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Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Wooden Sky/Evening Hymns/James Foley/Belle in the meadows - 13th Note - 10/10/12 (Glasgow)

Well that's another gig promoted by the blog done and dusted.
It's all been a bit of a whirlwind as there was only two weeks to sort out a venue, secure support acts, get tickets printed, posters and flyers distributed,,,,,,,,, and attract a crowd.
A bit of a tall order, but one made easier by the welcoming and professional attitude of the venue (13th Note), the speed that printmytickets managed to supply the tickets, the ever reliable Andrew in MBE for the printing of the posters and flyers, and the efforts of both the supports (James Foley and Belle in the meadows) in helping to spread the word.

Realistically I fully expected maybe thirty people would attend, and anything above that to be a bonus.
The headlining band (The Wooden Sky) had in mind a possible twenty as they were well aware of how difficult it is to promote a show in such a short time frame.
So that around eighty turned up (capacity one hundred) on a cold Wednesday night was something that blew my mind, and equally warmed the hearts of everyone involved.
The main attraction, as with any gig, is the quality of the acts though.
No matter how much work is done behind the scenes it is the entertainment supplied on the night that brings people out to experience the communal magic of a gig.
So I guess I should have expected no less, as all the very talented musicians playing are in my mind premier league performers.

Opening the show was the excellent Belle in the Meadows, an international trio who are based in Glasgow, and are quietly cementing a solid reputation as a live act to watch out for.
The story behind them coming to my attention isn't a complicated one.
What happened was that a few months ago I seen the band play a short quasi open mic set in a coffee shop in Ayr and immediately tucked the name away as an act that I would have to see again.
Then when I was approached to be involved in promoting The Wooden Sky gig it just seemed obvious that their addition to the bill would be a complementary one, and with a couple of messages online it was all sorted.
It really was that simple.
Prior to sending that message requesting them to play we had never conversed at all, so I was very happy to find that they were open to working with me without actually having any prior knowledge of who I am, or the little things that I dip my toes into.

On the night itself their performance was beyond criticism.
I doubt anyone would disagree.
The mix of keyboard, violin, acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals is well balanced and sounds richly weighty.
Regardless of the tempo of the song, or whether it's tapping into a folk vibe or getting a bit more funky, everything sounds as if it is sitting perfectly just where it should be.
In hindsight I would have to say that I couldn't have approached a better act to fill the slot.

After Belle in the meadows we had James Foley entertain us.
James is usually fronting his band 'Fole' but tonight he was going solo and while I have seen him play without being backed up by his band mates I could argue that this performance eclipsed all the previous solo ones that I have witnessed.
The strength in his vocal approach just seemed to have been pushed to the fore.
Maybe it's some newly found confidence in his own abilities, or he's found exactly how he wants to drive his material forward, but whatever it is it works.
Songs like Randoms and Shakespeare Says sounded as if they had been given a boost of new life and highlighted how good a songwriter James is, and equally showed his vocal skills off to.

In the coming months his band are looking to change their name and release some more original compositions, and it sounds like the second part of their musical career is going to be a large step forward from the debut ep that they released under the name of Fole.
Personally I'm looking forward to hearing what they have been working on and I suspect those who appreciated James on the night will be to.

Evening Hymns, the band, is really just a collective of musicians surrounding Jonas Bonnetta, and on this tour they are Sylvia Smith and The Wooden Sky.
Did I really say 'just'. I should take that back.
Augmented by, supported by, assisted by.
That's more like it.
He has the ideas, and along with his friends they provide the expertise to make the dream a reality.
Throughout his set he punctuated the songs with how they came about, and this sharing of personal experiences from simple things like the weather conditions when they recorded, to the heart on sleeve emotionally raw admittance of how much he misses his father who had recently passed on, allowed us all to participate in the performance.
When people say 'you had to be there' then this is the sort of night that they are talking about.
The sort that breaks down the divide between audience and artists and moves into a shared experience that isn't something that can be reached by repeating a formula.
When it happens it's rooted in an organic sharing of respect between those who are telling a story connect with those who are listening to it.
Jonas just opens himself up and gives, but at the same time holds his arms wide and welcomes us to step into his embrace and feel what he is doing.
There's people who have been playing for decades that don't have the ability, or even bravery, to do that.
It created a very special atmosphere.
Something that went beyond the experience usually garnered from participating in live performances as an audience member.

This feeling of communal respect was passed on to The Wooden Sky like a baton in a relay race and they ran with it.
Everything that I have said about Evening Hymns equally applies to The Wooden Sky.
Between them all it's really a large collective of musicians who are all travelling the same path.
They want to make a connection and have the talent to do forge it between them and their audience.
A few times different people approached me during their set and said roughly the same thing, and that was that they felt they were watching a band who were going to be huge.
I knew exactly what they were getting at.
If they find themselves in the right place at the right time with a hit single under their belts, then they could effortlessly step up to the global festival circuit and from there stadiums.
No one in the 13th Note watching them would be surprised if it happened.
If it does then I suspect the roughly eighty people who were there will swell to the hundreds who will claim that they were there, but we will know who is telling the truth as all we will have to do is ask how it made them feel, and if it mirrors our own experience then yes, they were there.
As the evening ran closer to a natural end the band stepped out from behind their mics and joined by Evening Hymns did a truly acoustic set from the midst of the crowd.
With this they created the second 'you had to be there' moment of the night and all that is left for me to say is thank you.
Thank you to everyone involved.
The bands, the venue staff, those who attended, everyone who participated in one way or another.
This was a gig that I can honestly hand on heart say that we pulled off together.
Magical really.

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