I've had an unusually busy weekend, gigwise. Well,..ahem.. two. Busy for me.. Neither of them I would have normally chosen to go to 'but life is for new experiences', unless someone suggests you go skydiving.
My sister is one of P.J. Harvey's most adoring fans. She nearly named her daughter Polly Jean, which tells you how far the obsession runs. I've never really had much time for her, I thought her a slightly scary skinny SHOUTY woman with a big guitar. P.J Harvey's not much better either. Aha ha...
Anyway, sister asked me to go along with her to The Ritz in Manchester to watch Harvey perform songs from the new album she's recorded with John Parish. Always game for a gig I went along.
When she arrived on stage, She was not at all what I expected. She's appeared slightly music teacher-ish, rather than full on rock chick. The show itself was more bluesy/folksy and I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst none of the songs really grabbed me on first hearing, P.J has that huge voice, and her occasionally terrifying possessed-like in-character performances were massively engaging. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes upbeat, sometimes surreal. In between songs She was just as attractive, almost demure and sweet, making appreciative comments about the crowd, in that soft West-country accent. Anyway, to cut along story short, she felt the same way about me and we've decided to run away together. I'm kidding of course (or am I ?), but I will be looking into getting hold of the two albums She's made with Parish. When I got home I decided to look into the the other rockier P. J. and came across the below clip, which further impressed me. A slightly scary skinny SHOUTY woman with a big guitar, holding a massive crowd in her sway with no band just the sheer force of stage presence. Superb.
My mate Geoff (the security guard, from Newport, Gwent, not Shropshire) popped up out of the blue a couple of months back and firmly suggested that I attend a concert by Brighton-based band Brakes. Geoff's not got much nouse about what goes on in the real world, but he does know his bands. So I hopped online and grabbed some tickets to The Little Civic in Wolves ,which is basically the upstairs of a pub, not much bigger than my front room.
I ummed and aaahed about going as I approached early Saturday evening. I was still a little stiff from P.J. (wha-hey!) but mainly because my usual gig-going companions had suddenly become unavailable, due to urgent commitments elsewhere. Nothing to do with not wanting to sacrifice their Saturday nights for a band they'd never heard of! I couldn't ask my long-suffering spouse either, as her sister was kindly paying a visit from Yorkshire (Argh!).
In the end my miserly side clicked in. I couldn't stand to waste TWO tickets. Not at eight quid each. Going to gigs on your own is a slightly odd experience. You feel. altered self conscious, but can be good for a spot of people watching. One woman was regaling each of her friends with amazing scientific facts about cats being able to cure themselves of diabetes. Well if the gig was going to be rubbish, I'd at least learned a little about cat blood sugar.
Brakes turned out to be awesome live. Funny and good-humoured between songs, whilst really hugely original rocking during the actual playing of them. Geoff had been kind enough to said me their CD's, So I was slightly familiar with some of their material. If I'm honest they hadn't really grabbed me massively on record, but live they were simply stunning.
Some songs only last a few seconds, and they'll play them twice if you ask nicely. But make no mistake they're no novelty act, and I could quite easily imagine them capturing the hearts of huge festival crowds, as easily they did the few people in the Little Civic. So good were they, I'm considering the journey to Nottingham on Wednesday to see them again. If you're anywhere near where they're playing you, go and have a look. You won't be disappointed.
Here's a (by no means typical) song by them.
And here they are live..