I am rushing this post to press while you, dear readers (or at least those within a reasonable commute of Southampton) have a chance to act upon it. Well, some of it – other parts should remain valid for rather longer…
Yesterday evening I spent at the Talking Heads at an annual event called Share the Sound (is this the earliest a title has ever been explained, I wonder?). I think this grew out of the music department at the University of Southampton but is not limited to its alumni: either as performers or audience (though I like to imagine I could pass as a mature student – in terms of physical, if not mental, age – if pressed). It gives some sixteen local (and youthful) ensembles a showcase over two nights each March and the music is of a frankly annoyingly high quality. Last night was the first night of this year’s extravaganza and so there is still a chance to see tonight’s line-up which holds more established acts (or at least more acts which I can confidently say I have seen before and can thus recommend).
Yesterday evening’s gig was really well attended, especially given that the weather in Southampton would have suggested to most people that it was time to gather animals in pairs and start loading them onto a boat in the hope of re-populating the earth some time in late April. The level of attendance was not solely a function of the number of members in each ensemble: though many were quite numerous and this does help (especially if any come from large families). The size of many of the ensembles did lead me to worry that our universities are not teaching young musicians some fairly basic economics: if there are six of you on stage, that modest gig fee has to be stretched awfully thin! I did notice that a number of musicians appeared in multiple ensembles, which is certainly one way to improve their earning potential. I believe that one Ben Lester wins the prize for membership of the most ensembles last night, drumming in three separate groupings. He is some way from the record, so there is still all to play for tonight.
I was only expecting to know the headliners last night – and they had new tunes to sate the music-hungry throng – but I was royally entertained for the full four-and-a-half hours of the gig (a sample of the acts – basically the one’s captured mostly in focus – can be seen on the slideshow below). My favourite “new” band was Slate/Sound, composed of a trio of musicians I knew from other contexts, playing some truly glorious jazz funk. I would encourage you to seek them out, but they technically don’t exist and have zero on-line or social media presence. It’s a refreshingly bold approach to marketing: I shall be interested to see how it works out for them. In the brief gaps between bands, the Heads was full of friends to chat to and share the latest chapters of our respective soap opera (or sitcom) lives. Sadly, far too many of them to do proper justice to – how do other people with more than three friends cope? This is a new problem for me and I fear that I am still adapting.
Watching the young folk, I feel there were some lessons that I can share (to add to the sounds):
Firstly, I noted that there seems to be a fashion among young front men to wear frighteningly tight slacks. I favour a skinny jean myself – partly for their practicality on a bicycle and partly to show off my rather shapely pins – however, by comparison to many a young singer last night I wear parachute pants. Their jeans were so tight that while I cannot imagine how they either put them on or remove them – I assume they were sewn into them before going out and would be cut out of them at the end of the evening – little else was left to the imagination. The risk of deep vein thrombosis must have been minimal, but an awful lot of blood must have been forced into their upper bodies. They would surely also have suffered from much reduced mobility around the hips: bending over looked if not impossible then very ill-advised, I’d guess a friend would be needed to assist with shoes and their lacing. On the basis of last night’s trews, I think Malthusian concerns about the world’s population reaching 10 billion by mid-century are probably over-stated: I don’t think most of the current crop of young blades will be in any position to carry on their genetic lineage. Their hopes of siring issue will have been, quite literally, crushed.
The second lesson relates to stagecraft when playing the guitar or bass. However, slimming the colour or patterning of your top, if you stand edge-on to the audience the resting position of your instrument will make all too obvious any additional ‘timber’ you may be carrying around the midriff. It is always going to be the better option to face your audience and, where possible, to avoid the use of a thrust stage. I myself, plan to perform from a seated position as benefits my advanced age and to avoid any such issues arising.
(By the way, readers should not assume these two lessons cannot apply to the same person.)
I shall only be able to catch the end of tonight’s sonic sharing (another gig to attend), but I will have my spies at the full gig to harvest any further lessons. Should this post have inspired you to join us, feel free to say ‘hi’ and/or stand me a pint!