to show.

While eagerly waiting for Kate Bush tickets, it suddenly occurred to me that the same thing might happen again, and this time I would have forked out about 300 quid once you total up hotels, getting there, tickets, and feeding yourself in hammersmith. I really want to buy myself a new guitar this year (I know I have loads already, but I have my reasons, which I won't go into here) and this would make a significant dent in that. So I decided not to.

I also was very clear that when it comes to Kate Bush, her newer stuff, is just ok. I don't hate it, but it is not Hounds of Love (although, you really need to chop about 3 or 4 tracks off of that album as well, running up that hill is just the track I used to skip on Now 6 when I was a kid). She has managed to write about 4 songs that will make me cry like a little girl if I hear them at the wrong time, and for that reason I love her dearly. But there is every chance it might be an evening of songs I don't like (which would be in there as crowd pleasers, ironically) and a bunch of new stuff that I haven't had time to digest and get to grips with yet. She is a slow burner, it takes a few listens to get a lot of her stuff, but when you do it is usually worth it. I'm hoping I “get” the Red shoes soon, as it still leaves me utterly cold. Were she to do just the Hounds of Love album in its entirety, I would have been overwhelmed with a need to see it (and probably had another Thick as a Brick moment).

But I digress, I was then reminded of the other gigs I have been to over the years (not that many really, I'm not a good audience member, and a notorious cheapskate). I recall seeing motorhead a few years ago, and by the 4th encore thinking “dear god, they haven't played Ace of Spades yet, I am bored now, and indescribably deaf”. I had wandered up to the balcony by this point, where I could sit down in comfort, and have a quiet smoke (yes, it was that long ago, and I was still under thirty).

I went back even further, and remembered being a wide-eyed fourteen year old watching AC/DC at Donington, and once again, as the 3rd or 4th encore came around wishing they would stop, as it was cold, and I was tired.

Anyhow, despite being a musician, and thus wanting people to come to gigs, I personally don't like it at all it seems. Maybe if it was a tenner or so a ticket, and I lived nearby I would have the odd punt on it, but tickets are a major investment these days, and if I am (as usual) wishing the band would shut up and let me go home about half way through, it is not a wise investment for me.

Don't get me wrong, I love live music, and if there were venues within walking distance of my house, where I could catch new exciting bands for about a fiver a ticket, I would be there every weekend (like I did when I was a kid, though we didn't pay back then, we were normally the sound crew). But once the success is there, and they have to work through 20 years of old “must hear” songs, I have no need of hearing it. And even having said that, I have stood at the back of Milton Keynes Bowl screaming along with Ozzy Osbourne with tears of happiness streaming down my face, and every time Billy Bragg plays the opening notes of Between the Wars on a stage I am in front of, I will again, cry like the proverbial little girl.

But, as a musician, that thrill of the loud blast of overamplified guitars, and trouser-flapping bass, is pretty much what I’ve stood in front of most weekends for the last twenty odd years, so when I have a gig free weekend, going to a gig, is kind of a busman’s holiday. Which is a shame.

I would dearly love to have seen those first Black Sabbath gigs back in the 70s, or Hendrix at Cafe Wha? But that will not happen now. Hopefully one of the many bands I have seen and enjoyed while we've been supporting them (or vice versa) will go on to be as successful, as it is, I am glad to have seen them in pleasant surroundings, and for a nice sensible length set, without having my retinas burned out by a wall of screens.

Apologies for the length of this blog, I am finding this hard to explain, even to myself.

By the way, I didn’t write any of my book this week either, am hoping to make up for it this weekend. There were probably reasons, like the fact I wrote this 3 page apology for not liking going to gigs.

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