British Sea Power – Bath, Komedia, 17th May.

The Wandering Horn warms up

For once, what is arguably one of the best and easily the most eccentric bands were nice enough to play twenty minutes down the road from me! This never happens, so despite a disgustingly long day at work, and the fact that I’d hardly had any sleep, and wouldn’t have much more that night either, and that a mild cold was creeping up on me, my gig buddy and I braved the variables and went to see British Sea Power play at Bath’s Komedia.

And it was so worth it…

First off, obviously, the merchandise stall is always one of the focal points at a Sea Power gig. Most bands sell t-shirts, badges, cds and so on, and these do turn up on the BSP stall, but this time it came with added own-brand tea, chocolate and lager (surely a wonderful survival kit?), Tea Power mugs (magic mugs, no less – the pattern changes when you add hot water), and vintage pill boxes, smoking tins and (oddly) plastic fruits pieces to decorate.

As avid BSP fans, we (I mean Sea Power fans as a collective) have all been anticipating the new album with eager ears. I am confident it will be one of the album’s of the year. This new offering should be all-new material, unlike the album of 2009 ‘Man Of Aran’ – a new soundtrack to the 1934 silent documentary. And it’s not that Man Of Aran was terrible – au contraire, it used some of their finest tunes and melodies in a new and rather foreign context – but the point is we had heard some of it before. The new, as yet untitled, album, has not been heard yet, aside from a few gems thrown out at this gig. Lucky souls that we are.

I suppose we should talk about the support… Called John and Jehn, and they were ok – not too harsh on the ears (always a bonus), but didn’t really grab me. This was a disappointment as I thought supports were on the rise, quality-wise, considering Sound Of Rum and B Dolan for dan le sac Vc. Scroobius Pip in March, and supports for Lightning Bolt last December. We worked out that they were French, but they sung in English (odd I found – why not make something of what you know best? At least it wasn’t pidgin English, though that could have made for some comedy), and the lead singer looked like he was about the snap. He annoyed me a little for some reason, easily the coolest members were the girls in this band (what?! This never happens), with one playing keyboards and the other on bass, and the switched half way through as well. Pretty solid drummer (as far as I could tell), but the moment that conjured up the greatest feeling was when the lead singer looked like he was about the throw his guitar across the stage… Not exactly enamouring then, but pretty standard as support. In fairness, they could have been The Beatles and I still would rather see Sea Power. Obviously.

Abi and her viola

The setting up to a gig of BSP is somewhat different and slightly more interesting than nearly every other band I’ve seen (I don’t think my words are doing them many favours – despite sounding pretentious, they are actually pretty cool. Really. Yes really). Decorating their stage in flags to begin with, then foliage from the surrounding area, it takes about fifteen minutes, and frequently they tune up their own instruments (as you can see on the right with Abi, and above with Phil), so instead of the painfully boring wait in between Support and the band you really wanted to see, you have visuals! Komedia’s stage size lent itself well to a 6-piece band with a set – it made for a pleasantly compact, and therefore ambiently cosy, area. Wood, Phil, Abi, Noble and Yan all made appearances before their set actually started, and looking like they’d just been dragged through every retro and charity shop the world has to offer, they were wearing some awesome stuff. I’m not really one for fashion – clothes tend to pass me by somewhat – but when it’s as different as this it deserves a mention. Noble looked like a 1960s chav of sorts, wearing what I think was a sports shirt (not a football one so much) with, if they were in a contemporary context, comfy trousers that you put on at the end of a long day. Wood was in his generic navy blue boiler suit (I swear he must have a wardrobe just of them), looking like a cross between an in-mate and someone come to fix your kitchen sink, and Abi was wearing some lovely bright red shorts with a navy-themed top. Scarf and all. Good call Abi, her outfits never fail to impress me. Which is odd. Hamilton was decked out in something similar to Wood, with an added nest of grass as a hat, making him look like a wilderness, or a “marshland Jesus”. Although, aesthetically, his clothe choices are good, I can’t help thinking he doesn’t really consider the practical… Mr Sumner was pretty dull as far as “outfits you won’t find on the high street” goes, but that doesn’t detract from him musicality or performance at all, and Yan had the most incredible all-white thing going on. There were plus-fours (YES REALLY!), with long socks and foliage sticking out, some sort of woollen jumper that was a little like a cricket jumper minus the colours, a white scarf and ribbons. Amazing. Good work Yan.

Yan and Hamilton, Glasto '09

Now. What about the music?! The set-list was outstanding, starting with ‘Apologies To Insect Life’, featuring ‘Remember Me’, ‘True Adventures’, ‘Waving Flags’, ‘No Lucifer’ and ‘Lights Out For Darker Skies’, amongst many others. As they have so many incredible songs,you feel the need to yell out “CHOON!” at the first few notes of each song, and it appears to me like  greatest hits set. I think ‘Waving Flags’ should be more widely spread – it encourages a gentle pride in one’s country as well as appreciating all others. And I think that it something rather relevant, especially at the moment. Similarly, we could all benefit to the lyrics of ‘Lights Out For Darker Skies’, and one of the rarities played ‘Childhood Memories’. Such a lovely tune that last one. As well as the ‘classics’, we were also given ‘Pyrex’ and ‘Zeus’, presumably to be on the new album, and they too sounded excellent. Especially the latter. Alas for song names, ‘Pyrex’ just reminds me of cooking equipment, though I think the song overtakes this.

There were some excellent moments when Noble, Yan and Hamilton were on playing their guitars in the same position, with the fret board pointing at the same angle, making for an awesome-looking front line. The concentration in Wood’s face is outstanding, if not slightly crazed at times, and I was very impressed by Phil’s multitasking with keyboards and cornet. Although I am surprised he’s never considered a haircut, after it kept going everywhere. He does look mighty cool with a guitar though, even if it is a little outlandish for those mellow Sea Power types.

I say mellow, Noble did end the set by climbing the huge amp to the right of the stage, looking like he was threatening to jump, and Yan nearly destroyed the mic stand by swinging it around a little too wildly, considering how flimsy it was. However, the ending was just incredible – ‘Spirit Of St Louis’, being possibly one of my favourite songs ever, is a very good set-ender, especially when it’s extended (not quite to ‘Rock In A’ standard, but there was some semi-improv stuff going on there), and the band are clearly ‘in to it’. Lovely stuff. No encore but that’s ok – it would have completely ruined the ending number.

The only downsides were (to take up permanent residents at Pedants Corner) that Hamilton was slightly flat on some of his vocals, and that you can never bloody hear Abi. Such a shame as she’s a good player, but you can only hear her when the guitars aren’t present. There were some beautiful duos with the viola and cornet though, when you could hear them. Oh and Yan didn’t let me have his ribbon (or rather the roadies didn’t – not sure if Yan had a say in it or not), but there was a set list left for us, so not a total loss.

Crowd-wise, it was an interesting one… No sardine-effect at the front (thank god – I like to be able to breathe), no one throwing remainders of pints or bottle of piss (Sea Power have nice fans it would seem), but similarly no one jumping around wildly. So very vocal though – there was a lovely male contingent behind us who were yelling out ‘EASY, EASY!’ (so on and so forth) at the start of ‘No Lucifer’. Bounce factor therefore minimal, but pipe factor was good. Exceptionally odd.

So! To sum up, a very good gig overall – a sedate Sea Power, though not subdued, a cracking set list, lovely stage and costumes, idiosyncratic merchandise, lovely playing, a calm crowd and a wicked band. Why can’t all gigs be this good?

British Sea Power played:

Apologies To Insect Life
Remember Me
True Adventures
Down On The Ground
Childhood Memories
Waving Flags
Great Skua
No Lucifer
Canvey Island
Fear Of Drowning
Lights Out For Darker Skies
A Trip Out
Spirit Of St Louis, with a hint of Rock In A. Which would have been Rock In Bath.

And I can’t wait for the next album. Or gig 😀


Mezzo Forte Wednesday – SeeTickets and Others Ticketing Agenices

SeeTickets are scum. It’s official. It has been stated so. They are thieving bastards who can make any amount of money they want to on any ticket they want because, much like Sainsburys or Tesco, people KNOW them. They appear to be reliable and safe. They have stacks of people working for them and are putting the smaller places (like Bristol Ticket Shop, for example), wildly out of business.

How is it fair that SeeTickets can state quite openly on their website:

British Sea Power – Komedia, Bath – Face Value – £12.50. You pay – £14.25. Transaction Fee – £1.50

(And that’s not even including Postage) Thus meaning for two dedicated souls to attend a performance by one of their favourite bands, £30 is exchanged, instead of the £25 it morally should be. I can buy tickets from the bloody venue! Or online, or over the phone – SeeTickets is not needed. They really are scum, and if they make £5 profit from two tickets, and the venue sells out for such a performance, that means SeeTickets have made thousands. On one gig. If they are not needed, then how is this possible? Also, transaction fees appear to change from gig to gig – if there is a £1.50 transaction fee on a gig in Bath, this means there will be a £4.80 fee for gigs in London. And the London tickets also cost more. How is it possible to justify that?! THAT BUYS A PINT AT THE GIG.

Why is it physically impossible to actually GET the tickets FOR the FACE VALUE? This hardly happens for anything other than contemporary music gigs, and it’s insanely not cool. And why state the face value of the ticket if it has no relevance to begin with? They might as well write “Face Value is this, but we wish for huge bonuses, so really, it’s this“. And what is a Handling Fee? I don’t understand why they need so many separate fees. It makes no sense. Why not just absorb all fees into the ticket price and then say “It’s this”, thus taking the sting out of all the fees put together.

Aside from SeeTickets and others stealing money for no apparent reason, the former are also lacking greatly in customer service and good service in general. Obviously this ranges from employee to employee, just like anything, but in a recent article read, one customer ordered SIX tickets to a gig, but SeeTickets quadrupled this, thus making an order of 24 (when the maximum amount allowed to be ordered is apparently only 6 per person anyway…), and when phoning the company to state what had gone wrong and that he only needed 6 tickets, not 24, SeeTickets promptly cancelled all orders – but the money had already been drained from his bank account. And by the time he went to, somewhat angrily, re-order tickets later, the gig had already sold out. It has also been frequently reported on that they have sent out tickets late to gigs (seriously, what the fuck is the point in doing this?) in the past (and probably in the future too), and to one irate customer stated “Put it in perspective, it’s only a band. My friend died last month.” Freaking AWESOME customer service.

How the choose to deliver their tickets is another point of contempt. They use a courier service called SMS, and so often they will send their courier thus and he/she will rock up to your house at 3pm. Who, unless you’re a student, is in at 3pm? SeeTickets appear to assume that all gig-goers are jobless, and when they are unable to deliver tickets, they don’t end up at the sorting office like EVERYONE ELSE WHO USES RECORDED DELIVER. No no, you have to rearrange the delivery, for another day that you won’t be there, and this process has to be carried out a few whole days before the event or it won’t get there on time. On one previous occasion, I had to travel to Bath at 6am, spend the whole day waiting at my house for the tickets to arrive around 4.30pm, and then zoom to Southampton for a gig. All because they just couldn’t possibly deliver to where I was actually living (during the summer holidays) at such short notice. Bastards. Similarly, if the tickets cannot be delivered in time, customers have been told to pick them up at the venue – which should be ok and all that, but why should they have to pay postage if such a thing is going to happen?

There are alternatives to SeeTickets, although some of these still offer up some controversy – WeGotTickets appears to be on a 50/50 with customers, in that some say they’ve never had any problems, some say it is as bad as SeeTickets. WGT offer “Less in the way of fees and fuss,” apparently.  Obviously the ideal is to book through the venue, and this can usually be done in person, on the phone or online – although, as recently discovered, it does not help if the venue (Bath Komedia) does not have a physical box office.

Out of everything I’ve read, I’ve found thousands (almost the amount SeeTickets make on a single concert!) of people stating their woes and anger with the company, and only a handful (which is what Bristol Ticket Shop, or Stargreen, for example, could make morally and realistically on a gig) saying they’ve had good service. So if they provide bad service and extortionate prices, why do people continue to use them? There are some cases, like Glastonbury for example, where the only place you can get tickets IS SeeTickets, and the price added on then seems to get lost in the overall fee, as it is so big. But if people would just be aware that there are alternatives, we can go straight to the venue (through person, phone, internet – whichever), or through a smaller local ticketing agency, then the fees will be minute (if in existence), everyone can afford a pint, you would feel less cheated, and, best of all, people doing an unnecessary job would not be funded to continue down that road. A great day for everyone no? People do not seem to be people to them, just a way of making money. And when it’s a huge thing like the future of music at stake, how is it morally right to make such huge profits out of a delicate industry of a wonderful art form?