Greetings from the wonderful city of Prague. Since my last post (from Milan), we have dipped down into the Balkans and back again. We had our first ever visit to Bratislava (and Slovakia), which was wonderful; a triumphant return to Ljubljana; and a day off and a show in Belgrade.
Belgrade was a particularly big deal for me. I studied central European history at university, and have done my best to keep up with the historiography in the meantime (in a terribly amateur fashion). My dissertation was on British policy towards Yugoslavia in the 1930s. I’d never been to Serbia before, so I was excited about it. On our day off I managed a 15 mile walk around the city seeing the sights. It was beyond fascinating – the melange of religions, nationalities, histories, all overlapping, conflicting and mixing together. I saw Hapsburg architecture peeking over brutalist facades, Byzantine walls pockmarked with German bullet-holes from 1915, beautiful orthodox churches hidden behind ugly communist malls. In the evening I was lucky enough to be wined and dined by our promoter, Vlada, his wife, and Alek, our label rep. We drank plum schnapps, ate endless meat dishes and discussed history and politics long into the night. The show the following day was a blast; all in all a great experience, one I’d be keen to repeat sometime soon.
From there we have continued up through Budapest to Prague. This morning I announced a special show in Brixton at the Electric on May 13th. It’s a solo show, I’ll be playing “England Keep My Bones” in full, plus B-sides (and probably a couple of other tunes as well). It’s a benefit for the Music Venue Trust and CALM, two great organisations deserving of your time and attention. The pre-sale for tickets starts tomorrow morning here at 9am UK time.
Predictably, the announcement caused a bit of a tizzy on this here internet thingy, and I got into some discussions on Twitter (never a brilliant idea in my experience). I wanted to lay out some thoughts here for everyone. The whole show announce thing can be very frustrating from where I stand, but it’s important for me to remind myself that not everyone is as immersed in the workings of the industry as I am, and that a little explanation from my end might do more good than getting annoyed online.
When booking a show, there are a ton of things to take into consideration. Size of venue, location, cost of hiring, ticket price, availability, age restrictions and so on. When putting together a show at short notice (like this one), it’s probably not going to be ideal, but we do our best. The choice this time is a sizeable venue (1500 tickets) that is available, in zone 2, and most importantly enables us to do a £15 ticket while still raising a whack of cash for the causes involved. The show is a club-night type affair, which alas means it’s 18+, but that’s the law in this country. I didn’t book the show myself (I’m always surprised at how many people find that surprising) but the good people who did have done their best, and an excellent job, at getting this one right.
Some people have been talking about touting. First off, that’s a wilfully negative thing to do *before the tickets have even gone on sale*. 1500 is a lot of tickets to sell for any artist, if you’re on a computer tomorrow morning you’ll more than likely be fine. Touting is, of course, a problem, one that drives me to distraction. Alas there isn’t a simple solution (except for always playing places like Ally Pally, something that isn’t an option for this show for reasons outlined above). There’s no legal barrier to it in the UK. In my experience, the best thing to do is *not to buy from touts or touting sites*. There are twitter hash-tags, there’s the forum on my site, and there’s more often than not friendly people exchanging outside the show.
None of that is perfect, obviously. The other solution I can offer is to play more shows, something I’m not exactly a slacker at. This is a one off London show – there are plenty more UK show announcements coming soon, I’ve played my home country more than anywhere else by some orders of magnitude! Of course it’s lovely to be in demand, and I’m grateful to the people who want to see me play, especially when I can turn that to a charitable end.
I guess my take-away from all of this is, let’s all try and be a little less negative online. I know, I’m hopelessly naive. But I think it’d do us all a lot of good. It’s pretty demoralising for me to announce a cool show and be inundated with complaints. We’re trying here. Stay positive. See you at a show.