Thursday, 14 January 2016

I Didn't Realise the Middle Classes Still Owned Family Pews - My Mistake!

The way one is expected to behave in a church...
How much does a venue affect the audience and therefore the show? The crowd at a gig at Union Chapel  - which prides itself on selling Hot Chocolate (complete with Marshmallows!) - always seems different. Maybe it is the sort of acts that are booked. Or perhaps it is because it is a Church. Even the predominantly middle class lefties who have long shunned religion (and whose political party have long shunned them) have not quite been able to shun the way one is expected to behave in a church! There is a respectful chatter before the gigs and a silence during songs that is seldom found elsewhere. Or it may simply be that the bum numbing pews slowly numb the rest of the senses too!

The start of this gig has been slipped earlier, and by the time I have picked up the fact I am late for the first act Heg and the Wolf Chorus. I slip into Union Chapel for the second time this week and find a seat – well, the end of a pew - and settle in to catch as much as is left of their set. Turns out that there is not much of the set left at all and I only hear one full song but they have got me interested and I decide to check out the CDs before the next act. I place my bag on the seat with my jacket and head to the merchandise stand. There are a number of singles on offer so I decide to check them out online once I’m home and make an informed decision, but I’m right next to the café queue and it would be rude not to buy a coffee.

Coffee in hand I make my way back to my seat. I find it occupied and my bag and coat slung on the floor. I stand for a moment or two and wait for some eye contact from the people sitting there. They resolutely concentrate on the roadies setting up the next act. Now, solo gig going is not the easiest experience in the world. Standing on one’s own when everyone else seems to be with friends gets tiresome. Not having anyone to chat to about the gig on the way home is disappointing (perhaps that’s why I decided to blog!) and at a standing gig or unreserved seating how do you stake a claim to your place in the crowd? I reflect that it would be good if people could understand that and recognise that a single bag on a pew means that the seat has been temporarily vacated for legitimate reasons.   

For a moment I contemplate challenging their rudeness. But I’m in church and don’t want to make a scene.  So I trust they will enjoy their view and I move further back to sit with a better class of people!

This was not what I expected of a Union Chapel audience but oddly I have experienced the exact same behaviour before – not at a venue but at a Church service! So maybe the venue does affect the gig, or certainly the behaviour of the audience!

Even the hoi polloi at the back of the church have been blessed...
This gig has been advertised as a Moulettes and Nizlopi on a co-headlining tour, so I am not sure who will be playing next. Once settled I see that it must be the Moulettes, as the stage is set for more than a duo. And what a treat their set is! Creative, beautiful, mesmerising, energetic and bold. They make reference to the fact that this is the end of their ‘Constellations’ tour and I am reminded of the first time I saw them at the Ruby Lounge, Manchester, 18 months ago; it was the beginning of them touring their Constellations material. What a difference the 18 months and however many shows has made! At the Manchester gig I was disappointed with their new material but the whole set that night was worth it for their rendition of one of my favourite songs ‘Sing Unto Me’. Tonight the opposite is true. ‘Sing Unto Me’ seems to lack the energy and spirit that make it such a great song, yet the new material has a wonderful energy and is played with a tightness that was lacking in Manchester.

I completely forget that my original seat has been occupied. I forget the rudeness of the settlers, and simply enjoy strange songs played by musicians still enjoying their jobs who are willing to take risks musically and lyrically. Inevitably the set is too short and over too soon but even the hoi polloi at the back of the church have been blessed.

I realise I need the loo and with trepidation place my bag and jacket on my seat fully expecting them to be thrown out on the street in my absence! However, I told you they were a better class of people at the back, and when I return I find my bag still installed where I had left it.

Yes dancing - in church...
I didn’t buy a ticket to see Nizlopi - I wanted to see the Moulettes - but I stay unsure of what I will get! I have seen them before. They played a festival I was at shortly after their 15 minutes of fame when, for no reason anyone can really explain, the musical gods favoured them and ‘JCB’ became a massive hit. I remember enjoying their set and realising there is more to them than a song about being five and sitting in a JCB believing your dad is Bruce Lee. Alas, that was then and this is now. They should not be headlining. Frankly after the Moulettes they seem amateur. Their set ranges from being, at worst, cringe worthy to at best, OK! Their best is when they use the natural acoustics of the building and play unplugged in the aisles. To their credit they slip in JCB without fuss, and in the middle of the set, but the rest of set reminds me too much of being at a singers’ night and the mediocrity that often brings.

Yet, what do I know? In one part of the stalls there are people behaving in a very un-church like way. Whooping and hollowing after every song and dancing - yes dancing - in church! They have obviously built up a dedicated following for whom they seem unable to do anything wrong, but the polite applause and quick exit of the rest of the audience at the end suggests that I am not the only one for whom the Moulettes have been the highlight.

There is definitely a different atmosphere at Union Chapel. I conclude that it is partly to do with it being a church, but also to do with the way it presents itself as a venue, and it definitely adds something to any gig. Venues do affect the atmosphere of a gig and the best venues are the one that seek to be what they are and build on that not just a clone of every other venue. I just wish some of the audience hadn’t behaved as the worse type of churchgoers and I could have continued to sit near the front!

Gig: 39 of 50
Date of Gig: Fri. 27th November 2015

Union Chapel

Heg and the Wolf Chorus

Running total of artists seen 84

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