Sunday, November 12, 2023

Cambridge Indie-Pop Alldayer

This was a train journey and a walk away from home, a walk through Cambridge streets of small houses like mine, with miniature pubs halfway down, and the occasional shop punctuating the terraces. It was a really nice walk from the station to The Blue Moon; there was hardly any traffic, just the occasional bicycle gliding quietly past.

When I got there, Back gave me a warm welcome and Tape Runs Out were sound-checking. There are six of them, and the line-up includes a hammer dulcimer. Apparently there used to be seven, but one of them has left. The stage was pretty full; I decided to forego a sound check because there was a lot for the sound engineer to do. He didn't mind, but there was no need to create stress. I sat in the bar and chatted to Dave Hammond, whose Cambridge Community Radio Show, Smelly Flowerpot, I'd been on several times.

Tape Runs Out have complex songs that manage to sound poppy despite that; the arrangements are intricate, and in an odd way they reminded me of very early Soft Machine, minus the quirkiness. It was something to do with the textures in the music and the thought that had gone into the vocal arrangements.

I was on next and despite swallowing a cough sweet minutes before I went on, I managed to sing OK. Unlike last Saturday in Rochester, I didn't ramble. The set length was 30 minutes and there wasn't time, although I did feel that I'd had time to showcase what I'm doing at the moment to an audience that might not be familiar with my songs (apart from Dave!).

Next were Darren Hayman and Emma Kupa, he on a magnificent Rickenbacker and she on an acoustic guitar. They sang duets, often as conversations and sometimes in unison, with Emma's three year old son dancing on stage for much of the set. I found sound intriguing; they both sing high in their vocal range, and that factor combined with their guitar arrangements made me think of early country/gospel recordings, just before rock'n'roll burst into life. Maybe Ginny Wright, or Maybelline Carter. I really enjoyed it a lot and hope to see them again.

I had to come back home early, and had the unfortunate experience of being the target of five teenage boys on the train who thought they could freak me out by screaming at me, making obscene gestures, staring at me, making faces, reciting scenes from pornography and at one point deciding to hit me before getting off the train (they didn't). I sat there thinking of Offsprog One's mantra 'Take up your space'. 

They were extremely loud and volatile and stank of weed, and I presume no-one helped me because the gang were so frightening. But then I thought 'I've just played a really nice gig. I travel all over the place, often on my own, playing gigs all over the UK and sometimes in Europe. I am brave and they are not: it takes five of them to pick on me'. So I asked them: 'Does it make you feel brave, five of you men picking on one woman? There are babies and children who have had to listen to the things you've been saying. Only one of you isn't horrible [that was true], and I feel sorry for him having you as his friends'. I think they were surprised. When, after 50 minutes, they finally got off at Bishops Stortford, the 'nice' one looked ashamed and said quietly 'Have a nice evening'.

Apart from that, I cry when I watch the news. Such cruelty and violence, first from Hamas and then absolute genocide from the Israeli forces in retaliation. And the march for peace through London is described by our Government as exactly the opposite. Our Government instead support right-wing fascists who break though barriers at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day, peace day, to fight with the police, encouraged by the Home Secretary. It is so terrible to witness the gratuitous killing of festival goers, children, babies, and now hospital patients, all in the name of opposing religions and cultures. 

Underneath all of us is a skeleton, and inside all of us is a heart. We are animals who have created culture and learning and science to understand and document our societies and communities. I have seen the graceful intersection of cultures first-hand this year in community centres everywhere. 

I do not understand why anyone thinks killing people takes the human race any step further towards enlightenment. We have the means of peaceful, if heated, negotiation at our disposal. Instead, we venerate hatred and destruction not only of fellow humans, but also of our environment. 

It is hard not to despair. I am so thankful for art and music, without which life would be utterly bleak.

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