By Rick Stuart
I tend to pick & choose the gigs I go to carefully these days.
I used to go out a lot more than I do now, but then it used to be either cheaper or free. Back in my Decoy Records days, I was in the position of being able to go see almost any gig in Manchester for free, which was excellent. Unfortunately, due to one reason or another, there’s a good number I don’t actually remember anymore. I know I’ve seen Bonnie Raitt for instance – I do remember going backstage to meet her, together with a few others, and then being tongue tied & making a fool of myself. But it the gig itself..? Nope, can’t remember…
After I left Decoy, I was out of the music business completely for ten years or so and that’s when I started to choose my gigs with more care. There were a few gigs I went to just at the right time. What I mean by that is that I love the smaller venues – The Apollo in Manchester (capacity 3,500), together with The Ritz (1,500) are a couple of the biggest small venues that I like, and I went through a phase of seeing people there just before they went on to bigger or even stadium gigs – Paul Weller, The Black Keys, Iron & Wine… Mind you, these days I prefer much smaller venues. 100 or so capacity is quite sizable really…
Since starting Roots & Fusion, the offer of free gigs has come back again. These days though if I am offered a guest list ticket, I’ll take it, but I’m also happy to pay for my ticket like anyone else.
There are a few music venues locally – The Poynton Legion being the most prolific. I saw Sari Schoor https://youtu.be/bNKneR1yCls there last year with the under-rated guitar genius that is Innes Sibun http://www.innessibun.org.uk/,as well as promoting Luke Jackson http://lukepauljackson.com/ as the last of the Roots & Fusion Playing Out gigs. There is also The Acoustic Lounge in Poynton which is an excellent free venue. Yes it is basically a pub with live music, but it is a bright airy place that puts the music and the artists at the centre of what it does, rather than an add-on.
For instance, a couple of years ago Neil Cousin http://www.neilcousin.com/ came up from the Cambridgeshire Fens to record a session for Roots & Fusion. I offered to put him up for the night and he managed to tie it in with a gig at the Acoustic Lounge. Given that Neil’s songs are mostly down-tempo story songs, he had to work particularly hard with the rather rowdy audience. When faced with the “are you going to play anything I know” question, Neil asked the guy’s name together with that of his girlfriend and promptly made up a song about them on the spot, winning them over completely. The reason this is important in relation to the venue is that they actually paid Neil a bit extra because of it, which was really good of them.
What has become apparent though is that I am more likely to travel to gig than I used to. This year I have been to London twice so far and another one planned. The first was to the launch of Anne Sumner’s two new albums Beacon and Half Light http://www.annesumnermusic.com If you have listened to Roots & Fusion over the past couple of years you will already be aware of my love of her voice and songwriting ability, so it was a gig I had to see. Next was Baaba Maal http://www.baabamaal.tv/ solo acoustic at The Union Chapel. I saw Baaba it the Ritz in Manchester with his full band twenty odd years ago, so this was a nice full circle.
Later this month I’m going to the launch of the Mishaped Pearls http://www.mishapedpearls.org/ new album Shivelight at The Slaughtered Lamb. I was absolutely stunned by this album – each time I listen to it, there is something new in there. They have recorded a couple of traditional songs in a new way, while still holding true to the tradition as well as writing new songs that sound like they could be traditional with the same treatment. One of the things I really like is their ability to bring an instrument into the song for a bar or two and that’s it, it’s not heard again in the song. Wonderful.
I have also had a mini adventure recently. I popped over the Pennines to Sheffield to see another favourite band of mine, Ma Polaine’s Great Decline http://www.mapolainesgreatdecline.com/. Having seen them four or five years ago at The Tea Rooms in Marple as a four piece, I was intrigued to hear them as a duo in what turned out to be a very intimate setting – Café #9. Congratulations to Jonny Dean for running an excellent place – BYOB, vegetarian food, seats maybe 30 / 40 people, great sound, lovely atmosphere. And Ma Polaine’s were terrific.
The next gig I’m going to will be about the same time this blog comes out – I’ll be driving to The Globe in Glossop to see Lucy Ward https://www.lucywardsings.com/, on tour with her new album Pretty Warnings, as put on by someone else who has a great regular night going, Mr Jamie Knowles. I’ve been over to The Globe a number of times in the past few years and I’ve always had an excellent time.
Whether it’s local or an adventure, going to see live music is one of the foundation stones of the music industry (with a small i). A chance to meet the artist, have a chat with old and new friends, buy some merchandise.
A world without live music would be a very sad place.