And so, to Friday night. A friend and I went to see Nanci Griffith at the Sage…the fourth consecutive Austinite (Austinian? What are you called if you are from Austin? Texan! From the more specific environs of Austin…) I have seen. And she was great…she didn't set my world alight, but she was great. Did I mention I need to go to Texas (and that this has only recently dawned on me)?
The keyboard player, one James Hooker, who has been with her some 20 years, was excellent. He looked a bit like a rock n roll vicar…you can just imagine, in some cheesy film, him sitting down to the church organ of a Sunday and surprising the congregation by blasting out some choice boogie woogie. Or, as my step-mum believed Neil Diamond to have sung, perhaps he was more of a Reverend Blue Jeans ('Forever in Blue Jeans'!).
Nanci herself looks like your mum. Well, maybe not your mum. But like everybody's mum in a Sally Field-esque kind of way. And she has a little girly voice when she speaks. Her discourse seemed mostly to be about 'Pops', her step-father, with whom, I would say, she had an unhealthy fascination! Ok, so he did sound kind of cool, but she was singing songs about how beautiful he is etc. etc.
She also did a great number dedicated to Loretta Lynn, the central lyrics of which were 'If you can't find a friend you still got the radio'. Lovely idea, but fat lot of use…although music really has been the thing to pull me through some of my darker times. Of course, she also did her torch song, 'From A Distance', which I'm almost ashamed to admit gave me goosebumples (well, some people call them goosepimples, others goosebumps, so I thought I'd take the middle ground!).
We were in the centre of the 7th row, so really rather good seats. To whoever was 8th row, centre…thanks for the constant arrhythmic tapping on the back of my seat!
My pal missed the encore courtesy of her bladder, but Ms Griffith did a great a capella ditty, which I presume from the lyrics was called 'Road to Aberdeen', and 'Well Alright' by Buddy Holly (who I have always loved!).
And her bassist, it would seem from the introductions (I may have misheard!), was apparently called Elana Rockwood!
On Saturday, I headed down (on my own) to catch the tail-end of the outdoor (free) Americana music. Holly Golightly was on at 5.00pm, who I was really pleased to be seeing again. I'm not quite sure how you'd describe her 'style'…50s/60s-influenced rockabilly? This is the second time I have seen her gratis (the first time being last year's Freevolution festival on the Quayside)…I will pay for a ticket one day! The setting was lovely…Performance Square, as it is called, outside the Sage…an area where they have built some stepped seating (including some grassy ones), the backdrop of the stage being the Tyne and Newcastle. Still, there was something that just felt a little bit strange about it all, although I'm at a loss to put my finger on it. Given recent precedent, perhaps it was just that she doesn't come from Austin??
I hung around for a little while to catch the start of Richmond Fontaine, but it was mighty chilly and I had neglected to take a coat with me, so I didn't last much longer. As I was heading back through the Sage, on my way home, I passed Holly Golightly, who was just standing nonchalantly, not being bothered by people at all, enjoying the music herself. No I am not, in general, a stalker of (relatively) obscure musical artistes, so I didn't bother her either!
Sunday, and again solo, it was the Laura Veirs gig…it seems you couldn't give tickets away! I had one spare in the end, and the gig itself wasn't exactly jam-packed. She was being supported by local band Cedar Noir, who are partially made up of people I know. I don't think I've ever seen them live before, however, just Lucy (the drummer) in various other outfits (as in musical outfits, not clothing!). The best of the original songs they played, in my opinion, were 'Strangers' and 'Good Friend', and they also did a great cover of Patsy Cline's 'She's Got You'…with electric guitar, bass, drums, yadda yadda.
Laura Veirs was excellent. She looks so ordinary and unassuming. It was just she and her guitar (well, and some nifty gadgetry…like when I went to see Imogen Heap…something where she could record snippets of her voice, guitar, whatever, and have it play on loop as if accompanying her, whilst she sung and played over the top. Forgive me for not understanding the technicalities). I was very pleased that she did 'Jailhouse Fire' and 'Through December' from her album 'The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae', as this is my favourite (and first purchased…that generally remains the favourite, in my experience) album of hers. She was to see Kris Kristofferson (who she'd never heard of!) that evening, and generally 'hang out' with Lucy and Gemma…you guys are SO rock n roll! ;o)
The only thing which I have failed to mention about my weekend happened on Friday night, after the Nanci Griffith gig had finished. My friend and I headed across to the Pitcher and Piano…no big news from there. Then it was on to the Yard (open late, and my friend is picky about where she goes!)…no big news from there either (the only thing of note is the fact that now, due to the smoking ban, there were loads of people outside on the pavement, glass in hand…I heard three break in just the time I was there!).
Finally, as seems to be the culmination of (almost) every evening out in recent memory, we repaired to The Dog (formerly The Barking Dog). For those of you not familiar with this establishment, it would seem that it is called 'The Dog' for a reason…namely the appearance of most of its clientele! It truly is a dive of a bar, but the drinks aren't too expensive (as with most of the gay bars), it is open later than most places (until 2.00am) and they do a good line in karaoke…it is often very amusing, as it is often tympanic membrane- (read: eardrum) shatteringly bad!
Julie and I spent a great part of our time there outside in 'smoker's corner'. Now, The Dog being The Dog, they have not provided such things as awnings or patio heaters, or indeed anything at all…it is merely a case of standing, glass in hand, on the pavement outside. And this was working out fine until, what seemed all of a sudden, there was a major kick-off. Two men were involved in some sort of skirmish…one of them then smashed a bottle or glass on the floor, pushed the other down onto it, and proceeded to kick him in the ribs and then, even worse, to kick his head SO hard against the wall.
It truly was awful…I didn't dare look at the man left on the floor as the man who had committed the assault sauntered off (yes, sauntered…he didn't even bother to run)…suffice to say that he was still unconscious when they carted him off in an ambulance. I telephoned the Police (who then called for the ambulance too), as no-one seemed to be doing much. When they arrived I, like the good citizen I am, gave them my name and contact details, and a description of the man who had assaulted the other. They didn't seem to be all that bothered.
I just hope the man is alright…I have no way of knowing, or checking.
I'm sure there is going to be an increase in the number of such events, with people on the streets, holding glass, increasing due to the smoking ban. Frankly it's quite scary, particularly in terms of potential homophobic attacks.