Blog 697: I Travel

It took me until far too late to even conceive of the notion that one could travel to a gig rather than waiting for it to come to one’s home town (or not). The first time I did it was to see Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s special gig in the Museum of Liverpool, then I followed them to London for the truly stellar Royal Albert Hall performance of Dazzle Ships and Architecture & Morality (I even bought the T-shirt for that one!).

Now, I’ve done it again, albeit to a slightly more modest venue. This time, I followed my favourite Greek synth-pop duo Marsheaux to… Norwich.

Norwich

This is also the first time I’ve ever travelled anywhere alone. I’ve always managed to go places with friends, family or colleagues, so the logistics of eating and drinking and generally doing anything new were always backed up by people that have a shred of self-confidence and general life experience. Alone, there’s only one person to blame if anything goes wrong. Eep.

Initially it surprised me that there are direct flights to Norwich from Edinburgh. It surprised me less when my 9am flight on the Friday was on a potato plane that was barely a quarter full, but it made good time (shaving 25-30 minutes off the advertised travel time) and before I knew it I was in Norwich far too early to check in to my hotel. So I spent a good three hours wandering around the city centre, getting a feel for the place and scoping out the venue so I wouldn’t risk getting lost on the night.

I've never flown on a propellor plane before either.

I’ve never flown on a propellor plane before either.

Not much to look at from my hotel window during the day, but Friday night showed it to have a perfect view of Norwich's fireworks display.

Not much to look at from my hotel window during the day, but Friday night showed it to have a perfect view of Norwich’s fireworks display.

It’s hard to describe the size of Norwich. It felt simultaneously large and small, with the city centre a confused thatch of twisting streets. Although the geographical space isn’t all that big, it feels huge because there’s a large surface area of shop frontage from all those twists and turns. Surprisingly my sense of direction is actually pretty good when I pay attention, and despite meandering aimlessly through all those side streets and alleyways I only got lost once.

The city is similarly confused in looks, with ancient flint-and-mortar churches everywhere nestled between modern blocks. My taxi driver on the way in told me this was because Norwich got bombed quite badly during the war, so the areas of undisturbed medieval architecture are scattered. He also gave me some recommendations for good local dinner, but I chickened out and stuck to safe chain retstaurants.

The staff tried not to say anything, but I could tell by their faces that the concept of a man dining alone with his sketchpad was completely alien, even disgusting, to them.

The staff tried not to say anything, but I could tell by their faces that the concept of a man dining alone with his sketchpad was completely alien, even disgusting, to them.

Nice view though.

Nice view though.

TEC004

The subject of my trip was, of course, The Electricity Club 004, a three-band gig headlined by my aforementioned favourite Greek synth duo, Marsheaux.

Needless to say the one time I got lost was when I was on my actual way to the gig. I had scoped out the venue by indirect routes and neglected to test-run the most direct way and I ended up shooting off in completely the wrong direction. I missed most of the opening DJ set, but thankfully made it in time for the first act — Rodney Cromwell.

The volume levels were a bit too high for comfort; the vocals got a bit lost and the speakers were crackling, but the lead synths powered through and the tunage was good so I stopped by the merch stall to pick up his album.

I didn't take any photos at the gig, so here's a picture of a really friendly goose I met at the riverside walk. I didn't have anything with which to feed it so I felt bad.

I didn’t take any photos at the gig, so here’s a picture of a really friendly goose I met at the riverside walk. I didn’t have anything with which to feed it so I felt bad.

The second act were introduced as “Depeche Mode if they were fronted by Nik Kershaw”, which could be a mixed bag depending on which particular era of Depeche Mode you’re talking about. Thankfully the influence of the early Vince Clarke days shone through in Kid Kasio’s melodies and this time the levels were spot on — the synths were crystal clear, the vocals strong and bright, and the drummer smashed his pads so hard the back cover popped off one.

Dancing alone at a club is a bit weird but at a concert the presence of a focal point in the band makes it completely okay. I had warmed up by this point and the music encouraged exuberance.

After they were done, I stopped by the merch stall to pick up an album.

This is Cow Tower. It was full of pigeons rather than cows. Moar liek Coo Tower, amirite?

This is Cow Tower. It was full of pigeons rather than cows. Moar liek Coo Tower, amirite?

Then finally came the reason I travelled several hundred miles for an impromptu city break weekend — Marsheaux.

Although Marsheaux themselves stood behind keyboards they barely used them, instead singing along to various extended versions of their tracks. This made the set a bit more of a club night than a full-on live performance, which is not necessarily bad (this being the only time in my life I’ll ever be able to dance properly to their music), but I’d love to see them backed by a full band or at least playing a mad improvised solo or two on the spot.

The singing was great, and the selection of tunes exactly what we needed. Dream of a Disco was as danceable as its name suggests and To The End made a surprise showing (for slow(er) songs onĀ Inhale people usually go for Secret Place). Otherwise the focus was on the foot-stompers from Ath.Lon, Safe Tonight and Now You Are Mine and all that.

I didn’t stop by the merch stall for Marsheaux because I already own special editions of pretty much all of their output. Ahem.

Norwich Castle is mostly old but has some modernist additions.

Norwich Castle is mostly old but has some modernist additions.

I have to say that holidaying alone is a faintly soul-crushing experience and not one that I’m eager to repeat. When at home alone, the empty moments just don’t happen, because all your things are there and all plans lead perfectly into each other — but when on holiday, there are minutes or even hours between one visitor attraction and the next and they begin to drag interminably. Then obtaining and consuming food alone in public is probably the worst thing in the universe… Thankfully I got served very quickly each time and could make a quick escape.

However, if the music calls I will go anyway, because TEC004 was a delightful evening and, hell, it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do. If the music will not come to the Rao Dao Zao, then the Rao Dao Zao will go to the music.

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