I have never seen so much live music in a single year. In fact, I saw more live music in 2018 than I have seen previously in all my adult life.
The year started with a album launch “all ages” show by Franz Ferdinand in Kingston-upon-Thames in early February, and was quickly followed by FOUR Simple Minds Walk Between Worlds showcase gigs, and continued on through the year, traversing the length and breadth of the UK and hopping across the English Channel into mainland europe and ending in Northampton seeing Blancmange. From Glasgow and Newcastle, to Leeds, Manchester and westwards to the Brecon Beacons, back over to Bristol, and many trips to London. A trip to Paris and the French Alps via Switzerland. I even managed a local gig! Luton isn’t usually known for its amazing live music scene, it has to be said.
I have no idea how many miles I’ve covered in all this crisscrossing of countries and continents. Thousands, I’m sure! And…I don’t want to think about what it did to the purse strings…but budgeting and shoestring travel makes it doable – trust me! You don’t have to be lavish to do this. Winning free weekend tickets for a festival also helps! 😁
And all absolutely worth it for some of the best live music the UK and the world has to offer.
Now, before I award my Top 3 gigs of 2018, let me recap (and try to remember!) just who and what I saw this year.
February: Franz Ferdinand and Simple Minds x4
March: Art Of Noise and Ruts DC
May: Warm Digits and Vessels, Simple Minds
June: Warm Digits x2, Manic Street Preachers and The Anchoress at Meldown Festival
July: Muilac Festival, Aix-Les-Bains. Caezar x2
August: Thumpasaurus, Green Man Festival, Simple Minds x3
September: Franz Fedinand
October: John Grant
All the acts I saw were fabulous…part of the reason I wanted to see them all. There were also a few standout support acts too.
Some worthy contenders for gig of the year, then? Manic Street Preachers…that was a real “love for the fans” gig. The guys were great and the crowd loved them. Franz Ferdinand – at both shows – just great. Make it look so effortless and Alex Kapranos is one of my favourite frontmen, currently. Ruts DC – don’t underestimate the power of ska/punk to be making an impact some 40 years down the road. These guys are great live. The Lemon Twigs – my live music find of 2018 – all thanks to winning a free weekend camping pass to the Green Man festival in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Another act very worthy of note – Caezar. Joe Donnelly and JJ Gilmour have released one of the standouts of 2018, for me. And JJ is a phenomenal singer. An amazing voice. I hope to catch them again this coming February at Oran Mor in Glasgow.
At three: Art Of Noise – British Library – March 9th
An unusual setting for a gig – inside the library entrance, on the mezzanine. It made for a great atmosphere. I’m not an uber fan of theirs, but I just really enjoyed the atmosphere of the gig – there was a great rapport between the group and the fans. The acoutics were great and, yeah…can’t really pinpoint it…I just really enjoyed it a lot.
At two: John Grant – Green Man Festival – August 18th
John was the headline act on day three (Saturday) of the festival and he was just fabulous, and brought me to tears. It was a beautiful night and a wonderful setting.
At one: (who else but!) Simple Minds – Manchester Albert Hall – February 14th
For some it’ll be other shows. It SHOULD be Barrowland Ballroom – and it would be, if my choice was based beyond sheer performance. But I have seen SM nine times this year…and I could choose others. The Leeds grandslam gig was amazing. All three of the grandslam gigs were. But for majesty and sheer performance and for the concept of it, it goes to their Manchester WbW showcase gig. Whereas I thought palpable nerves at Barrowland led to some performance…inconsistancies. The next night at Manchester, they truly had it licked and were PHENOMINAL! They were just FLAWLESS by comparison to the night before. Amazing. absolutely amazing gig. Of the February WbW gigs, it was by far my favourite. It also wins out amongst the rest of the SM gigs I saw this year, purely for that full set of the complete Walk Between Worlds album performed live. Any band wanting to do that – to showcase a complete new package like that has the absolute courage of their convictions.
Congrats to Jim, Charlie, Gordy, Ged, Sarah and Cherisse (and to Catherine AD) for executing a truly amazing showcase of new matieral and killer setlist of hits. You guys f***ing rock the world…my world…the whole world! Thank you!
This was the experience of a lifetime. Genuinely! I had been very hopeful that my entry for the competition to the Green Man festival would be successful. I noticed a mistake in the crossword as I was solving it, so I was hopeful that I would be savvy enough in providing what was the correct answer and that would increase my chances.
I thought if I won, I’d be notified in July sometime. Time enough to get things organised well. As it was, I found out the day before the Maidstone Grandslam gig on August 3rd. Less than two weeks to organise getting a tent and other provisions needed.
But, wow! What a prize! Two adult weekend camping tickets worth £180 each. It would have been crazy to look such a gifthorse in the mouth. BUT…my partner HATES driving, with an absolute f***ing passion (hence I was back at the driving lessons earlier in the summer – subsequently put on hold again due to…well…just a million different bloody things). I almost didn’t want to tell her I’d won because just the mere idea of telling her she’d be driving to Wales in a couple of weeks filled me with dread.
But…rather amazingly, she seemed up for it (until after Maidstone….one of the reasons I didn’t want to go to the Maidstone gig…having to rely on her to drive me there and back. Yikes!) and so we grabbed a tent with camping mats and sleeping bags from eBay…packed a few clothes and other bits and bobs…a load of cheap junk food and we hit the road at 7am on Thursday morning.
We got to Abergavenny around 11.30am but needed to find the exact locale of the festival car park. About another 45 minutes of driving and we found a spot to park.
The campsite was MILES from the car. We must have pitched up about 2 miles from the car. And we did three trips there and back. By about 3pm we were fully pitched up with all our provisions with us.
We went for a wander to get the lay of the land. We had pitched very handy to portaloos and showers and not far beyond that was the main Mountain stage of the festival. There was plenty of food and drink stalls all over the site. Pretty much anything you fancied was catered for.
Near to where we pitched up was a stall called Strumpets with Crumpets. We had not a SINGLE crumpet from them. Lol. But they did the best tea and coffee! Builder’s tea for her, latte for me. The BEST latte I have ever had ANYWHERE…EVER! We frequented the Strumpets quite a bit over the days. Lol
We didn’t take much in music wise on day one. We were just so drained from getting there and pitching up…the walks to and back from the car, etc. There weren’t many acts on the Mountain stage on day one anyways.
We just looked around the place and took things easy.
Night one was FREEZING! The temperature really dropped away. We had clear skies on night one and we only had one sleeping bag each (we had decided to leave the other two in the car in case it rained overnight. It would at least mean we’d have dry ones for the next night) and they weren’t thick sleeping bags. We had air beds too…but both deflated through the night. We were frozen to the bone by the early hours. I probably had about 2 hours sleep and I doubt the OH had any more.
I went and showered…that was an experience! The showers themselves were great…but the cubicles were TINY and, well…you couldn’t afford to be too modest or self-conscious, so I tried my best to dress myself outside of the cubicle without giving all the other ladies an eyeful of my appalling bod. Lol. This is the points in life when I get severe male envy! Blokes dunno how fucking easy they have it, I swear. I mean, seriously…wash ya todger, ya sack, ya crack, ya pits and ya good to go. I love men. BUT I HATE MEN! FUCK YOU, DUDES!
We had another meander around. Checked out some other areas that we hadn’t explored and then went back to “base camp” and had a couple of hours rest.
Then, we hit Strumpets with Crumpets again and checked out the Mountain stage. When we were at Strumpets getting our bevvies, I could hear music from the stage that was piquing my interest. We went to check them out. They sounded great. Really quite retro. Sort of American 70s rock. Really liked the sound of them. Soon learned it was The Lemon Twigs and I have to say that, as a performer, Michael D’Addario is mesmerisingly hilarious! His moves, mannerisms and facial expressions are something to behold! I couldn’t take my eyes off him! (You’ll see from the footage I shared) Younger brother Brian is a little more laid back and a tad more eloquent. They have amazing harmonies and great voices. Their sound is such a meld of several other musical influences. They were the genuine “find” of the festival. I loved them!
Off for a bite to eat, checking out other parts of the site. Other stages, etc. Tried out another band and they weren’t much to our liking. We then hit the cinemadrome big top to watch This Is Spinal Tap.
I wanted to wait around for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They were on late and started their set as the film was finishing up. They were much to my liking, really, so we went back to base camp and settled down for the night.
Skies were overcast on Friday night and there was a bit of drizzle in the air. We had decided to retrieve the other two sleeping bags from the car earlier in the day to make sure we warm enough on the second night. We had also made the decision that, after seeing John Grant’s set the next night, we’d just leave and head home and not worry about staying the remaining two nights.
We both slept well on Friday night. Both sleeping bags made things much warmer and we were layered up with clothes too. But also, the temp didn’t fall away so much on Friday night. We both slept solidly for several hours.
Back to Strumpets for “breakfast” and then back to base camp to dismantle the tent, pack everything up and take it to the car, ready to just go back to it and set off for home once John Grant’s set was over.
The day was John Grant filled. Once we had the stuff all packed in the car, we went to find the Babbling Tongues tent. Mojo magazine (the same magazine I won the tickets with) were conducting an interview with John. We made it there in the nick of time. The audio of it is available on Mixcloud. Mojo were filming it and said it would be available to view the next day, but I can’t work out where. It certainly isn’t on their website.
CLICK HERE to hear the Mixcloud audio of the interview.
Shortly after the interview was over, he was going to appear at a Rough Trade stall set up just down the way a bit from the Babbling Tongues tent. He hightailed it down there and there was already a 40 deep queue. I checked whether as a condition of being in the queue whether you needed to buy anything from the stall. The man at the counter I asked said it was preferable, but not necessary. Well…I didn’t really have anything of worth to sign anyway, so I decided to grab one of his CDs that I didn’t have a copy of and get that signed.
The OH filmed the meeting…as brief as it was. Oh, he is just so, so lovely! I’m not sure if it is too audible but I said to him “I first saw you last year at Union Chapel, and it was beautiful, just beautiful!” He asked me my name, and bless him he tried to spell it, but I spelled it for him. As he was signing the CD I said, “I’ll be seeing you in Bath on my birthday.” “Oh, fantastic,” he replied “I’ll try to remember to say something. Your name may stick.” He then wished me all the best as I moved on and then said “and early happy birthday.”
I was just so, so happy I got to meet him, albeit for barely one minute. But it was time enough to tell him after over a year (and wanting to so much on the night) how stunning that Union Chapel gig was, and to have him sign something. And…to just shake his hand. If I’d had time, I would have told him about Jim and my sleepless night in Adelaide listening to Queen of Denmark for the first and how bowled over by it I was. I do think he spied my Walk Between Worlds shirt. During the Mojo interview, he talked about the music that made an impact on him. His love of 80s music, and ABBA, and that his favourite album of all is a Nina Hagen record. And WOW…how crazy that was for me hearing him say that because one of my enduring musical memories of my childhood is sneaking into my brother’s bedroom when he was out and listening to his records on his uber Technics system. And one of the records that always sticks in the memory of me listening to it and it being SSSOOOO OUT THERE was African Reggae.
Perhaps if there is a chance post-gig at Brighton or Bath, I may ask him what he thinks of Simple Minds. It would be so lovely if John loves them just as much as I do! It would just be all kinds of wow.
After those wonderful things we went back to the family area and the food stalls and actually had quite slap up meals compared to what we’d had the previous two days. Then we made our way back to the Mountain stage to see the evening’s entertainment.
First on was Baxter Dury. He’s a quite a chip off the old block really. Music quite reminiscent of his dad…just not as many horns and more synth and piano. Quite naive lyrics. But good tunes. He seemed quite on edge and nervous but he was enjoyable. I liked his set.
Next on was Cate Le Bon – I swear for ALL THE WORLD when she spoke between songs she sounded French…but she’s bloody Welsh! Lol. I did enjoy her set as well. And there was a surprise duet! She invited John Grant onto the stage with her to duet on a song…so there was even MORE John than I had bargained for!
Then, finally, there was John. He started with You Don’t Have To and I was just carried away instantly. I loved every song in the set. Marz, GMF, a CRACKING version of Pale Green Ghosts, new single Love Is Magic, Grey Tickles-Black Pressure, Glacier – and then to end the night, and have me in floods of tears, Caramel and TC & Honeybear.
I was REALLY hoping for Where Dreams Go To Die or Vietnam, but he played neither of them. But he did perform Vietnam on subsequent nights at gigs in Bangor and Edinburgh. Damn, damn and double damn!
Still…how could I complain having experienced such a thing as a FREE music festival?
Despite getting quite cold in the tent on the first night…and the hours of travel in the car…the Green Man site itself…nestled right in those beautiful hilly tops of the Brecon Beacons…just WOW! What a location! And there was not a bit of trouble I saw. All the campers were great. Plenty of families there with kids. All well laid out. So much to see and do.
There was almost TOO MUCH to do/see. There was a comedy tent on site…we didn’t even find it! We managed to check out a few of the other stages, but none of the acts held our attention for long. But we were more than happy to experience what we experienced and actually had a very good time. The Lemon Twigs and John Grant being the absolute highlights for me.
It took us HOURS to get home, driving through the night to get back. We took wrong turns and went back on ourselves a few times and probably added 50 miles onto our journey home…but we made it, eventually.
Would we do it again? If it was free…if I was lucky enough to win something like that again? HELL YES! But we would be MUCH better prepared next time. It had been a VERY long since either of us had been camping…well over 30 years for either of us. But we survived! And actually did enjoy ourselves for the most part.
The next gig is now Sunday – my final Grandslam gig, and quite possibly final Simple Minds gig of 2018. It SHOULD have been Monday, and Enfield – but for “transport and security reasons” (yeah, Jim found out I was on the meet and greet list! Lol “security reasons”…indeed! Lol), Enfield was cancelled. ON THURSDAY! WHEN I WAS IN WALES WITH DODGY INTERNET CONNECTIVITY AND ME FREAKING MY SHIT ABOUT EVERYTHING!
I have since switched to Colchester – BUT, because I was in such a panic about getting the replacement gig sorted, I fucked up! Enfield ticket holders were offered a 2 for 1 on a replacement gig…and I thought “why not, the OH can come along at least, be my hired videographer/photographer for the day…SHE can get into trouble from Chrissie, not me! Lol” But….in my panic I missed a step in the ordering process and paid for TWO FULL PRICE gold tickets…yay!
I REALLY cannot afford that, somI’m gonna have to sort it out somehow. I’ve contacted the relevant avenues but have had no response as yet…and I am panicking more and more…
To be continued…
NB: I’ll add a few more vids seperately as I haven’t had the chance to upload them on YouTube as yet.
I will try and get a review of the festival up over the next 24 hours…but for now…here’s a little clip of me (and a bit of Helen before me) meeting John at a signing he was doing at the Rough Trade stall at the Green Man festival yesterday. Oh…he is just too, too lovely! ❤️❤️❤️
Off to the Brecon Beacons…near Abergavenny…for four days – for the Green Man Festival. Won the tickets after all…might as well try and go to the thing.
It’s an experience!
Anyway…I think my time away will have me cut off from the Internet – for the most part – so things will be quiet here for a few days. But, hopefully by early next week, a big old review of the whole festival will be here. We’ll see how things go.
In other news – YES! I won a pair of weekend camping tickets to the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons on Aug 16th-19th. I entered the comp because John Grant is on the bill and I am desperate to see him again. I didn’t know at the time I entered that he would announce a tour and I’d be getting to see him for my birthday.
This festival is absolutely FILLED to bursting with amazing music acts all weekend! And there is comedy and film and all sorts. Below is just a small taste of the music line up. The weekend camping tickets are worth £180 EACH!
WHAT A PRIZE! I am OVER THE MOON with this! I really did think I had done my festival going (apart from the Grandslam gigs…if you can classify them as festivals…) for this year.