I wake up the next morning feeling like as if my head has been placed in a strainer and I start to feel that the only words I was starting to utter was “uggh”; it was just the perfect day for that – I going on Steve Lamacq’s radio show. I was definitely feeling or starting to feel the worst for ware with my dishevelled being which meant that I was beginning to lose the plot, especially mixed in with my dyspraxic tendencies made things interesting indeed.
So three rounds of the buffet breakfast and nearly my body weight of coffee consumed, I began to feel something like human. It’s also in this state that I’m most likely to forget things and sometimes these can put me into a stressed out place and it was in this state that I headed off to London. This is where I really kick myself for firstly leaving the Pet Crow record, damn I wanted to throw some of their stuff into my dj sets, and then on the train I realised that I had left my water brush in Nottingham.
Thank god for coffee on days like this because I can feel my brain begin to hang out of the side of my head. I think today was the first day that I felt genuinely overwhelmed, and if there is one place that I can find overwhelming then it is the big smoke and bright lights of London, especially Brixton. Tonight I was going to the Windmill, a venue I know in reputation especially through Speedy Wunderground, Squid, Black Midi, Fat White Family, Shame. I was kind of aware of the venue bur little did I know how magical it would be.
I was a little nervous upon arriving into Brixton with its thronging high street as I had know idea where the Windmill was so cue a few anxious phone calls to Sybil who came and met me.
The Windmill is one of those venues that is tucked away, down a very bland looking mundane street. But there is nothing bland about the Windmill, it was almost a bit of shock, because from the outside it doesn’t look like much with the grey slabs of concrete and high walls around its edges, but stepping inside it felt like I was entering some sort of creative Narnia.
It took me a little time to get used to. But then again it takes me a while to get used to most things especially as when I arrive Steve Lamacq and his crew are all there bustling around getting ready for the live broadcast of his show setting up the stage for the one and only Anna Calvi.
I got to meet the absolute life force that is Tim Perry, who has pretty much single handedly run the windmill for the past 25 years. His overall demeanour and the way that he spoke kind of reminded me of a much-loved Bristol-based personality Paul Horlick (better known to many as Fat Paul) who has been heavily involved in the Bristol scene for pretty much the past 40 years, always upfront honest and very supportive at the same time, I very much got this vibe from Tim.
Tim took me on a bit of of a tour of the venue with his soft lilting accent that I found a bit hard to place. It was only around now that I was really beginning to feel settled in. I was walking around staring at the walls and the gold-painted ceilings. It just radiated so much warmth, I could see why this place had become a mini epicentre and why it attracted so many creative people.
I found myself a perch by the bar as I watched Steve Lamacq broadcasting live to the nation so silently I pulled out my sketchbook and began to draw him, I thought that he probably wouldn’t notice, although he probably did, but didn’t react because he was being professional. Oh yeah, I went on his show too. Some of you know that I’ve become quite adept at talking absolute rubbish, so I manage to jibber my way through talking about how great it was visiting places like Hebden Bridge Trades Club and the Leadmill for the first-ever time.
I helped Steve read out some of the recommended gig listings with which we both had – we had to bite our tongues at some points whilst reading out some of the names of the bands – some were very funny, and the venues . Of course, this lead to obligatory shout out to John and Dingus Khan who I remembered used to have a song called Ambulance with which all 8 of the band members would perform a coordinated dance routine.
After going on air I found myself sat around a table with former Wild Beast front man Hayden Thorpe, even though I didn’t actually recognize him and Anna’s Management team. I was showing them some of my gig sketches or my Bopping Bob Rosses as I called them. It is at this point that I ought to say thank you to Chloe from IVW for getting me some new water brushes.
So today I was to be treated to not just one show by Anna but two sets, so two chances for Boppin Bob Ross to draw her. The first one was a part of Lamacq’s live broadcast with a audience of 6 music listeners.
This is when I bump into father of the AF Gang, the legendary Brian Mimpress, who is possibly the most positively Essex man out there, with his unfurled greying beard, cheesy Cheshire cat like grin and booming voice. He is joined by photographer Jamie Macmillan and my friend James who I had met at various festivals including Standon Calling, Green Man and EOTR.
I decided to squeeze myself into a corner by a mini PA stack, trying not to block everyone’s view. This was definitely the most intimate and intense show of the tour – there were literally points during both sets that Anna was a mere millimeters away from my face.
The intensity of the early set gave way for what would be an ultra-face melting intense show later in the evening.
After the Steve Lamacq show, we partook in the habitual end of Lamo tour pictures with Steve Anna and the whole crew. I headed off to get some much needed Grubb and to get ready for this evening and boy what an evening it was.
To say that this was the hottest ticket in town would be understating it a bit, I yet again wedged myself in the front corner by the mixing desk. I clutch onto my sketch book nervously trying not to knock people with it as I sketched away during the show. I often like being down the front because that’s where I get the most out of the emotional intensity of the performers.
Supporting Anna tonight was Martha Sky Murphy a vaudevillian inspired art pop singer who floated almost breathlessly between Kate bush and the radiant melodies of Cocteau Twins Liz Fraser mixed in with an alluring dark romanticism. I could see why Anna’s management had taken her under their wings.
Flanked by drums cello and bass she was the perfect support in so many ways she perfectly built up textures with her arching voice, for Anna Calvi’s set.
I’m usually used to seeing Anna filling big stages with her raw intensely emotional walls of hollering noise on big stages so seeing her in a venue that could only just about hold about 100 people, it was like the nearest thing to seeing her in your own living room, this intensity.
It was a face-melting raw white-knuckled claustrophobic emotional attack on the senses.
Backed by a drummer who was controlling bass sounds through a rack of modular synths, and a synth player who backed up Anna building a crushing tension. There were some moments in the set where I could barely breath I was being consumed by the big sound and Anna’s arching voice shot like a spear through my body. Some points during her set I swear she was defying physics with the ways she was holding sustained notes.
Friday was a pretty full on day when the gig finished I was physically drained, I managed to say hello to Anna, get her to sign my sketch of her. And I got to say hello to a couple of my friends. But my body was crying for bed.
So me and Sybil left to hail a cab as I was staying in her flat in North London but I left with the loving buzz in my heart, I swore that one day I will return to the Windmill as it’s a great little venue.
A big thank you to the lovely folks at Crosstown Concerts for supporting Big Jeff, his blog and his fundraiser.