February 2011: Live Music Month
In what is planned as being the first of hopefully several themed month presentations, it is Liberation Frequency's great pleasure to officially kick off 2011 with the launching of LF's Live Music Month.
We're celebrating music, we're celebrating live performances and encouraging as many fans as possible to engage in gigs or just regale us with as many of your good, bad and ugly experiences as you can.
Hopefully, many of you will already have seen our accompanying podcast "Episode 1: Is it live?" available along the top right of your screen, where LF members Dan Collacott, Imran Mirza, Denis Jose-Francois and Gavin O'Reilly relive some of their concert experiences, ranging from the cringeworthy to the magical.
Further to that, we're days away from unleashing a flurry of articles and accounts from Team LF discussing some of our writers' most memorable concert experiences, which I think need to be read to be believed, plus we're going to throw as many treats your way as we can. Aside from a couple of at-this-time undisclosed special features, we'll also have a few exclusive interview outtakes for the My Funky (In)Disposition blog from some of our favourite artists about performing live.
The month will culminate with an incredible live soul music feature to be broadcast live on The Blue-in-Green Sessions exclusively on Starpoint Radio, Sunday 27th February, 8-10am. The show will feature live performance recordings (including a couple we shouldn't really have) from soul and funk artists including Prince, Maxwell, Maceo Parker, D'angelo, Jill Scott amongst many many more.
More info to be unveiled over the coming days so keep referring back for news and updates!
"My First Gig" by LF writer, Krissi Weiss [posted 9th February]
I have been to many gigs in my adult life, and I have seen better artists than the one I am going to discuss but nothing can beat the first major gig you go to as a teen.
In 1995, I was lucky enough to see the band I was obsessed with at the time (an obsession that has since waned dramatically) and that was Pearl Jam.
Held at Eastern Creek, a raceway just outside of Sydney, there was 50,000 people in attendance. As it was all general admission, most people camped over night to get a good spot. It was a 35 degree day and my friends and I refused to leave our position in the line to so much as get water, and going to the toilet was simply out of the question. At 3pm, the gates were opened and a flood of camouflage-clad indie types raced for the closest possible spot. We were down the front in the second mosh pit but after a barrier collapse, we decided it would be safer to be a little further back, albeit begrudgingly.
The sound check began and to appease the crowd, Eddie Vedder came out with an acoustic guitar and performed 'Throw Your Arms Around Me'. The crowd went wild and anticipation for the gig grew exponentially. Before we came in, the car park was awash with Pearl Jam songs blaring from the cars of this temporary tent city. The support bands didn’t receive much respect as there was only one reason we were all there. When Pearl Jam took the stage at 9pm, we were all dehydrated and exhausted but ready to rock. Two hours and two encores later, I was on a high that nothing would ever beat.
I have seen them twice since and neither performance came close to the energy and excitement of their first gig. It was the first time I had seen that many people in one place singing in unison to every song including every embellishment that had been recorded. Ooo’s and Ahh’s were loud and proud. Lighters filled the air in every slow song and the mosh (yes, that was back when people moshed as opposed to just being violent down the front), went back for hundreds of metres.
When my friends and I finally made it back to the hotel rooms covered in sweat, thirsty and with incredibly sore necks, we were on a high that no drug could ever compare with. As I said, I have seen better artists and better gigs but I have never felt the same exhilaration I felt in March, 1995.
"Have a drink, on me" by LF Film and Comedy Editor, Dan Collacott [posted 13th February]
When you're fourteen, watching a scruffy scouse bloke repeatedly jump into crowds at very small venues in Kent to snog unwitting young lads, you might think that was a pretty weird thing to experience. In fact, on reflection it was just all round wrong. The band was Cecil; the lead singer in question was.... God knows, I can't find mention of them on the internet.
But if men lashing very young boys is a bit odd then thank the Gods of rock you can rely on Faith No More frontman, Mike Patton, to really lower the tone at a gig. I think I was about 24 and the venue was the now knocked down Astoria (still one of the best rock venues of all time). The band was Tomahawk - Mike's post FNM project with members of Jesus Lizard and Melvins. Even the police outfits and see-thru plastic gloves the band wore didn't prepare me for the evening's bizarre, yet fairly rock-n-roll, climax. It wasn't even during the final song that 'The Event' happened...
I was just two rows back from the stage when I first spied Mr Patton fiddling with something on stage - little did I know that by this point 'Little Mike' was now in hand, primed and about to be aimed at an unwitting press pit and audience. There was that moment of disbelief in tortuous slow motion when every audience member shared one thought: "Hang on, is he going to...? Oh Sh-t he is!" I've never to this day seen an entire audience surge backwards so fast as Mike and little Mike rained a yellow fountain upon the shocked faces of those unlucky enough not to have shifted in time. I managed to recoil to safety, but I doubt some of the photographers were as lucky!
I must admit, I did wonder why Mike drank so much water during the gig.
The incident made the news; the venue tried to take legal action against Mike for his forbidden bout of feculence and the council made one of its numerous attempts to close down the Astoria. Neither succeeded. To this day, I don't know the point Mike was making with his urine soaked protest, but hell... it makes for a good story doesn't it?!
"Oasis, Knebworth, 1996" by LF writer, Lynda Cowell [posted 19th February]
In theory, concerts are great: your favourite band, surrounded by likeminded individuals at an event which feels like a hot, feverish dream where the spotlight picks you out of the crowd before the lead singer beckons you to the backstage area and…okay, maybe not.
In reality you find yourself in the midst of a random collection of individuals who you probably wouldn’t even get on with in a hostage situation. You’re practically standing outside as you watch on a “large screen” and the tallest man in the building – perhaps the world – is loitering in front of you. Concerts tend to be a bloody nightmare and even more so when things actually go wrong.
Back in the dark and distant days of Britpop, before I realised that Oasis had basically swiped the Beatles/Slade’s entire back catalogue, I quite liked them and trundled off to Maine Road in Manchester to prove it. That concert was like a date of mismatched individuals: I was on time, Liam was late, I wore black, he wore an elaborate, white parka. He wore shades, I didn’t. He was a mouthy, charismatic, Manchunian and I loved him. So much so, I paid money to see them again.
This time, the scene was Knebworth, Hertfordshire. In 1996 Oasis were big news: Liam literally couldn’t smack a photographer in the mouth without it getting in the papers, and Knebworth was going to be, ‘the gig of the decade.’ Tickets went on sale with the kind of excitement usually reserved for Second Comings and X-Factor contestants at HMV: folks offered organs, grannies, offspring – anything to get their grubby little hands on tickets.
Somehow, we managed it - don’t ask how, but in a Charlie Bucket-stylee we got hold of four tickets. Feeling more like we’d won the lottery, we danced about our living room, laughing, laughing some more, and doing bad Liam Gallagher impressions loud enough for the neighbours to hear. It was a cause for celebration.
Come the day, it was clear and blue skied with a heat hotter than the centre of the sun – a good omen by anyone’s standards. But we were late leaving London and late arriving and by the time we made it to Knebworth station, we found out that we were at the wrong station, with no chance of getting to the right one any time soon. My friends looked bewildered and sickened, and it took them a couple of goes at asking the same question but using different swear words, to understand that we were, most definitely, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Befuddled by the trauma of it all, I can’t really remember how we managed to get to the right place but we did, eventually. We got seats, as well: outside, on the grass verge, within binocular distance of the performance. We listened to Liam growl his way through the ‘concert of the decade’ for an hour, with nothing but warm bottles of booze and our imaginations to console us. We were gutted.
Reviews of the concert say it was good, but not that good; in fact, Maine Road was much better. And when people ask me, all these years later, if that was any consolation, the answer is always the same. Was it f***!
"I'll never eat a peach again!" by LF Music Editor, Imran Mirza [posted 24th February]
If you considered yourself a fan of contemporary (or neo-) soul music around 2000/1, like me, you were probably eagerly awaiting the release of Bilal Oliver’s debut album, ‘1st Born Second’. Prior to the album’s release, Bilal was amassing a fairly long list of music credits, with collaborations alongside Erykah Badu, Grenique, Common and Talib Kweli, as well as securing a spot amongst the neo-soul and hip-hop supergroup, The Soulquarians (a musical collective including Questlove, D’angelo, James Poyser, Mos Def, amongst others).
Bilal was young, hard working, an incredible vocalist with a deep knowledge, depth and appreciation for music. I had read an interview with him around that time where the journalist described him as being shy and humble off-stage, but when he was in front of a microphone, he was a powerful and vicarious performer, almost like he was ‘possessed’. That phrase always stuck with me – the fact that he could be that much of a performer really intrigued me, and being such a fan of his album, his name was promptly added to my list of artists to see live.
Mid-2004, it was announced that Bilal Oliver was to play the Jazz Café, 7th September. YES! From that point on, to the very night we were there, I had boasted about the fantastic night of music my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) and I were in for. Anyway, Bilal finally makes his way down the stairs and takes to the stage. He’s a little late but that’s ok – he’s a professional and we’re in for a great night of music, remember? He starts to perform and, if I’m honest, he’s already started to lose me - he’s being a little bit lazy in bringing the songs to life, but I try to stay with it.
“He’s just warming up” I say.
After a few songs though, it appears that Bilal feels he needs a break. So Bilal lights a cigarette (this is pre-indoor smoking ban), turns his back to us, and smokes it while the band jams. He says nothing, just smokes away while standing in the middle of the stage. With his back to us. At this point, more people seem confused. After this short intermission, he’s back and he starts singing songs again. He then starts to perform a song from his album called ‘Sometimes’, which is a wonderful 7+ minute number I’m sure many in the crowd were looking forward to hearing. During the song, Bilal starts to come to life a little bit. He’s becoming more animated, his energy is rising as the song builds, then, all of a sudden, nearing the song’s climax, he becomes so animated that he slips and falls backwards on stage. People laugh. Bilal doesn’t like it so he pushes the two backing vocalists’ mic stands over and storms off up the stairs. The music stops and people stare. After I get over the initial shock, I turn to my wife and whisper, “I’m sorry”.
All the band members seem to panic and immediately huddle on stage trying to figure out what to do next, before they start to break out into a version of Faith Evans’ ‘You Used to Love Me’ with the backing vocalists taking centre-stage.
Probably about 20 minutes later, we’re met with the words, “I’M BACK MOTHER F#@KERS!” as a topless Bilal reappears having emerged from the crowd and shockingly continues with his set list. If my memory serves me correctly, Bilal’s concert has been on for an hour, and he’s probably sang about 5 songs and been off stage almost as long as he’s been on.
“I’m so sorry” I whisper again.
By many peoples’ standards, this gig can’t get much weirder. But anyone that would think that has obviously never been to a Bilal gig before. It isn’t until a man can lie on his back on a stage, wearing nothing but his trousers, with one hand tucked down the front of them while eating a peach and moaning the words, “Oh girl, I want you to sit on my face… oh girl, I want you to f##k my face,” that you can truly acknowledge this gig can’t get much weirder.
“Again, I’m so sorry.”