We are well into the season (and have been since mid-November) when various commentators favour us with their top X events of 2017 (for suitable X in the set of Natural Numbers). X can be as low as 10, but I’ve seen a lot of 50s and I’m sure larger numbers are available (just one of the advantages of having a Maths degree!). The events in question could be sporting (goals or innings etc) or cultural (films, books or TV shows etc) or I’m sure are available in many other spheres of fleeting human endeavour. It is not just important to pick your top X but it also seems critical to rank the events in order.
In my modest sampling, this urge for ranking seems to be strongly linked to possession of a Y-chromosome by the commentator – and this certainly seems to fit the general male stereotype. I must admit to having a Y-chromosome but do not really have the urge to place my experiences (or much of anything else) into a ranked sequebce. Depending on your point of view, this may make me a very poor or very good example of modern masculinity – but I rationalise it by reference to my degree. In my first year, as part of the module on Continuity and Differentiability, I was required to prove that no order relation exists on the complex numbers. Despite their name, complex numbers are not that complex (though you do have to imagine a square root exists to -1, which is only slightly absurd) – they can be represented by a pair of numbers: one representing the real part and one the imaginary part. If there is no order relation on something so simple, how can one hope to rank events in sport or the arts which one would struggle to characterise, even using many more than two numbers?
Despite the above, it has been suggested that I provide a list of my top 10 gigs of 2017 and, in common with so many media outlets, I cannot afford to ignore content suggestions from my public. However, I will draw the line at ranking in such a pubic forum – I might consider it behind a paywall – and, as you will see, will be heavily caveating my selection. It will offer more of a flavour of some of my favourite gigs of the year, skewed towards those that I can remember (so may favour more recent outings), and trying to capture some broad trends of my 2017 in music. For the eagle-eyed, number-fans I will admit now that my list will contain twelves entries – very much an Imperial take on a top 10 (i.e. I’m working in base 12).
I have no idea how many gigs I’ve been to this year, but it must be into the low hundreds. Not all of these will be have related to music – I have to find time for theatre, circus, dance, science and spoken word – but music is very much in the majority. If I have missed your gig – or it has yet to happen – don’t think that I didn’t (or won’t) enjoy myself, its absence may be explicable by the insidious impact of age and alcohol on the fleshy-tablets of my memory. Or I may just be harbouring a grudge!
Rafael Aguirre: a classical guitarist I’ve seen twice this year, first alone at Turner Sims and once with a cellist at King’s Place in London. If I had to pick a stand-out tune played by Rafael, it would be Gran Jota by Francisco Tarrega. His dad also makes a very beautiful guitar!
Manu Delago: a hang player and percussionist with a curious penchant for recording music videos up an Alp. I saw him at Turner Sims – having no idea what a hang was – and am planning to seem him again in the New Year.
Extrapolations: this was chosen as just one example of the free Professional Lunchtime Concert Series at Turner Sims. I’ve seen some truly amazing – and often seriously weird music – at these gigs, mostly recently Three Voices by Morton Feldman. Extrapolations was amazing contemporary music using a harpsichord – and I do love a good juxtaposition!
Lau: the folk trio and subject of a recent blog post!
Maple Leaf Lounge Sessions: there have been a couple of dozen of these in 2017 and they’ve all been fun and some have been amazing. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the line-up of a particular favourite as they sort-of blur together in the recollection (and while I could review my blogs for clues, I feel it is enough to write them and live with the author 24/7 without having to read the wretched things). The sessions wonderful resource for musical discovery, ales, cake and meeting/making friends. Snaps to Cat, Hayley and Satin for organising them!
Music in 12 Parts: My marathon with the work of Philip Glass at the Barbican. My first time being total immersed in a soundscape and an experience alluded to in an earlier post.
Out-take Ensemble: hard to choose one of their three amazing gigs, but I shall go with the latest, as mentioned in a recent post. One of the great, unexpected pleasures of living in Southampton.
Papillon: a violin/guitar duo which – as with so many gigs – I went to on spec, with no real idea what to expect. They claim to create cinematic soundscapes based on Eastern melodies – which sounds about right to me. I had an absolute ball, but this entry in the top 10 also stands in for so much new music and so many new artists I have discovered through the welcoming doors of the Art House.
Perpetual Motion Machine: Sunday night is Southampton Modern Jazz Club night at the Talking Heads and this has introduced me to so much great jazz over the course of 2017. PMM were my absolute highlight with their rock-infused take on jazz. The lads were loads of fun to talk to after the gig as well.
Playlist (@ Cobbett Hub): in a very strong year of Playlist gigs this was my favourite. Tabla music, contemporary classical with the Workers Union Ensemble and the stunning folk of the Drystones. I love three genres in one gig: even better when surrounded by books in a library (though surrounded by beer in a craft ale pub comes a close second).
Romsey Beggars Fair: not perhaps a single gig, and I didn’t stay for the evening – packed pubs full of the inebriated do not represent my preferred music venues – but a really great day of music (and stilt-walking Italian theatre). Most of my day was spent at what I think was officially called the Abbey Stage, but which all right-thinking people refer to as the ‘Chris Lucas Stage’ (though I did defect to Hundred Records for a little while) . So much great music with excellent sound (especially given the stage was a flat-bed truck), Bad Cat were probably my highlight from a very strong field.
Three Monkeys (Jack Dale/Charlie Hole/Real Raj): the Three Monkeys sessions at the Art House are always fun, but this session was a particular scream as documented here. Are you practicing safe capo?
So, there we have it: a very partial and subjective take on my favourite gigs of the year. I’m pleased to say that all but one took place in, or very close to Southampton, such is the huge range of music and talent available locally! I know that as soon as I press Publish, I shall remember a dozen other gigs that should have made the list – but such is life: any blog post can only be a snapshot of the author’s soi-disant thoughts. There were also dozens and dozens of local gigs alone that I failed to attend, how many potential favourites did I miss out on? I’d make a resolution to try harder in 2018, but I think I am close to the physical limit for a human being without a major breakthrough in either physics or biology allowing me to be present in two (or more) locations at the same time and somehow successfully integrate the memories. I’d also have to ensure that all versions of me provided “good audience”, a skill I have been complemented on more than once which I think alludes to my inability to remain stony-faced and physically immobile in the presence of good music. This probably indicates that a career on the international poker circuit is not a great plan, unless I can ensure that my face acts as a better vizard to my heart when playing cards (I fear it would also fatally interfere with my gig going as well).