Gemma Hayes: I’ve been in love with Gemma Hayes since I first heard Let A Good Thing Go way back in 01/02. It just so happened then that the first time I saw her live was at my first visit to the Glastonbury Festival. She put on a terrific afternoon show featuring one of my favourote live moments ever.
To set the scene- some live performers fly through their set without giving the audience a second thought, while others put on a bombastic show with a ‘Hello, Wembley’ here or there. Others though are happy to chat and banter with the crowd, and depending on the size and drunkeness of the crowd, and the confidence of the performer, this does not always end well. By afternoon the many thousands were already 3/4’s cut thanks to various cider mixtures, but the glorious sunshine and kick ass music kept everyone happy. Gemma is known to be quite chatty during performances, often answering questions and comments shrieked at her, but for this performance one bald, rugby player looking type kept heckling her. Nothing offensive, you understand, and everyone was taking it in a good natured way. It started from the usual chanting of ‘you rock!!’ and somehow moved onto the subject of booze. He was shouting questions at her, and she was laughing and answering, until the question of drinking whiskey came up. Gemma made some comment about enjoying whiskey every now and then and the crowd thought that would be the end of it. But no; materializing from nowhere (as frequently happens at Glastonbury) a bottle of Whiskey appeared which baldy proceeded to the stage with. Offering Gemma a drink, she obliged and sunk a shot to the rapturous applause and ‘chug chug chugs’ of the crowd. I got (non-digital) photos which I must find and upload.
I’ve seen Gemma 3 other times around Belfast, and each time there is similar interaction with the audience. She is always super friendly, chatty, and most importantly consistently brilliant. Many of her album tracks are soft, gentle, breathy affairs, but when played live they can transform into either a distorted rock/noise fusion or cuttingly tender moments. Live renditions of Hanging On are always raccuous, while gentle pieces like Easy On The Eye and Evening Sun are pin-dropping. I can only implore any readers out there to grab her albums and catch her if she’s playing anywhere within 200 miles of your house. For now, here’s a Belfast pic:
Guns ‘n’ Roses: The first band I ever got into, back when I was 6 or 7 or younger, G’n’R introduce me to guitars, rock, metal; basically they introduced me to music and shaped by tastes as a music lover. Of course, by the time I was of the age to start attending concerts, the band I loved was long gone. Rumours of Chinese Democracy and reforming were brought up every year, but aside from the odd movie single or South American live show, nothing ever happened. Until it did happen. G’N’R arrived in Dublin in a fury of hype- was Axl popping off to an oxygen tent between songs, what special guests were there, would they even show on time etc etc. I made my way down on The Venue bus, met up with some friends, and watched as Axl and the gang came on stage right on time. Blasting through every song you could wish for (except my all time favourite Think About You) it was about as perfect a gig as you could expect from the new line up. There was the usual banter, a few tracks from the then unreleased Chinese Democracy were played, and a great time was had by all. The RDS is a bit of a duff venue (pardon the double pun) but even that couldn’t take anything away from a special night and day.
David Gray: I never got David Gray. I mean I understand that bland, inoffensive music has it’s place but just not anywhere near my ears. Of course, i’m probably missing something given the acclaim of albums like White Ladder, but anytime I see that head bopping from side to side I get a sudden urge to pop it off. Likewise, that awful Babylon song has caused my ears to vomit on at least 3 separate situations. So why did you see him live then, asshole, you may rightly ask. Well, Glastonbury again, and my friends were casual fans. I thought I would give him a chance. Like Coldplay, Gray can perform and whip up the crowd, but when all it takes to whip up a crowd of his fans is a couple of head bops that isn’t really saying much. I’m sure many people who were there would say it was a great gig- a variety of hits were played, blah blah bland. Yeah, not my sort of thing.
The Gathering: Phew, we can finish on a high. Honestly, I didn’t know a lot about The Gathering when I saw them at Glastonbury (but they have since become my favourite band on the strength of that performance). I knew of them, I knew that the were a female fronted metal band, and I think I may have heard Leaves and Strange Machines before but hadn’t paid too much attention. They were touring as promotion for new album Souvenirs which saw a further departure from the style of music which made them famous. I saw quite far back from the stage for the whole show and let the dark, ambient moods flow through my soul. The weaving of the melodies with Gilmour-esque guitars, foreboding bass, and of course the nearest-thing-to-God-on-Earth vocals of Van Giersbergen were a revelati0n. Suffice to say, when I got back to normality I snapped up every album, starting with Souvenirs and was hooked. All there is left for me to say is- buy any of their albums now- I’d recommed Mandylion, How TO Measure A Planet, or Sleepy Buildings to start. All epic, all different, all the best thing you’ll ever hear.