Ron Pope and Zach Berkman at Union Chapel

This weekend was my trip to London with Frank to see Ron Pope and Zach Berkman at Union Chapel. We stayed at the same hotel as last time, which was probably a mistake. Booking a hotel 2 tube stops from Wembley on the day that Blackpool are playing West Ham in what I assume was a big match was a bad idea, our hotel was full of noisy football fans. We also found out what a ‘non-premier’ room was like. Last time we wondered what made the room premier, but this time we didn’t get an upgrade and it was pretty obvious. The room was about half the size and the bathroom was rubbish! But it was only for one night, and the gig more than made up for it.

The gig was in a beautiful church in Islington called Union Chapel. It’s a proper working church during the day, and during the night it is used for gigs and shows. The stained glass with the setting sun was simply amazing. And being a church the acoustics were amazing.

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I had seen tweets to say that Caggie Dunlop was going to be there, but she didn’t turn up. But that meant more Zach and Ron so I’m not going to complain. Zach kicked off the gig with his guitar, then played a few songs on the piano too. I love his albums, but he was wayyyy better live. I always love to feel the emotion in a song, and when Zach explained that he wrote Celia after seeing his Grandma hold her first Great Grandaughter just before she passed away made me listen a lot more closely to the words of the song. Amazing. He played a few songs I’d not heard of, and when I tweeted him after the show he told me about an old album that I’d not heard of, so that’s now playing on my iPod.

After Zach finished his set, it was over to Ron. I saw him a couple of times earlier this year when he played acoustic shows, but this time he was playing with a whole band. It was brilliant, especially when you consider that the band was put together by Ron’s tour manager and they’d never all played together until the day of the gig. When Ron was playing guitar, Zach played piano for him, and vice versa. Paul Hammer of the District also joined them for the show, which was pretty cool, especially when they all sung Somewhere in the Darkness as I wasn’t expecting any District songs.

 

The only bad part for me was that although we were in such a beautiful venue, other people clearly didn’t place quite as much importance on the fact that we were in a church. I know I’m not into fashion, but I really don’t want to see 15 year old girls wearing shorts so short that their butt is showing out the bottom. And definitely not when I’m sat in the pews of a church!

But by far the best part of the night was when Ron was about to play a song and said ‘hold on, I’ve got an idea’. He picked his phone up and started to call someone, which had us all a bit confused. It went to voicemail (typical!), and he left a message which said ‘Grandma, we’re about to play your song’. He held up the phone for everyone to say hi, then said ‘I love you‘ and hung up. He played Shoot out the Lights, then explained that he wrote the song when his Grandma had cancer and she asked him to write her a song. Luckily (and in Ron’s words), she ‘kicked cancer’s behind’. The phone call was really sweet, and you could tell that the song was quite hard for him to sing. The words of the song are so poignant now that I know why he wrote them:

We’ve been watching for a miracle
We’re praying for a sign
When the cure is made of poison then it’s hard to rest your eyes

If it’s time, Oh Lord
Shoot out the lights
Shoot out the lights

By far the best gig I’ve been to yet, even though it was a long weekend with a lot of driving – totally worth it!

https://twitter.com/#!/RonPopeMusic/status/204009479103184897

A Weekend in London – and Ron Pope!!

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 was a 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!

Top 15 Albums of 2011

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 live three 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.

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26 Tuesdays of Awesome Music!

One of my favourite artists, Ron Pope, is currently doing an awesome ’26 Tuesdays of Music’ project. I signed up for it in June, and the emails have been coming through every Tuesday since 5th July. The first week was a special treat with 5 songs included, and every week since then I’ve had an email in my inbox with a new song waiting to be downloaded.

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It’s a brilliant way of releasing new music, and I love that because I signed up in June, I don’t have to pay for the songs each week, so it seems like I’m getting new music for nothing. Some of the songs have been completely different to the previous albums (Got My Mojo Working is a particular new favourite), but I also love the other songs, like the new version of I’m Yours.

If you want to check out this project, take a look at his website. You can also follow him on Twitter. If you want to know what he’s like, here’s a brill cover of Firework by Katy Perry that he did with The District:

All I can say is that I’m really looking forward to the next 18 Tuesdays of new music, and keeping my fingers crossed he’ll come and play in the UK!