It’s February which means dull January is over for another year, we’ve made it through the worst of winter, Brexit has happened and for better or worse there is a sense that life is settling into a normal routine. It makes December and the festive season feel like ancient history. Thinking back on my Christmas York adventure very fondly I was reminded of a few other fun December memories.
A friend of mine, the multi-talented producer I was lucky enough to lay some voice tracks down with on my last visit to Cape Town (which you can read about here) was in London about to commence a creative European adventure. Excited to hang out on this side of the pond we went to go see the exhibition at the Museum of London celebrating 40 years since the release of the 3rd album from post-punk legends “The Clash”; the iconic and seminal “London Calling”.
Both of us being as into music as we are, it took us a moment to absorb just how cool this expo was. A small room of framed articles, documentary footage of the band’s evolution including mention of Joe Strummer’s band the “101ers” before forming “The Clash”, live footage of the group on stage projected onto the wall played on a loop as well as clothing, gig passes, handwritten notes, Strummer’s typewriter and of course Paul Simonon’s damaged bass guitar. The blurry shot of him slamming it against the stage of New York’s Palladium served as the album’s unmistakable cover photo, set as a great backdrop to the hallowed cracked instrument.
It felt like being in the presence of royalty; the Crown Jewels of rock ‘n roll. The Clash have maintained a strong influence not only on British music but to bands and artists across the world, and seeing a few pieces of their story was really special. There was a moment when my friend and I were staring into a glass display case in which hung some of Strummer’s shirts and as we tried (and failed) to pick just one favourite each, I mentioned that I was going to a gig before the end of the year and asked if he’d like to join me. Upon mentioning it was Hobo Johnson I’d be seeing, my friend immediately jumped on board.
As a musician and producer my friend is used to being behind the scenes or on stage and to be able to take him to a gig he could just enjoy with the rest of the crowd was a fun prospect. This would also be his first gig in London and I thought The Roundhouse would be the perfect venue to set the bar at the right height. Pre gig drinks and chats about his travel plans meant we missed much of the support act Dayglow, but catching the tail end of their set we could feel the energy of the crowd buzzing.
We picked a spot to the left of the stage we seemed to be surrounded by quite a few inebriated people with no sense of personal space. At one point a tall man pushed in front of us, which does happen, but he decided to stand directly in front of me. My buddy, being awesome, swapped places with me since he could catch a glimpse over this guy’s shoulder and then I could see around him; because teamwork is dreamwork.
Most discomfort was forgotten when Johnson and his band The Lovemakers took to the stage with a strong cover of Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”. The set did not disappoint comprising mostly of tracks from their latest album “The Fall of Hobo Johnson” including the high energy “Ode to Justin Bieber”. Staple songs from his back catalogue were peppered among the new tracks including “Romeo and Juliet”, “Sex in the City” and the essential “Peach Scone” to which we all shouted along.
The joy continued to peak as the band followed this viral track with a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s melodic “A Thousand Miles” complete with a huge release of colourful confetti from the ceiling. The band drum rolled the fall of what seemed to be the last strip of paper, but the whole crowd became distracted as the set continued when other rogue confetti strips appeared and fell towards grabbing hands. The focus returned to the stage for “You & The Cockroach” though which is possibly my favourite new track.
There was elation as we all screamed and clapped for an encore. The band returned with a euphoric rendition of “Earth, Wind and Fire’s” classic “September”, by which time tall man had pulled his equally tall mates into his spot but we were all bouncing and singing along together.
I was delighted to hear the first words out my friend’s mouth: “Wow, that was so cool!” as the house lights came on and we joined the shuffle to the exit. Johnson’s spoken word style had energised and inspired us both. It was wonderful to introduce my friend to one of London’s best venues, enjoy some excellent tunes and feel that piece of home that lives in my heart come alive.