Friday, 11 December 2009
This is not a music blog. I haven't got the qualifications for that. But we went to another Thea Gilmore gig on Sunday (if there's repetition in the bands I see, it's because not many of them come to Maidstone). The last local place Thea played closed down, no connection, and this one was in the strangely ambienced and faintly effete upstairs room of the local Pizza Express.
It's not an ideal venue. Waiters and waitresses clatter about between the audience and the stage, and the acts look down on people shovelling capricciosas and tiramisu into their mouths an arm's length away. More to the point, a glass of white wine costs £4.40 or £5.75 depending on size, and a beer is about £6. That's maybe fine with a meal, but if you're there for an entire evening, it's prohibitive. Add that to the cost of a meal and the tickets, and you're into House of Commons expenses territory. No wonder the clientele were not very rock and roll.
Last time, K's boyfriend and I whipped out for a pint at the pub next door. We got funny looks, Straw Dogs style, and had to act particularly macho (not normally a problem for either of us). This time, forewarned, I'm afraid I arrived with a flask in my pocket and spiked my soft drinks. Tacky, I know, but needs must. It involved lowering my empty glass into my lap at intervals and bringing it back up full. I hope I didn't put anyone off their meal. (They probably won't let me in again. Pizza Express, I'm the tall cross-dresser with the handlebar moustache).
The Social Secretary had her own difficulties. She went into the windowless Ladies and immediately recoiled because it was untenably...there is no other way of putting it...smelly. In a very SS kind of way she was standing in the corridor flapping the door open and shut in a vain attempt at ventilation (this is the sort of thing that comes naturally to her) when Thea herself came along. Like a-pong-in-a-lift scenario, there is no socially smooth escape from such situations.
But it was worth it. My American Hot was good, and the supporting act was Rod Clements (Lindisfarne), a legend from my Tyneside days, who played guitar like a dream. Thea herself was superb, She has a new album out, 'Strange Communion' (if you look at the sleeve notes through a magnifying glass you can spot my name amongst the sponsors), so it wasn't like a repeat performance. It's not a Christmas album (she calls that the C-word), but an alternative, more pagan take on the season. I think her voice has deepened, and she just gets better and better. The opening song on the album, 'Sol Invictus' has a full choral accompaniment. Not having a choir in tow she sang it a capello, and it was hauntingly beautiful.
Thea's album is sort of relevant to the current Facebook/X Factor battle. I abhor X factor. There is something unsavoury about a promoter with a self-evident financial interest manipulating the public through hours of prime-time TV. Christmas number ones haven't meant much to me since I was a teenager, but the dumbing down involved in the annual inevitability of Simon Cowell's latest karaoke protégé seizing the spot is destructive, and I've joyfully signed up to the Facebook group which is trying to steal it from him with Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name'. The idea is for everyone to download the track next week. A mere 79p to wobble Cowell's stranglehold on the music industry seems good value. At the time of writing the group had 592,684 members, and it is growing nearly as fast as Cowell's current account. They might just do it.