One of the things I decided upon after my anxiety and depression incident last year was to get out to see more gigs. I loved live music and had missed out on several shows as my anxiety gripped me. I set myself the goal of try to get to at least one gig a month. There might be one or two months I’ve missed out on but I’ve also tried to make up on missed opportunities by going to several gigs in a month (I’m looking at a potential of six gigs from now until the end of the year). There have even been some that I’ve booked not knowing if I’ll know anyone else that’s going to them (most of them I’ve discovered people I know that are there, even if it’s only to say hi at the end of the gig as I see them). Saturday’s gig was a little bit out of my comfort zone. I was heading to Derby to see Paul Miro which I was really looking forward to. But I was going on my own.
I’ve seen gigs in other cities before. Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Edinburgh. But I’ve always been with someone else. But Saturday morning saw me heading South on a train with some fruit pastels, a bottle of diet coke, a book on the Salem witch trials and some music for company.
I was honestly worried that I wasn’t going to make it for a while. It was the first time I’d travelled agood distance and stayed in a hotel on my own for a good few years. I knew it was simple and straightforward really but my anxiety was telling me it was a huge mountain to climb. Getting on a train, going to a hotel, dealing with my social anxiety, watching a gig and getting home….all of it seemed impossible.
For a little while that morning I thought I might not make the train as my bus into Durham wad running a little bit late, but I got to the train station with a good half hour to spare. I’d booked my ticket through ticket split which made my ticket as cheap as possible. The downside meant I had to change my seat a few times (in York and again in Sheffield). I was on the same train in the same carriage, but I must have looked like a loon swapping seats in the busy carriage
I got to Derby around midday and quickly tried to get my bearings. I found myself getting lost in the local shopping centre whilst trying to find my way out of it. I could feel the anxiety starting to rise but the moment it started getting too much to handle I managed to find my way out into the centre of Derby. My escape point had brought me out about five minutes away from my hotel according to Google maps. After walking in a straight line I found it, conveniently situated close to a cafe severing all day breakfasts cooked up by it’s Filipino owner. Food and a quiet place to sit, always a good call for your nervous brain.
I checked into the Best Western I was staying at, grabbed a shower and decided on trying to get some rest for a bit in the warm, comfortable room as I was quite tired from a bad night’s sleep the night before. I was relatively relaxed now but I had felt the spikes of my anxiety on my journey. Getting some rest when you’re head is feeling a bit messed up is a good start. Just lying on the bed watching something on Netflix helped calm me down and focus me. Here I was, on my own in a city I didn’t know. What could go wrong?
The venue, the Maypole, was on the opposite side of town to where I was staying, about a twenty five minute walk. I’d arranged to meet some people I knew from online at the venue, so I grabbed my ticket and headed across town, stopping for a quick bite to eat. The marvelous wonder that is Google maps gave me instructions to bear right, which I did. Five minutes later and I was going around in circles, taking the scenic route around Derby’s bus station. I seemed to be getting further and further away from my destination. After another ten of fifteen minutes of getting more and more frustrated I decided to cut my losses and nab the nearest taxi. A few minutes later and the driver let me out at the Maypole.
I took a few moments to focus myself and walked into the bar. I spotted a couple of familiar faces belonging to Paul Fraser and his wife Fleur, who I’d known online for a couple of years and had met at a gig earlier this year, as well as a couple of others from some online music groups I’m a part of. A few minutes later we were joined by Nick (another online friend), a guy I was suppressed to meet up with at a Ginger gig in Newcastle a couple of months ago but had missed each other (hey, it was pretty busy in there that night).
We all started chatting for a few minutes and then Paul Miro walked into the bar from the venue. He came over to say hi, gave me a hug and said he was pleased I’d been able to make it down to the gig.
Paul and I have developed a good, friendly relationship over the past year or so. We started talking online around the start of his online pledge campaign for his most recent album Sinombré All Hope Hope Is Gone. When I started the blog he was very encouraging and shared it a few times. We would talk every now and again about his album, about life, cooking, coffee, music, politics, pretty much what you would talk to friends about. He took part in an online chat with me and Alex, another of his pledgers, about mental health as Alex had a song written for him called ‘Dandelion‘. I put together a blog taken from the chat we had, a bit like a roundtable interview. I also talked in depth about Paul’s Sinombré album and it’s various threads and themes which I put out as another blog here. I’d made a few orders on his PledgeMusic campaign and gave away the digital downlands to members of the support group I’d set up. When I told Paul about this he sent me a few extra cd’s and signed posters to share out, a great gesture that people really appreciated.
It was great to finally meet up with him after becoming good friends online. I’d made him a batch of reaper and ancho chilli, cheese and chorizo (Sconombré) scones which I’d promised him, as well as bringing a Dancing With The Black Dog pin badge and sticker (they’re an Australian charity who look to raise awareness around mental health awareness and acceptance) as a thank you for all his support.
The gig had become a major focal point for me. Paul had put the gig on as a thank you for the pledge campaign (Sinombré is currently my favourite album of 2016) and I really wanted to be a part of it, even if it meant I was going to be away from home on my own in a strange city. Like I said, we’ve become friends and he’s been supportive of me, but he’s also become inspirational and a real motivation too. We’ve talked about my issues on several occasions and has always made me feel good about myself. Hell, he’s even messaged me before I was about to play gigs to make sure I was doing okay and to reassure me. All in all, he’s a really nice bloke, someone more people should aim to be like.
The gig itself was awesome, and is already up there in my top ever gigs. Paul was joined by Cain Paisley on guitar, Steve Bailey on cajon and Jim Doughty on harmonica and accordion (seriously the most rock and roll accordion player in the world). The Maypole is really intimate (ie tiny) and there was an amazing atmosphere. We were all spellbound as Paul and his band opened their first set with Nothing Left Here Part One (he opened set two after a short intermission with Nothing Left Here Part Two) before going into All Hope Is Gone, lead single from his Sinombré album. The two sets drew heavily from the Sinombré project as well as his solo work and his albums with Apes, Pigs and Spacemen which kept everyone happy. He even previewed a song Too Late Now from his next album which we chatted about briefly earlier (I was singing along by the time the chorus came around which is a good sign). If Sinombré was all about things falling apart on a global scale, the new album is set to be more personal as it carries along the threads from the first album (there’s even some talk of Sinombré Part Three too). Paul likened it to licking your wounds clean. Darker in tone, he’s hoping to launch the new project in March next year. I really can’t wait.
Paul has a fantastic ability for writing huge anthemic songs that really strike a chord inside you. I found myself singing along quite a few times. But he can turn it round in a few seconds with songs like The One and My Lucky Day that can pretty much break your heart into a thousand pieces. My personal highlight had to be Ghostheart that he performed towards the end of the first set, you could really feel Paul wringing every last drop of emotion out of the song.
Everyone on stage seemed to be having a great time, laughing, smiling and generally having fun. Paul has an incredibly warm but powerful voice, his performance brought tears to my eyes on a couple of occasions. The other musicians brought a little extra something to the night too. More power to Lil Jim Doughty, a towering Nikki Sixx look -a-like who managed to make the accordion a vital element to the night’s sound. Caine, a long time friend and accomplice of Paul’s, played some fantastic guitar. His ability to coax solos out from his instrument was amazing whilst his vocal harmonies were pitch perfect without taking away from the soul of the songs. Steve, sat astride his cajon, added a driving rhythm to each song, proving that you don’t need a full drum kit to make a band sound full and anchor the songs. These guys deserve to be gigging together more often playing bigger shows than this. Every single one of them were completely invested into their performance, never overshadowing each other. They’d worked hard on the songs arrangements and it showed.
The audience were like family too. The atmosphere was perfect. Everyone was in good spirits, lots of laughter and the chance to finally meet people who I’d known online for a while. I got chance to meet Alex,who I mentioned earlier, and was able to have a chat with him between the two sets. I also got to hang out and talk with Oli from Sheffield and his sister Danielle. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a gig where everyone was so friendly and in such a good mood.
After the gig had finished I got chance to spend some time with another online friend called Sean. He’s also another inspirational individual on a self appointed quest to get a better grip on mental health issues. He doesn’t suffer from them but knows people who do and just wants to get a better understanding so he can help support them. He’s always encouraging me and spurning me forward to better things. A generous, selfless soul who, no doubt, will play this down.
Before setting back off to the hotel, I had a few minutes with Paul again. We were both buzzing from his performance and talked excitedly for a while. I don’t think he realises what a guiding light he’s become to me, appearing with randomly timed messages that always help motivate me when needed. We hugged, promised we’d catch up further down the road and then I headed off into the mild Derby night.
The journey back to the hotel was a lot easier than my earlier journey. My route took me directly through the centre of town, through throngs of drunken revelry. I paused outside a church to look at the moon hanging in the sky, reflecting on how relaxed and calm I felt inside.
I felt good, the nerves and anxiety that had being trying to fray the edges of my sanity hadn’t surfaced to any major degree. I’d been able to keep them in check and under control. Sometimes it’s about being mindful of your situation and your position in it. I’d felt extremely tired earlier and the decision to try and sleep rather than explore had helped me keep on top of it.
A victory is a victory. This was one for me and I was going to take the win. I did it and that means I can do it again. It means I’m stronger than I think I am. We all are. We can all do things we do don’t think we’re capable of. Hold your breath, steel yourself and take the plunge. You might fall short of your goal but at least you’ve tried.
You can buy some of Paul Miro’s album’s at www.paulmiro.com. You can also purchase them through a few online digital retailers and stream them at Spotify, Deezer and the like.