What was your first ever gig? Either the Dirt Band at Astroworld or the Charlie Daniels Band at the Houston Rodeo. Both were approximately 1981. It was years later that I started going to see bands without other associated entertainment.
What is the biggest gig you saw? Surely the Princes' Trust concert in Hyde Park. I was reminiscing about it only the other week with someone else who had been, because Alanis Morrisette opened and was stonkingly good, and we were surprised. And then Eric Clapton was completely pants, ditto the Who, and Bob Dylan was really excellent, again against all expectations. The day was cold and wet, and we were approximately half a mile from the stage. But still, £8.50 or something. 1996? 1995? Before M was born, certainly. I think 100,000 people were there.
What was your most recent gig? Karine Polwart at the Union Chapel on Wednesday night. She was startling in fact; I'd heard a few songs but was really quite unprepared. A rather pricey gig at £17, even given that she had a band with her and there was support. She said 'I'm not even sure I'd turn out to see me at that price'.
What's your favourite venue? Favourite standing is probably The Spitz at the moment, though I do very much also like The Scala. Favourite small seated is Bush Hall, favourite larger seated is for sure the Union Chapel. Favourite festival site has to be Cropredy, with that huge sloping field.
Who would you most like to see that you haven't yet? Horslips! There are also some bands I'd quite like to see if only they played smaller venues (eg I'm not about to pay £90 to see the Eagles). I missed Lau and Joe O'Connor at Towersey this year, but need to catch both of them. The Devil's Interval are coming to the folk club in the next month or two. And of acts from the past? Horslips circa 1973 to be sure. And perhaps some of the other folk rockers in about 1970. Also the Wombles. Oh yes, and Jimmy Shand. And Red Box, though I bet they could never play that stuff live.
Ever walked out of a gig? Hmm. Loads of festivals where I've not been taken by whatever I'm hearing; eg Los de Abajo at Cambridge last year. I didn't walk out of King Crimson at the Albert Hall, but I can't for the life of me think why not. A few pub gigs where we've just packed it in and left a bit early.
Furthest you've travelled just to see a band? This is a bit embarrassing. I famously passed up seeing Patti Smith because it's a bit inconvenient getting home late from Shepherd's Bush on a weeknight, and then read a fanzine article from someone who'd made an 8,000 mile round trip to catch a gig on that tour. One of the incontrovertible benefits of living in London is that you feel seriously aggrieved if someone tours and doesn't come closer than the Fairfield Halls in Croydon. We've chosen to go to festivals a couple of hundred miles away because of the lineup, though.
Best support act? Most unexpectedly good support act was Kate Rusby supporting Show of Hands in the forerunner to Folk in the Fall, oh, years and years ago. I think Hourglass had just come out and she was basically petrified about being on stage but still quite, quite astonishing. When we saw Little Johnny England supporting the Oysters we already knew how good they were. I mentioned Alanis Morrisette at that Hyde Park concert above. The other one that springs to mind was that we saw Jim Moray and Dr Faustus as a 'double bill', Dr Faustus going first, and they were just fabulous at a point that was a real low ebb for Jim Moray. So that would probably be my 'support most thoroughly outshines the lead band' for a gig where it was the lead band I was trying to see. I first heard Alasdair Roberts supporting Billy Bragg, and that was pretty good.
Band you've seen most? Oysterband, obviously. Dozens of times. But Fairport must run them fairly close too.
Five best gigs?
That's really tough. In particular I don't want to include anyone who wasn't at their peak. So I loved seeing Runrig at the Albert Hall, but I know that they were much better a couple of years earlier. Similarly there's no chance of me including Eddi Reader because I never saw Fairground Attraction, and although Steeleye are great at the moment (see them if you can) it's not the 'classic' band.
Show of Hands at the Albert Hall, the first time (it's available as a CD). It was just such a sense of occasion, this notion that a band who just played little folk clubs could get it together to fill the Albert Hall. A real sense of community spirit too. 1991?
June Tabor and the Oysterband at the Garage on the Freedom and Rain tour. I just loved the album, I was already a huge fan of Tabor, and became a huge Oysterband fan that night, and it was a pretty small gig. Tabor's voice was just about at its peak, the material is all great, and it was very lively, by which I mean that people played their instruments and sang in a lively way, not that they ponced around the stage. Ooh ooh. 1990 I think.
Bellowhead Burlesque launch gig at Bush Hall. Most album launches are a bit shite, fun though they are. This wasn't on account of how the band have been playing together for two years without getting an album out. That was this autumn.
Moxy Fruvous at the Mean Fiddler. This was my most serendipitous gig; Steven had mentioned hearing them on GLR but we didn't own anything by them, and I happened to pick up an Evening Standard and saw that they were playing that very night. There was a tube strike, so we phoned for tickets and drove over. And they were just incredible. We may have been the only non-Canadians in the audience. Perhaps 1995? Before we had kids for sure.
The fifth is a Richard Thompson gig, but I don't know which one: it could be solo at the Hackney Empire, or with a band at the Shepherd's Bush Empire or at the Albert Hall. Or at a festival. Every RT concert I see is one of the best gigs I've ever been to. He just messes up the grading curve.
Next gig? We will probably go to the folk club on Sunday to see Chris Coe, but I sort of think the folk club hardly counts. Next proper gig is a bit of a weird one; tickets even cheaper than the folk club, for the Royal Opera House 'Firsts', which is I think an evening of avant garde aerial dance. We're not going for that; we're going because the aftershow entertainment is Tim van Eyken, with Robert Harbron, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan. A very cool lineup and tickets are a fiver. If the main show is too execrable we'll just escape to the bar.