It always amazes me when I meet someone I haven’t seen for years, or am introduced to people who are vaguely familiar with me as a music writer, at what they say. Often they will say, “Gosh, I haven’t been to a live concert for years.”
Then they’ll usually turn to their partner and say something like, “Darling, what was the last concert we went to?”
An embarrassed partner comes up with something like “Norah Jones” or Tom Jones” or something even more remotely lost in the mist of time. I just look interested and ask after their kids.
I can’t really understand how you can have a life without a soundtrack -- but then again, these people probably get in the car later and say, “Interesting meeting old Graham again, wasn’t it? He seems to know nothing about the stockmarket though”.
But music has always been a crucial ingredient in my life. I sang the Ballad of Davy Crockett at the top of the Eiffel Tower when I was about 4. (I still have the first 78rpm I ever called my own and it is . . . yes, The Ballad of Davy Crockett by Rusty Draper on Playcraft Records.)
Being 13 when the Beatles/Stones/Kinks/Who etc broke probably condemned me to this lifelong infatuation with music. I bought Ravi Shankar and Blue Cheer albums when I was 17, and never thought that Indian classical music or heavy metal garage band rock from San Francisco were mutually exclusive.
Right now I’m listening to an album of popular Greek music -- which will be replaced shortly by the next in the pile which is . . . Hmmm. It’s Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt from Canada, an album I know nothing about but was sent to me by a friend on Vancouver Island (cheers Shayne) and which Dave Rubin from Guitar Player magazine describes in the cover sticker as a “groundbreaking marriage of the blues and Indian classical music”.
Last night Megan and I went to A Night at the Movies at the Aotea Centre where the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Tecwyn Evans played great movie themes: thrilling Bernard Herrmann scores for the Hitchcock’s movies North by North West, Vertigo and Psycho; plus Nino Rota’s extraordinary suite from Fellini’s La Strada -- and then the vivacious Helen Medlyn came on and belted out the themes to Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, and Nobody Does It Better (from the Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me).
There was much more: some Harry Potter music, the Gladiator suite and a swag of Star Wars and so on. This was populist stuff but the middlebrow audience (of which I count myself a cheerful member) lapped it up and we went home very happy. It is always exciting to hear a live orchestra, especially when it is doing those stabbing strings from the Psycho shower sequence or thumping through some martial Indiana Jones music.
Not that long ago we were at the APO for the first in their Vero Aotea Series (at which pianist Jin Ju hammered the piano like Thelonious Monk on amphetamines) and that too was thoroughly enjoyable.
In both concerts there was none of that cooler-than-thou classical thing: at the first conductor Baldur Bronnimann made some good jokes and had a self-deprecating humour; last night Medlyn sashayed around in a glittery dress and was also highly amusing. If you live in or near Auckland and think you’d like a bit of this classical music stuff then the APO is offering some easily approachable options over the next few months.
And that wasn’t the only live music I have heard lately. About 10 days ago I dropped in to the Fancy New Bands gig at the Kings Arms to see Artisan Guns whom I am enthusiastically recommending to anyone who will listen. I’d seen them eight months ago when they played in the boardroom at EMI and, somewhat the better for the free alcohol on hand, made extremely enthusiastic noises to them.
But the songs on their MySpace page vindicated my belief -- and before an almost full bar at the Kings Arms they did it again. I chatted briefly to Mikey Havoc and joked, because this was a free gig, that this was Five Bands For No Bucks -- a reference to those Five Bands For Five Bucks nights at the Powerstation many years ago where I used to go to see Push Push, Nine Livez, Bad Boy Lollipop and many, many others.
At 56 I am probably far too old for rock’n’roll and hanging out in bars these days, but I’m not trying to “get down with the kids”. It’s just that I know nothing else, and few other things I enjoy quite as much.
I just love the fact that people are there enjoying music. It’s a whole lot more harmless standing in a noisy bar nodding along to a band than it is doing what a lot of others seem to do these days. Adults and teenagers alike.
Another recent musical highlight was Dudley Benson’s eccentrically charming gig at St Matthews-in-the-City a week ago. I’ve been a fan of Dudley’s since he opened for Casiotone For The Painfully Alone at Schooner Tavern five or six months ago to an audience of about 25. So I was delighted to see he got a big spread in the Sunday Star Times magazine in advance of his gig, and that the place was packed on the night.
Some people told me they’d come because I had been putting his music at my Elsewhere site. That was gratifying.
My weekly Music From Elsewhere postings (profile of a good new album/track to listen to etc) has seemed a logical step after writing reviews for newspapers and magazines for decades: putting music up for people’s consideration seems sensible, especially when much of it is music they wouldn’t hear or read about in other places.
Quite how the downloading thing is going to affect what I’m doing I don’t know -- but I’m making so little out of referring people to Marbecks if they want to buy (less than working for a fastfood outlet, believe me) that I think it isn’t going to affect me at all. I do it because I want to take this music that I love to other people.
If I wanted to do something for money then I’d do something else -- like get a real job.
This week -- among many other music-related and not-related things -- I’m speaking to a group of students at Mainz about the marketing of music in the world of MySpace, and am doing a radio programme on Thursday at 12.45 (Radio New Zealand: Concert) about Miracle Mile who are considered by UK critics -- and me -- as one of the best but least known bands in Britain. I’d previously posted them at Elsewhere and got an excellent response.
This week, among other new albums, I’ve banged up Wilco's Sky Blue Sky at Elsewhere (for Elsewhere subscribers I’m doing a giveaway of two copies of the Limited Edition which comes with a great DVD) and my customary oddball stuff. I've also added some more rock'n'roll anecdotes in the My Back Pages section for people's amusement.
Midweek I will change the tracks on the albums I have posted which I always enjoy doing, and on Thursday I’m off to see Lucid 3 and Dave Dobbyn.
It’s not a lifestyle that has ever made me money, but at least I do have some style in my life -- and things I anticipate with enjoyment.
I wonder what the stockmarket people are looking forward to this week?