Week twelve – More than music

What can music do?

I’ve talked a lot during this mission about the power of music. The power music has on individuals. This week I took part, in a small way, in a project that used music for something more than just enjoyment, leisure and personal therapy.

A guy called Tom Harvey set up a project called Concert to Calais. His vision was to create a music tour from London to Calais, via some other venues. Along the way, they would collect donations to take directly to the refugee camps in Calais, and keep people’s awareness of what’s going on fresh in our collective mind. Once the pictures are relegated to the bottom of the news pile, it’s easy to forget that people are still stuck there, homeless and in need of help. Tom and his team reached Calais on Friday and did a fantastic job. Take a look at the project here:



One of the acts playing the Southampton leg was my friend Jim Chorley. http://www.jimchorley.com

He plays acoustic folk songs and is a jolly nice bloke, so of course he’d be playing and making his voice heard. He has many wonderful songs including this one that puts into words that feeling of solidarity and that drive to help those people who need it.

Jim was joined by Steve Lowis (who I’m afraid I missed) and Jess Vincent. Jess had been part of the Concert to Calais team for the whole journey. She had a very endearing manner and sang some beautiful songs including a promising folk song (alas, more verses are needed for full folk affiliation!).

It was an interesting evening. I was very tired and arrived late. The soothing, melodic music almost lulled me to sleep at points. But I was always brought back to reality by the pictures that sat behind the performers. The pictures of the camps in Calais. The pictures of the people not knowing what their future holds. One particular man stared through the camera at me. Every time I caught his gaze, I felt the tears forming. And that swelling feeling of helplessness.

I’m sat writing this on a cold, wet, windy Easter Sunday evening. I’ve got family around, I’m warm and dry and I’ve got a full belly. And all I can think of are the people who are sat in the camps in Calais, or anywhere else for that matter, where they’ve been displaced from their homes. These people are still there, every single moment we enjoy in comfort.

The Concert to Calais team did a great job, and everyone who attended and donated did something positive.

But there must be something else that we can do.

Right now, I don’t know what that is, but I have to believe there’s something.


Week eleven – Hairforce 5

Challenge: name the most entertaining band you have ever seen.

Who’ve you got? Whoever it is, I bet they’re not a patch on the band I saw last night at The Brook. http://www.the-brook.com

Yes, I’m throwing the rock gauntlet down. If you want the best night out, I suggest you channel your inner rock god and get down the front at the next Hairforce 5 show.


Hairforce 5 are a force of nature. They explode onto the stage in a whirlwind of spandex and hairspray and power through every 80s rock song of note – and a few more gems. They have the energy of a naughty toddler.

On speed.

In a toy shop.

On Christmas Eve.

They also have the musical goods to back up their bravado. The lead guitarist more than does justice to many of the guitar solos required. I also particularly like the keyboardist.

But the main draw is Stevie Viper – the lead singer and ringmaster of this rock circus. His crazy eyes dart around the room daring you to rock harder than you ever thought possible. His links between songs are the most contrived and well-spoken and they’re a complete treat. We, the crowd, are in the palm of his hand as he calls out more and more ridiculous sounds and phrases for us to copy. And like lambs to the slaughter, we do. Because we are invested in the show and the fun of the fair. And we all bloody love him.

My dear friend Kev, a husband, a father, a professional, an upstanding member of the community, repeatedly screamed towards the stage, “I LOVE YOU!”.

That’s the power this man, and Hairforce 5 in general have over us.

Last night, I sung until my throat was raw and busted out some of my best dance moves until I sweated more than a lady should. I did all of this with some of my best friends and with a soundtrack of face-meltingly awesome music. I was ridiculously excited before they came on stage and the smile has still not left my face in their wake. You could say it was a pretty good night.

So, back to my original challenge. When was the last time you were entertained that much at a live show?

A band like Hairforce 5 appear as a jokey, tribute band on first impression, but they are, without doubt, the purveyors of the best musical night out one can imagine. You cannot fail to have a good time.

If you don’t need nothin’ but a good time, get yourself to their next show.


Week ten – Impromptu in-store

Today I woke up not entirely sure what the day would bring. I had to play tennis, I had to vacuum and I had to do some shopping (I know, I can hardly keep up with this fast-paced lifestyle I lead). I checked Twitter – the 21st century equivalent of perusing the papers, listening to the town crier and eavesdropping on a juicy argument all rolled into one.

One of my favourite record shops, Hundred Records in Romsey http://www.hundredrecords.com, tweeted about an in-store they had lined up for the early afternoon. They were hosting a Scottish folk group called Breabach. I’d never heard of them. A swift Google later and I had a rough idea. I decided to lessen the pain of the shopping by stopping off for a spot of folk music after tennis. The plan for the day was filling up.

I was a little late getting into Romsey and so sidled into the shop after they had begun. The five of them in the band were stood by the window and had an array of instruments between them. To be honest, being the musical ignoramus I am, I had no idea what some of the instruments were. They definitely had a spread of woodwind and string though. And boy, did that make a beautiful sound with those instruments.

I’d never really counted myself as being a Folk music fan (Mumford & Sons don’t really count do they?), but their music was like an enticing dream. They veered between foot-stomping beats that made me want to hitch up my imaginary floral skirt and swirl around to and ethereal, haunting lullabies. And the lady’s voice was so sweet, pure and full of emotion that I believed every word she sang. The fact that she sang in Gaelic and I didn’t understand the words didn’t matter.

Maybe I do like folk?

By the last song, they reckoned we were ready to face the big one. Now, what’s the closest you’ve even been to a bagpiper? Because, in that tiny shop, we were all pretty close. And it was very loud. I had no idea. The bagpiper’s cheeks kept puffing and producing this incredible sound. I’m not sure if I could listen to a whole concert of just bagpipes, but it worked well in this context. I know my limits.

I bloody love Hundred Records and I love that on any particular day, I can call in and maybe discover a new band, a new style of music or a new appreciation of the bagpipes (other Scottish instruments are available).

I wonder what the next in-store will bring?

Week nine – Unheard Voices

So, a little background. The point of this mission, when I began at the start of the year was to see more live music – at least once a week. Technically, this is not difficult. Even living in Southampton – there are lots of live music options out there. Logistically though, it sometimes proves problematic. I have things to do and people to see (is anyone buying the idea that I actually have a social life? Anyone?). And realistically, my friends and family have more commitments than I do. This means that often, alas, I am unable to find a companion to accompany me on my musical meanderings.

Now, I don’t mind going to shows on my own; sometimes I prefer it so you don’t have someone inanely chatting whist you’re trying to listen to the music – there needs to be a code of conduct (am I right?). But company is often preferable, especially if it means using the time between acts wisely to catch up with friends. These friends however, are often hard to pin down. It has progressed to the point where I throw the net as far and wide as I can. A scatter-gun approach if you will. Sometimes this approach throws up some exciting hits.

This week I was heading down to Portsmouth to The Fat Fox (good pub – strong blackcurrant cordial FYI). My friend Alistair replied to my request despite living in another country (Wales). Albeit he was down South to visit, but I’ll take that as a win. My second catch came with my cousin Karen.

I cannot express how excited I was that she was coming along with us. I love Karen. She’s lovely and we have lots in common. However, music was not necessarily one of those things (except our amazing home-made dance routines to Take That in the early 90s when she got tipsy on low alcohol wine – long story). The only bands or singers Karen had been to see all had dance routines and a shitload of sequins.

The fact that she was keen on coming to a dingy (sorry Fat Fox) pub in Pompey to see some guys playing beat up guitars made my week, nay, my year. Her new ad hoc attitude is a winner.

And she loved it.

We were there to see Tim OT http://www.timotmusic.com and Thom Worth http://www.thomworth.com. I had seen Tim twice before, so I knew he’d be good and I knew some of his songs. In fact one of his songs sums up part of the driving force behind my mission – it’s important to support those people and places that are independent. Sometimes the best places you find are those that you’d never previously heard of. And sometimes those voices that you hadn’t previously heard are the ones that ring true and strike a chord that perhaps you hadn’t even realised was there. Take a listen.

We enjoyed Thom’s music as well. Personally, I would’ve preferred a little more harmonica – one song is never enough. They were both so good that I purchased EPs from both. Support the music.

We were also there to support them in their fundraising. They were reaching the end of a tour across the whole country from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for Overcoming MS. Last time I checked, they had raised over £1,600.


It’s not the only time that Tim has used a guitar for the powers of good. His new video shows his 24 hour busk to raise money for Syria Relief.

A fantastic job from Tim and Thom. And a fantastic job from all the people who came out to watch them and donated. Imagine though, if more people took the chance to leave their warm, cosy living rooms and wander into a pub on a Sunday night just to see who was playing and to tap their toes. You never know what you might discover.

On our drive home after the show, Karen was so excited to have seen something different. She was already planning her next trip out with me. Maybe if I can drag one person at a time out with me, I can help to spread the joy that live music can bring.