I’m the kind of person that will line up hours ahead of time for a concert so I can be as close as possible to the man of my dreams, who is usually whoever is playing that night. This time, it was northern singer-songwriter Jake Bugg.
It’s difficult to find a picture of Jake smiling. His posters and album covers usually portray a handsome young man with the haircut of a modern-day Beatle staring seriously down the camera. I didn’t know what to expect when I attended the benefit show hosted by music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins, held at the historic, intimate 100 Club on Oxford Street.
Going to concerts alone is a very different experience. I grabbed a cider from the bar and hovered around the pit area wondering which spot would be best. Without a barrier and a stage only a foot off the ground, the audience was extremely close to the act. I saw people sitting in plastic chairs on the side of the stage, and decided I would take it easy for this concert.
Uncomfortably shifting around other people’s bags so I could grab a chair from the stack, I hoisted one above people’s heads as carefully as I could and planted it right beside the stage. About 30 people had the same idea, lounging on chairs while others stood around the pit in front of the stage. I thought this would do for a bit, and then I would have to stand to see over the inevitable brave people who would stand side-stage and block the view of everyone on chairs.
Man, did I underestimate painful British politeness. I saw people glance at the prime views of the side stage and back at the crowd of dozens of people on chairs. I saw the way they mumbled to their friends, debating if they had the stomach to block our views. And I saw, time and time again, their inevitable sigh of defeat as they tried to peer over heads in the pit. It was hard to contain my laughter but coming from America, a country where someone would rather clothesline you then let you stand in front of them at a show, it was straight from a sitcom.
The venue was so intimate, that Jake had to walk through the chairs beside the stage to access it. I tried to take a picture of him as he passed by, so close that I would only have to stretch my arm halfway to reach him. Not that I did. Because of the intimacy of the concert, there was this unspoken rule that everyone had to behave: don’t throw yourself at the very hot artist as he walks right beside you.
I wasn’t sure what kind of show he would put on, but I enjoyed every second. His dry humor cracked the crowd up. After drinking half a glass of gin throughout the set he sighed, saying, “Oh man that drink is strong…and this next song has a lot of words in it….okay here we go.” He then went on to sing a true tongue twister perfectly like the professional he is.
As impressive as it was to have Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys as a producer on his new album, Hears that Strain received mixed reviews. To be fair, it’s difficult to follow an album that caused his meteoric rise to fame. When I first listened to his new album, I was a bit disappointed. My favorite Jake Bugg songs were cheerful and energetic, and most of the new album seemed to be slow and emotional. However, hearing them live changed them for me. While my favorite songs are still from his past albums, his new ones have grown on me.
Personal highlights were “Simple as This”, an ode to love and travel; “Two Fingers”, a giant middle finger to the past; and “Lightening Bolt”, a song about a girl so powerful she makes even the bleakest situations bright.
Overall, this concert was fantastic. Cheap cider and side stage seats to an acoustic show from one the U.K.’s best young performers. And to top it off it was all for charity!