BONUS POST : 48 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE

I’ve been the very lucky recipient of a load of guest contributions in recent days and in normal circumstances it would take a few weeks to get round to featuring them, especially as I’ve been busy with a few musings of my own that are scheduled to appear.  The solution is some unpaid T(n)VV overtime with a week of bonus postings to help keep things moving.  I hope you don’t mind.

And I hope you don’t mind that I’m kicking things off with one of my own.  One that is ridiculously fresh as it’s detailing events that have just happened.

Thursday 30 August

A few months ago, I wrote about a Jen Lekman gig in Glasgow that had to end after about half the anticipated set due to the illness of the Swedish singer-songwriter.  I mentioned that a plan was in place to get to see him again later in the year…well, Thursday 30 August was the date for that.

The gig was taking place in Hebden Bridge, a town some 220 miles south of Glasgow, located close to the Yorkshire/Lancashire border and fairly equidistant between Leeds and Manchester.  It’s home to Hebden Trades Club, a venue with an amazing history, originally built-in 1923 as a joint enterprise by local trade unions and brought back to life in 1982 as a socialist members club and music venue. It has attracted a great range of acts over the years, many of whom wouldn’t normally stop in a town with 4,500 inhabitants and a venue that accommodates not much more than 200 folk.  It’s a venue that’s long been on my bucket list, and that of Aldo, and so we set off by train early in the morning for what we were sure was going to be an adventure.

Hebden Bridge is quite something else.  We arrived on a gloriously sunny late summer’s day and were immediately struck by how laid-back and bohemian it all seemed to be.  The local tourist website, for once, isn’t guilty of hyperbole:-

Hebden Bridge has been voted as “the greatest town in Europe” by The Academy of Urbanism, is officially the best small market town in the UK (winner of the best Small Market Town and People’s Choice categories in the 2016 Great British High Street Awards) and was described in British Airway’s ‘High Life’ magazine as “one of the world’s funkiest towns” .

Hebden Bridge’s people have been instrumental in creating and maintaining the town’s character. Possessing a strong community spirit, the town is renowned for its creative culture, with a fascinating history and a mission for sustainability. Unique double decker “over and under dwellings” hang on the leafy green hillsides above the town. Houses were built in terraces with 4 to 5 storeys because space was limited by the steep valleys and lack of flat land. The upper storeys face uphill while the lower ones face downhill, with their back wall against the hillside, each with separate entrances.

Hebden Bridge’s 18th century core and Victorian streets spread from the 16th century packhorse bridge over the Hebden Water that gives the town its name. The wavy steps, leading to Hebden Water alongside the bridge are a great place to stop and feed the ducks! Stroll along the Rochdale Canal, linking the Railway Station to Calder Holmes Park, the town centre, Little Theatre and Alternative Technology Centre. Try one of the Walkers are Welcome routes up to the National Trust Hardcastle Crags, and the sustainable Gibson Mill. Sample the vast array of great independent shops or the pavement cafes, a result of the award winning pedestrianisation scheme.

There’s also this on-line article by the BBC dating back to 2012 which reflects on why Hebden Bridge has become known as the lesbian capital of the UK.

The fact I’m typing so many words before even getting onto the gig itself will hopefully give you an indication that this is a place that is well worth a visit and look round… we didn’t mange too much walking as we were busy enjoying the pubs and saving our energy for the evening, but we vowed we would return.

Jens Lekman was in magnificent form, no doubt encouraged by a wonderfully appreciative and respectful audience.  Nobody chatted loudly to their mates while the band were on stage and the bar staff didn’t clatter about making noises with glasses, bottles and ice. It was an energetic, happy and classy performance lasting a shade under 90 minutes with the material split between his latest LP, Life Will See You, (released earlier this year) and his other EPs and albums all that way back to the earliest recordings in 2003. He really did cut the mustard. (and he was more than happy at the end of the night to chat to two very happy Scots)

One final comment about the venue.  It genuinely is a co-op; I had a chat with the ‘promoter’ on the night (i.e. someone from the committee whose turn it was to be in charge of the door) who said that the venue doesn’t look to make money on the gigs but enjoys the increased takings via the bar and that the idea is to make it a unique and memorable experience for the musicians and audience alike.  There’s no sign of any heavy-handed stewards – again it’s all the club members who look after things – and at the end of the night there’s no great rush to get everyone out of the door. It was just all so perfectly civilised.  Can’t wait to go back.

Friday 1 September

Worth mentioning that Hebden Bridge has a few really decent real-ale pubs; not that I’m bothered as I’m a spirits/wine sort of fella, but Aldo did imbibe both pre and post-gig.  And paid the price the next morning as we had to get away earlier than expected due to a train strike that left a drastically reduced service. We had to take our leave at 10am and make our way to Manchester where a couple of items were in the pipeline.

I have to give my travelling companion full credit.  He had an appalling hangover, the sort that would have had me flat-out for the day.  But after his miracle cure of an 11am pint of cold and cheap cider, he was raring to go once again!

First item of the day, after the bonus of an unexpected early check-in at the hotel, was a visit to Manchester Art Gallery to enjoy True Faith, the temporary exhibition devoted to Joy Division and New Order.  Sadly, the exhibition closes the day this posting appears, as it’s one that comes highly recommended.  OK…there’s some conceptual stuff that went a bit over my head but the chance to look at some images, posters and artefacts from back in the day, as well as enjoy watching and listening to live footage and old promo videos, was a huge treat.

It was also great to be able to visit the more permanent parts of the gallery and take in some terrific works of art, including the unrivalled collection of works by LS Lowry.  The two hours inside the gallery seemed to fly in.

Believe it or not, things got even better as we were joined just after 2.30pm by none other than Swiss Adam, doyen of Manchester and the font of all knowledge about its taverns and ale houses, particularly those that are not situated on the main drags.  For eight hours we traipsed across the city, veering in all directions, all the while maintaining a running dialogue about music, football, politics, family life, work, Manchester, Glasgow, blogging, bloggers and sundry other items.  It was really just a continuation of the weekend we had enjoyed earlier this year in the company of Dirk, Walter, Brian, Drew, CC and the rest.  The gig and exhibition had been memorable, but the crawl around Manchester in the company of someone who is so passionate about his city and its people, took it a whole new level.

It was all over and done with by around 10.30, partly as we had just about hit our limits – Aldo was keeping track and there were 14 stops along the way.  And besides, I had stuff to do the following day that necessitated an early start.

I haven’t got round to mentioning that I have a new voluntary job on Saturdays and the occasional Tuesday evening. It was this new job that saw us have to leave the hotel before 8am to get ourselves back up to Scotland, so thanks Aldo for being so understanding when a long lie-in was what you most wanted/needed.

It’s a bit a of a dream job. And one I’ll get round to writing about at some point in the future.  It’s one in which I assist with things most days but occasionally have to do the whole thing myself…and Saturday 2 September was one of those solo days.

I’m the match-day announcer at Stark’s Park, Kirkcaldy, home of the mighty Raith Rovers FC.  Let’s just say, it’s been a while since the crowd were treated to a mix of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, R.E.M., Go-Betweens, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Echo & The Bunnymen and The Smiths in the run-up to kick-off (although it’s likely to be a one-off as the club often encourage fans to make requests in the week leading up to a match).

In the meantime, these are, respectively, for Aldo and Adam:-

mp3 : Jens Lekman – To Know Your Mission
mp3 : New Order – Ecstacy

JC

BONUS POST : DID THEY CUT THE MUSTARD IN 2017? : #3 : JENS LEKMAN

Gig #3 of 2017 was one that I was hugely anticipating for the simple fact that three previous efforts to catch Jens Lekman in Glasgow had ended in failure – at least twice as he’d played when I was away on holiday while the other time the show was sold out by the time I went to sort out tickets and I couldn’t be bothered trying on the night.

For those of you who don’t know, he’s a singer-songwriter from Sweden whose fourth LP, Life Will See You Now was released some six weeks ago.  He’s a fairly unique talent although in his own self-deprecating way he describes himself as a wedding-singer; but his body of work, which also consists of a number of EPs released in his native land before landing a worldwide deal with the American label Secret Canadian in 2004, has won him a decent sized following attracted by his ability to mix and match a wide range of styles and influences – I’ve seen comparisons to acts as diverse as Scott Walker, Jonathan Richman, David Byrne, Edwyn Collins, Belle & Sebastian, The Magnetic Field and Wham! (yes Wham!….and to be fair the boy does write some cheesy, danceable pop tunes alongside some achingly beautiful ballads).

Anyways….judging by reviews he had been wowing fans in North America this past few weeks and he was coming into this part of the world for gigs in Dublin, Leeds, Manchester and Glasgow before an extensive tour of Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, France and Switzerland throughout April. But somewhere along the way he has picked up a virus that led to a curtailed show in Leeds and the cancellation of Manchester the night before Glasgow. I really feared I was going to miss out again…

The venue is St Luke’s, a fairly recently converted old church in the east end of the city just a few hundred yards from the iconic Barrowlands where an all-day ultra hard rock festival with nine bands on one stage (not all at the same time!!) was taking place. Twee v Death Metal on a Saturday night in Glasgow. You can’t beat it.

I was there with Aldo and we arrived in time to see support act The Dove & The Wolf, two females on guitar who delivered what proved to be an entire set of melancholy and sad sounding songs based on vocal harmonies. They did talk in between songs and, judging by their accents, we were trying to work out which part of America they were from. And then, as if reading our minds, they asked the audience to shout out the name of their home city with the promise of a free CD to the first correct answer.

Nobody guessed they were from Paris….and NOT Paris, Texas…albeit they spend much of their time in Philadelphia which perhaps explains the American twang to their spoken English.

Their guitar work was reminiscent at times of early 80s Cocteau Twins and they provided a genuinely moving aspect to the night when they introduced one of their songs that had been written as their response to the tragedy at the Bataclan in September 2015.

Jens Lekman and his all-female backing band took to the stage at 9pm. He looked a ghastly shade of white and he immediately sat down on a chair in the middle of the stage announcing that he was determined to play but it would need to be, on doctor’s orders, a shortened set with certain songs omitted as he was incapable of hitting any high notes.

I had a real sinking feeling, thinking it would be four or five songs and goodnight…just enough to prevent anyone asking for a refund of the £16 ticket (plus booking fee & postage!). As it turned out, he played for around 50 minutes, told a couple of funny anecdotes and while he was seated throughout, his band played with real gusto and energy as if determined to take everyone’s mind off things. The set was split roughly 50/50 between songs off new LP and some old favourites, some of which were specially re-arranged. There was also a wonderful one-song encore in which The Dove and The Wolf added their fine voices.

So did Jens cut the mustard? The honest answer is yes. Of course I’d have preferred to see him in peak health and delivering the full show but the truncated version was splendid in its own right with enough magical moments ti make it memorable. He’s coming back to the UK later in the year and myself and Aldo are seriously contemplating heading south to take one of them in.

I’ve every intention of a Jens Lekman ICA in the reasonably near future, but for now I’ll leave you with one of the upbeat numbers from the new LP – one that meshes a clever and witty lyric with the best 70s disco sounds such as McFadden & Whitehead or Earth, Wind & Fire and one of the old classics that was aired last night that on its own would have the gig worth attending.

 

JC