Tag Archives: music

Django Fest Random Groups

We didn’t realize it when we planned our trip to Langley but it was in the middle of a music festival.  Called Django Fest, this brought a range of musicians into the town to perform a series of concerts.  However, the concerts were not all that they were doing.  Throughput the town, little impromptu gatherings of musicians took place and they jammed together.  At various times, one musician might pack up and head off ad another might later show up (With a different instrument) and replace them.  The musicians would adapt each tune to the new additions, some of which fitted easily and some of which required a little more accommodation.

The first group we came across made us think this was just some locals sitting outside playing.  However, when we came across a couple more of the groups, we began to get what was going on.  When a shop assistant asked if we had come for the festival, it all became clear.

The quality of the play and the smoothness of the integration varied from group to group but they were all clearly skillful musicians.  Watching them join a new group and just play was impressive and also made me rather envious of their talent.

Trumpeting Over the Sound of the Surf

Do you ever see an advertising image of someone doing something artistic outdoors and you think to yourself, “No-one ever does anything like that.  It’s so contrived.”  How about a guy standing on a rocky outcrop above the pounding surf playing the trumpet?  That is exactly what we came across on the shore in Santa Cruz.  This guy was just standing out there playing his trumpet.  What a strange thing to see.  It did sound pretty good though.  He was a pretty decent player!

A retro Night Out

It seems to have been a musical time for me recently.  The other week I saw Thomas Dolby do a short performance which was great (although if you read the blog post you will have noted my disappointment at the session afterwards – all of which was my fault).  This time it was another throwback to my youth.

Howard Jones has recently reworked his first two albums and was undertaking a mini-tour to promote them.  He came to Chicago and performed at the Bottom Lounge so we went along to see him.  The show was in two halves with one album for each half.  First things first.  It was excellent.  You often wonder how a performer will be after a few years (quite a few) out of the spotlight.

He really did a great job for us.  The venue was a nice size to feel involved and he certainly got the crowd involved with it all.  Being someone who based his music on synths, getting a big stage effect is not going to happen.  However, he did still make a good job of it – even if I did chuckle a little at his two support musicians.  His drummer was too cool for school and the guy running the sequencer amongst other things at the back looked like he was more comfortable in a studio than on stage.

Still, a crowd that was predisposed to be welcoming certainly got what they wanted and I have to say we were very pleased to go.  (I suspect a few members of the audience had been brought by their friends but why they couldn’t head to the back of the room if they want to ignore the stage and talk is a mystery to me.  Rudeness is alive and well in the US!)

Thanks, Howard, for making an old git feel a bit younger for a while!

Meeting a Hero?

I am an idiot! This is a strange piece to write but it is a bit of a mea culpa when it comes to being unrealistic. Even why I am writing it is a bit of a mystery but I guess this blog has become a surrogate diary – odd given that I have never kept a diary bar one futile effort when I was about 10 years old. Anyway, here is the tale.

Last week I popped along to a club called Martyrs. The reason for my being there was that Thomas Dolby was playing. He was undertaking a short tour across the US playing a number of small venues. This wasn’t a full show. Instead he was talking about his new album, how it had been written and how it tied in with an online game he had created. A lot of the people present had been participants in the game. He played some of the new songs and also threw in a few faves from older albums to please the old guard.

It was a good event, interesting and enjoyable and I continue to enjoy what he creates, even if I was not interested enough to get involved in the game. He also said he would be back for a full show with a band in the spring.

The source of my downfall was what followed. If you bought a certain amount of merchandise, you were given a wristband that let you in to a meet and greet afterwards. I was buying the CD anyway, so a t-shirt was enough to put me over the threshold. I went along.

At this point, I want to make something very clear. I am not in the least bit angry at Thomas for anything. I am just disappointed in myself. This was my first experience of a celebrity signing event. I have never been to a book signing at Borders (RIP) and I have never been to any of the big events like Comicon or a Star Trek convention so I haven’t seen how these things go. As it was, people lined up to get their stuff signed, get a photo taken and have their moment with Thomas.

I waited until near the end. First, I wasn’t in any great hurry. Second, propping up the bar was more comfy than standing in line. Third, I wanted to see how the whole thing worked. This is where I learned my lesson. It is obvious really. This is part of the job for the person involved. They aren’t your buddy, they don’t want to chat, they want to do what is required and then get out again. So would I looking around that room!

Thomas seemed to be polite to everyone and did what was expected. However, he never looked like he was having fun. I watched many people have their picture taken with him and, while he looked at the camera dutifully in each, I bet not one of those shots had a smile. When my turn came, he signed what I had with exactly what I asked him to write, exchanged a few pleasantries and we were done. Someone was nearby at that point trying to get things wrapped up so we weren’t in doubt that we would be gone quickly but that is fair enough.

So what is so odd about this that I have written all of this? I have blown an image up. I have been a fan of his work for many years. I have heard interviews and read some of his writing and I have always found him an interesting type of person. Of course, you never know whether that is actually the real person or not but you never can know. However, in your mind you come to think that this person could actually be someone you got on with. When you finally get to meet them, you imagine that there will be some sort of friendly spark. Of course, they have never heard of you or any of the other few dozen people lined up to meet them and you get your minute and then you are done.

Any common sense analysis of this suggests it would work exactly the way it did. Why was I disappointed? Because your mind sometimes likes to ditch reality and replace it with something more interesting. After leaving the venue, I was quite dispirited. Maybe if I went to lots of these things, I would get used to it but this isn’t really my thing so I doubt that will happen. Instead, I just learned a brief lesson in not being a fanciful idiot. If I had left after the show, I would have been a happy camper. Oh well, maybe at my advancing age it is time to grow up a bit.