I only did it once, and I was already over 35, but I highly recommend moving to a new city every now and again. Especially if you haven't got kids in tow, and you've got some disposable income, it's like months and months of being on holiday at home. Yup, I know I was lucky to be able to do ot, but that's how I experienced moving to London seven years ago.
Back in those days listings came in a paper magazine, and everyone got the same recommendations. Ha! How did we ever survive? We survived quite well, of course. The magazine was rather good. Since it wasn't free, it had to be.
Three months after my move to London, I saw a recommendation for a gig by this M Ward guy, at the Arts Cafe on Commercial Street, just 15 minutes' walk from my, errr, loft. I'd never been there before — it turned out to be a tiny venue, so cramped that I couldn't get in until after the support act finished and people started moving around a bit — and I'd never heard of M Ward before. The magazine said he did a mean acoustic cover of Bowie's Let's Dance, which sounded interesting, because if ever a song needed rehabilitating…
I went on my own, on a Saturday night (that's the downside of moving to a new city). I took to M almost immediately. What his voice lacked in technique, it made up for in character. He knew how to play guitar, and no mistake, though his strumming patterns seemed to make every song sound like it wanted to be Dylan's Buckets of Rain. Near the end of the set he played Buckets of Rain, and I for one felt a tangible relief, like that unmentioned house guest whose footsteps could be heard pacing up and down on the floor above had finally been invited down to say hello. He played Let's Dance, too, and the rehabilitation was remarkably effective. (Let me let you in on a secret: the words are quite decent.)
So at the end of the set, I went up to M, who was running his merchandise stall from his guitar case on the side of the stage. I asked him which was the best of the various CDs he had on show, and immediately realised this was an awkward question for him to answer. He pointed to Transfiguration of Vincent and told me that was the newest, so I bought it.
A few weeks later, I met Lucy, and a few weeks after that I played her Let's Dance, a song which she said she hated, but agreed M's version was a class above DB's. We both still remember what happened next. And we both kind of counted ourselves as M Ward fans after that, seeing him at the Green Man Festival, and, in my case, on the Twisted Folk tour, along with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. I've downloaded a few of his more recent songs from eMusic. Still, we never quite got round to getting another album.
This one still sounds good. I love the way it's recorded, up close and personal — mostly in someone's attic, according to the sleeve. A very good late night album.
I wonder what happened to that magazine? I haven't seen one since I unsubbed about four years ago.
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