Fight The Power: ‘People Powered – Concert for Corbyn’.

I Was Supposed To Be Going Out, That Took Ages.

Kids are hardcore, aren’t they?

They don’t mess about Madhouse, chit-chat, duties, more nappies

Then I manage to get out

The sharp night whistled around my coat, as I motioned up to the main road

The wails of your offspring behind ya, cracking window

It’s hard, innit when you plan to do something

But at that moment you realise it’s not quite right

Not really something you should be doing tonight. I was supposed to be going out, that took ages.
.
T.C.R – Sleaford Mods

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As a Dad of twins who hit the two-year mark in the week betwixt Christmas and New Year, I rarely make it further than the corner shop for milk of an evening.  In fact, I can rarely even muster the desire to leave the house at all by the time the kids have stopped biting each other and have finally settled down in their crib. This is totally at odds with my life Pre-Procreation, whereby I’d be either puntering or playing at gigs at least 3-4 times per week, the appearance of a rum-soaked social butterfly masking abject boredom, it would seem, in hindsight.  I’m certainly not bored anymore.

Never a dull moment with Toddler Twins, and irrespective of how annoying it can be when strangers pass comment in public that ‘you’ve got yer hands full’ and ‘Ooh, Double Trouble’, they do make a good point!

None more so than this week, in which ‘the boy one’ encountered two visits to medical professionals, one for Bacterial Conjunctivitis/Gloopy Dead-eye, and another, lengthier, and altogether more serious trip to the Royal Alexandra after knocking himself unconscious following an epically failed attempt to show off by bum-shuffling across the back of the sofa, scaring the bejeezus out of Mum and I in the process.

After an exciting ride in the ‘Nee-Naw’ and six plus hours of much poking, prodding and monitoring, they sent the little chap on his way, under 48 hrs home observation from his parental unit.

Normally, the thought of putting on some shoes and changing my shirt for a one that is not covered in spat-out biscuit, mashed banana and a heady cocktail of secretions from the orifices of two tiny people is enough to persuade me to forfeit a ticket I’ve spent top dollar on, in favour of another night on the sofa looking at things to watch on Netflix for two hours, before throwing in the towel and heading to bed. So my apprehension was more than justified on this occasion.

Thing is, this event was literally unmissable, and I’d be kicking myself for the rest of my days if I gave in to my paternal instincts. I’d already missed a wild and crazy night out at the Christmas Craft Night at the kids’ Nursery the night before.  Tonight I was putting another tick on my Bucket List, by spending a portion of time under the same roof as my Beloved Robert Wyatt. More of which shortly.

 

A few months ago, upon the realisation that I’d been to about 5 gigs in 30 months, and hadn’t particularly enjoyed most of them (even worse, I’d sort of known I’d be underwhelmed at the point of buying tickets, but still went ahead and completed the purchase), so I decided it was time to put a stop to this nonsense, but this time with GROUND RULES! Oh yes, you need some rules! If you don’t have rules, there are no rules to bend, break or shoehorn to accommodate your whims!

These are my rules because you need to have rules:

  1. Only buy a ticket if you know for certain it’s going to be proper amazing, like a one-off or rare event, for example. You need to stop buying tickets for shows you know you won’t enjoy just because you think you should go out more. Most of the time you don’t even bother to turn up anyway, you imbecile.
  2. Just buy the ticket, and don’t worry about whether anyone else you know is going. You like going solo, and companions are baggage who talk through all the best bits.
  3. If you buy a ticket, you have to go!
  4. Don’t, under any circumstances, buy an extra ticket, in case anyone you know might want to come. You’ve tried this before and end up spending half the night trying to sell it to passers-by for a pound and getting threatened with disembowelment by touts. You’ve been out of pocket every time you’ve done this. STOP!

So, when I heard that there would be a ‘Concert for Corbyn’ at the Dome curated in part by Paul Weller (For whom I have grudging admiration – Don’t like The Jam, non-plussed by much of his solo work, but LOVE the Style Council – (If you don’t mind name-dropping, and we’re ever in the pub together, ask me about the time I went for a curry in Whitley Bay with Mick Talbot) and featuring a certain Mr Wyatt, I knew I’d be going, though I was in denial for a couple of weeks, whilst I weighed up the pros and cons of sitting through 4 hours of acts, not to my taste for 15 mins of Wyatt.

 

For those less aware of his work, save for a couple of guest appearances with other artists, Q & A sessions and the odd ‘live in the studio’ performance for TV, RW hasn’t really performed live since the Mid 70’s, following a fall from a fourth floor window whilst intoxicado, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. There have been suggestions that he stopped touring due to the indignity of having to be carried on stage because of the lack of accessible venues at the time. Whatever his reasons, tonight was his first appearance in Donkey’s years, and likely to be his last, given that he’s now in his 70s and announced his retirement in 2014.  So it was a pretty big deal.

The genesis of my love for this man can be traced back to the winter of 1998, in a grotty boozer on the banks of the Tyne, playing one of our regular pointless pub games with a gang of penniless Fine Art graduates ring-led by my mate Billy, who alone is worthy of his own article – maybe another time. Actually, a gang doesn’t seem like the right collective noun; Let’s go for a pretension.  Yep, that’ll work – A pretension of Fine Art Students.

The theme the week before had involved inventing absurdist crisp flavours – Wolf and Vinegar, Tiger and Almond, Crabstick and Jealousy, Goldfish and Argument stand out in my memory.  On this particular night, though, we had devised a macabre twist on the classic Fantasy Band game.

The premise was to come up with a fantasy band comprising solely of members who had encountered life-changing injuries.  The Accident Band. Yeah, pretty dark. As it turned out, we could only think of two people, who both happened to be drummers; Rick Allen of Def Leppard, and Robert Wyatt, former drummer of Soft Machine. By anyone’s estimation, that’s not much of a band, and so clutching at straws, we also installed, somewhat tenuously, Heather Mills as a backing singer.  Still a shit band in all likelihood, and a shit game to boot.

We’d set ourselves an impossible task.  And so the conversation morphed into a long story, courtesy of Billy, about the wonder of Wyatt.  Now this was a time when the internet was something a few people had heard of, but barely any had used – Maybe your mate’s posh uncle who was a tech-nerd had a rudimentary version of it, but it was far removed from the internet we know today, where all manner of useless trivia is available in an instant from a pocket device.

To me, it just seemed like a slightly less shit version of Teletext, and I had little interest. It was never going to catch on. The point being, it was actually quite hard to find out information about artists and musicians without buying a physical copy of their albums, and relying on extensive liner notes to fill in the gaps.  So, buying the music was as good a place as any, and it pretty much tells you most of what you need to know anyway, in Wyatt’s case.

I devoured his back catalogue, and scoured magazines, books, libraries and record shops for more, though it was kind of a slow filter, but one thing is for sure – I never thought I’d get to stand under the same roof as the great man.  Anyway, I’d better talk about the event.

 

Actually, I’m not going to. There are plenty of reviews out there, and there’s no need for another one, especially by me.  What I will say is that Temples absolutely stole the show, with perfectly crafted psych-pop and a sound as heavy as a bag of anvils, not to mention an extraordinarily slick light show.  Half an hour wasn’t nearly enough – it won’t be long before they’re playing venues this size in their own right. If you don’t know them, get to know them. They’re very, very good.

 

The general consensus seemed to be that people were expecting a greatest-hits set from Robert Wyatt. In reality, what we got was two obscure album tracks (Mass Medium/Blues in Bob Minor) and his fairly straight traditional version of the jazz standard ‘September in the Rain’.  And it was absolutely perfect. He could have sung the ingredients of a pack of Happy Shopper frozen beefburgers backwards in Swahili and it would have been just as good.  He played a bit of cornet on a Weller song, and some fierce free jazz piano over the frankly terrible and bland songs of Steve Pilgrim (Weller’s drummer, and a lad so far out of his depth on stage with such legends).

A very honourable mention is thoroughly deserved for Double Bass Genius (He doesn’t like this term – He prefers to say he can ‘play a bit’) Danny Thompson, who propped up the low end with regal magnificence.  He’s the man responsible for the lush basslines on John Martyn’s Solid Air album, among many other accolades, such as being a founding member of Pentangle. Just lovely.

 

It’s not often you get the chance to see something you know will never be repeated, and never again do I need to lament the fact I will never see Robert Wyatt live. ‘Coz I did!

Oh, and Jeremy Corbyn popped up near the end of the show to preach to the converted, and was it was nice to see him in the flesh for the first time, bumbling through a speech, promising that a Labour government would invest in the Arts and generally being the antithesis of the slick politician. I’m a fan.  He had his work cut out as roadies set up the final band of the evening (The Farm) who had an enormous amount of equipment, especially as there was only time for them to play one song; a rather yawnsome version of ‘All Together Now’ which was very well received, and maybe it was just my tiredness that led me to leave in the middle of it!

That’s all I have to say as if I haven’t said enough. If you want a proper review, go to a proper review site.

This article was brought to you by Fatherhood!!

And so to Shleep. 😉

 Images courtesy of: Rocksalts and Lance Hill at Blank Associates.

All artists mentioned can be found on this spotify playlist ‘As Seen on Dontbelievethehype.biz’ – Go Explore!!

Written by

Dad of Twins, Music Obsessive, Enthusiastic Wearer of Hats & Longjohns.

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