Paula writes: This joint review was written to the Harpers' Stormcock mailing list in response to a person expressing disappointment at the Farnham gig... first to respond was Chris!
I am sorry you felt that way about the Pit gig... I personally thought it was amazing! I agree, if you were expecting a "typical" Nick gig then you would be disappointed, but then the Pit never sells itself as being "typical"! The fact that it costs £15 and is for charity starts you thinking that it won't be typical.
To set the scene for the unlucky folk who were not there, the Pit has an outdoor venue, the pit (i.e. big hole) which IS brilliant to see people play in... if you ever get the chance, but with the English weather like it is it doesn't happen very often. The indoor venue is a converted barn and probably holds about 70 (?) people sitting very close together... though on Saturday they managed to cram about 80 in!
You get the picture that we were all very cramped, including Nick. He didn't have enough room to stand up, so the gig was just like the old days with him sat down in front of you, in fact about 2 feet in front of some people! Actually the folk at the very front were some of my harpic-virgin friends. They looked like they were enjoying themselves... but at that distance they would have had to!
So that's the venue. Nick did apologise for the fact that he felt pretty rough, but you can't really blame him after the previous night in Putney - he probably went out for some beers with his mates. Perhaps we can blame [his friend] Ben again? He is only human after all (that's Nick not Ben!). He also asked the audience if it was okay if he wasn't perfect that night... and the audience agreed. This was then the start of something very special (IMHO).
At this point I'll just say that I won't be mentioning every song he played that night, cos even though I've seen Nick hundreds of times and played his CDs thousands of times, I couldn't name you 10 percent of his songs even if I tried! I very rarely look at CD covers - just pop 'em straight in my car's CD player - and am often so lost in the atmosphere of the songs that I can't remember where I am. I think it must be due to too many trips to Amsterdam in the past and similar experiences. Hopefully you get the gist of the reason!
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. It took him a while to get going until he started playing some songs... BUT the real beauty of the whole night was that the audience agreed he didn't have to be "perfect". This meant that he could play some songs that he hadn't played in a while. BUT, better still, he could play some brand new songs, and even some songs that were not actually finished! So YES this was turning out to be very non-typical... but WOW, bring 'em on!
Someone behind me (yes that's another thing strange about the Pit - I'm probably one of the tallest folk to go there and they STILL put me on the front row! I managed to squeeze to the side so I didn't block too much) asked Nick for "The Vampire Song", aka Here Today, Here Tomorrow. It's good to hear that my version (first coined in Cork in 2000) of the title is making its way around the country! By the way, he played it with style as usual.
I then shouted (well, actually asked - the room wasn't big enough to shout) for a new song I had heard about buttercups. He said that he hadn't written any words for yet, and that he must have just made up the words for it when he sang it in Aldershot last year... so I asked him to make up some more for tonight, which he did!
Now I must admit, anyone in the audience expecting "typical" Nick would probably have been annoyed at this stage. But hey, for folks like Paula and me (and the rest of the Harpic posse - hey I've even learnt how to spell, thanks Catherine!) who see Nick all over the place, it's just great to see new and unusual/unfinished stuff. It just gives us confidence that we are going to see loads of new stuff from Nick for the next few years (or forever?!?).
What also made this night great was the banter between the songs, about anything and everything... well, mainly beer and knob sizes! A tip to anyone who may see Nick at the Pit in the future: don't nip out during the gig for a pee, unless you want the "pee" taken out of you! The first bloke to do that got the "short" end of the stick, while my mate Steve got the opposite. You just had to be there!
(FYI to the folk there - Steve is the guy who went missing before the meal! He did eventually make it back to the B&B - it took him about 2 hours to walk 1 mile and he somehow ended up covered in muck. He's very cagey about what he got up to!)
One other new song that he played was something called The Wanderer And His Shadow, which looks like it's going to be one of his classics. It's quite long if I remember correctly, but excellent stuff!
At the end of the gig, he asked his "musical director" for the evening (me!) what he should finish off with, so I suggested something a bit "loud", maybe The Consumer Meets The Wolfman. This reminded him (via Paula!) to plug his new CD, which in my opinion is... I stopped typing this for a while to think of some expression that would sum up the CD and I couldn't think of owt except... the best! He played ...Consumer... superbly and ended a brilliant first half of the night. The second half was the meal, which I'll not describe in detail here, but as always at the Pit, it too was spot on.
So there you have it, in my VERY humble opinion. It was a great venue, great artist, great company, great beer (Hogsback!), great food, great wine (and unusual for me to say that), great B&B and a massive fry-up for breakfast. Nights don't get much better than that!
PS: hope to see some of you in Pocklington (maybe), Holmfirth (deffo) & Leeds (hopefully)!
And then Paula wrote...
I don't know if I need very much to Chris's stellar review, but I will anyway!
I can at this point add a setlist (with notes), some titles of which are just guesses (even for Nick?) 'cos they are utterly new! Otherwise, I know the song names fairly well - I'm a voracious CD case reader... that and cereal boxes... and my drug of choice is alcohol, which is okay on the memory (IMHO) but crap on the body and the dignity. ;)First set:
Let's just say that, at the halftime break, I asked Nick if I had perhaps sent him this setlist telepathically in a dream the night before - he said he thought not, but... ;) I was beside myself with glee over some of the songs he played - oh if only there were a tape of the show, grumble grumble...
The only song I wouldn't have minded hearing in this context was, for lack of a better name, The Lily Song, which he wrote for his little girl while he was in Scotland. This song is maybe the loveliest song of his I have ever heard, and that's really saying something. I may be getting a short video clip of part of this song, so if I do I'll make sure to share it. I think he's been playing it at most of his shows anyway. I think the next album is gonna be pretty amazing, and more personal than usual from the songs we've heard so far, and I wouldn't be surprised if we did get it this year. Huzzah!
Being fair, I have seen a hyuuuge amount of Nick shows, by my own reluctant admission (approaching 40, at nearest guess - oh damn that looks scary written down) and to see a show that was so, for lack of a better word, experimental was fantastic. He told stories about songs, about the development of songs, about his life, about beer, and don't forget it was THIS big! ;) I really loved every minute of it. But don't judge Nick on this show - give it another chance in a more "traditional" venue. Or you could listen to the CD - it may tell you more about what a "typical" Harpic gig is like. Ummm IS there such a thing as a typical Harpic gig... gotta ponder that! He'll always be at least a bit mad, but it'll be a more newbie friendly kind of mad methinks. If that makes any sense whatsoever!
All I know is, I'll definitely be back to the Pit. One of my fave Nick gigs ever.