Thursday, 22 January 2015

Happy New Year!

That’s right, it’s January, which means two inevitable things; plenty of shit weather, and New Year’s resolutions that are predestined to fall by the wayside before the month is out. However on a more positive note, it is also the month in which I will finally turn thirty, so for once January seems like an ideal time for new beginnings to me. My twenties have been interesting to say the least – the highs have been high and the lows have been low – but it's true that you have to experience darkness if you want to see the stars.

I lost my creative mojo at the end of last year. Life was a little hectic/stressful, winter weather and short days make me incredibly lethargic and, as a result, writing fell by the wayside, particularly this blog. I knew things were getting bad when I failed to write about any of the gigs that I went to in November or December. It seems a pity to let them slide into obscurity, as they were definitely some of my highlights in recent months, so here’s a little summary...

Bayside at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton – Sunday 16 November

This was Bayside’s first headlining gig in the UK for a long time and, as I’ve said before, I love seeing my favourite bands play tiny venues. The unnervingly named Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar is certainly one of those places where you are right in the middle of action; cosy in winter but no doubt unbearably hot in summer.

I never have anything bad to say about Bayside and as usual they lived up to expectations. They sounded great and gave us 16 songs of pure joy, starting with Boy and The Walking Wounded and working their way through to Stuttering (from their latest album Cult) and The Ghost of St Valentine, a personal favourite.

I’ve seen Bayside many times before, but the standout moment for me came after the show. Being such a low-key affair, bassist Nick and guitarist Jack were selling merchandise at the bar. It was an opportunity not to be missed and, having drunk just the right amount of beer, I decided to stroll on over and proclaim my undying love for the band. They were very sweet, happy to take photos and gracious enough not to make me feel like the idiot fan that I am! I honestly didn't think I could love Bayside any more....
You can watch the video for Pigsty from Cult here.

Trapt at Borderline – Tuesday 18 November

This was a moment that I had been anticipating for more years than I care to remember. To say I was excited when Trapt finally announced a London show would be a serious understatement, and to finally see them at a place like Borderline was a bonus. It’s another venue that is small enough to have the perfect atmosphere and conveniently located in Soho.

Pre-gig dinner was consumed at Kua ‘Aina (worth a mention as I have to love a Hawaiian burger joint that serves Kona Big Wave beer and has options in the menu that can easily be adapted for vegans). We then arrived at Borderline and something to note if you are going to a show here, once you have gone in you can’t leave and come back! We had time to kill so we headed to the back of the venue and found a spot by the bar to drink some beers and pass the time, before heading forwards just before Trapt arrived on stage.

They didn’t play the longest setlist in the world but it as a good one and the energy on stage and in the crowd was fantastic. From the opening chords of Bring It right through to Headstrong and an encore of Stand Up and Still Frame, the momentum never slowed – except perhaps for Black Rose which was a nicely timed change of pace before the more recent Love Hate Relationship.

I think like me, many people had been waiting a very long time for Trapt to come to London. It's been just over 12 years since their self-titled album found them a loyal following and if you live in the UK, chances are you might never have seen them live before. Was it worth the wait? Hell yes. And hopefully next time they won't leave it so long before returning.

Gaslight Anthem at Alexander Palace – Wednesday 18 November 

Sadly this night began with an epic failure. Transport issues, bad judgement and the fact that the venue is on top of a great big bloody hill meant that we missed the support act. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but the first band on stage was Bayside.

In our defence their stage time was ridiculously early, in fact so early that it warranted a tweet or two from the band, who were clearly aware that most people would miss them if they didn’t spread the word! Luckily Bayside's Brighton show, just days before, was so good that missing them didn’t upset us as much as it could have, and at least we were in time for Gaslight Anthem.

I’m not the biggest fan of Alexander Palace as a venue, it’s too big and lacking in atmosphere (although the selection of food and beer is pretty darn impressive). The last time I was there was to see the legendary Alice Cooper and the fact that he puts on such an impressive stage show kind of distracts you from the venue’s lack of personality. Now Gaslight Anthem may not have incorporated live animals or pyrotechnics into their show, but they are just so bloody good that they made me forget where I was.

I’ve reviewed their shows several times before, so if you want to read more then click here, but I do want to mention my highlight – a moment that truly made up for the fact we had missed Bayside. Brian Fallon brought out Bayside’s Anthony Raneri to sing Great Expectations with him. It was one of those beautiful moments that send shivers down your spine and makes all the hassle of getting to certain shows seem worth it.

Taking Back Sunday at The Roundhouse – Tuesday 9 December

©Michael Dubin

The Roundhouse isn’t my favourite venue either, but whether Taking Back Sunday are playing here or in a field in the Welsh countryside, they are never anything short of brilliant. This was my third time seeing them in 2014 alone so I won’t bore you with the details (you can find more TBS ramblings here), but as always they put together a setlist that left me smiling and singing my heart out.

Seriously, this band know what they are doing. They always manage to integrate new material into their setlist flawlessly, playing new songs like Beat Up Car, Stood A Chance and Better Homes and Gardens alongside classics like Liar, Timberwolves at New Jersey and My Blue Heaven. Predictably they closed with Cute Without the 'E' and Make Damn Sure, and you know what? I'm happy they did! Another flawless performance from a consistently brilliant band.

Random moment of the night would probably be when I decided to purchase a bottle of Prosecco at the bar (I’d consumed a lot of beer and mulled wine and it’s not often that Prosecco is an option at a gig so I thought, why not?!), without considering that we wouldn’t be allowed the glass bottle and therefore my friend and I had to consume our halves out of plastic pint glasses! Not the smartest plan or the classiest behaviour in the world but amusing nevertheless.

Danny Elfman at The Royal Albert Hall – Friday 12 December

My last event to wrap up a busy few weeks came courtesy of my beautiful sister and brother-in-law, who bought us tickets to see Danny Elfman's music from Tim Burton films being performed at The Royal Albert Hall. We had a fantastic seat in a box with just two other people and it was a truly memorable night.

The orchestra were fantastic, as were the choir, and while they performed music from Burton's classics (including Edward Scissor Hands, Batman, Beetle Juice and Sleepy Hollow), clips from the films were shown on a screen above.

At the end of the evening Danny Elfman himself arrived on stage to perform a selection of songs from my favourite, The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was another of those magical moments that you know will stay with you forever.

And that just about wraps up my brief rundown of gigs from the end of last year. Hopefully I have got my writing mojo back as I have one or two shows on the horizon already. But first up was a different event – I went to see my beloved New York Knicks playing at the O2 last week. Despite the fact they are having a difficult season (and lost yet another game), I was still very excited to show some support, drink some beers and get another glimpse of the legend that is Pablo Prigioni.

Until next time, I hope you are having a very happy New Year.


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