Friday, 11 December 2009

Thea Gilmore, Rod Clements, Rage Against the Machine and Simon Cowell

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.


  1. And here's me thinking a hip flask secreted about the person was the height of class and cool... certainly better than a thermos!

  2. You know, the Pizza Express in Barnet had such a stinky loo that I stopped going there altogether after a family meal for which we were placed by the manager just downwind of the ladies'n'gents door. Yuk and double yuk!
    That aside, I think you are a very good reviewer! I am hoping to start a 'new songs' night in London next year and hope K will come along to air some new songs at some point

  3. If you avoid the place for few months the staff will all have changed anyway so you should be ok. I do like her voice - I will try and listen to some more of her.

    I have a note in my diary to download the Rage Against the Machine track next week - anything to spike SC's guns and put the boot into reality tv!

  4. Ah Lindisfarne....
    we do share some lovely memories...

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  5. Wonderful sound and thanks for the warning about the bogs! I think they must have opned the door as this evening when we were sitting in the yard we caught the distinct whiff of something er roitten in either Denmark or New brighton. New Brighton here that is....close to the 'oxidation ponds' and when the wind (this is getting worse) blows in the right direction it gets whiffy round here!

  6. I'm a Thea Angel too (though my first name William ended up in the CD booklet so no one knows its me). I had tickets to see her a couple of weeks ago in Manchester but circumstances conspired against me. Boo.

  7. Steve - That makes me feel a bit better. Still a bit of a price dodge though!

    Helen - The songs night idea sounds cool. K may need to try a few more local venues to get her confidence up.

    Completely - Good for you! I don't think it will succeed, but at 29p on Amazon it's worth a punt. K's not posted any of her new ones lately, but we are thinking towwards some kind of more professional ep or album.

    Cloudia - You remember Lindisfarne? Sound!

    Amanda - 'Oxidation Ponds' sounds like the sort of place one might trek out to for a swim and a picnic. But I guess not.

    Rol - So you are! Good on you. What lyric did you choose? I felt a bit fan-ish about it, but like the idea of helping a decent musician to escape the strait-jacket of the big labels. I haven't regretted it.

  8. Why on earth isn't there a ventilation extractor thing in the loo? Having said that I do live in France where not a stone's throw away (well, about 5km down the road) there is one of those a la Turk (holes with foot imprints either side) loos that defy belief, adequate description etc.

    I hate that RATM record and wouldn't download it for that reason - I even hate it more than I hate Cowell and his gang. I do think the winner - Joe - has a beautiful voice though and I'm glad he will now have a chance to let people hear it

  9. Fancy - I've never been faced with one of the hole in the floor and footprint types. I think I'd run a mile. As for Joe, he does have a good voice, and people most certainly have a chance to hear it. Pity the Thea's of this world never make the BBC's 'A' playlist.

  10. Thea Gilmour on BBC4 tonight 17th December at 9pm - hope you get to see this in time

  11. Yes, and very good she was too. I caught her on the Beeb Four gig while drinking a £5.97 bottle of Hardy's. Win- win, I think!

  12. Dotterel - Less of her than I'd hoped, but it was a jolly, festive gig. Hardy's must have gone down with it rather well.