So, a few gigs over the last week or two – warming up to what is about to be a marathon of them.
First off – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy at the Hackney Empire. There had been a company meeting, followed by some drinks (including whisky tasting) earlier in the evening – and when I arrived at the venue, I was feeling very… sluggish. I arrived as some frenchman was begging to be allowed in, or to buy a ticket, or anything. I had a spare – so gave it to the poor chap. Then discovered my ticket was for the upper balconies. I made my way up hurriedly (being slightly late) – and discovered I was indeed rather high up – so much so that my blurry tired eyes really struggled to focus on what was going on. But I could hear well enough – and to be honest, the man is not exactly easy on the eyes – so probably better that I couldn’t see him properly. So I found myself a spot leaning on a railing, and listened to some indie-folk. And yeah – decent gig. Good music, not much more to say.
Two days later – another guy with a ‘nickname’… Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at the Jazz Cafe. And again, too tired to enjoy it properly – with my thoughts running distractedly over things like how many people in the crowd looked/acted like their mothers did drugs while pregnant. At one point, a chap I’d picked earlier as almost certainly a dealer – pushed me aside at the bar – then looked at me, and said “Sorry – I’m a c*$%.” Without thinking, I immediately responded simply “I know.” He laughed, and there was no “shankin’”. Anyway – I describe that mostly to relate how distracted I was at the gig – even though it was good. I find myself doing that at all gigs now – I’m absorbed for the first couple of songs, then the mind starts wandering. The wine? A 21st century attention span? Old age? Dementia? I don’t know. Although the only video I can find of ‘the Upsetter’ is of terrible quality – it really was quite a good gig.
I had the weekend off – and tried to use it to get back into some kind of routine, do some housekeeping, and catch up on sleep – with one eye on the upcoming ridiculous schedule of gigs and work. I half-succeeded with pretty much all of that. Except the sleep – which I nearly accomplished, and then dashed all the good work by staying up until 4am Monday morning – doing nothing but reading and a terrible cycle of “another wee dram before bed”.
On the Tuesday, it was my wee sister’s birthday. I stayed up on the Monday night in order to give her a call – then realised the time difference is currently actually 13 hours, or 11 hours, or something – so I could have called much earlier than I did. And when I did – I only got voicemail anyways. Tuesday night, her birthday in local time – I celebrated the way I know she would have wanted (or maybe not). By seeing some classic hip-hop. GZA – in the rather small Islington Academy. He was rather good – much better than the gig with the rest of the Clan. Red wine and Wu-Tang – classic. There’s a series of videos from the event here – 1, 2, 3, & 4 – but they seem to be taken from the mezzanine, and focused on the DJ rather than the rapper. (For some shimmy shimmy ya action – start of clip 3. In clip 4, I’m in that crowd somewhere, near the top of the screen – and no, I’m not one of the people bouncing the W symbol.)
I then had a night off (which actually turned into tapas and drinks with workmates) – and then last night was the first night in a schedule I’m really starting to regret. 11 nights in a row of gigs (although last night was not strictly a gig). And looking at my calendar – that is followed by a 3 day training course, and then another gig. And during that 11-day marathon – I will be be spending a week on-site at a new client, where my full wits (and patience) will be required.
But to get it out of the way – last night’s not-strictly-a-gig. The Long Count. Ummm… not sure how to describe it. So I’ll plagarise:
Acclaimed rock band The National’s twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner conceived The Long Count in collaboration with video artist Matthew Ritchie as a multimedia concert, which explores the ‘time before time’; the indivisible moment before creation is expressed.
Inspired by the ‘hero twins’ of the Mayan creation myth contained in the Popol Vuh – of which the Long Count calendar is an important part – the show presents a mythical song cycle of subtly interweaving guitars, solemn a capella, layered sound structures and scintillating rock.
The Dessners team up with a 12-strong ensemble featuring members of the Heritage Orchestra, surrounded by an impressive installation designed by Ritchie, and singers/performers Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and Kelley Deal (The Breeders), plus special guest Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio).
Yeah – so it was that. I didn’t really know what to expect – but I think that the NY times summed it up the best:
The multimedia orchestral-rock song cycle “The Long Count” is theoretically about the prehistory of time, ballgames and twins. Practically, it’s about a semipopular indie-rock band with some contemporary classical-music experience not embarrassing itself in a multimedia commission with an extremely convoluted theme and text. The practical part is what you want to focus on.
Unfortunately, I was so tired that after the initial bemusement wore off, and the wine and very comfy/roomy seats took effect – I actually dozed off a few times. This despite the fact the entire show was only a little over an hour long. But it was pretty good. That NY Times review really does get it right – they “didn’t embarass themselves” – which isn’t gushing praise, but in such a concept – it’s pretty good. A lot of the crowd left very confused – I think they’d just read “The National” in the description and thought they were going to see some side-project gig. And then got confronted with all this artsy theatre buuuulllshit (here’s the ‘trailer‘). Me – quite pleased I went, slightly upset I was unable to appreciate the whole thing – and struggled to follow what (if any?) narrative there was – but I probably should have read up on the subject material beforehand.