BY its very nature, this blog spends a fair amount of time paddling around in nostalgia.
There’s plenty of new stuff making waves along the way – and maybe, just maybe, introduce you to through the links – but the default position is ankle deep in the past.
Be that music or the memories, stories and feelings it stirs when held up to my ears (think we might have gone far enough with that metaphor).
And that’s fine. Been great rediscovering forgotten gems, unearthing a few missed through the years and seeing how classic tracks have plotted the soundtrack of my life.
But maybe diving too deep into the musical past is not always a great thing.
The soundtrack since the last entry (far longer ago than intended) has been littered with a lot of new stuff, helped by a catch-up through A-G in the journey through my iPod – some it very new, some of it stuff from the last 12 months or so which needed the compulsory listen to ensure nothing was missed.
By contrast, a couple of live outings have rolled back the years. Even decades.
Echo and the Bunnymen were my first proper gig at Gloucester Leisure Centre in my teenage years, to which they provided a large chunk of the soundtrack.
They were, along with REM, my band for many, many years, but for some reason had somehow missed seeing them live again. Partly due to lack of opportunity, but largely turning down a couple of chances as we all got considerably older.
Never been a big fan of just seeing bands for old times’ sake. And somehow didn’t want to mix those wonderful memories of seeing the Bunnymen way back when with a risk of disappointment at what they have become.
Right up to the point when a ticket to see them live dropped in my lap as a Christmas present.
For a while, looked like might miss it – the band cancelling the gig due to a clash with the Champions League final, rescheduling to the one night when work rather gets in the way before an outcry from fans forced a return to the original date.
And it was enjoyable. If you don’t relish Ian McCulloch singing the likes of The Killing Moon, Seven Seas or Villiers Terrace – the song which always ended any C90 compiled for anyone else – backed by an excellent band and string quartet, you are missing some sort of musical gene (it’s what stops me getting most heavy metal).
But… there was always a but hovering in the air. McCulloch always was a difficult soul and whether it was his natural personality or resentment at missing his Liverpool side in action, there was an element of going through the motions about it all.
As good as the band were, they were shunted right to the back of the sizeable stage as McCulloch took centre stage – largely motionless – with Will Sergeant almost skulking off stage right.
And the set list was bizarre. A strong start with old favourites – let’s face it, that’s what most the audience of a certain age wanted to hear – drifted into mid-gig malaise and every time they got us up again with a classic, it was straight back down with some newer track.
There were no quibbles with the set list at the second gig in close succession, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott rattling through The Housemartins’ and Beautiful South’s back catalogues. The music was highly enjoyable – far more so than expected.
But in the middle of Westbonbirt Arboretum, it was all a bit odd.
The long, slow-moving queue to get in was frustrating (especially seeing late arrivals, including at least one regular reader, benefit from them eventually opening extra entrances while the original queue watched on) , meaning most of support act Billy Bragg’s set was witnessed from afar and through a fence while trying to get in.
Judging by some of the tutting at his politics, a few were in no rush to get in.
And when we did get in, with limited space around the back and sides, it was into Dante’s middle class circle of hell.
Tickets were not cheap, so did wonder why some people were there. Not for the music, that’s for sure. Far more for the chance to sit and have a picnic – suggest M&S and Wzitrose enjoyed a huge soar in profits as they must have sold out of dips, nibbles and finger food. And wine boxes.
One group in front of us, apparently four couples, were sat in a circle from which they barely moved throughout.
The women did get up a couple of times to start dancing when a song they knew came on, only to stop halfway through to take some selfies and then wander off to the loo.
The men sat and talked, only stopping occasionally to pass out some more drinks and to cut up some limes to go with them.
Actually, that’s not fair. Two of them did stand up, almost on top of a seated couple who had staked out a prime spot, so they could compare tips on their golf swings.
The eight of them would have had exactly the same evening (without the queue and traffic) if they had sat in the garden with a CD on in the background.
Sure a lot of people there didn’t realise music came without interruptions from Chris Evans and the traffic news.
Musically better than expected (not necessarily my normal taste post-Housemartins, but Heaton has written a surprising number of great songs) and a fair few additions to the bad gig etiquette list.
Certainly not a Billy Bragg audience – as one woman showed who talked relentlessly just behind us, moaning about him covering that nice Kirsty Maccoll’s New England.
He has been a fairly constant presence live – seen him in four difference decades – and throughout this A-Z journey through my iPod. And he popped up again in this recap, courtesy of the collection of tracks he put out last year. Politically inspired, surprisingly enough.
The bulk of the catch-up – from Michael Head to Snail Mail – can be split between the traditional end-of-year download binge and new stuff.
Phoebe Bridgers cropped up a few times on the former having made it in to the top three of my albums of last year. Certainly no need to reconsider that one and remain slightly obsessed.
The new stuff has not been quite as much as planned – the January idea to get something new each week never got out of the month – but there’s been some decent stuff.
Let’s Eat Grandma, Snail Mail, Goat Girl, perhaps surprisingly Buffalo Tom and old faithfuls Half Man Half Biscuit are all threatening this year’s best-of lists.
But early, clear favourite for top spot is Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
Thankfully, the music is a fair bit easier to cope with than the name and delivers a large enough helping of jingly-jangly guitar to wash away any lingering anger sparked by fellow gig-goers.