Barns Courtney @ Think Tank? Newcastle

Barns Courtney delivers a quality set that deserved a larger audience

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This was a first.  Well, at least a first for a long while.  Barns Courtney was introduced to me by my wife, Clare.  I was away at Glastonbury when she texted to say that she’d like to see him.  I’d never heard of him, but said yes.  When I got back, I had a listen on spotify and was hugely impressed by Golden Dandelions, Fire and Little Boy.

Think Tank? is a small venue in Newcastle with a capacity of about 250.  This one was far from full with about 70 to 100 or so present.  I was surprised as I expected it to be full.  It should have been as it was a little treat.

Barns Courtney took the stage at 9pm and the first thing I noticed was that he was sporting a moon boot on his right foot.  This didn’t impair him much.  It probably should have as I feared for his safety for most of the gig!  He seemed intent on bouncing around the stage as if it wasn’t there and fortunately managed to stay upright for the whole gig.

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The audience was relatively odd for the evening.  I don’t think I’ve previously been to a gig where the crowd stood back from the stage for the main act, but they were intent on doing so tonight.  Clare & I were probably the furthest forward and we were a couple of meters away.  That didn’t affect Barns’ from engaging with the audience.  He did so impressively, but his masterstroke (presumably tried and tested) came 4 songs from the end when he asked everyone to come forward so he could take a photo of everyone.  Everyone duly came forward.  He took some video footage, threw his phone to the ground and informed everyone that they might as well stay where they were now.  Sweet move.

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The highlights were clearly the tunes I knew from Spotify, but all in all it was an excellent 12 song set with a huge amount off energy.  John Waugh, the saxophonist with The 1975, played on three of the tracks and it brought an extra quality dimension to the set.  Barns was clearly happy to have him there.

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Glitter & Gold, Never Let You Down, Little Boy, Golden Dandelions and Fire were all awesome.  His debut album is out on the 29th September, so I’m looking forward to hearing it.  Shame it doesn’t look like it’s getting a vinyl release, but it will be well wroth checking out.

There was something about his attitude that I really liked.  I don’t know why, but he brought me in with something that I found incredibly amusing.  As he was finished with his mouth organ on one tune, he absently discarded it over his shoulder and it bounced to the back of the stage.  It was the way he did it that just had me laughing and warming to his excitable style.  I’m interested to see what comes next.

I pilfered the setlist from the stage as others were clearly hovering to do the same.  Shy bairns…

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Support act: Georgie Keller opened the evening.  He was on the stage by himself with a backing track for 30 minutes.  Pretty impressive and pretty brave, only taking brief respite with a single acoustic guitar cover of a Shawn Mendes track.

Food & drink: Clare & I were on our own for this one and as we were bit rushed there was no time for food in advance.  The post gig chicken kebab was a bit on the dodgy side, but welcome.  I took on board a Dead Pony Club and Clare had a Peroni at the gig.

Merchandise: none available.  Makes a refreshing change that I wasn’t tempted to part with more cash.

 

Chase Park Festival @ Saltwell Park, Gateshead

The inclusive Chase Park Festival proves a huge success in the blazing summer sunshine

The Chase Park Festival is a one day accessible festival that I’ve now been to twice.  This year it relocated from Chase Park to Saltwell Park, retaining the Chase Park name and brand.  The Saltwell Park site was a perfect enclosed setting in the afternoon and early evening sunshine.

You can read all about this festival on their website.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you have a family (the kids loved the goodie bags from sponsors; Voyage Care & Honda and the free face painting).  The tickets were an absolute steal at less than £35 for a family of 4 (when we went in 2015 it was an astonishing £10 for a family of 4!).  If you are lucky enough to be a fan of any of the acts playing, then it’s incredible value, but if you aren’t, for that price it’s worth a punt regardless.  Two of the acts playing yesterday are two of my current favourite bands and I was able to reacquaint myself with a band I was a big fan of in the 2000’s.

The accessible aspect of the festival is what makes this unique.  There’s a huge mix of people of different abilities in a superbly organised, inclusive arena.  A second stage (band stand) demonstrated an outstanding array of talents from those who unfortunately don’t get many opportunities like this.

The pace of the music didn’t let up until the final three acts on the main stage.  Until that point, the acts on both stages alternated with barely a pause for breath, so there was no time for restlessness.

We missed the first act (Fiona King) on the second stage.  All (Percy Hedley, White Dove, The Twist) were entertaining, but the final act, The Soundbeam Band, were the pick of them for me, despite some unfortunate power cuts.

Present: I was there with my wife, Clare and our two girls; Lana & Erin.  Andrew was there with his daughter.  My brother, Mike, was there with his wife and two girls.  We set up for the afternoon and enjoyed a picnic in the sun while enjoying the music.

My daughter, Erin, has become a bit of a poster girl for the Festival’s press since we attended in 2015, with the following picture attached to virtually every article that pops up on social media feeds (just search chase park festival on google images and you’ll see):

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Drinks: Wylam Brewery provided an excellent bar and I enjoyed several Galatia during the afternoon.  My brother sampled each of their real ale offerings.  The only complaint about the bar was how busy it got after 5pm, but it’s always a tricky balance to know how busy it will be.

The bands…

James Leonard Hewitson opened the main stage with a thoroughly enjoyable set.  This was soon followed by Vito playing some good indie rock.  Alex Francis then slowed things down with a fabulous acoustic chilled out set in the blazing sunshine.  I’ll be adding Alex to my spotify playlist.  Boy Jumps Ship then turned up the volume and our kids went to the front and really enjoyed themselves (Andrew & I went for a bit of a trek to the nearest cashpoint for most of this set).

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One of my current favourite bands took the stage at around 5pm.  This is the 4th time I’ve seen them in the last 12 months and they never disappoint.  Both Lana & Erin declared them as their favourite of the day and you can’t fail to see why.  There’s a slight possibility of bias from my kids after we spotted Helen and Joe on site earlier in the day and they were kind enough to do some signings for all of our kids.  They are a band from teesside who deserve more recognition than they get.  The Poacher is always a set highlight for me, but Saviour wasn’t far behind.

Cattle & Cane Setlist Chase Park Festival 2017 2017, Mirrors

Little Comets

I’ve seen Little Comets 3 times now and they seem to be getting better each time.  I think this set just edged it as my favourite on the day.  The band seemed to be really enjoying themselves and that always seems to add something to the show.  There were loads of highlights form this set; Bridge Burn (Lana’s favourite), The Man Who Wrote Thriller, Joanna, A bientot, Dancing Song to name a few.  Another band that deserve more recognition (latest album, Worhead, deserved a higher chart placing than 83), but I’m glad I was introduced to them back in 2015.

Little Comets Setlist Chase Park Festival 2017 2017

The Coral

Headliners on the day were The Coral.  I’ve caught The Coral 5 times now, but most of these were in the early 2000’s.  I became less familiar with their albums after 4th album, Roots & Echoes, but I plan to get reacquainted after this excellent headline slot.  It was really only the middle of the set that I was unfamiliar with, but it was a good career spanning retrospective.  There were some incredible guitar solos on show here, and the crowd were heavily involved on the way to a crowd-pleasing end with Dreaming Of You.

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The Coral Setlist Chase Park Festival 2017 2017

If you’ve never been to the Chase Park Festival or have never heard of it, then it would be well worth keeping an eye out for their offering next year (fingers crossed there is one) as it’s sure to be something special.

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Deer Shed Festival 8

An awesome family festival that I’d recommend to anyone. Loads to do, great music, great atmosphere and great company.

This is the third year in a row that we’ve been to the Deer Shed Festival and we’ll be going again next year.  Amy nudged us all in the direction of this “family friendly” festival back in 2015 and it’s now a permanent fixture on the calendar.

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DS6 & DS7 were superb and this probably topped them both.  The line-up isn’t packed with household names, but it’s fair to say that for me the music is a bonus as there is so much else to do there.  The website notes this as a family friendly festival and it most certainly is.  There’s so much to do and explore that every year we reflect on how much we missed.  The organisers do a fantastic job of making sure there is something for everyone and it would be fair to say that the kids activities are for the big kids too!

This year our kids did the following activities; fashioned a bow and arrow in the wilderwild, created “arty stuff” (screen print & designed bunny kids), did a forensic investigation, slack lining in the sports field, fairground rides, made paper airplanes and a paper dodecahedron…

You literally could spend all day in the sports field, science tent and wilderwild, but then there’s music across 4 main stages on top of that.

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Present at this one: Clare & I with Lana & Erin, Set & Amy with James & Ewan and Andrew with Mayu and Shumei.  The kids are aged from 4 to 9, but there’s something for everyone of any age.

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Food: the food is always great.  There’s a broad range of foods available from a variety of cultures.  I had Mac n Cheese, Red Thai Curry & an awesome steak & ale pie & mash.

Beer: probably the one frustrating thing about DSF is that you aren’t allowed to take any alcohol into the arena.  I know that’s standard at most festivals, but I’ve been spoiled at Glastonbury.  Nevertheless, that’s a minor complaint and the beer on offer is great.  Unfortunately I didn’t get as far as the Obelisk bar which had around 30 ales available.  I stuck with the main bar and enjoyed a few pints of the excellent Mary Jane and the specially brewed Wilderwild.

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Music: as always we created and shared a spotify playlist in advance.  I hadn’t heard of many of the bands in advance and so have now picked up a number of new favourite bands / artists.  I was looking forward to Teenage Fanclub anyway, but most of the others were pretty new to me and in fact many of the ones I did know were just because of previous DSFs.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see anyone on either the In The Dock or the Obelisk stages, but that’s the perils of having a family!

Friday

Happyness turned out to be the first band I caught on Friday.  I was familiar with a couple of tunes from the playlist and the played to a crowd that was beginning to build as the day wore on.

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Honeyblood were the main support on the main stage.  They’ve got some great tunes and have a good stage presence.  They can certainly make some noise!

I then caught a bit of Jesca Hoop on the Lodge Stage before the main headliners.

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Teenage Fanclub were awesome,  I saw them back in November and they were equally good tonight.  It was a career spanning set with a focus on their latest album, Here (4 out of the 16 tracks were from this one).  The tracks from my favourite two TF albums were my highlights (Grand Prix & Songs From Northern Britain), but it was all good.  Shame there was no encore, but it was still a treat.

Teenage Fanclub Setlist Deer Shed Festival 2017 2017

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Saturday

Two all female groups kicked off the music on Saturday.  The Big Moon were in fine voice and She Drew The Gun started the poetry theme that spanned to the headline slot.  I enjoyed both and will certainly be following The Big Moon in the future.

Sandwiched in the middle, Ste & I managed to catch the second half of the Roddy Woomble set on the Lodge Stage.  It was enjoyable, although I was hoping for a sneaky Idlewild track.  He may have played one and we just missed it.  I plan to check out some of his solo stuff after seeing this.

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King Creosote was next (after a fast spin on the Ferris Wheel), followed by Ibibio Sound Machine.  ISM aren’t my thing, but they certainly got the crowd dancing.

We all then went to see John Smith on the Lodge Stage.  He was great.  I hadn’t heard of him before the line-up was announced and I can see myself getting an album before long.  I might have got one that night in the march tent had events not conspired against me.  I had Erin on my shoulders for the last 3 or 4 songs and she was enjoying the sweet sounds.  She was obviously enjoying it so much that she drifted off.  We were all amused as she continued to stay asleep as the set ended and we left the tent.  The heavens then opened…

…as we headed to our base in front of the main stage.  With Erin asleep and clearly struggling, Clare and I decided (as did Andrew and his kids) that we wouldn’t brave Kate Tempest.  Not our thing anyway, but the weather took a turn for the biblical.  We were all saturated by the time we got back to the tent.

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Sunday

The festival has a shortened Sunday and consequently you get a feeling that the weekend has gone very quickly.  You can stay over on Sunday night for an extra £50, but we’ve only done that the once.  We only caught two bands on the final day as we emerged ourselves in the Wilderwild and the sports field.

Teleman were one of my most anticipated new (to me) bands.  They didn’t disappoint.  There’s something joyous about finding a new band that you take to.  It’s an almost certainty that I’ll have bought Brilliant Sanity within the next few months.

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The Sunday night headliner was another band that I’ve never really “got”, but you could tell that most of the crowd certainly did.  The Divine Comedy ended proceedings and left us all adding the early bird DS9 ticket sale date to our diaries.

Weather: the weather was variable.  The Friday was pretty awesome, Saturday was pretty patchy and then insane rain.  Sunday was pretty good with the odd showers.  If you come prepared with wellies, then it really doesn’t matter.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this a great festival.  See you next year!

 

Busted @ Bents Park, South Shields

Busted deliver a gig like no other band I’ve seen this year (or ever?)

We are off to see Busted with the kids next month btw…are you excited? 😂

The above was a text from my wife to me whilst I was at the home of music, Glastonbury.  Clearly I had no say in this. The kids would no doubt be happy.

I got home to discover that this was a free event as part of the South Tyneside Festival.  However, we’d bought priority tickets at £5 a piece! Bargain.

This was a decent event – especially for those that got in free. There were 4 acts on in quick succession, so there was little time to get bored between them.  I gather there was quite a queue when it opened (12 noon for priority ticket holders), but we didn’t arrive until until about 1.30pm and sailed straight through.  The weather was pretty great all afternoon, so that was a bonus.  All the support acts were local.

Sonny: the only local performer to do his own tracks (from what I can remember) until he closed with a medley of covers. He sounded pretty decent and was a nice way to start the day.

Call On Sunday: played covers for the younger audience members. Sounded good.

The Understudies: played covers for the older audience members. I really enjoyed these. Covers included; Franz Ferdinand, ELO, The Beatles, Buggles, AC/DC, Pulp…

Busted: I’m not sure how interested Busted were in this. Charlie Busted’s eyes seemed lifeless behind his shades and they didn’t hang around at the end of their set.  I’m pleased to say I didn’t know as many Busted songs as I feared I might.  The girls seemed to enjoy it, although they were pretty exhausted in the sun after a great morning playing in a football tournament. The definitely enjoyed Year 3000 and a few others. You can see why Busted have some appeal and there were tonnes of people singing.  It’s not music made for me. That’s fine. I was there for the girls and it was good value, even with priority tickets.

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For what it’s worth, here’s the setlist (I submitted this, but only thought about it 5 or 6 songs in – so it’s incomplete – and relied heavily on lyric searches on google!)

Elbow @ Tynemouth Priory & Castle

Elbow on top form with another fantastic album to showcase

After missing the “secret” Elbow set at Glastonbury (clash with The xx), I was really looking forward to this one.  The prospect: an outdoor Elbow gig…in the sun…in the grounds of a priory.  What’s not to like?

The weather forecast in the early part of the week looked dodgy with biblical storms prophesied.  As it turned out, this was not the case and the evening went ahead with no rain and a good bit of breakthrough sunshine.

Present at this one were Ste and his wife (Amy) and my wife (Clare), and I.  We went separately, but met up after some food.

Food: I had some amazing fishcakes and chips (Clare went for fish bites and chips) from … outside the venue.  Ste & Amy went for some burgers inside the venue from the Fat Hippo van.

Support: The Cornshed Sisters. Not my cup of tea, but a pleasant, gentle and melodic introduction to the evening.  For a brief period we speculated whether the set would be adorned with corn-on-the-cob related props, but alas, this was not the case.

Venue: the grounds of Tynemouth Castle & Priory were an amazing setting for the gig. The stage essentially seemed like it was on the edge of a cliff with the fret stymied sea view providing the incredible back drop.  This gig was one of a series of 4 days making up the Mouth of Tyne Festival.  Tickets for each day were separate.  Elbow were up first.
The one slightly odd aspect to this being a “festival” was the resulting atmosphere.  A significant proportion of the crowd had brought chairs, picnic rugs and other accompaniments, despite the fact that the doors didn’t open until 6pm.  It really felt like people were setting themselves up for a full day, rather than a 3 hour gig.  Not to worry, though, as this enabled us to get a spot very near the front (after navigating ourselves through the various picnic related obstacles).

What were Elbow like?
Awesome. Review complete.

Elbow really have found themselves a home in the heart of the British public.  An everyman lead singer who is as at home downing a pint of guiness (although this was done by Pete on the night) as he is getting the audience repeatedly chant “LOVE”.  I’m certain that this forms part of most Elbow reviews, but Guy Garvey is, without a doubt, the musician I would most like to go for a pint with.

Elbow opened with the classic Any Day Now, starting what turned out to be a good career spanning set with at least 1 song off every studio album (1 from each of; Asleep In The Back, Cast of Thousands & Leaders Of The Free World.  2 from Build A Rocket Boys!, 3 from The Take Off and Landing of Everything, 4 from The Seldom Seen Kid and 5 from the most recent album, Little Fictions).  The set lasted almost exactly 2 hours and I wasn’t restless once.

Mr Garvey kept the crowd interested throughout leading much arm waving, hand clapping and mantra chanting.  He followed the crowd in baiting Pete Turner to down his pint of Guiness which he gamely did after a couple of attempts. It’s not big and it’s not clever, but it’s always a crowd pleaser!

There were highlights throughout the set and it’s a credit to the new songs that they already feel at home amongst the established tunes.  Magnificent (She Says) and Little Fictions were particular highlights for me from the new album with Sad Captains, Station Approach, Fly Boy Blue / Lunette, The Birds, Lippy Kids and Grounds For Divorce standing out in post-gig analysis.  To be truthful, that list could just be the entire set as they didn’t put a foot wrong.  The gig and new album have inspired me to start an Elbow vinyl collection which I’m sure will grow rapidly.

There wasn’t a huge amount of merch on offer (just a few t’s), so no one partook.

Other entertainment came in the form of the surrounding audience members.  One woman who was clearly in the “picnic spirit” was so drunk she managed to fall over and spill her drink on at least two occasions with seemingly little provocation.  There was also a large amount of low level middle class heckling of Guy’s various on stage musings.  There were definitely a few mutterings about his more left wing call backs with the crowd.

Ste and I were talking about the consistency of Elbow.  7 studio albums into their career and there hasn’t been a bad one.  In fact, I genuinely love them all and feel like they are the sort of band that could continue to produce great albums for another 15-20 years.  I hope they do.  This was the seventh time I’ve seen Elbow live (that puts them 4th on the most often list) and I wish there had been more.  Roll on the next Elbow gig.

 

Turin Brakes @ 100 Club, London

Quite probably the best gig I’ve ever been to.

This was originally a secret gig, available only to those who ordered the planned Source Years vinyl box set.  Unfortunately the box set was cancelled, but Clare and I re-purchased gig tickets and took a trip to the capital.

Turin Brakes have been one of my favourite bands since The Optimist LP was released in 2001.  I own an extensive collection of Turin Brakes vinyl & CDs (68 items according to my discogs page) and had seen them live 15 times before this gig.  Clare came down the aisle to Fishing for a Dream and one of our wedding tables was named after The Optimist LP.  What I’m trying to emphasise here is that I’m a big fan of this band.  So is Clare.  The reason that’s so important is that I need to stress how good this gig truly was.  Despite a strong sense of loyalty and emotional attachment to this band, I feel I can reasonably say that this is probably the best gig I’ve ever been to.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect from a “secret gig”.  The doors were at 7.30pm and for the first time ever, we actually arrived a little early and queued outside on Oxford Street (in front of Ann Summers, no less).  That meant that we got right to the front, centre stage, where Olly’s mike was set-up.

The beer was great, if not eye wateringly priced (but then it was London).  I had 3 nice pints of Brewdog: Dead Pony Club Session Pale Ale.

The venue was small a wide, with the widest stage I’ve ever seen in a venue of this size.  300 capacity, apparently, and this place certainly has some history.

The support came from Tom Speight.  Tom gave a great performance, spending one song amongst the crowd bathed in smartphone lights.

Turin Brakes wasted no time coming to the stage after Tom departed.  What followed was a truly tremendous Source Years spanning setlist.  We’d been promised a set composed of songs from the first 4 albums and we weren’t disappointed.  The setlist was stuck on the monitor just in front of me, so I was trying to make sure I wasn’t looking as I didn’t really want spoilers!  They opened with a rip-roaring version of Blue Hour and didn’t let up from there.  The band seemed happy to be playing a great mix of songs which included many, that I suspect, they haven’t played in a fair while.  They played 6 from both The Optimist LP and Ether Song, 5 from JackInABox, 2 from Dark On Fire and 1 surprise new one.

They joked well with the audience throughout, suggesting they probably knew everyone there.  Midway through the set, Gale took lead vocal on Full of Stars (from Ether Song) and much amusement followed as after an aborted start, Gale noted that he’d forgotten the first line.  It was proposed that someone check the awesome fan made Ether Site for the lyrics, but the right ones eventually flowed.

Forever was noted as several couples wedding songs (someone behind us shouted that it was theirs) and the guys noted that Future Boy was written when they were 16!  My personal highlights from the main set were; Dark On Fire, State of Things, Last Chance, Fishing for a Dream and Feeling Oblivion.  After playing 14 classics, they went off for a very brief break before the first encore.  Red Moon, Rain City and Underdog (Save Me)…wow!  Another encore followed with them playing Ether Song, before giving the crowd a taste of things to come.  The new song was called Tomorrow and sounded great – it had a pop feel to it in the vein of Keep Me Around.  The closer, Slack, meant we were guaranteed to be sent home happy.

Why was this my favourite gig?

  • An amazing setlist spanning some of my favourite albums
  • Live performances of TB songs that I haven’t heard in a long time (if at all)
  • A band that seemed like they were having a great time
  • An audience that definitely was
  • An intimate venue with great acoustics
  • Front row position throughout with my beautiful wife
  • Setlist, signed posters and a picture with the band

Essentially this was a culmination of 16 years investment in a band that I love.  I could think of no better way to spend a Saturday night.

Merch:  They had vinyl copies of JackInABox on sale on the merch store which was typical as I recently picked up a second hand version of that.  I picked up a couple of posters of the most recent albums and Clare (being the brilliant wife she is) got them signed for me and asked Gale if we could grab a quick photo.  I bussled my way passed the crowds and got a great photo.  Olly complimented my Ether Song t-shirt (it’s still in top condition considering it’s about 14 years old) and I proceeded to make a cringeworthy comment, repeating a recent twitter reply I’d sent to him about Shaun of the Dead.  Oh well, that was the only thing that I’ll regret in an amazing night that will live long in my memory.

Thank you Olly, Gale, Eddie & Rob for a fantastic night.  Turin Brakes deserve a bigger audience, but Clare and I felt privileged to be part of a small one on Saturday night.  Well worth a trip to London.

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The offending cringeworthy Twitter banter. Fine in tweet form, but why I felt the need to repeat it is beyond me. Olly gave it the response it deserved *brief pause* “nice”.

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Turin Brakes Setlist 100 Club, London, England 2017, The Source Years [

The Lumineers @ O2 Academy

The Lumineers at the O2.
Surrounded by frickin’ idiots. Why must I be surrounded by idiots?
Good gig though.

Just Clare & I at this one.  Sat on seats at the back, so view was OK, but sound was impaired.  This was a particular problem during an entirely unplugged section which coincided with a drunken idiot near us being very loud.  Literally couldn’t hear a thing.  Also, impaired hearing throughout as the two couples next to us knew every word, to every song, and sang them very loudly!

Support act: Bahamas (OK)

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