With Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2020 being put on hold until 2021, there will be a huge hole in people’s calendars for the second weekend in August. In a small attempt to offer some consolation, we’ve been very lucky to have each member of Fairport Convention write for us in our Why I Love column.
As a founding member of the band who has been with the band since it’s humble beginning, near all of Simon Nicol’s time is dedicated to Fairport Convention. He has also played with The Albion Band with Ashley Hutchings as well as releasing solo albums too.
In a piece that seems apt at the moment, Simon shares his love of gigging. Not a band, not an artist, but a vital component of why we all love music; seeing it live.
There are few things better than settling into your seat or finding your favoured place in the crush of an anticipatory crowd; being prepared for an evening enjoying the immediacy and excitement of a live performance by one of our cherished favourite turns. I think we’d agree on that, and on its own, that sentiment is the whole ethos of this website.
But for me, one of the things that tops it puts the boot on the other foot: I love the gigging itself. It’s all I know and all I’ve done more or less since I left school at 15, halfway through my O-levels. (Ask your parents! Ed.)
OK, it’s not a proper job…it’s only an evening; a couple of hours work if you will; in front of a few hundred people (and sometimes many more). Nowadays, that means getting on for a hundred times a year, even though in the past the workload has been far greater.
In 2002, in Fairport’s thirty-fifth anniversary year, my diary shows north of 180 hotel bookings alone, three separate months in the US, with Japan and Australia bunged in as well. And being based in the middle of the country at the time, there were many more gigs when I got home afterwards.
But there’s much more than meets the eye: the gig starts up to a year before, really, when tours are planned and venues shuffled into something like a do-able order. Then once there’s a plan, next is the itinerary: transport organised, hotels narrowed down and booked, posters and their artwork designed and printed and mailed out, PR sorted for radio and press interviews, and, nearer the date, a setlist decided upon and rehearsed into basic shape.
The time spins by rapidly between tours, and soon the van is at the door and guitars, amps, accessories and suitcase are humped aboard and it’s farewell to the old homestead for a while: the raiding party of old comrades is once again settled into their familiar seats in the Transport Of Delight and the road opens up before us. A few hours later, sound checked and tuned up (hopefully) it’s on with the motley and one, two, three, four…
You know the rest! I am a lucky bunny, and I thank you lot as much as my mighty partners in musical crime for the life that it is.
Simon Nicol, East Kent. April 2020.
Many thanks to Simon Nicol for his words on why he loves gigging. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who enjoys concerts can appreciate the sentiments here. It will be amazing when that first note hits at that first gig after the world is a little safer.
We would like to once again offer our thanks to all of Fairport Convention for taking the time to write for us.
Check out one of Simon’s finest vocal performances on The Hiring Fair; a song written by Ralph McTell and a near ever present song in the Fairport Convention repertoire.