Tag Archives: Music

A Spot of Riot, Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection

Today was a day when I engaged in a bit of bonding with Third Party. First off we put together a list of 50 festival type tunes to put together in a playlist for the day. We figured that having a festival day would be a good way to stop getting fed up with the snow. After a chilled morning, (not too chilled – we were in our flat, probably one of the few buildings in England not to have need to put the heating put on this year yet), we headed off with TOH to Gateshead for a spot of live entertainment of the festivating variety.

Riot, Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection is a musical comedy which is a collaboration between Red Ladder theatre company and Chumbawamba. The show was a political history meets panto which was wonderful. It was a delightfully irreverant show based upon a young Luddite woman. Jo Mousley was excellent in the lead role of Elsie Proud, getting a small audience to participate. As with any show like this there was a lot of wonderful modern satire mixed in with historical stuff and it was a real laugh. (Also would like to note how impressed I was with the Sage who were more than happy to swap our seats for the 8pm performace and let us go to the 4pm matinee instead). In short you don’t get much better than this, especially not for £5 a ticket which is what it was for concessions.

My only worries whilst watching the show related to the gags about the bishop being into ickle boys and the cheering when the capitalist baddies got murdered and hung. I just can’t seem to find jokes based around abuse funny. In terms of the hanging particularly I figure that it is just a short step from wanting to hang the baddies to being ready to becoming one of the flog ’em and hang ’em brigade, (it’s just the ’em differ). Probably thinking too deeply about what I do and don’t feel comfortable with when I watch that type of thing, but hey…..participation in a crowd without thinking and just giving the expected responses can be one of the most dangerous things known to man.

Amongst the songs there was a v.g. subversion of Time Bomb

New Moon rising over Folk on the Tyne

Yesterday afternoon I started part 1 of the Third Party alternative Christmas thing before heading off to enjoy a v. special bit of “me time”.

For those who aren’t aware Third Party and I normally do Christmas Day a couple of days before she heads south for Chrimbo with her dad. Normally it is a veg out time, this year it’s being done in two parts involving heading off to Newcastle to watch a film. So anyway that’s why I went to see New Moon yesterday. For those not aware I hated Twilight, the first film in this series, with a vengance. So it was I was suprised to find myself really enjoying New Moon. Unlike the first film, this is not a crap vampire movie – yes it has those moments within it but there is a much deeper storyline and far fewer vampire moments. This one includes a complex look at the themes of teenage depression, the way and reasons young women choose to stay with a partner who has been or they know to be potentially violent and the treatment of and giving of yourself for those who society despises. The sociologist and theologian within me was glued to this one. If and when I have time I now want to read the books to see how these themes are unpicked within them.

Anyway after a mad dash around Newcastle to purchase something which looked like an unwanted present for a gift exchange Third Party was taking part in that evening, (yes you read that right….work it out for yourself), I headed over to the Sage. The Sage incidentally is celebrating its 5th b’day this weekend.

Months ago when I first got my career development loan through, and I first started thinking about some of the potential stresses of this year, I worked out that occassional visits to the Sage might be the way forward in keeping my mental health healthy and giving me things to look forward to. Also helps that for some of the stuff you can get half price tickets if you’re a student. So if you are good, as I was yesterday evening, and don’t buy merchandise or drink it can be a very cheap, quality night out.

Anyway I digress, last night was my Christmas treat to myself. I went to see Steeleye Span on their 40th anniversary tour, getting a ticket in the middle 3 rows from the front in the awesome Hall One concert hall. For those not familiar with the band, like if you aren’t my dads age probably, they play folk rock and are phenomenal. Think the Levellers, Flogging Molly or the Pogues before the discovery of punk or Fairport Convention with heavier guitar and some drums added. Anyway aside from Maddy Prior being dressed during the first half like an advert for what Per Una looks like on real women and like she was wearing some kind of fairy skirt in the second half she was amazing. A woman who must be eligable for her free bus pass dancing on stage like that is something else. Her voice is also something special. Only thing with 40 years worth of material, even allowing for the fact they all go off and do solo stuff lots of the time, is that inevitably some stuff is going to be left out. So it was that I didn’t get to hear Black Leg Miner live.

Anyway enough warbling on about the delights of Steeleye Span. I leave with you a retro version of what has become their anthem and the encore sing-a-long, All Around My Hat. Despite the earlier comments this video shows how far their dress sense has come since then. With the exception of the drummer, who seems to have gained it, they have all lost the hippy look and now look as non-descript and middle class as most other people in their early 60’s.

23 years ago….Brothers in Exile

Music, good music, timed perfectly and delivered by the right person can occassionally have an incredible impact upon you – almost involuntarily producing an emotional response. That happened to me last night when I went to see Martyn Joseph at the Sage.

I have to say I regarded most of it as a bit of a mediocre gig. It certainly didn’t have the power that the recent performances I’ve seen him do at Greenbelt with or without Stewart Henderson produce, or indeed the passion of the Deep Blue stage of his career a couple of years back when he was angry at Bush. It seems that as he has entered into middle age and Obama has become president MJ has lost alot of the anger. Thus, this set was a very different gig to those I’ve encountered in the past. Yes there were some oldies, but noticeably Dolphins Make Me Cry and several others that were staples have disappeared. There were some proper love songs, not the cynical type that he and Billy Bragg do so well, but a couple of proper tender ones. The man it appears is mellowing.

That is not to say he has mellowed to anything near selling out, the politics and passion are still there but something has happened, that you can tell. He gave some new material, not yet on a CD/ albumn or however you wish to describe, and this showed that the man emerging from the shadow has been reflecting life and a 29 year career. This material was, I would venture to suggest, amongst the best he has produced. Some of it is available for free download from his website, including “Five Sisters” – the second best song of the evening – and “Lonely Like America”.

The intense moment for me came during a new song called “Brothers in Exile”. Here I have to put some stuff in context. Firstly, I was sitting there in the 2nd row of The Sage with TOH. Secondly, I first saw MJ in concert exactly 23 years ago, (give or take a couple of weeks), in a FE college hall. Then it was a concert put on, I believe, by the local evo youth ministry org. This young singer, song writer in his 20’s was expected to put on a good show so at the end someone could come on stage, thank him and sell religion to the smiling Christian crowd. It was a Friday night, the Friday before I got baptised the following Sunday. I bought a t-shirt, got it signed but then my dad washed it and the signature came off…hey ho. In the intervening time both MJ and I have, in our seperate lives, grown up; married; had children; struggled with and walked/ crawled away from the evo sub-culture; getting out (one could argue) before we were thrown out for our different reasons. Once a year our paths cross again, although we don’t know each other, at Greenbelt. That place of hope which MJ described earlier as in the year, as he stood on stage at the festival answering questions from the audience, as his church, and which I over the years described as my place of sanity and safety. We never talk, I just go and listen to his music…but we have been on journeys down some of the same roads. To a certain extent you could argue we are exiles from a culture we were both previously part of and Greenbelt is our refugee camp.

Thus, when he gave an opening to the song “Brothers in Exile” saying it was about being a refugee, an exile but not a literal one I knew what the song was about. Once he started singing the words my tears began to flow. It was honestly like a damn opening as this song touched my heart. I realised that he is still an exile outside the church and I am refugee who has settled in a new land, mainstream Methodism. There was a line in the song about leaving before you were kicked out, as TOH held me as I just cried into her and she kissed my head while he sung I felt this summed it up really. The tears and the emotion only lasted a song, but it is a song that I realised has meant more to me than any other I have perhaps encountered on first hearing. I joked with TOH afterwards that if that it had that effect on me what effect would it have with a tent containing many refugees at GB? She suggested some large boxes of tissues might be in order.

I leave with you This Being Woman, one of the better MJ songs available on You Tube…and which has a better version on the Martyn Joseph and Stewart Henderson music and poetry albumn “because we can….”.

It’s the end of an era

Ok, so Sunday sees the end of an era with the last Delirious concert, when they play Hammersmith Apollo. As part of the end of the road type stuff Christianity Today, the US evoish mag, has an interview with Martin Smith. The article, through two questions asked, gives an insight into how the US religious media does and doesn’t get the UK as much as it does Delirious. In his answer it is touching that when others are disparing about some of the stuff happening in the CofE, (like the prospect of cuts due to budget deficits as reported in this weeks Church Times,) Smith gives a message of hope regarding this great institution.

“Is there a big worship music scene in the UK?

There are pockets of it that are alive. And there’s big pockets where they’re not. The UK’s similar to everywhere else in the world: It’s a secular culture and you’ve got the people of God raising the banner and saying, “Hey, I think there’s another way.”

Is it hard to break through to the secular culture in your homeland, even with the Church of England and Catholicism being so prevalent?

I think there are radical elements in each denomination just as there are conservative elements in the radical denominations. I’ve got friends in pretty much all of them. You connect with the people that want to see the world change. There are pockets of people in all shapes and disguises that want to see great things happen. But The Church of England is an amazing denomination with incredible things happening within it. I think that’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next year.”

My own memories and views on Delirious are mixed. I’ve heard them over the years in a range of settings: Glastonbury, Guildfest, Greenbelt and Folkstone and have to admit I have found them variable in quality. Folkstone was a kick ass gig where as in other settings they have been more mediocre sometimes. I remember seeing them at Greenbelt one year and being most underwhelmed. It was, I think, when they were going through their Big Audio phase and well, it was the worst in what used to be known as soft rock. For me the thing about Delirious was as a worship band they were actually very good, but as a secular band they were quite average. It was to do with content and delivery I think, and the attitude of the audience. Smith was excellent at manipulating the audience and was/is, at heart, an evangelist with a passion for pop. With the Christian stuff they also had material that a certain type of audience knew how to react to and that audience were their core market. Without the spiritual dimension to “entertain” with they were just another set of guys in t-shirts and jeans with a bit of talent for guitars and keyboard, etc.

This You Tube clip of History Makers shows my favourite Delirious song.If you listen all the way through, to how it ends, you find it nicely illustrates what I was saying about Smith and the audience.

Folking good time

At the moment I’m on a bit of a mission to introduce TOH to folk music. This is being done gently, the other week it was an evening spent snuggling whilst watching my DVD of Ralph McTell Live at the Royal Festival Hall. Last night it was off to her first folk gig; Show of Hands at the Gala. In the bar before the show TOH’s initial reaction was interesting. She looked around, noticed our youth compared the majority of the audience and said she wasn’t used to this outside of church.

Support came from Flossie Malavialle. She did some excellent stand up inbetween songs, mainly based around language differences between the French and North East. Her voice was beautiful and TOH was so impressed she bought the CD.

The current SOH County Town tour is supporting the release of the Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed CD. Think the addition of Miranda Sykes and her double bass to the band over the last few years is excellent, she is incredibly talented.

Have to say besides the fact I think SOH are just awesome the Gala is an excellent venue for folk. It is small enough to have that intimacy that larger venues lack, but large enough to make it worth it for major acts to come and give a good show. This was an excellent evening and TOH quite enjoyed, thankfully.

For those of you who are yet to connect with your own inner fokie I leave you with the title track from the new CD [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaVkr5_Xd00&feature=related[/youtube]

Adventures with the Indigo Girls in Gateshead

Last night, (or technically just a few hours ago as I am blogging at silly o’clock, still buzzing after a great night), I went to the Sage to see the Indigo Girls. For me this was a big deal because they were one of the main artists I really wanted to see, but never have.

Couple of things to say about the venue…it is both beautiful and well wierd. They were playing in Hall 2, which is kind of like an arts studio crossed with a tiered wedding cake design. It has 3 levels and is completely in the round meaning some people just get to see the tops of the head of those on stage. I was up on the third tier and slightly bewildered to find out that a standing ticket meant you just stood behind the people who had seats. All a v. bizarre design and a quirky venue which is unlike anywhere else I have experienced.

The support act was somebody who was so memorable I don’t know her name. Even she made a joke about being asked regularly if she was going to play Smelly Cat…being v. Phoebe like in her stage persona…i.e. dizzy, hippy, blonde. Have to say she was alright but not my cup of tea.

Indigo Girls however were excellent. For those not familiar with them they are a duo who have worked with Pink and others and are probably most similar in style to the Dixie Chicks. They played a proper folk type gig with all the key elements (i) lots of retuning of the guitars to get them right, (ii) lots of swapping of instruments, (iii) a couple of numbers which also included use of a harmonica and (iv) lots of banter with the audience. Was a really good night with a mix of material. Highlight for me was hearing a kick arse version of Pendulum Swinger from the album Despite our Differences. Most memorable track off the new album, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, was Sugar Tongue. What I really liked was the way it was clear from both the interaction and the v. reasonable prices on the merchandising stall they do really care about their fans.

Rites of Passage and Being a Proud Parent

This weekend Third Party had a new rite of passage and I had a really proud parent moment…the two were seperate but not disconnected.

Rite of passage was that she could go to the video shop and get out a cert 15 DVD on her own. Know it sounds silly, but to me this was really significant…it only seems 2 minutes since she was 6 months old and I was getting her first denim jacket from Adams or that around the age of three she was getting her first pair of navy DM’s. (You have to appreciate as I missed the whole first words and first steps thing these other firsts were significant for me).

Anyway amongst the DVD’s she got out for us to chill to this weekend was Cadillac Records. Now I can’t tell you much about this as I was DVD’d out after Hannah Montana and The Boat that Rocked. The film buff however loves the fact that Blockbuster has this mad deal going on that mean she can get four out for little more than the cost of one or two rentals and keep them several nights longer. (For the record Changeling was the other one she immersed herself in this weekend…again something I half watched whilst getting on with life). Anyway, getting back to Cadillac Records, this led on to the proud parent moment.

Third Party loved this film, and particularly got hooked on Etta James’ music in it. Net result was that I was dragged down to the local record store with her and her allowance, (so she could use me to get the student discount). Upon entering she noted with some relish that The Best of Vera Lynn was on display. I have been mocking her for some months about finding a couple of Vera Lynn songs downloaded onto my computer…..turns out that my daughter knew was right and Vera Lynn is class. I await the renaissence of Doris Day, who has also been discovered by Third Party. Anyway….getting back to the praise moment, she decided not to be diverted by the Vera Lynn CD and eventually found The Best of Etta James. Off we headed to the till where upon the salesman turns to me and says, “this for you?”, to which I reply (pointing at Third Party), “no, it’s hers” to which he says, “good choice, that’s class”.

Now having read far too much Nick Hornby and Mike Gayle aswell as being a total Brat Pack freak (particularly Pretty in Pink) you have to understand this is the sort of moment which made me glow with pride as a parent. My ickle girl was getting complimented upon what she was spending her allowance on in a record shop by the guy at the counter.

Cornish Dayspring

The Cornish appear to do things a little differently when it comes to distributing quality Christian music and I have to say I like it. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago Rose Grigg is a new artist I have come across recently, whose music I highly admire. In many ways she reminds me of Martyn Joseph in the early days when much of his work had an explicitly Christian theme but still obviously had the ability to transcend the Christian ghetto and provide a ladder for him to escape without having to give up his music. (Not that those escaping the Christian music ghetto and following a different career path is always a bad thing as Maggi Dawn has illustrated).

Anyway I digress back to Rose and the whole Cornish alternative Christian way of doing things. First off they appear to go beyond “nice” Christian venues. On the 8th August, according to her MySpace site, Rose is playing Cornwall Pride in Truro. Then there is getting hold of a CD. When I e-mailed the lovely people at Soteria music to find out how much the CD was and where I had to send the money they just asked for my address and sent me a copy for no charge. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining about escaping the expectations of a capitalist society, but……well I’ve grown up in an a house where I so understand the line within Billy Bragg’s “I Don’t Need This Pressure Ron” where it says, “I like toast as much as anyone, But not for breakfast, dinner, and tea”. So anyway as I was saying before I got diverted yet again they appear to do things differently in Cornwall.

Having recieved the CD and listened to it I was generally really pleased I’d got it in my collection. The first track is I Believe, which you can listen to on MySpace. It is a kind of creed for the modern world, with an honesty which reflects the type of faith which Peter Rollins talks about in “How (Not) to Speak of God“.

Other strong tracks include 13:13, Child and Silver to Gold all of which have a slightly celticy acoustic feel and some quite beautiful lyrics which generally lack that cheesy feel which some explicitly Christian music can have. The only song I really didn’t like was Shine, where the guest vocalist isn’t quite as melodic or tuneful as Rose. It also lacked the sensitivity which the other tracks seemed to have.

If you are into listening to music where the poetry in the lyrics reflects both the beauty and pain involved in faith and where, generally, the melodies are haunting I can’t recommend this highly enough. Looking at the latest posts on Rose’s site the tracks from Dayspring can be downloaded from the Sorieta site, or you could do what I did and e-mail for details of the CD. She also has some new tracks available which I look forward to listening to. Hopefully it won’t be too many years before she is booked to appear in the performance cafe at Greenbelt.