Saturday, March 27, 2004

Small world strangeness.

If my mother asked me what I did this week I'd probably say that I went to Pittsburgh to see a Thea Gilmore concert and that she was very good. If pressed I might say something about why she was good and maybe mention how poorly attended the gig was. (I feel very pretentious using the word gig, but I also feel pretentious if I use words like concert or show. In my mind a concert requires either a stadium full of people or an orchestra full of instruments. But I don't think I'm really cool enough to get away with gig either.)

However, maybe due to the alcohol I have consumed, you lucky people are going to get the full colour commentary version of Ryan's exciting trip to Pittsburgh. I bet you can't wait.

Firstly, a quick thanks to Laura (pronounced, by me at least, such that it rhymes with cow-fir... she's Romanian if you wish to find a more conventional pronunciation guide) and Toni for lending me their lovely little Mazda, whilst they're out of town. It's a nice car to drive even if it is a bit small for me, but then again most things are a bit small for me.

If we start at the beginning we probably have to start with Neil Gaiman repeatedly recommending Thea on his ever interesting journal. (for instance, this week he mentioned his visit to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, which I visited when I was little and staying at my grandparents place in South Woodford one summer or another, and I recall being terrified by some of the exhibits. For some reason I also remember it was in a big building near a park, but I could be confusing it with the fire station.) I bought her two latest albums and was instantly hooked by the clever lyrics and the <something I can't put my finger on> voice. So anyway, seeing as I had use of the car I decided to drive to Pittsburgh and see Miss Gilmore at Club Cafe.

Being as I am a lazy sod. I decided to skip work and make a day of it. So off to Pittsburgh I went. And after driving around all over the place and finding Club Cafe, I headed to the downtown area to see if there were any nice record or bookshops. Instead I managed to find a nice coffee shop, as in a shop which sells coffee beans for you to take home and make coffee with as opposed to a place which sells cups of coffee for you to drink there (I did also find a nice one of them, it's called the Beehive and it's on Carson St.). Well to be truthful the first time I tried to enter the coffee shop I walked into the Irish bar next door to it, so obviously I had to have a beer. My second attempt was more successful. I actually managed to correctly identify the front door and enter the shop. And once inside I bought some tea, some chocolate covered coffee beans and some ground Zimbabwee AA beans. I'm not quite sure of the mis-spelling if Zimbabwe was intentional or not. Obviously after all the Zimbabwe related excitement I've had since arriving in the US I had to get some of the Zimbabwee coffee.

Then I just wandered around looking at some pretty buildings and stadiums and churches etc. Not finding any record shops. But at least having a quick browse in a Barnes and Noble. Before returning to the car and trying to get back close to Club Cafe. Of course, instead of successfully retracing my route I managed to take a couple of wrong turns and drive to the top of a hill overlooking the rivers and the downtown. It was a nice view from the top though, so I was pleased with my little diversion.

Eventually I got back close to the venue and managed to find a parking space. And after a lot of wandering around and sitting and waiting until it was only half an hour before the start time I plucked up the courage to actually enter the club. You see, I was all on my lonesome and I felt a little awkward going to see a gig by myself. As I was coming from a few hours drive away from Pittsburgh I had decided to book tickets using the evil bastards ticketmaster, just to make sure I wasn't disappointed. This meant that I got to pay nearly $6 of fees on top of an $8 ticket price. When I finally got inside the club there were, excluding employees, a total of 4 people -- including me. So my did I feel a fool for paying all that money to ticketmaster. An hour or so later and the crowd had swelled to maybe a dozen people, and Thea, Nigel and a guitarist, whose name I'm sad to I didn't catch, came out and started.

They were fantastic. For a while sitting there before they came out I wasn't sure if it was going to happen, or if I really had wasted that $6 I paid to ticketmaster. But they did play in the 'intimate' (Thea's description) setting, and like I said they were really rather good. If you live in or around Pittsburgh and you weren't one of the 20 or so (the crowd swelled a little while they were playing) people who heard Thea, then all I can say is you missed out.

At one point during the concert Nigel played a melodica (which is sort of a cross between a recorder and a keyboard), which I can only guess is what Frost's album and website is named after.

At the end of the show Thea and some short balding English bloke were standing by the door thanking people and selling their wares, well their cds at least. So I even got to speak to her. And standing there as I was unshaven, with my hair at least a month overdue a cut, in a shirt I had retrieved from the laundry basket that morning and jeans that were starting to smell after a weeks wear... I thought my what a wonderful first impression I must be making. And let's be honest most likely it's the only time I'll ever have to make an impression... what I made probably didn't even class as a slight indentation or a smudge. But only in my warped mind is there anyway I could have made anything more than the wanttobe smudge which I did. After all she is incredibly talented and attractive and I am the grinning buffoon with the mis-spelled football t-shirt. Although in all fairness to myself I am the grinning buffoon in the mis-spelled football t-shirt who happens to have a PhD in high energy particle physics. But sadly it's not really the guarantee of fame, riches and women of say a film star or a musician or a road sweeper.

I did at least have the sense to scarper away from Thea quickly enough that my brain didn't catch up with the fact I was talking to her and make me say something stupid or embarrassing or offensive. Which is normally my modus operandi when I meet somebody for the first time. In fact come to think about it, I probably always do it... people just get used to my manner after a while. Still, on the plus side I got two signed cds (Loft Music and Songs from the Gutter) for the bargain price of $25 and also a signed postcard at the mere mention of Mr Gaiman's name. That and I got to talk to an English person, however briefly, which after a few months out here in the wilds of Pennsylvania was really nice. It's great not to have to repeat myself because someone doesn't understand or have someone tell me how great my accent is... strangely enough the two things regularly happen simultaneously.

Enough of this incoherent babble for now.

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