The pictures below are of a part of Derby that I am rather taken with, just outside the city centre. I only ever go there if I'm walking between the bus and train stations, but every time I do I remember how much I love it. December doesn't show it in the same light as late spring and I hope I remember to go back with a camera then, but it is still rather beautiful, I think.
I took those on Thursday just before I got the train to Manchester. The decision to go by rail rather than road was made, based partly on the weather forecast which predicted a blizzard over the entire area I would be traveling through. As you can see there was no snow in Derby and the same was true for everywhere I went. But never mind, at least I could drink and be forced to go to Sheffield. More on that later.
I got into Manchester Piccadilly, walked into town and met Joe. Short introduction, I lived with Joe for three years in Liverpool, he's in this band, he's from the place they film League of Gentleman and the first thing he says to me after a good month or two without seeing each other is, 'Drink?' Hell yes.
We found a bar and caught up over a drink, more awesome people started to show up gradually and after a couple of hours we headed down the road to a small venue called The Ruby Lounge to see Ben Kweller. This girl came up to me before the music had started and said something along the lines of 'Hey, are you that guy who did that Fratellis thing on Youtube?' Why yes, I am! So that was fun. Joe pointed out that if you were to go on a Dave from Blue Skies search, a Ben Kweller gig would be a very, very good place to start.
The support act started quite soon after that. I forget his name, he was alright but nothing special. We noticed there was no backline so Ben wasn't going to be playing with a full band, which was a bit disappointing. We've seen him before with his band and they are incredible. But it was still Ben Kweller and he's one of my absolute favourite musicians. He played with one other guy who played slide guitar and was very large. I loved his set even without the band, I honestly don't think he's capable of disappointing me. He got a really full sound with just him on guitar or piano and this guy doing a bit of slide guitar. I won't go into detail and I couldn't pick favourite songs, it was just wonderful to see his energy and pure passion for music on stage again. Though I would say that the first time I saw him, which was at a similarly small venue, but with his band, was the best gig I've been to.
After the gig he stayed for a while signing stuff. I didn't get an autograph but I did give him a CD-R of a bunch of my songs. If I'm not mistaken, the first I've ever given to anyone. I remember he took the CD and put it in his back pocket and he seemed so grateful, I think he hugged me and he definitely said he would listen to it on his way to Glasgow tonight. I'm a little sketchy over what happen during those 30 seconds. It was similar to playing on stage then trying to remember your performance, but you were so into it that it's all just a blur. One thing I do remember is discovering that he signs his name with a star, exactly the same way that I do (not on official things!) This fact made me unreasonably happy, though I didn't mention it to anyone.
I could ramble on and on about how much I love Ben Kweller, from his love for playing music to the way he treats his fans, but I still have today to tell you about so I will restrain myself - we drove back to Joe's and went to sleep.
Today I had only one thing I had to do: get back to Derby. I had arranged to meet Jazza for a little while in Manchester and was planning to meet another friend from uni but she couldn't make it. Not knowing any other people likely to be free and in Manchester I wrote a text that said 'Lunch in Sheffield anyone?' and sent it to everyone I could think of that lives in Sheffield, which turned out to be two people. Fortunately they are two wonderful people and they both replied. So, after searching all of Manchester (three shops) for a tea strainer for Jazza (what - that's normal!) I hopped on a train, took some photos of Sheffield's lovely water features, headed into town and met Johnny Durham.
Here are some of those pictures. I may upload the rest to flickr or something. I have an account there and have never used it, might start.
We had lunch, which went down extremely well considering I'd eaten one bowl of cereal and half a bowl of pub chips in the previous 48 hours. Then Laura (Bubble) joined us after her radio show and we had a few drinks and a lot of talk.
That may be my favourite thing about my life right now, I can be in almost any major British city, send out a text or two and within an hour I'll have someone awesome to eat lunch with.
It's a good feeling.
So then I headed back to the station which looked lovely in the dark as well, just caught a train that had been delayed (unlucky for the people who'd been waiting, lucky for me!) and got back to Derby to find many blogs and videos requiring my attention. I was gone under two days, I don't know how they build up so fast - it's like people know I'm going away so they get productive!
Anyway, I ate food, wrote this blog and then I went to bed.