A Tale of Two Gigs

On the 28th and 29th of September I played two gigs: the Summer’s End Prog rock festival and the inaugural Steampunk Convivial at the Crossness sewage works.

I’m very glad there is no obligation to choose a favourite because both were great gigs.

The weekend also got me thinking about the tension between being an artist and having to afford boring but necessary things like food and a home. I travelled to Summer’s End with amiable man-mountain and certified good-egg Matt Stevens. We talked about the difficulties of being a musician, chiefly the economic realities. I have never attempted to make a living from my music and don’t particularly see why any artist should expect to – this is culture not commerce- but it was interesting to consider as we travelled on far too many trains to Chepstow.

Summer’s End consisted of two sets: one ‘busking’ in the middle of Chepstow, the other on the ‘acoustic stage’ (actually a section of Chepstow school dinner hall) between the full band sets.

Here’s a vid:

And here’s a review.

I enjoyed playing, but more than that it was great to catch up with friends and meet in the flesh several people who I’d previously only known on facebook. There was a very genial atmosphere and lots of lovely people – much like at the Crossness Convivial.

Here I performed as part of almost a cabaret that included steampunk morris dancing, umbrella fencing and of course the ubiquitous tea-duelling.

There are differences between prog crowds and steampunks – the clothing being an obvious one: band t-shirts versus the full retro-futuristic, neo-victorian be-goggled glory of the steampunk. More than that, steampunk is a cultural wosame that clearly appeals to a wider demographic: there were far more young people and women in attendance at Crossness than Summer’s End.

However there are also real and joyful similarities. Both are sub-cultures that are fuelled by enthusiasts. Steampunk has its costumes, model makers, tesla coils and tea-duellers but prog is equally as vibrant. Instead of silly costumes, prog has podcasters, collectors and of course musicians (all right, and a few silly costumes).

In both there are products for sale – cds, records, tickets and endless things with cogs on but make no mistake there is no-one making money from any of this (in the sense of cold-hard capitalism. There are very various lovely little niche businesses). This is culture not commerce. And it’s bloody marvellous.

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