Posted in Blog

Happy New Year! Happy New Gigging!

First post of the year!

Sincerest apologies for the lack of blogging.

Since the new year chimed in I’ve been incredibly poorly and trying really hard to get better, whilst battling seizures and juggling assignments and volunteering. Have I mentioned how much I hate winter? Like seriously, I feel like every winter I age another ten years. Earlier this week during my therapy session, we used dolls for play therapy and when I had to choose a doll that represent me, I picked the oldest lady in the bunch, because that’s how I feel!

So I will blog about Vienna soon, but firstly I want to talk about my first gig of the year, which was Ben Howard at the O2 Brixton Academy. Brixton Academy used to be one of my fave venues until last year when I went to see Feeder, since which it’s unfortunately been a venue that makes me incredibly anxious. However, one of my new year’s resolutions is to have “Big Dick Energy” LOL. It’s a term we use a lot on “Black Twitter” for having insane amounts of confidence and while walking around Vienna, I realised that I was no longer walking using long strides and had my head down a lot, probably projecting to passersby that I’m not only not very confident, but also a target for pushing around. In a city like London, you cannot show any weakness, especially when walking through the streets and Underground stations, otherwise you get picked off by the fittest.

So, since I’ve been back, I’ve been experimenting with my hypothesis and I think I’ve proven it true! People tend to not push you out of the way if you’re walking down the streets with long strides and a fixed stare facing your front.

Anyhoo, I digress; since the Feeder gig I’ve been too anxious to go to gigs on my own and have felt extremely vulnerable, exposed to the elements of victimisation. (In December I went to see Razorlight on my own and not only did I ensure to arrive late so that I wouldn’t have to stay long, I also stayed at the back to ensure that I was around as few people as possible.) However, having booked the ticket to see Ben Howard a while back, I’ve had ample time to prepare myself mentally and was very much able to protect myself. Going to a gig is very much like a battle: you must stand firm and protect your territory and people become almost fearful of disrupting you! For the first time in ages, I had people apologising for bumping into me, and asking permission to pass me by, basically treating me like a fucking human being. For the first time in ages, I also felt safe in a crowd again. Giving off “Big Dick Energy” I guess also gives off the impression that you belong in that space, just as much as everybody else.

The last time I saw Ben Howard was at Citadel Festival in 2015. I barely remember his performance to be honest, because by then I was absolutely wasted, but I do remember it being beautiful (he was headlining so it was night time) but being extremely annoyed by the people around me screaming out the lyrics to his “hits” and then talking loudly during the songs they didn’t know the words to. It just kinda ruined the atmosphere for me (I’m a snob get over it). His last album Noonday Dream is incredibly atmospheric, so I was glad to read that during his first night at Brixton, he played it in its entirety. Many critics and “fans” however took this as him snubbing his true fans who wanted to hear him sing his classics from his debut album. So, I Forget Where We Were came out almost five years ago, this is his current album tour, so is there not a clue somewhere that he might be promoting his latest album as opposed to first hits? In 2008, I went to see Radiohead in Victoria Park for their In Rainbows tour and was not disappointed that the majority of the set contained songs from that album! It wasn’t a greatest hits tour! I knew what I was getting myself into!

So many critics accused Ben Howard of refusing to play his hits and “getting too big for his boots, forgetting his roots and the people who put him there”. When did musicians become such public property?

Ben Howard review – serious music sabotaged by a charisma vacuum

I know that Ben Howard has struggled with his fame and growing up in the public eye, which has had negative effects to his mental health. The public tend to struggle with the concept that people do grow as artists, hence their art grows too; some people perceive artists as Peter Pans who never age and I’m sure that this has a lot to do with our connections to certain songs, for instance Ben Howard’s “Keep Your Head Up” played a significant part in my mental health journey while I was still living at home when I was 27. However, just like musicians, I’ve grown too; I’m not the same person I was when that song came out and I love when artists grow with you. It almost feels like they continue to be a part of your life because you’re both changing and moving forwards, sometimes in similar directions both mentally and psychologically.

Many people online also commented that although he’s very much a studio performer, he should alter his performance to accommodate for bigger venues by interacting with the crowd more. However, interacting with the crowd is asking him to change his personality and why should he be forced to do that just because he’s famous? Secondly, to me he’s a poet who also sings (in fact, he took a break from music to focus on poetry and came back with the STUNNING Noonday Dream), so I would expect his performance to focus on lyrics as opposed to stage presence.

Finally, he did adapt his performance for a bigger venue by having two drummers and an orchestra for sound, and lighting and imagery for production! And even if he did apparently did “take 40 minutes to say hello to the crowd” (he didn’t), at least he didn’t call us a bunch of c*nts like he apparently did a few years ago!

Taken just before the encore

For me, last night’s gig was beautiful: Atmospheric, mesmerising, heartwrenching – everything I needed and expected the gig to be.

Taken during the encore – in fact, the gig was so beautiful, this was the only picture I took the entire night!

It’s just a shame that so many others failed to appreciate that. There was A LOT of talking within the crowd – which I always find incredibly rude anyway (who the fuck comes to a gig to talk?? That’s what bars and social media is for!) but it was clear from the talking on and off social media that people found the set boring.

I, on the other hand, did not.

Posted in Blog

Razorlight Gig: Reliving My Youth

Last Friday I went to see Razorlight at the O2 Kentish Town Forum.

I actually bought the ticket while drunk in an Uber months ago (lol) and when I saw it coming up in the calendar, I was like hmmmm this might have been a mistake…

This year has been a big year of musical reminiscence. There are many bands I’ve loved since my adolescence but could never afford to see them live at their peak. That and also my mother wasn’t big on my music tastes (she thought that rock music was devil music and hip hop was violently demonic).

Since turning 30, I guess I’ve been on a journey of rebellion which has included finally seeing the bands/artists I craved to see as a teenager! Now two years later, I have five tattoos, three piercings (excluding my ears) and quite a few ticket stubs stuck to my wardrobe door (that’s where I keep them as my memory box is too chockablock).

Razorlight were a huge part of my early adulthood. Being from London and moving away for university I was constantly homesick – not for my family but for my city. I loved London but I felt like I had to leave to escape the clutches of my home. Many of Razorlight’s songs tell stories about the city which really spoke to me. I didn’t even care that the lead singer Johnny Borrell was a bit of a douchebag (Andy Burrows, one of the original band members actually came to my uni to do a DJ set, got really drunk and bitched to me and one of my friends about how awful being in a band with Johnny was LOL. He left the band quite soon afterwards).

So on Friday, I dragged myself to the gig after downing a coffee and got caught up in the memories of my long distant youth.

The greatest thing about it was that although I hadn’t listened to them in god knows how long, I still remembered quite a lot of the lyrics to their songs! My epilepsy affects my memory and this is something that has been pretty heartbreaking for me; I’ve always loved singing and I used to pore over the lyrics of my favourite songs, committing them to memory (I used to buy Smash Hits for the lyrics cards). But since starting medication almost five years ago, I’ve been struggling to remember a lot of the lyrics I could once sing in my sleep.

Going on my own also was a huge step for me, as my anxiety has been preventing me from doing that. But one of the best parts of a gig is the vibe from the audience, as you’ll see in this video!

So, last gig of the year was a huuuuuuuuge success and I’m looking forward to loads more live events next year!

Posted in Blog

Racial Segregation @Gigs

Tonight I went to see Sunflower Bean with my girlfriend at KOKO at Camden. I was apprehensive about it however, it turned out to be a pretty good gig!

Why the apprehension you ask? Because I’m a Black woman in a room full of white people, unprotected. The last gig I went to was to see Feeder at the O2 Brixton Academy, where I was attacked in the crowd and I definitely feel like it was racially provoked: I was in the mosh pit, the white people didn’t like seeing me there and attacked me. I’ve been in mosh pits before, most recently at a Wolf Alice gig at Alexandra Palace and I was fine. In fact, I had the time of my life. It always depends on the vibe of the crowd and this Feeder crowd was definitely aggressive. I ended up leaving the gig early, because I was too upset to stay and I was so anxious about being around white crowds I missed the next gig I was supposed to go to the following week.

Sometimes I wonder if there is an unwritten rule that as a Black woman, I’m supposed to be at the back at gigs, and then I’m safe. At Wolf Alice I was in the middle, so perhaps I was pushing my luck, but tonight I was at the back so everybody left me alone. In fact this was my view at one point:

Is that fair, just because of the colour of my skin? Even though I’ve paid the same amount as everybody else? And I noticed that the other Black people in the crowd were in the same position as me.

Is there an unwritten segregation law for gigs? I’m trying to think back to the gigs I went to when I was younger with my Indian friend and come to think of it, even then we were hassled quite aggressively because we were always at the front – at the time, we just joked that it was the white girls getting their knickers in a twist, because they wanted to be closer to the lead singer and we were in their path to daydreams of losing their virginities… but now I wonder if it was all racially motivated?

Sometimes I go to gigs and the only people of colour are the staff in the cloakroom, on security and on the bar, but just me in the crowd. Would you believe me if I said that it never even occurred to me until I became aware of my own Blackness?

But even as my culture changes and henceforth my taste in music, old influences still hold ties upon my heartstrings, even if they don’t give a shit about racism and Black lives.

Furthermore, racial microaggressions as well as racist aggressive culture itself, has only become more open and explicit in Britain over the years. Brexit was like a red flag for these racists; public spaces are no longer safe and a simple “please leave me alone” will now no longer suffice. The Feeder gig was proof of that.

I tagged Feeder in some tweets on a very active Twitter account, about what happened to me at their gig and they didn’t even respond. Rest assured, that relationship is over. And as much as I love live music, I’m starting to become weary about where I’m spending my Black pounds.