Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The Boaty Weekender is a terrible idea

Dear Stuart

The premise of this event is wrong:
What if the magic of 1999’s Bowlie Weekender was recreated 20 years on with 2,500 like-minded music fans, dozens of your favourite bands, and us, on an exciting and once in a lifetime cruise holiday through the Mediterranean?

The premise of this event is really: “Let’s do Bowlie again, but on a richer, grander scale. We’ll be a little bit disappointed if your economic circumstances haven’t improved drastically over the last 20 years like ours have.”

I know that you like to put on gigs in unusual venues, but if I had £1,500 spare to see Belle and Sebastian play a special gig, last year I’d have flown to Australia to see them at the Sydney Opera House.

But I don’t see Belle and Sebastian very often. Time was when I used to see them at every opportunity. Their first headline London gig at the Borderline in 1996, packed with just about everyone in town who had bought Tigermilk or had a tape of it. It was fun. Like when the band broke down and one of them played Smoke On The Water on a kazoo.

The night before supporting Tindersticks, you spotted Lawrence in the crowd and changed a lot of lyrics and song titles to Felt ones to impress him.

It started to go wrong in 1998 with the interminable waits until the band had the courage to go on stage. The nadir was in Philadelphia that autumn when you kept the audience waiting for an hour and a half before deciding, actually, you weren’t going to play. Many people left in tears. Not me. I’d seen you before, I could see you again.

But I didn’t, unless you count Bowlie the following year. I don’t remember too much about it. Like many attendees, I was in an advanced state of liquid refreshment. I’d either out drunk all of Mogwai combined, or some other bunch of Glaswegians. It’s all a bit hazy.

The problem with Belle and Sebastian then was the idea that they thought they were a “democracy”. They weren’t, though. They were still, then, Stuart Murdoch’s band. If your cellist was poorly, don’t keep fans waiting for 90 minutes before sending them home. Come on and play pared down or a Stuart Murdoch acoustic show or hard rock covers on the kazoo. Something improvised, something special. Don’t send fans home with nothing but contempt and disappointment.

I know I’m not the target audience for the Boaty Weekender, despite having been to Bowlie. My favourite albums remain Tigermilk and Sinister, what Stevie Jackson said “conveyed a self-made universe”.

I haven’t bought any Belle and Sebastian records since The Life Pursuit 12 years ago. I’m not going to slag off any records you’ve made since then. They’re not for me, that’s all. I wouldn’t dare ask, or even want, you to make the same albums over and over. Felt never did, after all, and like you they’re one of my favourite bands ever.

I did see you a couple of years ago at the Royal Albert Hall when you played Tigermilk. And then once more last year when I got a cheap ticket for your gig at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. These gigs told me two things:

1. Belle and Sebastian are a heritage act.
2. Getting the cute girls on stage at the end of every gig is creepy and it gets creepier as the years pass. I tend to agree with Peter Momtchiloff who said: “I haven't kept close tabs on SM's activities in recent years. I suspect I might like some of the songs, but I find the artwork quite off-putting.”

I haven’t checked, but does the boat stop at any ports during its voyage? I know you’re better drilled these days, but it was only last year that you left drummer Richard Colburn in his pyjamas in Walmart between gigs.

I really hope that one of the other bands on the bill has a drummer you can use if you lose Richard. Or you take a drum machine just in case.

Stuart, you’ll be pleased to hear I can afford to go on the Boaty Weekender, but maybe less so when you understand why I won’t be going. I don’t need to take a hard look at my life choices to think any differently.

Last night I saw Pia Fraus and Spinning Coin. This Friday, Peaness, then the day after Hinds and Girl Ray. I’m more interested in newer bands. I don’t want to revisit a festival from 20 years ago, especially on a boat. Especially at that cost. And especially when the booking agent emails me to tell me there’s “unlimited ice cream”. Mate, I could have as much ice cream and beer and pizza as I wanted with change left over from £1,500 to go record shopping. In New York, say.

But let’s do a deal. If I win the lottery (seriously, I just bought a ticket), I’ll go on the Boaty Weekender. If I don’t, you play a low-key acoustic gig - guitar, kazoo, whatever you like - in London. I’ll put it on. It’ll be affordable. It’ll be fun. It’ll be special.

Let me know.


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