Birmingham’s changed a lot in recent years. Haven’t we all?
The gig last night was in the Jane How and Justham Family Rooms on the 3rd floor of Symphony Hall building in Brum city centre – refurbished with care and creativity during the lockdown.
Floor to ceiling glass walls granted us a panoramic view of the Library and its surrounding square. Rollerbladers orbited tik tokkers dancing in sync to their iphone – a tiny glass portal to the world. Decidedly T shirt weather, it felt like Brum was on my side from the off, willing the night to be a success.
I was nervous, but earlier in the afternoon had decided to call this excitement and ten minutes before the show the feeling was growing into its new name. Perhaps it was meeting Wrenne with her team of smiley teens, or Mami kindly offering to help sell the merch. Or was it my ‘Voices’ mentor and dear friend Alan sharing lightness and a coffee with me? I felt spoilt with the love of friends, secure and in the right place at the right time.
My niece and nephew had come out for their first gig, I wanted to invite them on stage to strum guitars and smash drums, with an impromptu jam. I let this happy thought float as I tuned up and turned to face the gathered crowd, ready and waiting for the songs. I was ready to deliver, keen to share what I’ve been working on, eager to tell my stories. Would they want to listen? Are they any good? What makes them worthy? These questions popped up but thankfully landed in the spam mail of my mind, fraudulent and easy to ignore.
Elizabeth J. Birch opened proceedings with a solo live looping set of her emotive original material, her tech wizardary getting the robots in her gear to emote and move her audience. Her creative flair reared its inquisitive second head with the ‘book sampling’ bit – she opened and closed, thumbed through pages of a dictionary to create a percussive ‘literary loop’ as the foundation for her moving piece ‘Barely’. Elizabeth possesses a powerful voice and uses the wide spectrum of her life experiences to express a range of emotions in a single line. As her (all too brief) opening set closes folks gather to collect the hand written postcards she’s made to share her music and ask where and when they can experience the full show.
This year I’ve been touring on my own, playing the stripped back acoustic versions of ‘The Glass Age’ – songs that feature on ‘Reflections From The Glass Age’ – but tonight is different. I’m joined by Alex Lowe – Drums on his unique hybrid drums/digital percussion set up – and he brings the electronic tapestry from the original release (THE GLASS AGE) to life tonight.
I play: some songs stripped back, some layered with synths and drums. Maybe my favourite was ‘THE TIDE’ where we were able to begin with a solo verse at the piano as on ’Reflections’ before moving into the original version from The Glass Age.
The staging area is deep and it doesn’t intimidate me tonight. I move my mic stand back and forth, cuddle up to Alex when I feel the need to ‘lock in’ to the groove, reach my hands out to meet Liz’s when we join in harmony, and step out to face the audience when I have a clear message to share, be that guitar figure or storyline.
Familiar faces beam back good energy, songwriter Julie Neath and Jasmine Gardosi Poet sit close – “Do they know each other?” I ask myself without wanting a reply, just content that all us Midland makers are here together tonight, we’re all creators (as Rick Rubin says) life is art (as Wrenne told me in our recent The Glass Age radio interview – coming out in June)
“How did the gig go? What happened?” I ask myself this morning.
Playing the set felt like a group rural ramble, complete with compass, old trainers, plastic covered ordnance survey map and meeting back at the pub for a warming pint. We did it together – the band, the audience and I. The mind works better when the body is walking. Time to reflect, time to think and things looked a little differently. The weather was varied, we started in the late afternoon sun, ventured through rough terrain, my feet got wet at one stage as the rain set in, but it had cleared come the final song ‘New Love’ and we all sang an unplugged version of ‘Work’ together in the cosy warm pub with that pint at the end of the night.
The load out was slow and on reflection I don’t think I wanted to leave the performance space. Wayne Mosley’s friend Adrian Harvey asked me one of the most interesting post gig questions “how do you deal with this moment, as the energy leaves the room?” I’d just met him and he felt like such a gentle, kind man, His question felt pertinent and I was lost for words, couldn’t face loading out and felt ready to lie down and sleep on Alex’s drum rug, ready to lift off from this point and dream.
The heat still beats down this afternoon as I type this – we must’ve all done something good to be receiving such love from Mother Nature!
I raise my head away from this laptop glass screen for a second and watch as a woman and a man get back in their car and dispose of a bottle and a paper bag from either side of their mini white van, in sync, before leaving the services and squashing the bag under their wheels. Why did they just do that? it feels even more incredulous on such a sunny afternoon. I am going to pick it up when I finish this.
My next shows are in Falmouth and Hull – and don’t feel as far away as they did at the time of booking: the songs are close, the stories woven within me now, let me read to you, let me sing.
Thanks for reading, thank you to all those in attendance last night, may we all enjoy this sunny afternoon
Love Dan x