My big gig year is over. I started recording my gig trail late on in a gig-filled 2019. So many different aspects make something the tops. The best come as a result of an all round good trip, the location, the company, the suitability and sound at the venue and the night out, the nostalgic value of catching up with an old favourite or a band seen regularly, even meeting some of them….or just a great performance.
This year I have seen 195 live performances, in full, at 66 gigs plus a total of 10 days at three festivals. I didn’t count part sets and a few songs from a support bands I was late in for. I saw several bands more than once including four Skids performances. 164 different bands/ artists.
This topped last year’s 55 gigs and one festival, with 2018 including an eight gigs in eight days in three cities – an epic adventure that Summer. I really cannot imagine I have ever, or will ever, get anywhere near the 2019 total again without becoming part of the entertainment industry.
I’ve been very fortunate to have so many opportunities presented on a plate by my mate and gig buddy Dave (DPi), who has outstripped my total by a mile, and I’ve been lucky enough to have an enthusiastic gig going partner, Sally, who also comprehends my more indulgent gig programme. There have been some lucky breaks in who we’ve bumped into through the year as well as a few special tickets. It has been a belter. One day we won’t be able to do it, or even want to…so rock on while the sun shines.
‘Fallers and Non-Runners’
Despite my dodgy ankle I only missed one gig – The Cult – through illness or injury. A few were touch and go with a crutch, some supportive pillars, timely seated tickets and a low wall saving the day. Only Shed Seven cancelled a gig, due to illness, but Sam Fender and Snow Patrol dropped out of Glastonbury, but I saw them anyway. We beat the train strikes and weren’t unintentionally late for anything. No disasters, although I did delete all my camera photos of Alice Cooper after that gig.
Golden rule has to be to make time for food before a gig night with alcohol. “Eating isn’t cheating!”.
10 Days of Festivals
The festivals were at four days of a hot and sunny Glastonbury, three days at a hot and sunny Victorious Festival in Southsea and three days of indoor performances at the Butlins Great British Alternative Music Festival in March. Three hugely enjoyable events and I even had to adjust the mortgage to accommodate the Glastonbury yurt experience. Some raised eyebrows on that but it’s done now. We were there and it was a glorious week (aside from a infected horse-fly bite that blossomed horribly and later needed urgent medical treatment. What the hell had that fly had been eating before me?
Being over ambitious at a festival, particularly Glastonbury, is a potential pitfall. After a long walk I failed to get anywhere near Frank Turner on the Strummerville stage and couldn’t accommodate The Damned there or The Good, The Bad and The Queen at another distant stage. Perhaps surprisingly I also regret missing a staggering performance by Miley Cyrus that I watched later on TV.
Picking the Best
It is quite hard, well near impossible, to make comparisons between the gigs, performances and festival days…….but of course I’m going to have a go. As I say it’s rarely just about the musical performance – it’s the whole experience.
Out of all these gigs there is not one which I regretted going to. There are a few odd support bands and local ones that I really would not bother with but it’s a handful and if I didn’t like them, well someone else might.
I recognise fully that I love a nostalgia trip so new bands, and new bands to me (the surprises) are treasured all the more – so I’ve done seperate lists to remind myself of the best local bands; other new bands; best surprises and a top ten overall gigs/ festival performances. (All photos taken by me, unless stated or I’m in it, mostly with my trusty pocket zoom.)
Saluting the Worst
I will start with the notable negative of 2019. The Westpoint Arena, Exeter is not a venue I will be returning to, certainly not in the Winter. The 1975 gig there was a bit of a horror show in my book. I had seen then two years previously and they really have lost it. Maybe not helped by an appalling venue – suited more to a car boot. It’s just a hanger. In freezing cold rain partially dressed youths were locked outside in a barren car park for ages. Confused staff played with their radios. I’d been ushered to a grassy car park on the outskirts of the site where I got stuck later.
No Rome, supporting, were, by some distance, the worst band I saw last year. Ghastly, but some of the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Then again I got to see Pale Waves, who for some reason had a much shorter support set…which lead me to seeing their brilliant Glastonbury performance in the John Peel Tent.
Top Local Bands
From around Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset five I’ve enjoyed most are, in no particular order:
- DD Allen
- Nina Garcia
- Offbeat Offensive
- The Alibi
My Top New-ish Band Gigs
Slow Readers Readers Club at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea.
The Spitfires at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea.
Sam Fender, supporting Neil Young and Bob Dylan at Hyde Park.
Pale Waves in The John Peel Tent at Glastonbury.
Tom Walker also in The John Peel Tent at Glastonbury.
My Top Six Surprises
Six bands that were new to me or I was surprised by just how good they were – best first.
Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg at The Fleece, Bristol with a brilliant set of Ramones’ classics at full speed in a good small venue.
Kiss at Birmingham Arena with pyrotechnics and rock antics galore.
James Bay at Victorious Festival, Common Stage with more of a rocky edge than most male solo singer songwriters of the moment.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre with so much crowd stirring energy to their old 80s classics.
Jimmy Eat World supporting Frank Turner at Bournemouth International Centre, bringing me a first chance to see these New Jersey pop-punksters indoors after years of album listening.
…and Spizzenergi at The 100 Club with a chance to see this niche post punk chameleon at a classic London venue.
My Top Ten Gigs 2019
He we go then….I’ve tried it and in reverse order my top ten gigs, for a wide variety of reasons are:
10. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, with Jimmy Eat World. Bournemouth International Centre. Frank was on form. Good set, good crowd and so good to see Jimmy Eat World supporting.
9. Skids and Big Country. Glen Pavilion, Dunfermline. A festive pilgrimage with a bunch of mates to the town that gave rise to these two bands.
8. The B52s. Nottingham Theatre. Last European tour and I was turned away at the doors of Hammersmith Palais last time I tried to see this unique band. Met them after.
7. Gary Numan. Bristol O2 Academy. Packed, devoted audience enjoyed a great set pulling from many albums.
6. Suede. Southampton Guildhall (O2 Academy). A brilliant, intense and energetic performance by Brett Anderson.
5. Psychedelic Furs with The Wendy James Band. London Roundhouse. Last night of the UK tour. Top venue. Having been to Wendy James’ soundcheck we were allowed in to the after show drinks where we met everyone.
4. Buzzcocks, Skids, Penetration at the Royal Albert Hall, which became the Pete Shelley memorial gig. Old Buzzcocks and guests including the Dave Vanian and The Captain. Best Skids performance I’ve seen in special circumstances and surroundings.
3. The Cure. Glastonbury Sunday headliners, wrapping up a great week in the sun. Top set.
2. Neil Young. Hyde Park. This was joint headlined gig with Bob Dylan. Bob was on last and this may have inspired Neil Young to this fabulous performance in the early evening sun. Sam Fender opened on the main stage as a bonus.
1. Saturday night at Glastonbury – The Killers and Liam Gallagher. Liam at the peak of his comeback with great new album and Oasis classics. The Killers returning to the top slot after their ‘secret’ gig on the John Peel stage in 2017 where I craned my neck to see very little from outside the tent. Seen them four times in recent years and this was the best – they can disappoint – joined on stage by Johnny Marr and The Pet Shop Boys. I wish I’d gone closer.
Johnny Marr joins the Killers at Glastonbury: https://youtu.be/VQnZTJny_b8
They were my 2019 gig highlights. Rocking on because you never know when the music will stop. Roll on 2020.
It was the end of the road for Barrie Masters in 2019 and not long after I was at the last stand for Eddie and the Hot Rods at Islington O2 Academy.
A full list of lives bands I was privileged to see in 2019 is below. Headliners in CAPITALS, festivals in italics, most notable **/*. In date order.
FRANK TURNER AND THE SLEEPING SOULS**
Jimmy Eat World*
PETER HOOK AND THE LIGHT *
Peter and the Test Tube Babies
Neville Staple Band
HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT
SLOW READERS CLUB*
EDDIE & THE HOD RODS*
LADY WINWOODS MAGGOT
MANIC STREET PREACHERS* Gwenno
NICK LOWE AND LOS STRAIGHTJACKETS
Nick Parker and the False Alarms
FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
Blonde E Lux (Duo)
MARKY RAMONE’S BLITZKRIEG**
Radical Dance Faction
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB
Ocean Colour Scene*
Tommy Scott (Space acoustic)
RICHARD JOBSON with Bruce and Jamie Watson*
Inner City Smugglers
SPEAR OF DESTINY*
SISTERS OF MERCY*
Tobias In Flight
Wendy James Band
Wendy James Band*
PRINCE DADDY AND THE HYENA
WISH WE WERE PINK FLOYD
ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK**
Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow
Dr and the Medics
THE WONDER STUFF*
Jim Bob (Carter USM)