Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Siegal has Landed

Music to my ears….
Seven songs in and Ian Siegal announces – ‘Oh yeah – it’s a kind of rule we have – you only take photos during the first three songs – so I’ve played six or seven – you’ve had your chance – put your phones away and just enjoy the gig!’

Has he read my last blog! Of course not but there are musicians out there who get that a concert is an event, to be enjoyed in the moment not later through photos, so don't spent their time posing instead they spend their time performing! 

Its music to my ears – he carries on with the tirade – ‘and if you use a flash – I’ll know you’re not a professional! – So just put it away’

Before the chorus of the eighth song Siegal spots an offender, wanders from his mic to stage left, stops playing, and wags a finger at the phone pointing at him. Back to the mic and the phone is still raised Siegal stares straight down the lens as he sings the chorus, there is a flash, without flinching and still staring down the iPhone he finishes the chorus with the, simple but effective, ’arse’ - the crowd respond with cheers at least most of this audience get the concept!

Too young to be that talented…
And why wouldn’t you tonight – this is a master class in live performance.  This is the first time I’ve seen Ian Siegal with a band – I’ve seen him a couple of times before – once solo in a tiny venue and once with Jimbo Mathias and both times acoustic. 

He is a consummate performer with the ability to communicate with any audience and not just through his music no matter what kind of gig or venue – an ability too many performers ignore. 

The communication starts with the sheer depth of passion for the music, his self-taught badass blues guitar and that voice (a voice for which blues was invented) and continues as he effortlessly chats between songs telling stories or berating the audience for talking!

Tonight is no different as he and his band blast through the first three songs you are sucked in and you know you are part of something very special, the description of which will grace many whiskey-soaked conversations in years to come. 

His new band mates are quite simply too young to be that talented – we are treated to 2 hours of a fabulously tight band and breath-taking guitar playing from Dusty Ciggaar (real name!) – we know we have seen a guitar great and the best blues Europe has to offer.

And I didn’t have to queue for the loo…
With the mention of Europe I’m briefly taken back to Shepherds Bush last week – but the performances are chalk and cheese, conference and premiership, boys and men – to be honest there is no comparison – tonight was a gig of power, passion, virtuoso performance and delicately crafted songs, and last week wasn’t.

After the encore and before the trip home time to answer the call of nature, this week there is no queue, and the urinal utterance is simple – ‘damn fine gig’ - and we all, while still looking straight ahead, nod in agreement - afterall even a gig this good isn't going to allow for a break in urinal etiquette!!!

(All photos taken during the first three songs - Honest)

Gig: 3 of 50
Date of Gig: Sat 28th March 2015

Jazz Cafe Camden

Niall Kelly
Ian Siegal Band

Running total of artists seen 6

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Boys are Back in Time

Outgrown by the beer-belly everyone
Where has all the denim gone, long time a fading
Where has all the denim gone, long time ago
Where has all the denim gone?
Thrown out for a warm North Face everyone.
Oh, were they really every Lizzy?
Oh, were they really every Lizzy?

Where are all the tour tee-shirts, long time a fitting
Where are all the tour tee-shirts, long time ago
Where are all the tour tee-shirts?
Outgrown by the beer-belly everyone.
Oh, were they really every Lizzy?
Oh, were they really every Lizzy?

Where are all the cowboy boots, long time....
…you get the idea - this gig is taking me, and several hundred 40/50 somethings, back to the golden age of gigs!

The Boys are Back in Time
As I walk in late - thanks to work commitments - it hits me - this is an old-time gig! (listen to me 'Old-Time' anyone would think I was 50 next year!!!!) It's the wall of sound, it's the back line of guitar amp stacks, it's the long hair of the band, it's the sharing of the mic for the chorus, it's the singer, bassist, two lead guitarists standing in a line during the solo, it's the Roadies running on stage to fix problems, it's the musicians actually looking like they are enjoying the gig...

... and it's queuing for the men's toilet!!!!

It's 32 years since I last saw Scot Gorham play - it was Thin Lizzy's last UK festival gig at Reading Rock '83 - my lasting memory of that gig was the girl by my side on her boyfriend's shoulders crying as they played 'Still in Love with You'

This is not Thin Lizzy - but its Black Star Riders - why am I here? I heard a track on the radio about a year ago and thought - that's a Thin Lizzy song I don't know - it turns out to be 'Bound for Glory' by Black Star Riders and I was intrigued so I bought the album! Is the album a guilty pleasure? Am I just trying to recapture youth? Why am I here?

Live and captured forever - here's the link to my youtube channel....
What can I say I enjoyed an album that reminded me of my youth - how often did I put 'Live and Dangerous' on my turntable (anyone under the age of 40 - here is a definition of Record Player... So I wanted to see these guys live and I enjoyed their set - despite the trouble Scot Gorham was having with his amp - it was an old fashioned gig that took me back to the Manchester Apollo and my teenage years - it was good to be there and saviour the moment!

But what of the guy in front of me - camera in hand and watching the whole set through a lens. When I first starting going to gigs - you would never have been able to smuggle a camera in, although I did know one guy who used to hide his SLR camera and telephoto lens (yes kids there was a day when you couldn't talk to your mates on your camera!) in his great grey trench coat and shot some great live pictures! But now we walk in to any gig with our phones - and you can't capture that one moment, that moment to brag to your friends 'I was there - look aren't I special' - without getting everyone else’s camera in your picture (oh the glorious irony!!!)

I tap him on the shoulder and say 'Just watch the gig and enjoy' - his response? 'Hey man don't give me camera shake'

Post-Modernism - It's so last Year
TIP: Enjoy the gig, enjoy the moment don't be scared you'll miss the perfect photo - some of my best memories are images burnt into my mind of great lights shows (Steve Hackett circa 1980 starting his show with the Land of a Thousand Autumns & Please Don't Touch - Dry Ice and a couple of coloured lights!) wonderful gigs (John Paul Jones joining Seasick Steve on stage for a brilliant gig) and just unbelievable moments (hearing Gary Moore in 1980 playing Parisienne Walkways [how long did he hold that note] as support for Whitesnake) - no photos, no video just great memories.

But the mixture of being slaves to post-modernism (searching for the next moment) and technology junkies is that we don't just move from one high to another we try to capture it - and what a glorious new irony is this - we miss the moment - but capture that failure for all eternity!

A concert is 3D (pictures and videos by definition are 2D) the dimensions of a gig are more than just sound and vision (sing with me... blue blue electric blue) - a gig is an event - a crowd gather - mainly strangers - they come together to share the event. Showing a fantastic photo to friends or complete strangers who may stumble across your blog is not the same as the corporate gathering where you share all the nuances of live music with one another.
No the Black Star Riders set wont be up among the great gigs I rave about - but I don't need a set of pictures to remember it - or a video to prove I was there - I just enjoyed it for what it was... 

So I queue for the toilet and ponder should I stay...

I'm not an Eurosceptic - I don't buy all this Europe is source of all our problems - I want to be part of a wider groups of countries with different cultures - but when it comes to music I am.

The downside to this gig is that Black Star Riders are on tour with Europe. I'm tempted to go home - but any true football fan knows - you never leave before the end - however to my cost I discovered this should only be applied to music when Europe are not playing!

The seat in front of me is empty – Post-Modern Gadget Man has obviously gone home to edit his video – and enjoy the Black Star Riders gig in glorious 2D solidarity of his own bedroom!

He's made the right decision - for all the wrong reasons

Definition of Europe:  Middle aged posers going through the motions.

Caricature of non Eurosceptic : The one who was looking up who the hell Black Star Riders are on Wikipedia during their set.

Description of their set:
The countdown to the final song - thank God that's finished - now where's the bus stop...

Let the Kids have their say….
Their lead singer who spent the whole of the first two songs posing for the cameras with his IKEA Mic Stand without relating to the audience at all - confessed, when the photographers had gone and he could be bothered to talk to the audience, that his 7 year old son saw them on this tour and commented to his dad - embarrassing moves - out of the mouths of babes....

At last it was over and I've never been so glad to get out of a venue..... 

Ah 4G now lets see if I can find the youtube channel of Post-Modern Gadget Man…..

Gig: 2 of 50
Date of Gig: Sat 21st March 2015

Shepherd Bush Empire

Black Star Riders

Running total of artists seen 4

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Magical Musical Mystery Tour...

Earlier this week I sat on a London bus on the way to a gig and got the bright idea of going to 50 gigs in my 50th year - to get to the first of the fifty I have to use a train and head 200 miles north.

Project Jam Sandwich are playing in a Village Hall in Cheshire - I've never seen them live, I don't own any of their CD's (their first EP is due out soon!) - I'm not sure about the name -  all I have to go on is one youtube clip but I know that the 400 mile round trip will be worth it!

I'm going back to my roots...
The Cheshire village was home for 5 years before moving to London and is still home to many great friends. Malt'n'Music is a group I used to part of and have put on gigs in the village for the past couple of years - and each one has been brilliant - so I am happy to travel to see old friends and set a bench mark for the next 49 gigs this year with one I know will be hard to beat...

Stuart Swarbrick opened the night with a beautiful set of acoustic blues and folk. At times its hard to believe that there is just him playing - his arrangements of Beeswing, Stained Glass and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning were highlights of a fantastic set.

Project Jam Sandwich are all highly accomplished musicians in their own right – if reading their award littered CVs wasn't proof enough or the fact that they all met while studying at Royal Northern College of Music - you only have to listen to them to appreciate their technical excellence but also how in tune with, each other and, their chosen instruments they are.

The arrangements of traditional songs from around the world that Project Jam Sandwich present are full of tonal light and shade, individual brilliance balanced with harmony. They often say it's what the best musicians don't play that makes them great - Project Jam Sandwich use of silence and space sucks the audience in with almost audible gasps of breath!

Yet this gig will be hard to beat for more than the fact that we were treated to truly gifted musicianship...

Shake my moneymaker
Music is a gift for the world. 

Not a commodity to be sucked dry for the wealth of a few. Commercialism has systematically ripped the heart and soul out of the music world - wanting to control what we listen to, buy and ultimately go and hear live... ( In Defence of Manchester Pirates -

World music is not promoted, not considered a moneymaker - but here in this quiet Cheshire village on a Friday Night the best part of 100 people turn out to listen.  They have never heard of Project Jam Sandwich and as the band take the stage you can sense the uncertainty in the room - but through the magical musical mystery tour of world music - the audience are converts and the standing ovation at the end of both exquisite sets says it all!

This was not just a wonderful night of live music - this is a triumph.

Music has gone back to it's roots (sing with me... to the place of my birth, back down to earth) no souless suits walking away with a fat profit, no musical hype, no next big thing, no breeze block stadium, no clichés from the stage, just real and talented musicians bringing an ethereal experience to the community. 

That is why I knew this gig would be hard to beat because people were discovering music they didn't know they liked and that kind of joy and atmosphere is a rare and beautiful thing.

There's a beer with my name on...
And after the gig the band head across the road to the award winning local - The Lion - and enjoy a pint of Project Jam Sandwich Ale (even get to pull their own pint!) and chat with those they have just entertained - now that is community, that is what music is all about - bringing a community together, entertaining that community and lifting the spirit to a place above the ordinary and mundane not tarred by profit and loss but made wonderful by melody and chord.

Gig: 1 of 50
Date: 6th March 2015

Moutlon Village Hall

Stuart Swarbrick
Project Jam Sandwich (

Malt'n'Music (,

It has been said before, and by Malt'n'Music, that there are only two types of music - Good and Bad! (
Malt'n'Music is a non-profit making organisation that promotes GOOD live music for the local community.

Running total of artists seen 2

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

It's Not My Birthday Yet...

It has three doors that all you need to know...
So its the night before my 49th birthday and am on a London bus - it has three doors that all you need to know - if you are the sort of person that requires more info about a bus - then stop reading now - I'm not that sort of person!!! - I'm on my way to a gig.

Tomorrow I enter my fiftieth year on planet earth and a thought enters my head - all the talk this year will be about the BIG 5-0 next year - but how about celebrating my 50th year by going to 50 gigs in my 50th year....

That is just under one a week, I have 7 gigs booked already so that’s only another 43 to go.

And that’s it - I'm not setting any other challenges - lets just see what happens...

All things in modulation...
Oh yes and I'll blog about each gig - but if you want set lists and lengthy descriptions about equipment used, time signatures and key changes - then you can stop reading along with the bus anoraks - the blogs will be about the event - as likely to be about the guy behind me who knows nothing but tells us everything (if he tells us once more he loves it when a band ‘go higher at the end of a song' – I personally will buy him a Westlife ticket and stuff it down his throat) as it is a critic of the band.

No T-shirt till Hammersmith
I’ve been in London for just over six months and one of the joys has been going to gigs at venues that previous were only dates on the back of my tour T-shirts! 

I have been going to gigs since I was a teenager living in Manchester - tonight I’m at Shepherds Bush Empire to see Bears Den – and I’m so excited I’m standing in the crowd at the Shepherds Bush Empire – I have to tell someone so I turn to the woman next to me and shout in her ear ‘I can’t f**king believe this I’m at the Shepherds Bush Empire – it’s like so big’ she doesn’t even look at me but promptly pushes forward in the crowd.  

Bolero has been playing for the past 10 minutes, unnoticed at first but as it builds the crowd start to notice and pretend to skate, then the roadie flashes the touch from the stage at the sound desk (still sends a thrill down the spine even after over 35 years of gigs) and the band are on stage now and they are inform us this is their biggest headline gig – ‘We can’t f**king believe this we’re at the Shepherds Bush Empire – its like so big’ – Ahead of me in the crowd I catch sight of the woman who was next to me as she cheers and claps and shouts we love you… 

I hope the band realise the power of being guys with guitars – they can say the most inane things and get adored for it!

Take that bun out of my eye and your bag out my crotch…
When I started going to gigs, mainly at the Manchester Apollo, if you had a ticket for the stalls you had a seat – not anymore I’m in the stalls but there aren’t any and I’m standing listening to Bears Den in a Bear Pit.

Music’s Third Law of Gigs – For every inch of your height, there is an equal and slightly taller guy in front of you.   

And then there is the pushy woman with two friends who forces her way in front of you – I ask her politely to take that bun out of my eye and her bag out my crotch - its not my birthday yet...

But maybe that’s the problem in approaching my 50th year I’m just too old to be in the non existent stalls – perhaps I have to accept that I’m a circle kind of guy now!

What will they do when breads are out of fashion…

I’ve been to many Folk gigs in my life – when Folk was unfashionable and no self-respecting musician had facial hair – but here the place is packed and the hair follicles flow freely– and I’m feeling all of my 48 years 364 days...

Folk - OK they call it alternative folk- but its not its just folk - is trendy and Bears Den get to play the Shepherds Bush Empire and once or twice the experience seemed to threatened them and there was a danger that they would be overawed - but they recovered.

Bears Den are great exponents of this new wave of folk – with anthemic tunes, tender love songs and careful arrangements that beat any finger in your ear folk singer with battered acoustic guitar. But what will they do when beards are out of fashion? I think this is the biggest challenge for all the bands like Bears Den – will they ever play bigger venues - and is folk in an arena a good idea - personally any genre in an arena is a bad idea...

Music should be for the masses but not all in one arena!!!

So how will this latest incarnation of folk progress?

Progressive Folk – now there’s a genre I want to see – careful not to get your beard caught in the zip of your fox outfit……