My music obsession started with taping the good bits of the Top 40 when I was seven (vainly attempting to edit out Smashy and Nicey’s uncontrollable urge to babble over the opening bars) and progressed through borrowing pretty much every LP from Burton Library as a teenager, to blowing all my disposable student income on records in the now sadly deceased Nottingham Selectadisc, along with gigs at Rock City and accompanying refreshments.
These days Rough Trade East is my second London home, but wherever in the world work takes me I try and create time for live music or just a quick record shop browse. As with most things, some of my best music experiences have been unexpected: from the guitar shop workers in Sao Paulo who decided that trade was slow enough to permit an impromptu band practice; to following Evan Dando into a tiny venue in San Francisco and being treated to a whole-album show of the Lemonhead’s ‘It’s a shame about Ray’; or wandering into the nearest bar to my hotel in Glasgow and discovering Kitty, Daisy and Lewis blowing away King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (a place that previously only existed in the NME gig guide) with their skiffle.
Thus, while my original intention was to use this page to list my favourite bands and records, I have instead decided to make it an organically growing compendium of whoever I am enjoying at a gig, listening to as I travel, or just generally being inspired by. And hopefully to inspire some new recommendations..
British Sea Power, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 17 April 2013
I first stumbled across British Sea Power at the Reading Festival when on a 20 minute break from working behind the Workers Beer Bar. BSP had turned the small marquee into natural wonderland, with branches of trees and bushes liberally strewn around, every microphone stand adorned with leaves and flowers, and various stuffed animals perched across the stage. As they blasted out ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ I became an instant fan and missed half the rest of my shift.
I have seen them countless times since over the intervening decade and last night’s gig was one of their best – getting close to the intensity of seeing them for the first time. I should really say last night’s two gigs, because those arriving early doors were treated to a 7.30pm slow-song set, with the full-on rumbustious works saved for a second appearance an hour and a half later.
Last night I was mostly waiting for ‘Spring Has Sprung’, a beautifully upbeat track of their new album, whose release finally heralded the arrival of sunshine to Britain’s shores last week (and was the subject of a recent markontour blog). But there were so many highs in addition that there’s not enough space to eulogise. Suffice it to say that this is a band that have managed to write everything from a stirring song about the impact of climate change (‘Larsen B’) to festival friendly chanters like ‘Waving Flags’, have variously championed John Betjamen’s poetry, saving libraries, dark skies, the joys of cycling, and Cumbrian wrestling, and found time to produce a stunning soundtrack to the life-affirming 1930s silent film, Men of Arran.
And last night’s gig also featured dancing grizzly and polar bears..