Wednesday, October 25

Up the Junction?

Cambridge 15th Oct
My story starts the day before, whilst Saturday shopping in Cambridge. Strolling through Christ’s Pieces I happened to glance at a tree (hmmm…) and there pinned was a flyer for The Stripe @ The Junction –“Jonathan Richman 15th Oct” – I had to look at it more than once before it finally sunk in. I think I uttered out loud some suitable expletive of disbelief!! I check the local gig listings quite regularly but somehow had managed to miss this. I often check the national gig listings looking for Jonathan’s gigs as I know he is a regular visitor, but here he was on my own doorstep.

The Junction is a fairly recent purpose built venue, definitely not a church this time, holding approx 850 on a live music night. I arrived quite early probably about 7:30, it taking a while before people started to come in. The Stripe is sponsored by wait for it….Red Stripe (duhhh), unfortunately such association is not reflected by the price – a pint of Red Stripe coming in at £3.10!!

From the day I first bought “The Modern Lovers“ back in ‘77 I have always loved Jonathan and his music (you can’t separate them – oh no!), and my anticipation was running high. I think I knew what to expect. Although I hadn’t kept up with Jonathan during the nineties, (for which I apologise – what was I thinking of!!!) I had started to hear more about him lately, an appearance on Later with Jools Holland a couple of years ago , Something about Mary etc. had re-ignited my interest. It was like meeting up with an old friend - Hi how are you - what have you been doing – where have you been etc.

Support act notwithstanding it was about 9:00pm before Tommy and Jonathan came on. Straight over to the mic. and immediately into Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow if I remember correctly. I perhaps at this point should mention that this was my first ever Jonathan Richman gig, and I was not prepared for what happened next……. I started to smile, which I kind of had expected, but that smile changed quite rapidly into a grin; I then entered into a state of complete joy identified by the biggest idiot grin that ever was. It was then that I noticed several others sporting the same recently-banjoed look. So this was the “Jonathan Effect”.

Next up (I think) was “Eygptian Reggae”, but a couple of bars in Jonathan stopped and asked whether it was true that this was currently being used over here in the UK in a telly ad. Everyone shouted back: “Yeah for a cereal”, then Jonathan asked :”Which one” - audience answer “Weetabix!”. He then said that weetabix was good and that he liked it, before saying that he “sure don’t remember giving permission for them to use it!! - I’ll have to have a few words with those guys”. Other songs followed some familiar to me some not. But all completely enjoyable.

It seemed that Tommy’s kit and Jonathan’s mic stand had been positioned as close to the front of the stage as possible, and the barrier which is normally between the audience and the stage was absent. I don’t know if that was specifically for this gig or not, but it did give a real sense of closeness and warmth. I don’t suppose there is much call for moshpit diving at a Jonathan Richman concert! This closeness, both actual and perceived, made it seem all the more personal, as if he was performing in your own house. Crowd swaying & bopping along, joining in on the choruses where they could – I was quite unprepared for the Ding-Ding during “Ice Cream Man”.

Others songs were in no particular order:
He Gave Us The Wine To Taste It
Springtime in New York
Give Paris One More Chance
Partners in Crime
Old world
Lesbian bar

At least those are the only ones I can recall and know the names of!!
All good things come to pass however and it was over almost as soon as it started – or so it seemed – there was no encore as such, “lets do one more* said Jonathan provoking not surprisingly cries of “Roadrunner”, plus one quite vociferous one of ”Abominable Snowman”.

The “one more” became two, but by now it was apparent that Jonathan’s voice was starting to suffer. Up till then there was no sign of the worsened voice apparent at the later gigs (yeah I’m writing this in a Tardis). Some inspired bouts of “dancing” ensued throughout the concert, with the occasional pause between strummin’ an’ dancin’ an’ singin’ for Jonathan to take a swig from his flask. Other than his voice failing a little towards the end it was a pretty lively affair, up with, it seems, the earlier Glasgow and Newcastle gigs! One thing that came home to me was how fine a guitarist he really is. OK, not in the traditional sense that we come to expect in a “rock“ act, but then i’m not a traditionalist in any sense, anyway. It’s a sort of flamenco/rock hybrid that works so well – at least for Jonathans music. Is it this style of playing that forms Jonathan’s music as it stands now, or is vice versa. Certainly listening to some of the old songs over the weekend has made me appreciate his playing more than I did before.

Finally over and after a good portion of shouts for more, unsurprisingly to no avail, the house lights came up. I popped to the loo (I’m sure you wanted to know that) and scuttled outside more than satisfied with my lot. However there was more to come. As I strolled (I do a lot of that) outside down by the side of the venue, I spotted a this guy seemingly clutching a Spanish guitar looking a little lost and accosting passers-by. Sure enough on his own, no entourage , no Tommy ,no roadies or helpers, nothing, there was Jonathan, more or less just standing in the road, shaking hands and greeting folk. I nipped over sharpish and breathlessly shook hands and uttered/spluttered quite unintelligibly at him. It then became apparent just how bad his voice had become as he could barely speak, or maybe he was wondering who the gibbering idiot was speaking to him in an unknown tongue (but later found out to be ancient moronic) was exactly. At that point a people carrier pulled up containing some fellow fans who were themselves leaving and had spotted him, a small bout of camera flashing ensued. Guitar propped up against the car bonnet, signing autographs. As the kind guy who offered to take Jonathan’s and myself’s picture with my camera, pressed the shutter release , I prayed to the lord above that I had remembered to switch the flash on…... I had!! I think I walked home that night about two feet above the pavement.

Image copyright Bob Crozier. No unauthorised reproduction

Its quite probable that this was the highlight of my year (OK I don’t get out much), so sorry if I’ve waffled on a bit. I spent the weekend trying to convert family and friends to Jonathan but to no avail – ah well! In the immortal words of the great god like genius, Mark E. Smith - “He is not appreciated”.

Bob Crozier

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