This Is The Kit at the Scala, Kings Cross, 25 November

This Is The Kit is the band fronted by Kate Stables. She sings (beautifully) and plays guitar and banjo. The music would be categorised as folk, but there’s a bit more to it than that. It’s rooted in the folk tradition and the melodies are appropriately wistful and yearning, with a quirky lyrical touch at times. I first came across them on Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music show earlier this year. the album “Bashed Out” will be high in my 2015 Top Ten. I saw them at Latitude, where they were great, though a bit stressed by their hideous journey up the A12 which had almost made them late.

Tonight was just fantastic. Wonderful songs, brilliantly played. Atmospheric sounds at times and really touching. Kate herself is a very engaging person and the vibe in the Scala was communal. There’s a bit of the hippy about the whole thing, and while that is not a direction I’ve ever taken, I can relate to it. So natural.

“Bashed Out” featured heavily, which was absolutely fine by me. If there was a highlight amongst all the great performances it might be “Misunderstanding”, a song I find entrancing. Enhanced live by some soaring guitar from (I think) Neil Smith, as were many of the songs.

Rozi Plain, a solo artist who made a good album this year herself, called “Friend”, played some solid bass lines and added airy supporting vocals. A great partnership with Kate.

They were supported by a German band called Cristobal by the Sea.  They played in the style of Vampire Weekend, with a resonant, funky bass. Glad, for once, that we turned up in time for the support!

So, a wonderful concert. I urge you to listen to “Bashed Out” and then, if location allows, check them out live.

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New York Pt 3

Last part of my recent journey through New York.

Beginning with a stroll in the rain through Central Park, just up from East 63rd Street. The colours were wonderful. There’s no enhancement of this photo.


We made our way across to the west side of the park at around 72nd to see the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon, murdered outside his apartment block nearby. Inevitably – despite the rain – there was a bloke with an acoustic guitar singing “Strawberry Fields” and exhorting everyone to sing along. Give him credit for being a trouper in any weather.


We then walked up through the park, mostly along the east side, to the Guggenheim museum. The rain was relentless, as it was most of the day. But the views were still fantastic, if a little misty. It was hard to avoid the odd blob of rain on the lens, as with this one.


We queued for half an hour in the rain to get into the Guggenheim, but it was worth it. Never mind the amazing art, it just looks brilliant.




We then took the subway down to East Village to see St Mark’s Place, or should I say, the apartments which formed the front cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti”! It’s fair to say that this wasn’t top of Kath’s visit list, especially in the rain; but we found a good cafe nearby and had an enjoyable lunch before venturing out in the rain again for that picture.


We ended up, after a brief shopping expedition, at Grand Central Station. It is very grand.


Last day was Thursday 29 November. Our flight wasn’t until 6pm, so we had a good chunk of the day to look around a bit more. We were staying on Madison and E63rd. Just looking down the big avenues is awe-inspiring.

This is Madison Avenue.


And this is 6th Avenue.


We spent a couple of hours in the Museum of Modern Art, with its range of modern exhibitions and an unbelievable collection of Impressionists, Picasso and many other great 20th painters. There was a little spot in one of the modern pieces that was very dear to my heart. A celebration of punk and new wave music.


One of Picasso’s great pictures – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.


A last wander round some of the sights.

St Patrick’s Cathedral.


Rockefeller Centre.


The Chrysler, in its habitat. Lexington Avenue.


And finally, the oddly thin tower that’s gone up in Park Avenue.


An awesome city. I need an excuse to go back soon! I have a plan…

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Four concerts in a week!

Last week I had the unusual experience – at least outside Latitude – of going to four concerts in six days. Quite varied and all good in their different ways.

First up was The Staves at the Roundhouse. This was the biggest of the London concerts that I have seen so far. The place was sold out. The band are really going places. They are a different band now. We still get the beautiful harmonies, but the sound is fuller, rockier, geared up for the live experience and bigger venues. I have to say they get better every time I see them. This time they had a violinist in tow, who really added to atmospherics of the sound, and a trombonist to add further nuances.

Not surprisingly, the main feature was songs from the latest album, “If I Was”, but we had lovely versions of “Winter Trees” and “The Eagle Song” (which works so well live) too. And a speeded up, rocky version of “Mexico” which kind of worked. Worth a try, but I felt the wistfulness of the original was lost a bit in the beat. The highlight was the combination of “No You, No Me, No More” and “Let Me Down”, which was sparkling in its intensity and featured some astonishing vocal pyrotechnics. A few effects were added towards the end of “Let Me Down”, which gave you the sense that they might be about to launch into “Bohemian Rhapsody” at any moment!

“Steady” was a melodious opener, “Blood I Bled” its elegant self, with a hint of prog, and “Horizons” was at a new level. The main set ended with “Damn it All” where part two of the song allowed the band really to rock out. And “Teeth White” in the encore was truly upbeat, American and probably a pointer to the future. It sent everyone home happy.

A seriously good show.

The next day I was back in Camden, at a bar/venue called the Forge. A nice spot with decent beer on tap. We were there to see an Oklahoma folk singer called Samantha Crain. I heard her for the first time on BBC 6 Music earlier this year. The songs was a lovely track called “Kathleen”, from her recent album “Under Branch & Thorn & Tree”. I’d recommend it, along with her previous album, “Kid Face”. These are songs about struggle, about people trying to make their way. And lost love, of course. Perhaps the most gripping song is “Elk City”, a story of a woman who means to escape said city with her lover, falls pregnant and stays. And never leaves, although she dreams of it all the time. Her daughter grows up, does well at college and does leave Elk City. The woman is proud of her, but also  bitter that she never managed it herself. Samantha tells a good story when introducing her songs and she says that this story is based on a conversation she had with a woman in a bar. The woman sat next to her and just told her life story, unprompted. Some of us may well have made our excuses pretty quickly, but Samantha Crain listened, wrote it down later, and now it’s a song. It’s fair to say it’s one that Bruce Springsteen might have written, and I guess that is part of her appeal to me.

She was accompanied by another guitarist (also acoustic, but playing most of the runs) and a drummer. It was a good sound. Quite simple but refined, solid playing. Honed by many a live show, I’m sure. Music from the heart of America.

The next venture was at the Bulls Head pub in Barnes, an attractive bit of South West London, nestling along the Thames. I cycle past it all the time. Four of us went and had a rather good meal first in the pub restaurant. That might account for the fact that half way through Alan Price’s first set, I felt rather tired and looking around at the audience, most of whom were even older than me, de-energised. This was despite the fact that the musicianship was excellent and so many of the songs familiar pop favourites. Alan Price, of course, was in The Animals and went on to have a successful solo career. I’m no stranger to nostalgia shows, but this time I just wanted to feel some youthful energy somewhere. No criticism of Alan Price and his band, who were all highly talented musicians with some pretty impressive CVs. And in the second half, which was less about the old pop favourites and more about some hard-edged R&B, before a finale which included “House of the Rising Sun” I revived. So, a quality show, with some amusing, deadpan storytelling from Alan. He plays at the Bulls Head once a month if you fancy seeing it for yourself.

And finally, the day after the tragic, atrocious events in Paris, I was at the Barbican for a sell-out show headlined by young jazz superstar Kamasi Washington. He’s known, amongst other things, for his sax playing and arrangements with Kendrick Lamar on his epic album of this year, “To Pimp a Butterfly”. Talking of epic, Kamasi Washington’s 2015 album is called “The Epic”, and no wonder. It’s about three hours long and just awesome in its scope. When I first heard it, I thought how can I ever listen to all of it? It felt like every track had everything but the kitchen sink on it. But as I listened before the concert and then afterwards, songs began to reveal their depths to me, the individual performances started to make their mark. It’s an extraordinary piece of work and the live performance reflected that. But Kamasi allowed all of his band members to thrive. Not just playing the traditional jazz solos, but each taking the lead on a particular song – driving it along.

This was one of those shows where you think, these guys are playing at a different level to most people. Brilliant musicianship, songs that took you everywhere on the jazz spectrum, and a tremendous sense of togetherness. Spectacular, but not in a showy way – just in the enormity of it all. Kamasi was humble, deeply indebted to his fellow players, all of whom seemed to be close friends. He even had his father, Rickey, up there, playing flute on a few pieces. What a wonderful thing to do, that.

The show was compered by the great Gilles Peterson, and the opening band Go Go Penguin were excellent too. They played some lovely atmospheric pieces, and for the last, “Veils” teamed up with a dance troupe, choreographed by Lynne Page. New Jazz/ New Dance! Loved it. The best in fusion.

So the whole thing was an uplifting spectacle. Couldn’t stop those thoughts about Paris, but it was a reminder of the beauty and power of music. Which is why, of course, the terrorists are so frightened of it that they targeted people at the Bataclan simply enjoying the hard rocking of Eagles of Death Metal. But they won’t overcome that beauty and power – and love. It is so much bigger than they can ever be.

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New York Pt 2

So after Sunday’s trauma (first world variety) when I just couldn’t get the photos to load, it all went smoothly as possible tonight, when I gave it another go. As far as I can tell I did nothing different, but you have to accept “user error” is usually involved in computer glitches.

This part of the visit mostly covers views of the financial district and surrounding areas. With views from the Brooklyn shoreline. It starts with a few from mid town, from an earlier day’s walking. And it starts with that remarkably thin Flatiron building. Someone told me Spider Man climbed up it!



Empire State.



The 9/11 Memorial. Quite simple and incredibly powerful, with the names of all those who died. To those whose names are captured in this photo, I pay my utmost respect and offer my deepest regrets to them and their families and friends.

The new buildings are elegant and defiant. New York will not be defeated.


This is so sad and beautiful. Again, my best wishes to those affected.



Seaport is pretty much the oldest part of New York. Or should I say, New Amsterdam.



Into the heart of the City, the justice building. I was reading recently that a lot of people made a lot of money taking a very long time to build this in the 19th century!


Walking over Brooklyn Bridge. Astounding views.



What can you say about this, really? Utterly iconic.



On the Brooklyn shoreline. I love just saying that.



As the sun goes down…




Night falls – back on the bridge.







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Sportsthoughts (141) – France and England at Wembley, 17 Nov 2015

This isn’t really a Sportsthoughts – the event was so much more than that. But it was one of those times when football, infuriating though it can be at times, brought people together. To unite against the terrorists, who seem to seek a world where there is no culture, no enjoyment, no togetherness, no love. It’s inexplicable to most of us, but deadly in its intent. Tonight showed that we will always rise above that.

My love goes out to the people of Paris, a city I got to know when I lived there from July 1989 ( I arrived on Bastille day, the 2ooth anniversary of the revolution) to March 1991. I was working for BP at first, but when the office moved to Brussels, I stayed in Paris, and Kath and I had a wonderful six months of leisure in one of the world’s greatest cities. After London (and potentially New York) it’s the place I’d most like to live in.

And so, when it was announced that the England v France game would be going ahead, despite the atrocities of 13 November, I knew I had to go.

The game wasn’t bad. England played well. France gave it 100%, but maybe weren’t in top form, for obvious reasons. England won 2-0, with goals from new star, Delle Alli of Spurs and the trusty Wayne Rooney. Not sure it’s a game to read too much into, but encouraging for England.

But the most important time was the national anthems and the minute’s silence, impeccably observed. Without precedent, the British national anthem (which England calls its own on these occasions) was sung first so that the Marseillaise could take centre stage. And how we all sang. Maybe a little incoherently in the middle, as the French on the screens went beyond most of our competences, but with a rousing finale. A true moment of unity. We and the French don’t always see eye to eye, but tonight we were together. Totally. Long may it last.

The walk up to the stadium tonight was magnificent. Wembley lit up for France. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. If only those values could inform the whole world…

A few pics. (iPhone, so easily loadable – no tantrums tonight!)

The arch like never before.


The words that say it all.


Bobby Moore’s statue never looked better.


During the Marseillaise.





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Er, I’ve changed my mind…

You know what? I’ve calmed down after my battle with the photo uploads at the weekend. And I thought, how am I not going to have a top ten of 2015, or say something about England v France at Wembley tonight? Or remain silent about the four concerts I went to last week: Staves, Samantha Crain, Alan Price (really), Kamasi Washington.

So thanks all who commented so kindly over the last few days. And keep on reading!


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Taking a break from WordPress

Dear All,

I’ve reached a point where these blogs are becoming a bit of an effort. At the same time the system isn’t allowing me to load photos as I would wish. I’ve been battling to load New York Pt 2 and thinking, what’s the point?

I’ll still be tweeting about music and sport at @Jasthoughts and if you’d like to hook up on Facebook, just send me a friend invite. My email is

Best wishes,


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