Regular curator of tunes Liz Buckley is back in charge of the mixtape this week and she wants to talk best gigs. Like ever.
My favourite thing in the world is going to gigs. And, if a gig is truly amazing, I’ll go and see that band again the next night. In Zagreb.
Why would you do anything else? You’ve discovered the best thing you can currently do with your time, so put that plan on frickin’ repeat! I apply the same principle to most things in my life – films, plays… friends. If that band, movie, person or thing is amazing, collect a few more people and do it all over again. Catch that musician every chance you get, groupie that play, date that person every night of the week – if you’ve found joy, marry it.
I recently saw a theatre production of Enda Walsh’s incredible Ballyturk at the National and I loved it so much when I saw two empty seats in front of me, I was upset I wasn’t in those too. I went back to see it three times in two weeks and I cried on the last night as there’s every chance I may never see it again.
What I’m telling you is that I’m a loyal but emotional wreck. These are the seven gigs of my life that wrecked me the most.
Grinderman – Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars)
I love, and have loved, Nick Cave and all of his Bad Seeds for as long as I remember. As a teenager, I worked in a trendy dance/rock record shop and I’d play Henry’s Dream belligerently while guys with Tintin quiffs and loafers flicked through Acid Jazz 12 inches. I’ve seen the Bad Seeds play more than 30 times. Let’s say I’m keen. I would choose seeing Nick Cave over any other activity.
The Bad Seeds live are a team of rocking solicitors led by a goth Sinatra, who’s as likely to stab your hand as lick it. Unpredictable, frenetic, with swathes of dirty orchestral sound, impeccably dressed and great at swearing, all while drinking out a china tea cup. Sold.
You can probably guess my excitement when in 2007, ATP Festivals announced a Nick Cave-themed line up. A weekend of gigs curated by the Dirty 3 (Dirty 3-er Warren Ellis being a long term musical collaborator of Nick’s) this festival was tailored to a Bad Seeds fan in a major way. Nick Cave was playing a rare solo set. Grinderman, Cave and Ellis’ spin off band set up so they could sing ridiculous in-joke songs, were on. Former/current Bad Seeds Mick Harvey, Conway Savage AND Blixa Bergeld’s Einstuerzende Neubauten were there. And rather wonderfully – they all played TWICE! By day three, I was almost hysterical.
During each Grinderman crescendo in the excellently silly Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars), each band member would leap up and swap instruments with the person to their left, again and again, until everyone was giddy. Thank God the festival was in a holiday camp ‘cos I needed a lie down.
Spiritualized – I Think I’m In Love
The Stooges – No Fun
ATP festivals have been incredibly good to me. It’s wrong to have heroes but J Spacemen (singer with Spiritualized and once of Spaceman 3) and Iggy Pop are mine – for very different reasons.
One is dignified, ethereal, secretive, rarely speaks, fronts a large orchestra/gospel choir, plays most every instrument he writes for and is the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. The other wears transparent trousers and used to shit on his own balcony as an experiment to see how it dried.
Iggy is however, also the best pop star in the world – the most unhinged, the most goofy, the most charming and the most grounded. Imagine my delight then when ATP kindly put together another of their delightful festivals with BOTH my heroes as headliners. I figured if I of all people wasn’t there, it would be some kind of personal slight to the Gods, so I re-arranged a holiday to attend.
I’m not sure what your own criteria for a great gig might be, but that day, I saw my beloved Spiritualized soundcheck for their set in the evening, which they also played in full. To an empty arena containing just a handful of crew, myself and two friends. I was unable to speak because it was so staggeringly special. Then on the way out, I saw the Stooges’ roadies playing crazy-golf and we went back to the holiday camp chalet and made an enormous omelette. Gig of a lifetime!
Sigur Rós – Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
Venue choices can be more important to performance than people might realise and Sigur Rós really know how to pick ‘em. The Clash, by all reports, were incredible at the Hammersmith Palais. But if they had to deal with the O2 in Greenwich these days, people would have been moaning about the ethics, the view, the ticket prices, Pizza Express and last tubes home.
I’ve seen Sigur Rós a few times in Europe as they know how to pick places where you might fancy a minibreak. I came back from Krakow, having been blown away by seeing them play in a disused canning factory outside the city centre, only accessible by their own laid-on bus. Now there’s a set up. But then they announced a gig at a disused slaughterhouse in Vienna, so I was back on the Easyjet website.
Complete with blackened funnel-chimney for extra gulp quality, this was certainly an arresting choice, especially to this squeamish vegetarian. The tour coincided with Sigur Rós’ least TV-theme friendly, most upbeat/joyous album Inní mér syngur vitleysingur (cover art featuring naked people running across a busy road. Joy!) and the gig was a total delight. Everyone sung their hearts out even though no one knows the band’s made-up language, with strangers turning to each other booming phonetically-near phrases like “funky kisses/kinky houses”.
Then, from the distance, a brass band appears, wearing white suits and white bowler hats, marching like an angelic bunch of Homepride Chefs. They came across the huge venue, weaving through the crowd, until they got to the side of the stage and then, they kept marching. Up the SIDE of the stage and then ACROSS THE ROOF. A bunch of white bowler-hatted trombone players walking through the sky.
The Stone Roses – Fools Gold
When I was a small, stripy-tights wearing indie kid, I loved The Stone Roses. But when they announced their recent comeback, I didn’t really notice. We’ve all been hurt. I remember walking away mid-set at Reading festival the year John Squire was replaced by one of Simply Red. I already knew my friend Ged shouting “Play Money’s Too Tight To Mention” was going to be the highlight.
When the band had announced two gigs in Finsbury Park, I didn’t really register it. Then one of my dearest friends, pointed out to me that “Hey, what? Don’t you love the Stone Roses? And they’re playing in the borough. Why aren’t we going-excuse-me-please?” While whispering that “no way were we paying top dollar” and “it’ll no doubt be awful but at least we can get the 106 home”, we got tickets.
On the way there, it all started coming back to me. The anticipation, the gibbon walk, the smell of piss & poppers, the local Lidl being looted – we were on our way to see the fookin’ Roses! We got two pints of wine and made our way down the front. Let’s be havin’ ya. I’d forgotten what it’s like to see a band where, when they come on stage, you actually feel blown away by the feeling, “HOLY SHIT, IT’S ACTUALLY THEM”. The guys that meant so much, to so many back in the day, everything forgiven in a heartbeat, like a warm hug from an ex. When the first few bars of Fool’s Gold kicked in, we were dancing with strangers and the guy in front of us held his wheelchair in the air.
Busted – Crashed The Wedding
This year, I went to many of the series British Summer Time Hyde Park gigs. Over the course of a few weeks they put on the Pogues, the Libertines, the National, Neil Young and many more. The best gig of the series was McBusted. You seem doubtful.
The thing is, many of these outdoor, super-sized gigs play host to a sea of people chatting, picnicking, facing the wrong way and caring more about eating organic pies than watching the bands. There was a week of these incredibly cynical, food-orientated, soulless, attention-losing events and then for the princely discounted sum of £2.50 (thanks Chas), we went to see the Busted/McFly supergroup McBusted.
You might think you know what a good gig entails. These guys came onstage from the sky on a flying DeLorean and they left on a fucking spaceship. Two songs in, a double rainbow appeared whilst they were singing Five Colours In Her Hair. Now they didn’t make that happen, but I felt they could have. These six friends are having the absolute time of their bloody lives. As the five unnecessary guitarists from two guitar-heavy bands join forces and line up in a row of axes and air jump in perfect synchronicity, you do too.
I’m glad I crashed the wedding. It’s better than regretting.
Miles Hunt – Someone Like the Kingbird
It’s not a pretentious venue in Europe, it’s not an over-staffed band line up with stage gimmicks, it’s not a festival at Butlin’s holiday camp in winter. Some of my most treasured gig nights have been with the singer Miles Hunt during pub lock-ins near his house in deepest Shropshire.
Miles is an excellent storyteller, amazing hugger and fantastic drinker. Nothing makes you feel as warm inside as a catch-up over a bottle of whiskey by a roaring fire, while he’s singing songs to a crowd of maybe five people who all wouldn’t be anywhere else for the world. Someone Like the Kingbird tells a story of someone Miles met in the States, which will start yarn swapping, future holiday plan-making and you can easily lose a weekend. No gig is as special as ones played by a talented friend for no reason other than fun and drinking.2035 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.