Well for once it wasn’t me dragging Cameron to a gig, but Cameron taking me to see one of his favourite bands. We got there really early to try and make sure we got a seat (yes, we’re getting old), and it was a good job we did, because the queues were huge! When we got there, I’d forgotten I had left my tablet in my handbag, which led to a trip down to the cloakroom in the cellar to check my bag, which was quite convenient as it meant I didn’t have my purse and Cameron had to buy my drinks!
The support act was Mikky Ekko, a guy you may have heard of from his duet with Rihanna last year. I’d not heard anything else by him, and that duet isn’t exactly my favourite song, so I was quite pleasantly surprised with his set, really enjoying it. I wasn’t too sure about the first couple of songs, but I quickly warmed to him and by the end I was loving it. I was just disappointed when i checked Spotify and it doesn’t look like anything he sung at the gig was on there.
Which brings us to OneRepublic. I’d heard their new album, but didn’t expect to really know many of the songs. But I was quite surprised by how many of the songs I knew but just hadn’t realised they were sung by OneRepublic. The crowd (including Cameron) was singing along to all of the songs, giving the packed venue an awesome atmosphere. The lead singer was very energetic, dancing around the stage and jumping up on the speakers and getting the crowd excited. There was also a big video screen at the back of the stage accompanying some of the songs, including footage of Leeds and of us all queuing outside the venue, quite a nice touch!
I loved the gig, even though my ears were ringing by the end from the volume of the screaming and clapping. Definitely a good choice by Cameron, and I would certainly see them again if I could!
For Christmas, Cameron bought me tickets to see Eric Church at the Ritz in Manchester. Since it had been a while since we went away anywhere, we decided to get a hotel in the centre of Manchester and have the weekend away. Living in England, there’s not much opportunity to see country music played live, so I was incredibly excited to see one of my favourites, Eric Church, live for the first time!
I didn’t expect it to be too busy, but when we got to the venue 45 minutes before doors opened, the queue was already snaking around the corner. And by the time that The Cadillac Three came on stage, the venue was absolutely packed with hardly any room to even move to the bar. The variety of people in attendance was quite surprising too, people of all ages and who looked from all different social backgrounds coming together for a good time.
I’d never heard of The Cadillac Three before, but they were awesome. They definitely amped the crowd up and I came away from the venue and immediately started looking for their music online.
Which brings us to the main act. What can I say. Simply terrific. I would probably say that he was better live than on his CDs, simply due to the way that he interacted with the crowd and had us all joining in. I think he was quite surprised that people sang along to every single one of his songs, even the new album which has only just come out.
I have to say, it was one of the best gigs I’ve been to. Superb. If you’ve not heard either Eric Church or The Cadillac Three, you should definitely check them out.
While we were on holiday in Skipton, Cameron spotted a tweet from Leeds First Direct Arena advertising their open day – 2,500 tickets released for free to help them test some of their functions before the arena has its official opening very soon. We jumped straight on my laptop to order ourselves a couple, and today was the big day.
Having decided that even with only 2,500 people going, Woodhouse Lane car park would be packed, we took the train into Leeds and walked up from the station. That turned out to be a good idea, since there was an open day at Leeds University happening this morning too, and we heard that the car parks were rammed full.
We arrived at the arena about 40 minutes early, full of excitement, especially when the concourse started getting busier and they turned on the lights on the outside of the building. When we were all let in, we were allowed to wander around a bit before making our way to our seats. On the way, we stopped off to check out the facilities. Very clean (obviously), and large cubicles, but the only disappointment was the hand dryers – comparable to being breathed on by an old lady. But Cameron has since seen a tweet to say new hand dryers are on order, hopefully they’ve gone for a good old Dyson Airblade.
We were in block 105, the lowest of the available tiered seating (although there are more seats that can be pulled down below), and bang slap in the middle. Because there were only 2,500 of us, there were plenty of seats to choose from. Surprisingly, there was a fair amount of leg room, even enough for 6’5″ Cameron, who usually finds his knees pushed against the seat in front. The seats were also very comfy, much more padding than the ones at Sheffield Motorpoint, so you didn’t get ‘numb bum’ after 10 minutes.
After a quick introduction, we then moved onto some acoustic tests; booing, cheering and clapping on demand so they could get a feel for the sound. There was a video tour around the arena, and then we moved on to the two bands lucky enough to win a Facebook competition to perform at the open day. The band that came first were called The Scandal, although I have to say I preferred the second place band, The Puppeteers.
In between the two bands, they needed to test out the toilet systems, so wanted us to do a ‘grand flush’. Everyone was told to go to the toilet and then when instructed, all flush at the same time. I ended up in a toilet block with about 10 cubicles in it, but we must have been tucked out of the way, because we didn’t get any kind of instruction to flush, and we were stood there like lemons until someone’s husband phoned her up to see where she was. Good job we didn’t actually need the loo though, since they had no toilet roll dispensers installed in those cubicles yet.
The final test was actually a pretty good way of getting us all out of the arena, and it was a test of their emergency systems. A voice came over the tannoy saying something along the lines of ‘There has been an incident, please evacuate the arena’. It all worked very well though, and it was exciting to be one of the first to go inside the arena.
Having said that, we were looking at who we wanted to to see, and our two preferred favourites were Miranda Hart and Cirque de Soleil. But having seen the price, I think we might hold off on that for now., see if we can find any offers for cheap tickets nearer the time.
I’ve been wanting to read this book since it first came out a couple of years ago, but I’d never been able to justify the price (with it being an American book and not widely available in the UK). But my brother bought me it for Christmas this year and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
Brad Paisley is one of my favourite artists, and definitely one of my favourite country artists. His music is beautiful and inspiring, but also funny and catchy. I was pleased to find out more about the man behind the music. The book was primarily about his influences and the people who inspired him to become a musician, starting from his Grandfather buying him a guitar for Christmas, right through to meeting these country music legends and being honoured with the ability to play right alongside them.
As well as finding out a lot about Brad Paisley, this book also gave me a small insight into how the country music world works, and it’s a lot like I expected. It seems like no matter how famous you are, you’re still supportive of those up-and-coming artists who are looking to make it as big as you.
The book lets you in on Brad’s personal life too, for example the crazy story behind how he met his wife. But the part of the book that stuck with me the most was the end when he describes how his Grandad died, the biggest influence on his life taken too early and before he could see the success that he inspired. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I read this part.
This was a really well written auto-biography, it seemed very personal and friendly, almost like you were sat down with him listening to him reminiscing on the past.
Just got home from Sheffield where I went to see Il Divo with my Dad. It was officially my Dad’s Christmas present, but I only really said that to justify spending £65 a ticket and I really really wanted to go! We went to see them live 3 years ago in Manchester, and I’m very glad I spent the extra money for the better seats, it was totally worth it – 13 rows from the front!
The show was fantastic, just what you would expect from Il Divo. My only complaint was that the speaker system didn’t seem to be able to cope with David and Carlos singing at the same time and turned a bit crackly, but they are so good it didn’t matter – they could probably have done without the microphones with the power they’ve got.
Carlos was his usual cheesy flirty self, advertising his bachelorhood and making the ladies swoon. It seems like a lot of women seem to have a thing for him, but I don’t get it (Ithink it may be a generation thing). Although the last thing I wanted was to see a load of 70 year old women wiggling their hips right in front of me because Carlos told them to Salsa throughout La Vida Sin Amor.
I was so glad that they sang my favourite songs, Mama, Adagio and Te Amare, although I love all of them really. There were a few funny moments, like when Sebastien got about 3 words into the start of Unchained Melody and forgot the words, so Urs stepped in to help him. Sebastien charmed his way out of it though, blaming it on the ‘beautiful ladies in the audience‘, guess he picked that line up from Carlos. And then the comedy moment when David almost slipped down the last couple of stairs during My Way. He recovered it though, and turned it into a joke when his next line was ‘each careful step along the highway’.
Completely blew my socks off, great show, and I can’t wait to see them again. Even better because I got a rare day out with my Dad which was lovely 🙂
I’ll leave you with a video of my favourite song from the show tonight (although the video isn’t from tonight sadly):
This weekend, Frank and I went to London, primarily to see Ron Pope on Saturday night, but also to have a walk round and see all the touristy places as he’d never really been to London before.
I’d booked a hotel in Kenton, mainly because it was cheap (£64 for two of us for two nights). When we went to check-in, he couldn’t find any record of our booking, and eventually found out that the booking had been declined because apparently my card was invalid. Pretty weird, as I’d received a successful booking email, and also an email 3 days before our stay to say they were looking forward to seeing us. There was a big wedding in the hotel that weekend, so we were really lucky to get the last room available. Luckily for us, it wasa premium room and we were upgraded free of charge, although I’m not sure exactly what made it premium. You get what you pay for I suppose, and it was nothing special. I’d probably stay there again though, it was only half a mile from the tube station which made it very convenient.
Frank’s first trip on the tube turned out to be quite entertaining too. We were waiting at the tube station for a tube that was due in 3 minutes, and two dogs came hurtling down the stairs and ran straight onto the track. Thankfully, the station staff managed to stop the tubes in both directions so the dogs didn’t get mowed down, but although they managed to get one dog off the line, the other just settled down under the front of one of the trains and made no signs of moving. After about half an hour, someone obviously made the decision that the tubes couldn’t stay there forever, so the one that we needed to be on edged really slowly past the dog, which just laid there totally oblivious. Unfortunately, because of this delay, we only got to spend about half an hour at the Imperial War Museum.
Saturday night was Ron Pope at The Garage (Upstairs) near Highbury and Islington tube station. It was a great venue, and we got there early enough to get right to the front of the stage. Unfortunately they had bag checks at this venue, so we lost all the food and drink that we had been carrying round London and saving for our dinner after the gig.
The gig was opened by Caggie Dunlop. I was unsure at the start of the first song as she seemed really nervous, but she soon picked it up and she was really good. She did a fantastic cover of Do it Like a Dude by Jessie J, and also sang some songs that she had written herself – there was a really good one called You Changed the Rules. I googled her after the gig to see if she had a CD, but all I found out was that she is on the reality TV show called Made in Chelsea.
Ron Pope was awesome!! He sang most of my favourite songs, and he seemed genuinely surprised when people knew all the words and were singing along. He got up from his piano during A Drop in the Ocean just to listen to us sing the song at him, and said that’s the first time he’s ever had a crowd sing along as loud. He was also really surprised that people knew about his band (The District), and joked that he should have come to the UK earlier (I totally agree)!
The only bad thing about that gig was that it was a 14+ gig, so there were a lot of screaming teenagers, including one that started crying when he came out on stage. Frank was also a little bit concerned by the teenagers, there was one girl that was stood really close in front of him, and kept moving further and further back until he was pressed into the wall as far as he could, he couldn’t wait to get out of there!
On Sunday morning, Frank wanted to go visit Horse Guards Parade and see the changing of the guard, which was actually quite cool. The horses are HUGE, but we learnt from the museum that they are all specially bred on a farm in Ireland. After horse guards, we walked through the park down to Buckingham Palace, and were lucky enough to see the guards marching from the palace down the Mall to Horse Guards.
On Monday after we checked out of the hotel, we drove 15 minutes to the RAF Museum in Hendon. It was free to get in, and free to park due to a technical fault. It was a huge museum, with a lot of planes to see, and lots of interesting information. They had a cinema room where we watched a film about Air Traffic Control, and also a 3D film about the Eurofighter Typhoon (including some pretty cool onboard shots)! After we had finished looking round here, it was a long drive home, with Frank sleeping most of the way – I think the huge ice cream sundae at Little Chef must have tired him out!
I think we would like to go to London again later this year and spend more time in the Imperial War Museum, and walk around some of the places we didn’t get to see, like the Natural History Museum. We picked a bad weekend to go as it was the end of half term, but it was still a great weekend!
I know we’re now over a week into 2012, but I was thinking today about the best music that I heard in 2011, and I thought I’d turn it into a blog post. I’ve been told (quite often) that I have a very weird taste in music. I wouldn’t necessarily say weird, but maybe a little random and eclectic. I tried to put them into order, but that was too hard, so here they are in no particular order:
1. Wakey!Wakey! – Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You…
I love love love this album. I first heard the song Dance So Good on an episode of One Tree Hill and immediately fell in love with it. I’ve been to see Wakey!Wakey! live 3 times this year, twice in Nottingham and once in Manchester. Every time was completely epic, the songs have so much more passion live, and Mike Grubbs is hilarious. My favourite song is Almost Everything, the refrain of ‘It feels bad now but it’s gonna get better‘ is the best line from the album in my opinion. I only picked one Wakey!Wakey! album for the list, but I could easily have included others. A special mention to Wakey!Wakey! Wednesdays, which is a CD of cover songs, and of which I am the proud owner of a limited edition copy.
2. Chris Young – Neon
Over the past couple of years, I have developed a particular soft spot for country music, and Chris Young is my absolute favourite, his voice is so rich and smooth. I love the diversity of country music albums, from the completely random (but totally catchy) Save Water Drink Beer, to the completely beautiful Old Love Feels New. There’s no sad songs on this album like Flowers from his first album, which is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, although is also one of my favourites.
3. Luke Bryan – Doin’ My Thing
This album is another country music favourite, and like Chris Young, has a wide variety of songs on it. Rain is a Good Thing is about exactly what it sounds, but is so so catchy. Once I hear it, it’s in my head for the rest of the day. I have two favourites from the album, Do I and Apologize. Do I is a song from a guy asking his girlfriend is she still loves him, and the words are really emotional. Apologize is a cover of a OneRepublic song which was originally released in 2006, but I love the words, and I much prefer Luke Bryan’s version to the original.
4. Casey Shea – Love Is Here To Stay
Casey Shea is another artist that I have been to see live this year, twice – in Nottingham and Manchester. He has such a laid back style on his albums, which carried over into his live sets, although with a bit more oomph on the vocals. My favourite song is Good Man, I love the chorus: ‘When the black clouds come wash over you, will you stand tall and strong, or blame it on luck‘. I got his new album (In Your Head) towards the end of the year, but I haven’t really listened to it enough yet to include it on the list.
5. Pearl and the Beard – Killing the Darlings
I went to see Pearl and the Beard live in Manchester in November, and they were awesome. I found it hard to pick which of their albums to add on the list, but I had to narrow it down so the list didn’t end up 50 albums long! The catchiest song on this album has to be Douglas Douglass, its a floor stamping, hand clapping song that’ll be stuck in your head for days. I also love the cello and the soft vocals on The Lament of Coronado Brown.
6. To Kill a King – My Crooked Saint (EP)
I’ve seen To Kill a King livethree times this year as a support act to Wakey!Wakey! I cannot wait for their headline tour this year, if I can get tickets and time off work. This album was much anticipated, I first saw them live in June, but the album didn’t come out until October. They released a series of videos to go with the EP, which were well thought out and very effective in combination with the songs. Even though the album only had 4 songs, I still had to include it on this list as I listened to it so much.
7. Brad Paisley – This is Country Music
I’ve got lots of Brad Paisley albums, so when this came out in May, it was a sure buy. I have two favourite songs from this album. Remind Me, which is a duet with Carrie Underwood about two people trying to remember how it was back when they were in love. My absolute favourite is One of Those Lives, which is a poignant song about how we should all stop complaining about bad days and think of those that have it worse than we do. I liked this song so much, I wrote a blog post about it earlier this year.
8. Blake Shelton – Red River Blue
I discovered Blake Shelton this year through an iTunes recommendation, and I’m so glad I clicked the link and found this album. My favourite song from this album is definitely God Gave Me You. The lyrics are really beautiful; For when I think I’ve lost my way, there are no words here left to say, it’s true. God gave me you. Other highlights from this album include Honey Bee and Addicted.
9. Miranda Lambert – Revolution
Miranda Lambert is married to Blake Shelton, so its safe to say that’s a pretty talented couple. I’m not usually a fan of female country music singers, but Miranda Lambert is one of the exceptions, this album is so catchy. There are some pretty silly songs like Time to Get a Gun and That’s The Way That The World Goes Round, but then there’s also some really lovely songs like The House That Built Me.
10. Adele – 21
I was threatened with actual bodily harm if this album didn’t make the list (thanks Vicky), so it’s a good job I was going to add it anyway. There’s not really much to say about this album that hasn’t already been said by many people, so I’ll just say that I’ve sung along to this album a LOT of times in my car, and there isn’t a single song I don’t like.
11. Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops and Hooligans
I bought this album at the start of the year, and it’s so catchy. I listened to it a lot driving to Sheffield and back to pick Vicky up from work, so every time a song from this album comes on, I get flashbacks of the M1 at 10pm on a Saturday night, and completely random and bonkers conversations on the way home.
12. The Overtones – Good Ol’ Fashioned Love
This album is completely different to my usual kinds of music, but it’s one of my favourites. My iTunes library has classified these as a Doo Wop band, which is a pretty cool name for a genre. I just love the old songs like Blue Moon, and the covers of new songs like Only Girl in the World and Rolling in the Deep. I was sent an email about tickets for their tour, and I was about to book when I realised it wasn’t until December 2012. Who knows what I’m going to be doing that far in advance, so I thought I’d better not!
13. Ron Pope – 26 Tuesdays of Music
Okay, so this one doesn’t quite classify as an album, but close enough. From July to December last year, Ron Pope released one song a week, delivered direct to your inbox. It was a great idea for getting new music out, and he used it as a chance to experiment with different types of songs. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I would probably go for Reason to Hope and Got My Mojo Working, along with a new version of I’m Yours. I’m seeing Ron Pope live for the first time next month, it’s gonna be awesome!
14. Tim Hughes – Love Shine Through
Tim Hughes is my favourite Christian artist, and I missed this album for a couple of months after it first came out. When I finally bought it, I listened to it on repeat for at least two weeks. It’s the kind of album where you really need to listen to the lyrics, which as usual for Tim Hughes, were completely fantastic. He has an amazing ability to write songs that you can immediately feel connected with, which I think is what makes this such a brilliant album.
15. Eli Young Band – Life at Best
After buying Jet Black and Jealous at the start of the year, I liked it so much I bought a few other albums later on in the year. This is one I bought in August, and was kind of the soundtrack to my summer. Even if it Breaks Your Heart is my favourite. The chorus line ‘Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart‘ is a great line. I think my favourite song from the album is I Love You, a very simple song but really connects with you.
Well this list kind of turned out longer than I thought, so if you’ve got this far, thanks for reading (or scrolling really fast)! Leave me a comment and let me know if you agree/disagree with any of my choices, and let me know your favourite album from last year.
This last week has been kinda tough, so when I got home from work this evening, I was pretty tired and not in the best mood. Waiting for me on the table was this package:
When I saw ‘Family Records’ written at the top, I racked my brains frantically trying to think of what I had bought, really hoping that I wasn’t losing my marbles or buying things in my sleep.
I opened it up to a beautiful letter from Emma at Family Records letting me know I had been chosen for a secret customer delight package. The letter gave me the hugest grin on my face – it was a really kind letter, and I am honoured that they chose me 🙂
After I read the letter, I pulled the rest of the package out, and that huge grin got even huger (if that’s even a word). In the package was a copy of In Your Head by Casey Shea (featuring the songs from his recentshows) and a copy of God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson by Pearl and the Beard (featuring songs from their recent show).
But what completely blew my mind was a copy of Wakey!Wakey! Wednesday’s, which was handmade with stamps by Wesley Verhoeve from Family Records and Mike Grubbs from Wakey!Wakey! Only 100 were made, and I am now the proud owner of number 58!
There was also a beautiful pouch from Wesley’s trip to India (in Wesley’s words – “It’s from 2003 so it’s kind of vintage…right?”, in my words – “It’s beautiful!”), and a selection of Family Records stickers.
So, if you want good music, and to know you’re buying from people who are awesome, go check out the Family Records Store. You really won’t be disappointed.
As the day that Pearl and the Beard completely rocked my socks off!
Frank and I went to The Castle Hotel in Manchester to see Pearl and the Beard last night. When the tickets were announced at the start of October I knew I had to go, and the fact that tickets were only £5 each made it a dead cert. According to the tickets, doors were at 7.30, but as it happened, the doors didn’t open until about 8.15. Thankfully the Castle Hotel was a really nice pub, more of a ‘real ale’ kind of pub, but as I was driving (and I don’t really drink), I stuck to the lemonade. Frank did have a Kopparberg, which was apparently very nice (and smelled really fruity). The venue was quite small (the back room in a pub which probably held about 40 people), but I loved that it was so intimate. It did mean that I didn’t take many pictures though.
After the doors opened, there was a 45 minute wait until the first band came on. They were a band I’d never heard of before called ‘Onions‘. I wasn’t too sure about them when they first started playing, and although they did grow on me a little by the end, I don’t think I’ll be picking up their CD. They played for about 40 minutes, and then there was a 20 minute gap while it got set up for Pearl and the Beard.
After they’d got the stage set up, they took a few steps off the stage to the front of the crowd, and started a floor stamping version of Douglas Douglass (one of my fave songs). It was fantastic, they were walking around the room through everyone that was watching and stamping and clapping for percussion. When Jocelyn started singing I was blown away by how clear her voice was – usually singers don’t sound quite as good live as they do on their albums, but PatB were just as good, if not better! They played for about 50 minutes, but I really wish it could have been longer. Jeremy was great on his guitar with beautiful vocals, and Emily on Cello was amazing – I’ve never seen someone play Cello in a band before but it was great!
After they had finished, we bought our tour posters, and then left quite quickly to try and make it back to the car park before the charge went from £6 to £11, but unfortunately we missed it by 7 minutes! At least we didn’t have to leave early like we did for Wakey!Wakey!
Yesterday was the second part of our Wakey!Wakey! October tour. Show-wise, it was better than Nottingham, but I have to say I enjoyed Nottingham more – although this had nothing to do with the show or the venue.
The problem was parking in Manchester city centre. After driving round in circles in rush hour traffic for an hour trying to find somewhere to park, and to get TomTom to figure out where we were, we finally found a multi-storey car park. Drove in, parked up, went to walk out and saw a sign that said it closed at 10pm. We knew the gig wouldn’t be over by that time, so we left straight away, but it cost us £3.90 to get out.
After driving round a bit further, we finally ended up in an NCP car park, but that would only let us park for a maximum of 4 hours, meaning we had to leave the gig while Wakey!Wakey! were playing their last song, and couldn’t stay around to meet them again after. We had to walk through the guys from To Kill a King to get out, so I definitely felt rude. The worst part was when we got back to the car park there were only about four cars in there, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t let you pay for more than 4 hours.
The gig was at a place called Night and Day Café, which seemed smaller than the Rescue Rooms, and was infinitely hotter. We were so hot stood watching, it must have been way worse on the stage under the lights. Lets just say everyone looked kinda sweaty – especially Casey who came back out wearing a different shirt shortly after he finished. That being said though, it was a great venue. I love the smaller places – the gigs seem much more intimate, and you’re guaranteed to be able to see the stage.
Again, Casey opened the show, and there were more people listening this time, which I was glad about. Another awesome performance, I’m hoping that he may release a stripped back CD with just him and his guitar, I can feel so much emotion when he sings like that. I also picked up his new CD last night, which is not on iTunes yet. I have a feeling it’s gonna be on repeat for quite a while. I’m also hoping that he may come back to the UK for his own tour, so that he can play for longer than just the opening act!
To Kill a King had some equipment issues last night. Firstly, there were guitar cable problems and there was a quick scrabble to find another cable while they were still playing the first song. Then there was a drum issue, which meant that they had to improvise and play a song without the drums. I have to say, they played on really well despite the issues and performed another cracking set.
Wakey!Wakey! performed more songs last night than they did in Manchester (they didn’t have to finish at 10, which was great). They played a few more new songs, which I love already, and of course the old songs with most of the audience singing along. There were a lot more stories last night too, including a story of Casey Shea’s wild Karaoke adventure on the first night of the tour in Canada. The only thing that could have been better would be if we hadn’t had to leave early.
We’ll have to bear that in mind for our next gig in Manchester – Pearl and the Beard on the 5th November. Really can’t wait for that – tickets are only £5 too!