A.J. Walker

writerer

Sofar

On Wednesday I went to my first Sofar gig in Liverpool. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them, that's not the name of a band, but the name of the events. It is a nice idea which has spread world wide and includes a few cities in the UK. The ethos is to go and have a nice time and actually listen to the music and not chat all the way through it about what’s been on the TV or the latest football: watch and listen to the band. And talk and get your drinks in between the sets, rather than disturbing the gig for those around you. Boss.

You pay your £10 for a ticket, and then the day before you get an email telling you where it will be. In this case the event was held in a place I hadn’t been before called ‘
Slate’ which is within Tapestry – a large building up behind TJ Hughes. There’s apparently always a bar onsite (unless they tell you otherwise) so it’s not a BYOB gig.

Met someone I knew who likes live music – and it turns out helps out with the event – and then went up the stairs to Slate, which turned out to be a nice space for some music – with a small bar at one end of the room and the area for the bands marked out with some simple lighting, and the instruments and amplification all laid out at the opposite end.

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The three Sofar acts - Liverpool 22.09.21

There were three acts who played, who I hadn’t seen before. Namely,
Christie a local singer songwriter and Ahmed Khwata a songwriter from London, with the last act being The Heavy North – a local five piece bluesy outfit. I really enjoyed all of them. Christie and The Heavy North were both playing the Smithdown Festival at the Handyman on Friday (with Heavy North being the headliner).

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The Heavy North

The whole gig wasn’t that long (first act on around 8pm and last song finished around 10:15pm – okay for a school night) with the acts each only playing five or six songs. But it was a really intimate gig with an attentive and respectful audience and I really enjoyed it. And I’ll definitely be there again, well, not
there as I don’t yet know where there will be.

Rock on.

_____________

sofarsounds.com/liverpool
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Magic Numbers Gigs

Tonight I'm going to a gig – the Magic Numbers at the Arts Bar in Liverpool. First time at a normal (not socially distanced) gig since Covid lockdowns.

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Michelle & Angela – and an interloper – in an Amsterdam bar

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Romeo and the same interloper (and a band member from Shout Out Louds) in an Amsterdam bar.

I've been to several Number's gigs in Manchester, Kendal, and even Amsterdam – as well as seeing them at music festivals like Glastonbury. I also went to see
Romeo Stodart at the Music Room in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, which was just two days before all gigs got cancelled due to lockdowns. I wrote a review of that gig for a website.

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Got some great memories – and stories – from all my gigs involving the Number's and am looking forward to tonight. Not looking to forward to the bar in the Arts Bar though. Truly horrendous prices for crap drinks. Ho hum. Not sure how it'll be in a none socially distanced environment either. But saying that, the music from the
Stodarts & Gannons – and from Ren Harvieu – will no doubt be fabulous.

Rock on.
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Frank Turner at Top Rope

Last week was busy. There was a semifinal and final of the Euros for a start and our annual camping trip to Bishop’s Castle to fit in-between. But the highlight had to be Thursday’s Frank Turner gig at Top Rope Brewery. I mean my favourite current singer songwriter playing in a local brewery. I couldn’t have really designed a much better idea of a perfect gig if I tried.

There were to be two support acts from the same label appearing as well. When I was told who they were (Berries, and Pet Needs), I didn’t know them, but of course I looked them up. They were both punky alt rock types (sorry if that is an incorrect classification). I enjoyed a couple of the songs I heard from both of them when I saw their vids on YouTube. Not completely up my street, but music is elastic and it is not one size fits all. I was pretty sure they’d be good. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

I’d met my friend earlier who was coming to the gig too. She’d tried to win tickets on the basis of if she’d won she’d have given me a ticket. So when I ended up with two how could I not reciprocate? We had a bit of scran down South Road at the Liver, then headed to her guest house so she could sort that out. Then we went straight to the brewery.

With the Covid rules in place it was one way in to the brewery and one way out. It was of course inevitable I headed for exactly the wrong side of the brewery to get in first off. Sod’s Law is the strongest of the Laws. I’d headed to the side where I’d previously picked up the beer rather than the fire exit at the back. But to be fair it made sense in hindsight. We only had to go through that door the once to get our wrist bands and then we were in. It was such a select bunch of people that were there: apparently over 3000 people had tried to win tickets for the gig (there were no paid for tickets available) and there were only 60 tickets available. Every one of us felt extremely excited and privileged I’m sure - bloody hell I’ve been spouting on about it for weeks (even before I found that I was lucky enough to be one of the lucky ones).

We picked a table on the second (of two) rows directly in front of the middle of the “stage.” It was a spot on position. But even if you had the worst seat in the house (no idea which that was), you’d have been fine with just 60 people there.

The first thing to negotiate was scanning in a QR code and then go through some painful registering process before being able to purchase a beer. But at least once that was out of the way it became easier. I just stuck to the keg stuff that was on, though plenty of others (including the bands) were downing plenty of cans. I went for The Gathering (of course, it was the Frank Turner beer after all) and a Papa Mango; basically, why change a winning formula?

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Berries

The first band who played were Berries. A threesome from London who signed to Xtra Mile in January this year. The three members of the band were Holly on guitar and vocals, Lauren on bass, and Lucie on drums. They were all brilliant. There was only Lauren playing on her usual instrument (electric bass), with Lauren on acoustic guitar and Lucie on a box drum (cajon). Their usual punky songs translated surprisingly well to the night’s acoustic performance. Holly was absolutely brilliant on the guitar covering an impressive territory of the fretboard from song to song. As someone who just strums open chords from time to time I was in awe. The trio looked like they really enjoyed it. Let’s face it gigs have been such a major miss over the last year or so; and they were playing a brewery in Liverpool - so how could they not?

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Pet Needs giving it some welly

Not long after they finished the second act of the night arrived on stage:
Pet Needs. Again it was largely acoustic bar the bass (including another cajon). The four lads threw everything into the gig; and that was a lot. A really enjoyable performance from the four piece punk outfit from Colchester.

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Frank and a grinning loon

Then it was time for Frank Turner. He gave us little time between the last chords from Pet Needs until he played. In fact I had to listen to the first song and half from the small queue for the two toilets. It wasn’t far away so I didn’t miss a note. I don’t know what to say about Frank’s gig to be honest. It was just perfect. He has such a back catalogue of songs I could have picked a different twenty songs than he did and been just as happy - that said I’d have probably have picked many of the same songs too.

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And so it begins

There was no backing band. It was just Frank and an acoustic guitar. For the majority of the set he followed a chronological catalogue. In fact sod it; it’d be easier to just provide the set-list wouldn’t it? So here it is. Let’s face it if you know Frank and read this list you’ll nod and be a) happy to see it and b) really really wish you’d been there. Like I said, it was perfect:

The Ballad
I Knew Prufrock
Long Live the Queen
The Road
If I Ever Stray
Plain Sailing Weather
The Way I Tend To Be
The Next Storm
Love 40 Down
1933
Be More Kind
Sister Rosetta
The Lioness
Punches
The Gathering (it’s a beer and a song)
Get Better
Recovery
Photosynthesis
I Still Believe
Polaroid Picture


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Finale

Members of
Berries and Pet Needs came on to join him for the finale which was fun and beautifully chaotic - just like an encore should be. The first time I saw him was in the Wembley gig in 2012 he got himself a tattoo between finishing the set and coming back on for his encore. When I saw him at Glastonbury he had to make a sharp exit to play a fete at his old school after going against his mum by getting a tattoo on his hand. This time, in sunny Bootle, there was to be no tattoo action. Which is funny… because I said I’d get a FTHC tattoo if I won a ticket. I haven’t so far. But I have many more weeks in my life to get that sorted - all things being equal.

After the gig I managed to get to talk to the maestro himself after a quick elbow bump. He was an absolute gent. My friend Ken, who passed away in January, had given me the book, '
The Road Beneath My Feet' and he kindly signed it for me too. I couldn't have asked for a better memento for the day.

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Elbow bump

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Meeting the man himself.


I really don’t know what more to say about the gig. I DO feel marvellously lucky to have got a ticket to go and to be there with a friend. I was smiling for days before and for days afterwards about it.

FrankSignature
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The Last Gig

As mentioned on the previous blog I got to see Romeo Stodart play at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Music Room on Sunday. I was lucky to be able to see him on several counts. Not least because now the gig industry has ground to a halt. The Phil was closed from Tuesday. This damn Covid-19 virus is wreaking its toll like a Sten gun, its just hitting everything.

Anyway, my review of the gig is over on the Get Into This website.
Check it out.

RomeoTweet

The poster boys for not social distancing: wouldn't do this now.

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If Music Be the Food of Love...

'If music be the food of love, play on.' (from 'Twelfth Night' by Billy Shaks) is lovely, ain't it? Billy had a wonderful turn of phrase and I bet he loved a good gig - or even an average one. You really can't beat live music. I'm hoping to get to more and more after a hiatus and tonight I'm going to see Romeo Stodart from the Magic Numbers. I've seen them a fair few times in various venues and seen Michelle do a solo gig, but this will be my first Romeo one.

Back in the day I had a great time in Amsterdam before a Numbers' gig drinking with Romeo on the banks of a canal with several of my mates. Talked so much about music with him as we sank a few continental lagers. It was a great gig and we ended up drinking until the early/late hours after it. He's a fabulous guitarist and songwriter and a lovely guy to boot.

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Romeo2

Really looking forward to it - not least because I am going to it as a reviewer for the website '
Get Into This.' Hoping it will be the first of a few. Sod's Law though with the way things are going with CV19 that there may not be too many gigs about for a while. Who knows? I just gotta go with the flow.

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It'll be interesting to write a review too. I've done them before but - well you know - it's been a while. Reviews sit somewhere between factual report writing and fiction. In so much as whilst it is a factual report you can throw in verbs and adverbs and plenty of feeling. And at a length of between 250 and 500 words it sits right in the comfort zone of us Flash Fiction writers. If music be the food of love and all that jazz.

In the meantime, if you're interested in music, gigs, dance and the arts then check out:
'Get Into This'
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Calexico and Iron & Wine Gig

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Went to the third gig of the last month. Wow! I say wow because it's also the third gig of the year too (discounting pub bands). Following Kathryn Williams in the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room and Rival Sons at De Montford Hall at the Liverpool Uni a couple of weeks ago it was time for another class act (or two really): Calexico and Iron & Wine.

I'd last seen them together years ago but seen them separately several times in Liverpool, Manchester and at festivals. And I have even seen Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall before with my sister several years ago. The album they are touring with is Years to Burn and is absolutely beautiful. If you haven't got it, what's stopping you? (Okay, stream it if you must)

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I had an eventful time getting to the gig. Having a late start at work meant I didn't get home until 18:58. I managed to get showered, changed and out of the house by 19:10 and to the bus stop for 19:14, with the bus due at 19:17. Brilliant. Come 19:30 still no sign of bus and me getting anxious. What this time? It wasn't like there was a big footy match on or anything. Oh no. Theres always something with the infamous No.17. What could it be this time? Well a lady got of a 62 and asked us if we were waiting for the 17, for if we were we'd be waiting a long time as the woman driving it had crashed into A&E at Fazakerley Hospital. I mean, WTF? How do you not see a hospital? Still, I suppose dispensing any injured passengers would be handy and wouldn't tie up any ambulances.

So I had to get to the next bus stop to double my chance of getting a bus - with both a 19 and 17 a possibility. The next 17 was late so I ended up on a 19 and running about 45 minutes late. Meaning I'd get to the Phil about 20:20. I checked on Twitter for stage times… Calexico and Iron & Wine due on at… yep, 20:20.

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Dispensed out of the bus at London Road and took the ten minute walk to the Phil. I realised I was parched after the long wait and realised I hadn't drunk much at work either. I decided I'd throw myself into the Pen Factory for a very speedy pint. Took me about three mins, including ordering, to get a pint of Dark Star 'Hophead' down. It hit the spot. I speedily passed on down Hope Street arriving at 20:20. Get in! The bar in the foyer had a queue but was handily placed. I needed one to last through the 1.5 hours of the gig (as the bar was closed during the performance (shocking state of affairs). A security guy said 'Sorry, the bar is shut' - my face fell and I blurted out the tale of woe getting there and the hospital jumping in front of my bus and a lovely lady (the loveliest) said 'Go on, get in the queue.' Woo hoo! So five minutes later I had a pint of Love Lane Pale Ale and then went through to my seat. As it happened they didn't start until about 20:35 or so, so I didn't miss a note (though I missed the support, Lisa O'Neill).

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Sam, Joey Burns and Lisa O'Neill performing 'Dreams'

I was sat downstairs in the stalls on Row L. Not a bad spot to be in; that said to be fair anywhere in the Phil would be a good place to see a gig. Of course, I'd much rather stand than sit through music but sometimes you don't have a choice. From the first notes of Father Mountain through so many of their songs, and some of the Calexico's and Iron & Wine's, and several great covers; including the Everly Brothers' 'Dream' (sung with Lisa McNeill), and Echo and the Bunnymen's 'Bring on the Dancing Horses', it was musicianship of the highest quality. The level didn't drop.

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Accordion Solo

Only slightly negative thing for me occurred when three late arrivals, all guys in their sixties, sat down and talked through parts of several songs. And then did some American style Whooping. I mean, NO! I was half expecting a 'Get in the hole'.

They played around an hour and half before I plodded of with a large grin on my face to the merchandise where I got a tour T-shirt and a signed poster. Bit odd this, as I never used to buy merchandise at all - despite years and hundreds of gigs I only have tour T-shirts from Ryan Adams, Wilco, and Frank Turner. I think a Calexico and Iron & Wine T-shirt is a mighty fine addition to the not-even-collection.

If you can get to see them: do so. If you don't know them and are interested in finding out what they are like here's a link to a live performance of 'Bring on the Dancing Horses'.

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Finally I got back home on the No.17 and it managed to get back without hitting any buildings, well not so you'd notice anyway.
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