Current mood:rejuvenated[Disclaimer: I started this in December, then forgot about it/got lazy, and got back to it the other day! Inconsistent would be an understatement. You have been warned!]
Well, after many subtle hints, and one mother of a email plea, just one person was man enough to step up to the plate, and agree to go see Rodrigo Y Gabriela with me in Nottingham's Rock City.
Step forward Edward Lane. One half (yes, the better half) of the guitar duo that will rock the world to its very core... Once they've written some songs, and the other guy learned to play that is!
Right, neither of us had ever been to Rock City before, let alone driven there. The first time we travelled to a gig together (Bon Jovi - Hyde Park, 2003)...err... well... we had a slight 'hitch' in getting there... something which we must never EVER talk about..... err.. yeah.. but the gig was awesome, 92,000 fans, great spot, great weather, great 3hrs, great fireworks! But there was no transport back, so we ended up in Roysten where we spent the night at a friend of Edward's who was also at the show. The last time we travelled to a gig together was in April '06 for the Kula Shaker gig at the Coventry colleseum, we got there no problem (woohoo), and ended up with front row positions and guitar picks at the end! Technically, that wasn't the last gig we'd both attended, as we saw RHCP at Coventry Ricoh Arena, but both arrived and left separately and completely missed each other at the gig! So this gig could have gone to either way!
Ed was the driver, and I was the wing man. Armed with a series of (surprisingly well thought out) maps to Rock City, some tunes loaded into a CD changer, and a Crunchy bar each, we set off.
Ok, I may have been somewhat of a Rod y Gab evangelist ever since I read about them in my Total Guitar mag, but I'd actually not heard all that much of their material, which is why Ed said had brought the album along in the CD changer. They are armed with just a pair of classical guitars (and don't sing), and though the sound may seem latin, their rock and metal influences are evident. I knew their new song Tamacun, as well as great versions of stairway to heaven, and Metallica songs 'One' and 'Orion.' I just hoped that they'd play them in the set. Of course, after cycling through the CDs in the changer a few times over, Ed realised he knew where the album was..... on his fridge.... to say 'typical' would be a hell of an understatement! In the end we settled on Sum 41's 'All Killer No Filler' album, and we remembered how much it rocked! An underrated album, check it out!
My 'excellent' skills as wing man meant we'd got to the venue in one piece! Though we thought we were late, doors hadn't actually opened yet, so it was perfect timing. The first thing we noticed was the different types of people that were in line, it was very diverse, ranging from punk 'kids' to old(er) couples. I didn't realise until I checked my ticket afterwards that this was an over 18s only show, which meant those punk kids weren't such kids, but we were definitely in the younger side of the spectrum, and it felt good for a change...
As we entered the venue, Ed dashed for a quick pit stop. The first thing I noticed was a promo poster on the wall of a gig scheduled for February, the artist - Steven Seagal (insert angry/puke face icon here). For those not in the know, I have a slight, oh how can I put it..... problem - with this guy, where I hate him so much. Think it was the movie Under Siege 2 that did it, I mean, the guy so obviously got shot in the train but nooooo, "there's no bullet in here"! I couldn'tbelieve this guy made the serious move into music, but I guess anything is possible (calm down Randip, count slowly 1...2...3.. ok I'm calm...)
While I still waited as Ed's pit stop was still "going", I had a blast from the past. A woman walked past me who I swore I recognised. I didn't stop her, but I thought it was someone from the school where I worked during my placement year, a teacher. But I couldn't remember her name. Mrs Crocker I thought. I'm sure there were two Mrs Crockers and she was one of them. But I couldn't be sure, so because of Ed's past experiences, I kept my mouth shut, but it drove me insane throughout that evening! The next day, I txt a friend of mine who still works at that school, and he confirmed that it yes, the teacher was there! Though, he pointed out that there were two Leslies (not Crockers) and one was a Crocker.... And that this was the other Leslie! Glad I kept my mouth shut then!
First thing we noticed was how chilled out the mood was around the place, perhaps it was due to the "mature" audience, but this was new to me. Along the steps or any where there was to perch themselves, people sat with a wine/beer glass in hand. We had a pint at one of the Rock City bars and then Eddie thought he recognised the bar maid at the bar on other end, and as we walked towards that bar, he soon realised that it wasn't her! We had a pint there to while we discussed important things such as "inappropriate hugs." Allow me to interrupt myself here. Inappropriate hugs is the funniest dare I've heard in a long time. Its when you're talking people, be they friends or complete strangers like a waitress bringing a drink, gestures like "thanks" and "bye" are replaced with outstretched arms, like you're going in for a hug. You can guess, the funny outcomes, my favourites being: being completely ignored and left with arms outstretched, or probably more funny, having someone go embarrassingly into an awkward hug! Anyway, all this was going on while the support act played. It was folk guitarist, James Yorkston, a guy from Fife, now based in Edinburgh, accompanied by a pretty lady on the fiddle/violin. To be fair, I can't really give an honest assessment of them because I was too into the adult conversation that I was having with young Edward - I believe we were revisiting the horrors of walking into a closed patio door, in a pub, with a plate of food - (I won't say who it was, but I'll give you a clue.... It was Ed).
The standing area at this point was still fairly empty, with people still choosing to chill out, but there were a few (probably folk fans) standing there watching Mr Yorkston. He seemed pretty competent, did a couple of old Irish folk numbers and some of his own stuff. I remember reading that when Rod y Gab were trying to make it in Dublin, busking, they befriended another guy in a similar situation, Damien Rice, so maybe they chose Yorkston to bring a similar talent to the masses. But I'm not sure it it worked. But then again, what kind of band could support a main act of such a unique genre? I mean, a rock band of some sort would've probably be just as normal as having James Yorkston.
As usual, the masses gathered to await the main act. Every gig I go to makes me regret all the height jokes I ever make to friends who are shorter than me (and I'm only 5" 8'), and it makes me hate tall people that little bit more (Damn you Eddie!), though this was a more friendly environment, but as one blogger put it:
"This is the point in the night where the place you have occupied at the front for the last hour or so is almost forcefully taken from you by some skinny bimbo who thinks her blonde hair is a free entry ticket to the security barrier, well it isn't love, so fuck off, get here earlier."A bit harsh, but there's a point in there somewhere! Despite the tall people, we had a decent position near the front towards the left and plenty of breathing room. On came Rodrigo y Gabriela.
They went straight into their new single, Tamacun. And they had the crowd going right from the start! No pogo-ing or anything at this gig, but plenty clapping and the occasional well timed "hey!" with a raised fist (or rock/devil sign) in unison with ryg and the crowd! Don't know exactly how the guitars were mic'd up, but it was amazing how the sound ranged from delicate to bloody thunderous depending on the technique employed by those two. Gabriela was the more percussive guitarist, providing the latin-esque rhythm with a combination of super fast right hand strumming and 'hits/slaps' on the guitar (mainly used to mute the strings or hitting a different part of the guitar body to get a different sound). Meanwhile, Rodrigo took lead duties with his, his metal influences shining through with fast picking, though I guess some people can be forgiven for thinking was flamenco (though it isn't!).
After this song, Gabriela greeted the crowd, and before she forgot, wanted to dedicate the show to a lad who'd had suffered brain trauma, and was eventually successfully treated at a local NHS facilty, (and thanked the staff on behalf of the family). This facilty, she said, was going to be closed, (everyone booed at that) and she said, in typically smooth rock and roll fashion "That aint foooking cool man!" This "profanity" was a theme for them both during the show, whilst recalling the story of their past. "Fuckin', can you believe that shit man?" says Rodrigo after revealing that they got kicked out of a Mexican Music institute (or something). I dunno. There's something about swearing in an accent that's just cool (and funny)!
These guys have a hatred for the "system", in this case, that is the music industry. Mainly those exec know-it-all-know-nothings. Mainly in America. They are eco friendly and all their album material (inlay) is made of recycled stuff. They mentioned that some American exec was worried that it cost too much money to do (in addition to questioning the music itself) that and suggested regular material, to which they replied that they wouldn't do the album then! He soon backed down! The same goes for their merchandise. They requested t shirts for this tour comply with fair-trade style regulations (i.e. the material and how its manufactured), when they found out that this wasn't the case, they decided they would still sell them, but with all proceeds going to charity.
Lets talk briefly about the set list. Well, they didn't have one! After the first song or two, they said they'd be going to the states (with a lack of enthusiasm) so wanted to have fun with the real fans, us. So basically they asked what we wanted, and said they'd be taking requests (restricted to their work/their covers) throughout the show. And they were true to their word. I shouted for stairway to heaven, but I don't think my voice carried! Not to worry though, they played it at the end, as well as the covers I wanted to hear. Their version of Metallica's One was great. Greater still because I noticed they swapped lead/rhythm roles mid intro! And the nerd in me noticed in that intro, a little variation of the 'rhythm' (i.e. not lead) part; they managed to seamlessly put replace a bar with the "Fade to Black" (also by Metallica) intro! Genius!
In another song, I was sure I heard another excerpt of Metallica riffary in the form of a few seconds of "For Whom the Bell Tolls". They used this technique of slipping bits in to great effect as its not integral to their song, they used just enough to show their metal influences, yet blended into their own unique style. Their cover of Orion (yup, more Metallica) was a great example of their abilty to put their own spin on things and make a song seem like their own. That and Stairway to Heaven really showed that quality.
One of the cool "rock star" moments that happened was when theree was some singing. Well, not by them, but by us. They strummed the intro to Pink Floyd's "Wish you were here", and the crowd recognised it and it snowballed into mass sing along. I didn't know all the words but joined in where I could. The "rock star" part was when Rodrigo bust into the slide solo. He didn't use a slide, instead he grabbed his half full (not half empty!) bottle of beer and used it as a slide! Awesome! Then for extra effect, he raised is bottle to salute us! Sticking with the rock star theme, there was also a guitar duel between the two, where one would have to try and match what the other did. The twist in this was that they tried to do it using their own style, which made it interesting. Gabriela can't shred like Rodrigo, and he can't 'percuss' like Gabriela.
To summarise, it was an awesome show. It really was. My concerns about the fun appeal not lasting due to it being an instrumental gig proved to be unfounded. It was a lot of fun, and different. They seem like genuinely nice people, which was evident in the stuff they said, and also when Gabriela rejected Rodrigo's invitation to come off the stage and play at the front barriers, because she said the people at the back wouldn't be able to see. They even came to the font at the end of the show and started shaking people's hands in thanks. Ed shook hands with Rodrigo! Edward was right when he said its stuff like this that makes the crap that you do in working/studying life worth it. Other deep meaningful views on life ensued, the jist of it being to make the most of it.
As for Edward, in the words of Tenacious D, "as long as theres a record deal, we'll always be friends!"