Concert Reviews

Thistle be a good title for a post…

June 13, 2007

Well I had a great couple of days up in Scotland. I’m sure you don’t need me to say how much I enjoyed Keith Rowe’s solo set as that was always inevitable. He played for around forty minutes and produced a powerful brooding performance that he announced immediately afterwards to have been heavily informed by his visit to the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, where he had played a solo set just a week or so earlier.

My trip to Aberdeen began early evening Sunday, when as I said in a previous post I set out to make the long journey north by train. After a couple of hours travelling I ended up at Crewe station, home to most of the trainspotting community of the UK. I had two hours to kill here before I boarded the sleeper train up to Scotland. Much of these two hours were spent clutching a large cup of coffee in a gloomy waiting room as I worked my way through the ten hours worth of the BBC Radio 4 comedy quiz show I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue that I had loaded onto my iPod in preparation for the journey, doing my best to not look like a member of the trainspotting fraternity.

The sleeper train was about how I expected. My ‘room’ was essentially a boiling hot cupboard with a bunk bed in it, and a sink hidden below a wooden panel that emitted a strange smell when uncovered, so I pretended I didn’t know it was there… Sleeping itself was not an easy task. Once I’d turned the iPod off and tried to settle down I drifted off to sleep quite easily as the sounds of the train have never been a problem for me to get to drift off, I find them quite comforting, but staying asleep was a much harder task, as every time the train pulled into a station (and it seemed to stop at every station along the very long route to Scotland) it did so with a real jolt that virtually threw me out of bed and out into the coridoor.

The room was dark with the blinds pulled own so there was little to see on the journey up until I woke at 6AM and decided to forget trying to sleep any more and went for a walk along the carriage taking in the incredible views of a misty morning in the Scottish Highlands as I went. The train pulled into Aberdeen perfectly on time at 8.30AM, an hour after I had been served a cardboard box that apparently was meant to contain a continental style breakfast, but instead housed a piece of croissant flavoured rubber and an odd object that seemed to consist of cereal coated in congealing thick yoghurt. I gave eating a miss and instead made do with the tiny cup of coffee flavoured dishwater that came along with it.

So I left the train feeling tired and hungry and wandered up onto the concourse to be met by Keith Rowe’s smiling face, a greeting I wasn’t expecting and raised my mood considerably. We then met up with Bill Thompson, a Texan musician that has lived in Aberdeen for a few years now and was responsible for bringing Keith over to play a show. Bill and I met last year at the Huddersfield festival and he’s a great guy also making interesting music. One scrambled egg and salmon breakfast with decent coffee later we went and wandered around the Aberdeen Art Gallery, which is a curious mix of the old and new laid out in the most confusing manner possible, with an exhibition of Norwegian diving suits and snow rescue apparatus thrown in for good measure. A good time was had though, and after a couple of hours and a further coffee I set off to find my hotel, taking great care to ignore all directions given to me by Bill. Nice guy, appalling navigator…:)

A quick shower later I met up with the others at the venue for the concert to sit in on a workshop given by Keith, about which I have written a separate post, and then off to grab a quick bite to eat before the evening’s events. The opening two sets of the evening were not really my cup of tea, firstly a solo musician whose name I forget that created drones with an electric guitar played in a Rowe-like manner by holding electric toothbrushes etc over the pick-up, but in a very simplistic manner that wore thin very quickly. Then came a quartet of improvisers from Newcastle that rejoiced in the collective name of Improvisers from Newcastle. Their set left me cold, a busy, energetic improvisation for electric bass, violin, and two clarinets that included two of the musicians from Keith’s afternoon workshop that really seemed to have decided to ignore anything he had to say.
Keith’s solo set rendered the rest of the evening irrelevant however.An incredible performance from a man in a very rich purple patch right now. If you get the chance of hearing him play any time soon I strongly recommend you grab the opportunity.

A late night dinner at a Turkish restaurant about a twenty mile walk from the venue (Bill was navigating…) brought the evening to a close. The next morning we made breakfast last about three hours before I headed back to the station to begin the long journey back home again, this time throughout the daytime. So a great couple of days as far as I’m concerned made special by the good company. Big thanks to Bill and Keith.

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