Trains, Delays and Ben Folds Plays: Bristol Academy 23/11/2012

Strange day. Strange decisions. If you have read my pieces about music before you will know I like to know details of the bands I like. I research musical influences, old stuff, new stuff, producers. I like Ben Folds. This like is strange for me because the interest was started by a Tim Minchin song lyric:

“He likes Ben Folds and the Jackson 5…” From Rock n Roll Nerd.

I got several albums. Liked those so when I heard he was touring small(ish) venues in England I thought it would be nice to see him. I knew of the Ben Folds Five, but had not researched in the slightest. In hindsight this was probably a bad idea, the first of many.

Mr Folds had decided to play in two viable venues for me. The Bristol O2 Academy or the Brixton Academy London. I’ve been to the latter before and hated it, so Bristol it was. Second bad idea. Around the time I booked the tickets I had been to the Bristol Hi-Fi show and travelled by train. So I thought it would be good to go by train for the gig. Third bad idea.

Due to a worrying waste of time meeting at work earlier in the week, the gig crept up on me. Train tickets not brought in advance, money! Floods in-between Reading and Bristol a concern. Also upon checking the timetables last train to Reading was due at 10:35pm meaning we would have to leave the gig early! Yet gig tickets were brought so we went for it. Half of our touring party wanted to visit Bristol Zoo so they left earlier than I.

Train from home to Bristol went fine. Was busy for a Friday afternoon but even managed to find a seat. The plan was to get the bus to the venue from the station. However I decided to use my Bus App which unhelpfully highlighted every Park and Ride only bus. So we walked, bewildered and slightly unsure of where we were headed, round in circles for the best part of 45 mins. My ankle shouting so many expletives at me even the local drunks off of Church Lane were embarrassed.

Halfway through our trek, losing hope of finding the venue. In the distance appeared a wondrous sight. My traveling companion and I thought it may have been a mirage. The glass fronted Brew Dog bar. My heart be still, my tired legs rejoice flavourful beer was in reach. We stepped inside the warm welcoming place, my glasses steaming up. We were guided through the choices of draft beers by knowledgeable and friendly staff. A good pint was had, I had very little time to realise that the place was filling up. This seemed like a good meeting point for our zoo visitor friends, so contact was made.

Upon our successful rendezvous we embarked on the second leg of the journey, to find the venue and collect tickets. Due to my sociable smoker friend, we had inside knowledge and found the venue in relative ease, tucked behind the Bristol Hippodrome. It looked like an industrial factory. Tickets collected we headed in with a few minutes to spare. The venue is standing only, so I had arranged seats (sounds silly that doesn’t it) up on a platform for our party. We we led through the bowels of the Academy to the platform. The security staff were again friendly. However this was my view of the stage.

Not good. The people in front of me were in wheelchairs, they had to kneel up in those chairs to see over the pictured metal bar. This had the offshoot of me only being able to see the bassist for 90% of the gig. As I am admirer of Ben Folds musical ability on the piano not being able to see this was a huge disappointment. The gig started slowly, with technical issues effecting the performance. My audiophile friend seemed to pick up that one of the speakers on the PA was blown, thus effecting the quality of the sound. That coupled with my lack of view and unfamiliarity with the work of the Ben Folds Five meant that this was not the best gig experience.

I have never been to a gig where I could hear so many people talking, for the first 5 or 6 songs there was a constant hum of conversation. Mid set the Five (surprised me that they are a 3 piece band) hit the speed and showed that they could indeed play, with loose form jams about toilets. However by this point my focus was on the clock.

I had it in my mind that I must leave at 9:50pm at the latest. To make sure we didn’t miss the poorly thought out last train home. Much to annoyance of my friends, we missed the encore. We found a taxi, and headed back to Bristol Temple Meads. Only to find out the train had been delayed. 22:35 became 22:50, 23:12, 23:20. We could have seen the 1st encore and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Damn it!

We sat in the cold. Discussing the merits of a Cheese and Chicken Tikka crepe. The train got later and later. My home town had never felt so welcoming. My bed seemed like the greatest place ever. As the expected arrival time of our train came closer we moved to the platform. Only for them to move it. At this point I was ready to kill anyone with even the vagest connection to the railway. Yes in my head I plotted to kill Thomas the Tank Engine. 23:40 train arrived. We boarded it and 10 mins later we were on the way home.

At some point in the journey, we were treated to a drunken American explaining the virtues of Mitt Romney to a follow passenger, at great volume and at great repetitive length. Also the train driver sounded on his announcements that he was either drunk or high!

Moral of the story. Never travel by train to see a band that you have very little clue about. Even if there is nice beer involved.

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Trains, Delays and Ben Folds Plays: Bristol Academy 23/11/2012

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