Kenyon College

Friday, February 19, 2010

A return to Bristol and London.

I returned to my two favorite cities for two spectacular concerts. On Valentine's Day I was in Bristol, and on the 16th, London. (Disclaimer: Do not let the fact that I felt okay skipping a week of classes for fun things be a deciding factor if you are a student looking for a study abroad program. Nope. Especially if you have a weakness for fun.)

Bristol - The Maccabees, The Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Pink, The Drums

  • One main bit of Bristol has a lot of shops and they're all on a steep hill. You feel like, at the top, you should have reached some awesome spectacle - indeed, there are some very nice buildings up there. It's worth the walk. (The Boston Tea Party on this hill is also worth the walk.)
  • Any spare wall is plastered with posters for upcoming shows - Bristol is a very happening place, musically. It reminds me of Seattle. How nice it would be to live in Bristol and have access to the music!
  • The slide: You may recall from my last post concerning Bristol a discussion of the smooth rock slope that has been polished to a metallic sheen from having seen the downward trajectories of so many rear ends. On the afternoon of my former visit to the slide, I was not able to go down it because it was monopolized by children. Pah! This time, however, was different. The slide was damp, but it did not hinder me. No, if anything, it sped me more quickly to the bottom, at which lay a large rocky outcropping! If not a near-death experience, it was certainly a near-injury experience. And yet, though I was yelling the whole way down and though I crashed bodily into the rocky outcropping at the bottom (it was the only way to stop) - afterward, I felt changed. Enlightened somehow. I wanted to do it again.
  • The show: For dinner we ate at this very hip place that TJ knew (he seems to know all the hip places and is thus a valuable addition to any adventuring party), and it was called Start The Bus. Wow! Even the website is hip! The walls had been painted with quirky, professionally done doodles, with strange cartoons ("Sometimes you just want chips," says a doodle with chips protruding from mouth, nose, and ears.) and a Boston Tea Party-esque array of furniture. Almost oppressively hip. After that experience we traveled to the O2 Academy for the show, where at the door they took my camera (sigh) and so I have no pictures of what was otherwise an incredible night.
    The Drums, an American band, had a lead singer who was twig-like, blonde, and felt the overpowering need to make robotic gestures as he sang such fun songs as "Let's Go Surfing." Part of what I love about concerts is the audience participation. The lead singer of the Bombay Bicycle Club looked so happy when the crowd sang along with him (the crowd is a being with one voice and many hands.) As for the Maccabees' performance, well, let me just say that this band will probably define my time in Exeter.

London - Spoon, The White Rabbits

My next trip, for expenses' sake, was conducted in a low-budget way - cheap coach, cheap hostel, but these things weren't even hindrances. My time in London was amazingly fun. We spent most of it in the part of London known as Camden, which - well - I've mentioned before. It's my favorite part of London. It's probably the best place in the world. The atmosphere, the people, the market, the pubs, the music; everything is slightly off-beat, run-down in some places but charming and sharp in others, crowded and colorful, full of people selling things, wanderers, musicians, strangely-dressed folks and mundanely-dressed folks, huge statues of horses and labyrinthine markets hung with fairy lights and chandeliers, shops smelling of incense and the tang of spices mingling with the cool winter air and the press of voices.

In short, it is another world.

Now, as for the show, it took place in a venue called The Electric Ballroom. Somehow, some way, TJ and I were able to scoot right on up to the front of the crowd. I got to lean against the rail and be mere feet away from the bands, just like at the Frightened Rabbit show. I even got to take my camera in! The White Rabbits, whose music is full of energy on the studio album, is even more attention-grabbing on stage, and their performance was - how shall I say this? - electric. They swapped singing duties and instruments like it was nothing. I was enthralled, and then Spoon came on. Now, if you don't listen to Spoon's music, you should. Hearing all the songs I loved being played right in front of me, everything else disappeared. That night was seriously one of the best ever, right up there with Frightened Rabbit.

Afterward, the crowd left pretty quickly, but I wanted to meet Spoon. We caught sight of, and were able to talk to, two of the band's members, but Britt, the lead singer, evanesced before we knew it. While we were talking, a security guard came up (he was ushering out the stragglers) and asked us for our "passes" (like press passes, or backstage passes, I suppose). Dazedly, I handed him our tickets, which he seemed to accept as justification for our presence there, and so we were able to continue talking with half of Spoon long after everyone else was evacuated. It was great.

In closing: fried eggs.


The silver ball at Bristol - sadly out of focus (that's us!)

White Rabbits

White Rabbits

White Rabbits

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