Righto, been terrible at keeping this up to date, my bad! Let’s get back to the action. Having had two great gigs at Coughlan’s Live with Cry Monster Cry and Mark Geary respectively, I had become quite a fan of the venue. It’s a lovely spot and it’s very accessible for myself in terms of location which is a big bonus. I was keeping an eye on the upcoming gigs on their page and an artist by the name of John Blek caught my eye. I was still considering going to his gig on the week it was coming up, when he put out a post saying they were down to just 6 tickets remaining. At that, I made up my mind and purchased my ticket and away we go.
Playing on November 17th, it was apparent from the get-go that it’d be a slightly different gig than usual. There was a great atmosphere of banter in the venue on this particular occasion, with most in attendance likely already well acquainted with John Blek and his music prior to the evening. Where most artists would’ve had a support act, John Blek played his own support set, opting to play a giant set split in the middle for the usual interval. Fair play to him I say, if you’ve that much music to hand and the energy to pull it off, go right ahead. First song of his set was ‘Lace’, the latest single from his 3rd album ‘Catharsis, Vol. 1’ released in October. It’s instantly notable as he plays this song the style he is going for as he opts to play ‘Fingerstyle Guitar’ with pick-like objects attached directly to his fingers instead of a traditional flat pick. The careful plucking of the strings in this manner sets the tone nicely for John’s story-telling drawn from personal experience. Moving through the set a bit further, we reach ‘Compass’, the first of three sea-faring tales on the album. Interestingly, the entire album came about during a period of time early in the year when John was quite unwell and spent his time flat in a hospital bed, with only his guitar to bring him his usual comforts. Not a particularly sea-faring lad himself, it’s nonetheless poignant that such songs of the great expanse of the sea came about through such circumstances.
When the mid-show break came about, I popped out to the hallway and realized there was a merch table there. I was quite easily convinced from the quality of the show so far, so I picked up a good haul, acquiring a T-Shirt, Vinyl of the album, and his book ‘Ceaseless’ which is a selected collection of lyrics from 2012-2017. The book was published by a company called ‘Badly Made Books’ which you can check out here. Having not expected such a selection of Merch, it ate into my money for food-shopping for the week. Did I have enough left to survive? Not sure. Worth it? Yup.
Fresh from his stint as the support act, back came John Blek and the show continued. I was decked to out in my new shirt already. After a few songs further into the set, John at last answered the unspoken question that was probably on some minds, as indeed I had wondered about myself. I had spotted it from the moment I sat down and had been trying to figure it out ever since. Behind John on the stage plopped against the back wall was some manner of small mysterious box. Picking up the strange contraption, he told us that it was a musical instrument called a ‘Shruti Box’ before also suggesting some folk refer to it as a ‘Wank Box’. He played the song ‘Needle & Thread’ with the box, which can be heard on the studio version of the track too, and after that nifty little display he put it back in it’s place to remain untouched for the rest of the gig once more. The banter between songs had been a lot of fun all evening, but one moment in the 2nd set stands out to me in particular. Announcing that the next song he would he playing was a cover, he paused to build suspense. Finally, he cracked that it would be a cover of a song by ‘John Blek and the Rats’, his well known band he often plays with outside his solo career. In good humour I pointed out that he had not only played his own support slot, but was also covering his own songs, a fact I found to be pretty funny. The focus wasn’t entirely on himself all night though, it eventually transpired that he would play a cover that he didn’t have involvement in the creation of, shutting down the jestful naysayers in the process. All in all, it was a fantastic gig and I look forward to catching John Blek again sometime. Until next time, keep on Merchin’