Decisions decisions – choosing what to see – Emma Webster

EFG London Jazz Festival 2015 programme
EFG London Jazz Festival 2015 programme

Leafing through the EFG London Jazz Festival programme, I’m thinking about how I went about choosing what to see. A person obviously only has limited temporal and economic resources and the Festival only lasts for ten days with a number of performances happening at the same time and in different locations across the city. Fretting over my decisions also taps into the great 21st-century fear of FOMO (fear of missing out). What if one of the great jazz performances happens and I’m not there to witness it?! If only I had chosen X instead of Y!  What if Keith Jarrett does another Cologne Concert and I miss it?! This is even more of a(n admittedly pleasurable) problem when – in the lucky position I find myself in – I can get free access to many of the shows.

In the end, my decisions were made as follows: a small number of gigs were highly recommended by Serious staff, such as Seriously Talented, so they were concrete fixtures in my calendar. There were also a couple of academic events, including a talk by this project’s Principal Investigator, Professor George McKay, so they were also concrete. There were a few artists I’d really like to see so they also got added to the list (Ice-T, Submotion Orchestra and Gilles Peterson for starters). I also wanted to check out some of the educational activities, both those aimed at children and the more ‘academic’ style lectures and talks. Certain venues were also on my wishlist (the famous jazz venue, Ronnie Scott’s, for example), but I also wanted to get out and about in London to see what it was like to attend events outside the centre. Therefore my choices were based on the following primary and secondary considerations:-

1. Artist – who do I want to see and who should I see?

2. Genre – what kinds of jazz do I want to hear and what kinds of jazz should I hear?

3. Venue – where do I want to go and where should I go?

4. Educational – whose learning – mine or someone else’s?

5. Special projects such as The Streets in order to see the full extent of festival activities

Once the basics were mapped out on a spreadsheet, then logistics come into play – if I am at the Barbican on Saturday evening for 7pm, can I realistically get to Dalston, or Enfield for that matter, for a show starting at 10pm?

Thinking about my decisions helps me to understand more about an ‘ordinary’ punter may make their own decisions about who to see – those they actively choose, those which are more of an obligation, all of which limited and influenced by geographical, temporal and economic factors.


Anatomy of a Gig #1 – John Bramwell (I Am Kloot) – Emma Webster

This new series – Anatomy of a Gig – is a space for people to comment objectively about live music events that they have attended, to build a resource for promoters and musicians on what works and what doesn’t work at a gig.  In this way, the Anatomy of a Gig series will review the gig as a live music event rather than reviewing the music per se.

Upstairs in association with BBC Introducing ft. John Bramwell (I Am Kloot), O2 Academy Oxford, May 21st 2012

Last Saturday I went to the Upstairs event (in association with BBC Introducing) at the O2 Academy in Oxford, featuring John Bramwell.  My husband was reviewing the gig for the local Nightshift magazine, but I went along as I am a fan of I Am Kloot, and therefore of John Bramwell.  The gig was a strange one that left both of us quite annoyed.  The aim of this blog post – apart from offering some catharsis – is to examine why this should have been the case.  On this occasion, the three main factors that appeared not to work were: running order/programming, ticket price, and location of the bar/social zone.

Before I start, however, what do I mean by ‘the gig didn’t work’?  If a live music event fundamentally consists of the following: artist, venue, audience, technology, promoter (Frith 2008), then a successful gig is one in which each element is functioning properly.  But in the case of a live music event, this means not just that the element works on its own, but rather it requires the successful interaction of each element with each of the other elements.  For example, that the artist’s microphone works when s/he sings into it, that the audience can hear the artist and/or their instrument, that the promoter has done their job and attracted a suitable audience to the event, that the venue is sufficient for the needs of the artist and audience.   The main reason that the John Bramwell gig left me annoyed was that the listening audience could not hear the artist properly past a certain point in the room due to the level of audience chatter towards the bar area, and that this had a noticeable effect on the artist (at one point, for instance, he called somebody standing chatting near the bar a very rude word beginning with C).

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