The wind comes from the north, the sky is black with clouds and there is much wind and pouring rain…
but it does not last – the clouds blow over and there is fine weather once more.

Mourning chant from the island of Mabuiag

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Travesia [Gerardo Nunez]

Flamenco fever continued on Monday with Gerardo Nunez.  Learning from Thursdays trials we stuck to one beer before the performance.  We were seated further back up in the gods for this performance but more central.  We picked this show for a more guitar led showcase of Flamenco and indeed Gerardo Nunez was accompanied by his percussionist (I don’t know what else to call him, he sat on a box and tapped it, but it sounded like a rattlesnake languidly swinging it’s tail to the beat), another guitarist, two singers and Carmen Cortes, a gypsy flamenco dancer.  She sat on the end and clapped before seemingly being taken over by the music and slipping to the floor where she performed the most sensual, beautiful flamenco I have seen at the festival.  I could not take my eyes of her, at once serious but playful.  The show showcased Gerardo’s virtuoso guitar playing along with traditional singing and Carmen’s dancing.  At one point the two singers and percussionist sat at a tall table and tapped while singing.  they sang acapella, the box was banged on it’s own, the guitars played solo and time flew by in a whirl of claps, stomps and swishing skirts.
At the end Carmen peformed a solo dance and they all stood around, the percussionist sang, the singers stamped their feet, Gerardo lent out his guitar to kick out his feet before they all accompanied the swinging Carmen off the stage.
I loved it all, the guitar sang with raw emotion and Carmen Cortes was one of the best Flamenco dancers I have seen, injecting a playfulness that I had not really come across before and the fun end of the show for me kept the raw emotion of Flamenco, and put a smile on it’s face, Bring on next year 🙂

Gold on the Ceiling [The Black Keys live at the Ally Pally]

OK so I’m so far behind that I could be making everything up, so bad is my memory but you know, I blog therefore I have to post, it’s kind of the point..

Friday the 10th was my mate’s birthday, I find this out after I have already invited him to the Black Keys gig, so I then tell him the gig is my treat.  We arrange to meet at the Ally Pally.

It’s my first gig at the Ally Pally, I check out the website, I look at the directions, I look at them again. I see the words ‘bus’.  Whats this all about? A bus? to a gig in London?  I check the route, is the Ally Pally even in London?  I’m not sure it is, since I’ve been there and come back, I’m convinced it’s in deepest Hertfordshire.

Anyhoo, I get the tube, I get out the station, catch the shuttle bus, a double-decker sardine tin on wheels and arrive at the venue, it’s dark, it is so cold I feel like I have icicles hanging from my balls.  I’m standing outside waiting for my mate.  He calls me, I can’t hear anything down the end of the line except for car horns, which, I can also hear out of my other ear…ok, he’s nearby.  Half an hour later and I feel I could now be made an honorary Inuit, he runs up the path and we scrabble into the warmth of the Ally Pally.  But what’s this? It’s a massive hall, leading to another massive hall that’s filled with people, with bars, with food stands, but with a massive lack of a stage.  At the back is a sign, to the Main Hall.  We head there walk into another massive hall, that looks like it’s been decorated using a Dulux colour chart for vomit.  One one side is a stage, on the other side was a big curtain hiding a bar.  We head there first and then back into the main area.  We wind our way down the side till we hit a solid mass of bodies.  The gig can now begin.

The Keys come out, so do two other guys…who are they?  The last time I saw the keys I think was either for Magic Potion, or Rubber Factory, it was the two of them, why are there now two more people on stage?  Ah well roll with it…they kick off with tunes from El Camino, one of the guys in front of us does his best impression of the Tasmanian devil on acid, spinning and bouncing off everyone within a 6ft radius.  But that’s ok we can move back out of the way…oh no, the hipsters behind us have all put their bags on the floor a la studio 54 during disco’s heyday and are now moaning at everyone who is stepping on them..get over it.  The band are great, Dan’s voice scraping over the raw guitar and Patrick’s frenetic drumming.  In comes a slow intro to Girl is on my Mind, a seemingly low number of the crowd pick up and react, must be a lot of new fans.  They also play Thickfreakness amongst others, Gold on the Ceiling gets a play (my favourite tune on the new album), to a raucous sing along…but clapping, that’s a no go, these people are too cool for clapping, or they are holding their cigarettes.  Apparently the indoor smoking law was lifted for all the cool kids at the Ally Pally that night, at least for a good dozen people near us.  It was about then that I realised how utterly selfish people are now, how everything is about how much they enjoy themselves and fuck everyone else, you can get on with it…but that’s a rant for another post.

The last song of the set was Lonely Boy, The Tasmanian devil went into spin overdrive, but I was jumping anyway, singing at the top of my voice.  The took their bows and left the stage, people started to leave, possibly because of the trek they faced getting back into London.  The band came back out, including the two hangers on.  First song of the encore was Everlasting Light (from Brothers).  Dan’s falsetto singing riding over the slow boogie while a glitterball spun behind him, spraying the room with a confetti of light.

At the end I was underwhelmed, not with the band, although I did prefer the earlier gigs I had been too, but with everything else, the venue, the crowd took away my enjoyment, hence the post that barely mentions the gig, but that makes me sound like my dad.  My mate gave me a lift back to the tube, which saved me piling into the shuttle bus, thankfully I don’t have to go back to the Ally Pally until, er, April, when I’m seeing Bombay Bicycle Club, I’m not even sure if they’re old enough to get in..

Suspiro Flamenco [Manuela Carrasco Company]

I don’t know how, or why, but as soon as I hear the exotic strum of the guitars, the rhythmic clapping and stamping on the floor of blurred feet, I am  to Sacromonte hill in Granada, the main reason I don’t know how, is that I’ve never actually been there.  I’ve seen it, looking out from the Alhambra, but a big red line drawn on my map by the lady in the tourist office, “Do not go here, gypsies…very dangerous” was enough to put me off.
“oh really?”, said my friend on Thursday night “It’s a tourist area now”.  Maybe I should go back.  Or maybe I shouldn’t, as it may not match what I conjure in my mind every when the Flamenco Festival at Sadlers Wells swirls round every year.
I always try to go for the more traditional shows, the women with the long dresses, the guitars, that somehow conjured up moorish images in my mind, and the singing, which always makes me laugh, cringe and then mesmerises me within the first few seconds.

Manuela Carrasco and her company were the choice for the first show, not the first choice to be honest, I had a Black Keys gig on the Friday night so this was the next best.  Sat way up in the Gods (thats the 2nd circle), on one side was a woman who spread her coat all over the chair in front and took up half my leg space, and on the other side was two women who barely stopped talking.  Manuela was on stage at the start, surrounded by two guitarists and a percussionist/drummer on one side, and 3 singers on the other.  The first song was as beautiful as I expected, the dancing as spellbinding as I hoped, her dress falling and swishing, her feet blurring while behind hands were clapped as the singers verbally jostled each other to the strummed guitars.  Manuela was replaced by three guys stamping, kicking and prancing through before instrumentals and individual dancing took us to the climax.  The main singer stood out on his own, and literally pulled his heart through is mouth as Manuela at once rebuffed and returned to him in a blur of stamps and turns.  At least thats what it sounds like, my Spanish is so poor he could have been screaming out his shopping list so he didn’t forget, but it would have been the most emotional shopping list recital. Ever.  But it was beautiful, everyone came out and suddenly an hour and a half had gone, thankfully, as I had learnt that two beers before going into a show with no break is going to test your bladder.  Still I cheered and clapped for the endless rounds of bowing and appreciation, rightly deserved, for another spellbinding show.

Next up is Gerardo Núñez with guest Carmen Cortés on Monday, just the one beer before that one.

Sadlers Wells Flamenco festival site is here

Old Soul [Ben Watt]

How long you been around girl?
Longer than your years?
Looking through your eyes of an old soul
same shit same fears
Must have kinda been hard for one so young and tender
Walking out onto the lawn, a young pretender

Im 30 plus years old and looking on you like a saint
Some kind of gift that could be all the things I am and ain’t
I watch you cut your swathe like a blade through harvest wheat
With eyes that burn and melt with intensity and heat

Who gave you what you are
These visions, these demands
This hardness and bluntness
This hunger in your arms
I watch you running headlong into this autumn wind
Until your face is flushed and your knees are skin
Scattering the magpies and crows from their frost
Your footprints like a path to something lost
I’m turning and wave back and the sunlight from behind
It’s like a halo, mesmerising, undefined

Bow to the saint amongst us on the frost encrusted lawn
Rain spattering in the gust of the leaf storm
And while I drop my head in a strange kind of respect
I feel my driven heart pump and connect
Even now with muscle raw and unprepared
For all this transparancy, this old soul we share
The wet leaves lift into the gathering trees
Come in now girl, or you’ll freeze