I finally left Exeter about 12:30, and headed over to Bristol. The train was heading all the way up to Dundee, so it was packed with reservations. Between the guy having a loud argument via phone with his ex-girlfriend because she owed him money (and this is way more than I ever needed to know about him), and the disgruntled couple who were told there were "plenty of seats" on the train after they were given the wrong reservation date and now had to stand, I have to say I was glad to get off in Bristol Temple Meads.
I have been through Bristol countless times, but have never stopped here. The view from the train station is not very impressive (nor from the bus stop to Glastonbury), so I really didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised--Bristol is a lovely city on the river, and my hotel was on something called the "Welsh Back" which runs right along the river front, and is near the Grove, where Thekla (the venue John was playing) is located. My hotel was also surprisingly lovely, as the photos of it on the Internet are hardly a testament to good marketing.
I arrived at Severshed, where there was supposed to be a meetup, and had a very expensive beer, waiting to see who would show up. About 10 minutes later, Rob popped in and asked me to come over to the soundcheck. He helped me finish my beer and we went right over. Soundcheck was mostly with the Maths, with John turning up at the end. Brian was there, as was Cerise, whose name I've heard but never previously met. It was almost 6:00 when we headed back to Severshed for dinner and/or drinks, and there we met up with Mark.
So--onto the gig itself. The setlist was about the same as Leamington Spa, and the dynamic of the place was entirely different. The Thekla venue is on a boat (easy to forget in a place that looks a bit like the Mercury Lounge in New York). Everyone was packed in, and I managed to be up front with Brian, Rob, and Cerise. Tara Busch opened again, and she had some difficulty with one piece of equipment. She couldn't get it resolved, so she decided to forego the first song and move on. Besides that, she did a very good set, and I think her music is starting to grow on me. There are elements of her music that remind me of the Spacedog gig I saw last year in London, and I like it very much.
John and crew came on promptly at 8:30, as there was a 10:00 curfew (for the show, not the club itself, which is apparently open until 4 in the morning). The acoustics were not as good as they were at Leamington Assembly, but the audience energy was high, and the band seemed more comfortable overall. I finally met Benge after the gig while they were loading up their gear, and he mentioned that they were all a bit nervous at the first gig, as they weren't yet comfortable with the setlist. (Apparently he does read this blog.) It may have explained at least some of the tension at the Leamington Spa gig. Interestingly, I was chatting with a fan after the show while waiting for John, and he said that he'd recently been to see Stiff Little Finger, and how different the shows were, mainly because of the lack of audience interaction. I don't think he was being critical of John's lack of interaction (John doesn't banter with the audience), but simply noted that it was a very different experience. Having seen Stiff Little Finger before (only 3 days before the Sept. 11 catastrophe in fact--in downtown Manhattan), I would totally agree with that observation. Right after the show, Mark said it was probably the best John Foxx gig he'd ever seen.
Compared to other sets where they've performed material from Interplay, I'd noticed something different about the sound, and I finally pinpointed that John is singing the songs in a higher range. This has the effect of "lightening" some of the darker sounds of the songs.
To get trivial for a moment--I was close enough to John to see his breathing, and watching how he took in air reminded me of a Reiki Master beginning the attunement process. Those of you reading this who are Reiki Masters (and there are a couple of you) will know exactly what I mean--it's a type of breathing that I've never properly mastered (no pun intended). I only remark on it because it looked unusual.
After the gig everyone wanted to go for a drink, and I did too, but I also wanted to talk to John. The Thekla becomes a nightclub for twenty-somethings as it gets later, and I watched with another fan as these girls walked into the club in skimpy little shorts and half-tops, while the temperature was probably around 39 degrees Fahrenheit. I vaguely remember those days in my own life, and I am just glad that the "can't wear a coat out because it isn't sexy" phase of my life is very much over.
John did come out at last, and apologized for keeping me waiting. In between fan requests for autographs and photos, John and I chatted for close to 45 minutes, with Benge joining us (and Serafina briefly) later on. We discussed Manchester, the next tour stop, and he suggested I check out St. Ann's Square, which he said was "civilised". He said a 15-minute walk anywhere beyond that was not particularly safe, and that there were parts of Manchester that had been fine when he was growing up in that area that are no longer safe. We also discussed my visit to Exeter and prospective Ph.D., which branched off into me trying to explain to John what "Western Esotericism" is. He turned to Benge at one point and said, "Brigid's going for a Ph.D. in things that are not understandable". With John I think it's always a question of us having different definitions of terms (just like he claims his work has no "mythological" component), and to be entirely fair, Western Esotericism is a rather new field. He did like the idea of "Theology of Electricity" (someone's actual research topic at Exeter).
I am now back in my hotel room looking forward to a hot bath and breakfast before heading off to Manchester. Until then...