One of the concerns I had when I first started this blog was what I'd find to write about, but this one suggested itself. I was reviewing an Ange Hardy gig recently and wrote “You can't define a perfect gig in advance, but you know when you've been to one.” So there you go, we have a topic. What makes the “perfect” gig?
Well, the music certainly helps. Many of you will know Ange through her music, or her award winning show “Folk Findings” here on Blues & Roots Radio. She's a wonderful singer and multi-instrumentalist so you know in advance the music will be of the very highest quality, but more than that there's the person behind the song. In folk music, in particular, the story is almost as import as the lyrics and Ange is a superb storyteller who isn't afraid to open up about her life and experiences and how this has influenced her work. There were so many beautiful, moving songs and we were regularly in tears but she tells her stories with such spirit and sprinklings of humour that they become warm and uplifting rather than sad.
So, yes, the music and performer are important but that's not all that is needed for the “perfect” gig because I see lots of excellent musicians on a regular basis. They're great nights but don't quite become perfect. For me there needs to be other ingredients as well, and one of them is an element of adventure. Going to see Ange involved driving about 70 miles to get to the venue and the weather forecast said there was a chance of snow, so that added a certain frisson. As it turned out I was home before the snow started, which was a good job because people who stayed over got stranded, but even so I had one eye on the road and the other on the slowly dropping temperature gauge. The other thing special about this particular night was the sense of community that she helped to establish within the audience, which gave the whole thing a feeling of a gathering of friends rather than just a group of individuals. I found myself chatting to people I'd never met before, our shared interest in music creating a bond.
One of my favourite perfect gigs was the time I flew to Germany to see Minnie Birch and Kelly Oliver playing in a café about an hour north of Frankfurt. That had the added bonus of a different language, although I can speak German to a fair level, and having to navigate my way around an airport and city I'd never been to before. I don't think I'll ever forget the looks on their faces when I walked through the door! It becomes an adventure, and a holiday, with lots of memories to come home with. Music has taken me to Holland, Ireland and Canada - even Essex.
Earlier in 2017 I travelled down to Dorset to see Kadia and Emily Mae Winters, two superb acts and it was a beautiful gig. What made that perfect was, again, the extra ingredients including the journey, this time by train through some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Then, the icing on the cake is meeting up with friends; in this case Neil King. The venue also helped make this one a perfect gig. It was held in an old church, in a village, and churches always seem to have great acoustics. We were also fortunate to have real experts on both sound and lighting, too. The whole evening became part of the performance.
Folk songs often have a moral to them and I suppose this blog has a moral, too. If you want to get the most from your music be prepared to push the envelope. Try new things, new venues, new bands, and be willing to make the effort because eventually you'll be rewarded with that perfect gig.