Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Here comes the rain again

Today has just been a day of bad things happening. It all started with a phone call at around 9am - Mum fell and broke her ankle in the garden, necessitating the ambulance, paramedics, the whole nine yards.

When I got to the hospital, they refused point blank to tell me anything until I'd sat in Waiting Room 3 for an hour like a lemon. This was worsened by the fact that Jeremy FUCKING Kyle was on. I'd heard of him only by repute, but this is a man who makes George Lamb look like John Peel. I have never wanted to murder someone more. Never.

When they finally did deign to tell me what was going on, I got about twenty minutes before they announced that she was going to theatre. This would have been around 11am. As I type, she has just gone - it is 6pm.

During the afternoon they have
- Failed to figure out who she is
- Told me which ward she was on, only for the ward to deny all knowledge and have no beds
- Tried to take her to theatre in a bed that contravened regulations necessitating them having to run around headless, complaining that they couldn't find rails
- Told me not to visit because she was being moved, only to find she hadn't been moved at all

And so on, and so forth. It's been a shocking experience, to be honest. There's been no information, no helpfulness, and my mother by the time they took her up for the operation was scared to death.

I'm scared to death too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

One BILLION Dollars

It struck me yesterday that LiveNation might actually be evil. Not just a little bit evil, but cartoonishly so - full on secret lair, cat on knee, twirly moustache, I expect you to die Mr Bond evil.

Once in a while, I quite like a stadium gig. I know many of you will argue that we're better off going to see a friend's band at the local Spork & Hedgehog for thruppence over a pint of Old Stoat, but let's imagine for a minute that you and yours quite fancy an evening out with 50,000 others.

I bought a Madonna ticket today for the first time in quite a few years. The experience made me cross.

For a long time 'the kids' thought of the record companies as the enemy - dropping our favourite artists, bilking us through our teenage years with singles on multiple strange formats and albums being re-released with extras. But they are mere amateurs compared to the new breed of concert promoters.

On the face of it, it appears that LiveNation and their ilk are here to save our favourite artists, freeing the likes of Madonna from the tyrany of huge cheques from major labels, but the reality is that they've seen the writing on the wall for pre-recorded music and decided to take advantage of the only thing you can't download - the feeling of being at a live show.

Take her Wembley Stadium show. At first glance, tickets go up to an already eye watering £160 (plus fees). Or do they? In reality, tickets actually go up to £468.83 for a seat with hospitality - for which I believe I could conceivably fly to New York and attend the Madison Square Garden show (albeit with the cheapest ticket). The message is clear. You want a good seat? Buy a bundle. The reality appears to be that that the 'best' tickets aren't in the pool any more. You or I are never going to click the magic button on Ticketmaster and find ourselves sat by the stage for one of these events, no matter how early you arrive or what pre-sale privileges you have. Because they're not there any more. They're in a bundle.

Even if you choose to stand, they've got you stitched up three ways. Of course there's the now ubiquitous golden circle (and it's not specified how big that is) for which you pay an extra ten pounds. But your dedication to the noble art of the gig queue will matter not in the least, because they will also gladly sell you a package (at £150 premium over the cost of the gold circle ticket including fees) to let you into the golden circle before all those other poor saps who dared not to pay extra.

Not only that, they've chosen to form an unholy alliance with organisations that provide the acceptable face of touting.

When I did a search earlier for a ticket type that came up empty, it simply redirected me to one of their 'secondary market' partners who seemed plentifully stocked. Interesting how that can be for a show that hasn't even gone on public sale yet and fan club members are limited to just 4 tickets...

There seems to be a misguided impression that promoters are the innocent victims of touts. The truth is the opposite. They could do a lot to stop the problem - from putting names or photographs on tickets, to the simple act of allowing box office returns or forcing box office collection for heavily touted shows, eliminating the armchair tout in Glasgow who is touting for a gig in London. Instead, they choose to use touting as a way to legitimise their own second and third bites of the cherry - throw their hands up in the air, decry touting, and then get on with the business of benefitting from it.

It's all very easy for promoters to look at well established artists, wave a cheque under their nose, steal them away from the majors, milk their fans and cream off a fat profit, all the while not giving a shit how well or poorly the record sells - that's not their problem as long as the venue's full.

My hope is that this cream-off-the-top attitude will come home to roost if they don't invest in talent on the ground floor. Maybe they do, I don't know. Just how much are they interested in the minor leagues? If this kind of contract destroys what's left of the majors, where do they think the huge artists they give these deals to will come from in the future?

Is it finally time for legislation? I've argued against it before, given that the solutions are there for this to be done by organisers (Glastonbury, anyone? Largest music event in the national calendar and close to non-existent touting?) - there's evidently a way, but I see no will.

The secondary market is bleeding into the primary market and the general public are being taken for suckers. The live music industry has proved time and again that they can't be trusted.

For god's sake don't buy these bundles. Those tickets then end up back in the public pool by default (I firmly believe this is what happened with my Genesis and Police tickets - amazing tickets near the front suddenly appearing a few days before the show, coinciding with bundles going off sale) and the person at the front is the lunatic who's been sleeping rough outside the venue for the last month. He's earned it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I can see my own blog (but then I'm on my own domain) yet the blogs of Sir Yankee of Ragu and Dr Deborah are both off limits to me as Google has decided I'm a robot not a human.

And it didn't even administer some kind of Turing test. Wacky.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Girls On Film

I noted a few months ago to someone that the history of early twenty first century music will likely be documented for the most part in video taken on mobile phone / digital cameras.

This theory seems to be borne out by today's experience. I went to upload footage of a new Gemma Hayes song (Oliver) to YouTube, only to find that two other people had already done so - from the same show. Now, keeping in mind that this was a show that had a capacity of 300 and wasn't full - let's say 200, and I know that Riccardo filmed it too given that he posted it on his blog, can we assume that 2% of the audience at a gig are filming any given song?

Anyway, I was undeterred (my audio and video quality are, I think, better than the others on YouTube) and uploaded so here it is anyway.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Do Some Old!

This is the set list for the new Kylie tour, X

Act 1: Xlectro Static
Can't Get You Out Of My Head (Greg Kurstin Remix) (with excerpts of "Boombox", an unreleased song from Body Language)
Ruffle My Feathers (an unreleased song from X)
In Your Eyes

Act 2: Cheer Squad
Heart Beat Rock
Shocked (DNA Mix) (with excerpts of "Lose Control", an unreleased song from X)

Act 3: Xposed
Like A Drug
Slow (with excerpts of "Free" from Impossible Princess)
The One
2 Hearts

Act 4: Black versus White
On A Night Like This
Step Back In Time
In My Arms
Love at First Sight

Act 5: Naughty Manga Girl
Sometime Samurai (Video Projection)
Come Into My World (Fischerspooner Mix)

Act 6: Starry Nights
Flower (an unreleased song from X)
I Believe in You (Ballad Version)

Act 7: Beach Party
Loveboat (from Light Years)
Copacabana (a cover of Barry Manilow's hit)
That's Why They Write Love Songs (an unreleased song written by Steve Anderson)
Spinning Around

No More Rain
All I See (Acoustic Version)

Does anyone look at this set list and nod sagely, saying "I can see exactly what they were thinking..." or do you look at it and say "This is going to cause a vast amount of displeasure to the one-gig-a-year brigade who normally attend this kind of big pop show."

On the one hand, playing a large chunk of unreleased material along with an equally large dollop of the new album at the expense of 'the hits' is a brave move, it's surely at huge risk of alienating a substantial section of the audience, spoiled by the all-the-hits-all-the-time nature of last year's Showgirl Homecoming.

Expect cries of "Do some old!" from the cheap seats...


Having ranted about not doing this stuff any more, I'm considering buying tickets to see Madonna at Wembley. Lunatic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Kind Of Magic

25 solid days. Seven percent of my year. That’s approximately how much time I spent last year in pursuit of live music – factoring in travel time, waiting time and festivals, all the while holding down full time employment. Sometimes the waiting is longer than the music - much, much longer. I wonder why I do it sometimes – what I’m chasing, what I’m looking for.

It began for me with an £8.50 ticket on a Saturday evening in December of 1994, three quarters of the way back in the venue formerly known as the Manchester University Debating Hall with the appearance of Queen's Roger Taylor and the opening bars of “A Kind Of Magic”. I’m there with my high school art teacher and my best friend, but the minute the music starts, there’s nobody else in the room. My inhibitions vanish, and the spell of live music is cast upon me. There, right there, is one of my idols, performing a song that I’d heard a thousand times. By the end of the night, I was deranged, uplifted, shirtless and convinced that this was the best feeling in the world.

Like the junkie trying to match that first, unassailable high, I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country. I’ve seen an acoustic performance in Central Park, a singer-songwriter in San Francisco’s Castro district, a back-after-ten-years performance on a barge. I’ve stood for hours in the freezing cold, waded through the Glastonbury mud to feel the metal of the barrier, to be first there. Right there.

I’ve interviewed Garbage in a hotel; told waiting journalists that Brett Anderson was sick only to have him flounce in right as rain pronouncing himself bored half way through the interview with his bandmates, wrangled with PRs for interviews that I knew before I arranged them would never get to print just to be close to my favourites.

I’ve been crowd surfed over, concussed, sworn at, called a music nazi and had an eyeliner stained towel thrown over me by Michael Stipe. I thought I would die in a mosh pit at Glastonbury with Feeder’s “Buck Rogers” the last thing I’d hear. I’ve cried in public at Manchester Apollo.

I organised a two-night, sold out benefit show. I didn't go to a convention in Canada that I'd organised due to complications involving two Dutch girls and a woman from London with a samurai sword.

I've got a Nick Cave tea towel, a Catatonia mug and an REM tea tray. One day I'm going to have to alphabetise three and a half thousand CDs.

I once wrote an advertising slogan for Celine Dion. I saw Ryan Adams be rude to a bloke in a lift. I’ve been to Wolverhampton. More than once. A singer’s manager took me out in Los Angeles. More than one singer-songwriter has bought me dinner.

I stopped the presses on the red-tops one memorable Sunday morning.

But I’m wondering if it isn’t time to give it up. I’m never going to actually get to write about this stuff for a living, or even photograph it. Should I be more selective about who I go and see? Less? Fight that feeling of ‘I could be missing THE ONE’? Did you shake it? How? Is it time to finally grow up? What drives some of us to this music related madness?

Hanging Around

Despite being quite comprehensively beaten to the punch, here's a couple of photos from Gemma Hayes on Friday night at Manchester Academy.