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a momentous event

Well, folks, I’m coming up on a milestone in my life. Some people count calories, some keep track of which Natural Wonders of the World they’ve seen (2), but I keep track of concerts.

Ever since the first concert I went to (12th March 1996, Red Hot Chili Peppers / Toadies at Gund Arena) I’ve kept track of every live show I’ve ever been to.

The momentous event is that tonight, December 31st 2010 will be my 300th gig. That’s right. THREE HUNDRED. So, to celebrate this, and in true OCD fashion, I would like to share a few facts relating to my illustrious career as a live music junkie.

concert tickets....concert tickets

The gold medal for band I’ve seen the most belongs to OK Go with a grand total of 50. Coming in second is Idlewild at 40 shows (40th tonight).

The most gigs I’ve been to in one year is 49 in 2005 (including 11 in October alone), and the least was in 2009 when I only saw three live shows (albeit very good ones).

The most popular month for gigs is statistically April with 41 total, and the least popular is June with only 12.

The most popular day of the (any) month is a tie between the 20th and the 21st at 16 gigs each.

I have ever only been to one gig on my birthday which was Idlewild at the Liquid Room in Edinburgh in 2007.

The farthest distance I have ever been from home is 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, MN (OK Go 8th June 2002) at a total distance of 737 miles door to door. This is not, however, the longest single trip I’ve taken because the show in MN was sandwiched between two others (Chicago and Milwaukee).

The most one-way miles clocked up is a whopping 596 miles in one day which was the drive back to Cleveland on Easter Sunday 2003 from an Idlewild gig in Montreal, Canada. Including the drive from Cleveland to Toronto (to see Idlewild) to Montreal and back you have a complete round-trip of 1,234 miles.

My weekend at T in the Park in 2006 represents the most bands I’ve seen at one “gig” with 25 over three days.

The most I have ever paid for a ticket in to a single gig is probably Pearl Jam in 1996, but you’d have to ask my Mom how much it was exactly, because she bought my ticket for me at the door (and then stood outside for the whole concert waiting for me).

Some places I would never have seen were it not for the gigs I went to there include Bristol, UK, Coney Island, and Urbana, IL.

Some of the best memories:

Driving around New York City endlessly trying to find the hostel we’d booked into (Alison and I, Placebo/Idlewild May 2001) – finding someone to ask directions from who told me I wouldn’t need to worry about my car being stolen in that neighbourhood, but I would need to worry about the engine being stolen out of my car. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on Broadway instead, with secure, underground parking.

Arriving late to Cambridge, UK, (Alison & I, Placebo, October 2000) after a delayed train only to realise we’d missed the whole concert. Trying desperately to find somewhere to stay the night (Cambridge is HELL. Seriously. But with more bicycles…) and ending up at the most overpriced guest house either of us have ever stayed in.

The Monkees in Columbus with Alison & Sarah, March 2001. Peter Tork thinks we’re great.

OK Go at the Fireside Bowl in March 2002. Best venue, ever. Honestly, the place was an absolute mess. I was worried the ceiling was going to collapse.

Morrissey and The Libertines with Sarah at the Brixton Academy in November 2002. Because it was amazing.

Muse in Columbus with Alison, Sarah and Kristina in April 2005. It was a very small venue. They had their speakers set to “Glastonbury”. I was reduced to chewing up an old receipt from my bag and stuffing it into my ears to prevent them actually bleeding. The bass line altered my heartbeat. Very good but VERY loud.

The first time we saw Idlewild. They opened for Placebo at St Andrew’s Hall in Detroit, Michigan. We were a bit of a crowd, Alison, Sarah, Jeremy, Ryan and myself. One of the best nights of my life, hands down.

What can I say? I could go on and on. Do I remember every one of the 300 shows? (Well, 299 until after tonight!) Yes, I do. Maybe because I’ve written them all down to remind myself I was there in the first place. I love live music, I always have. I was hooked from the get-go and I’ve not slowed down yet.

I have met some folks I will always remember and some I will always love. I have made friends, lost friends, fallen in and out of love with bands, listened to some albums so much that the sound of them will forever be imprinted on my soul, and my quest to follow music over the miles has instilled in me a great love of the open road.

I do understand that I am very lucky. I can’t imagine any better hobby to have. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather have spent all those hours, miles and dollars on. 300 gigs in 14 years? Yes, I am certainly very lucky.

Tonight, the last night of 2010, my 40th Idlewild gig and my 300th ever gig, is going to be a amazing night. It can’t not be.

Here’s to the next 300!

xo
A

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dear joel

Take all your chances while you can
You never know when they’ll pass you by.
~ “Chances”

Dear Joel (& Athlete),

Regarding our conversation outside the ABC in Glasgow last night

You may remember me as the American in the red jacket, or perhaps as the girl with the unmistakable air of lunacy about her. I can assure you that I am, most of the time, actually pretty sane. I am also, on occasion, able to form complete sentences and even string them together into what could be considered a conversation. I apologise, I don’t know what got into me – I think it may have been early stages of frostbite!

The point of all of this is that yes, I did wait in the snow and bitter cold for 1 ½ hours last night just for the opportunity to tell you my story. The way I figure, I’ve been waiting for over 4 years; a few extremely cold minutes weren’t going to stop me in the end. So, considering the wait and my determination you think I could have told you the story I’ve been wanting to tell. I fear I failed here, but I did try. I am very glad I waited to speak to you. I am very glad that I met you. You are as kind as I hoped; not to mention humble. The story, though, the story was lacking. To make up for that, this is how it should have gone:

In May of 2005 my friend and I made the 5-hour trip across from Cleveland to Chicago to see you play live. The finer details of the evening are mostly lost, having been eclipsed by what happened after, but I do remember that you were bang on form and I was very glad we’d come.

Sometime during your set (and I don’t know why, which makes the story even more compelling, perhaps the lack of a why is the real moral…) and completely out of the blue I was overcome with a need to call my grandmother. Something in your voice or in the lyrics to the songs… Whatever it was, whatever the why, the songs you were playing compelled me to action. Which song was it? I can’t say. Maybe “Wires”, although I like to think my subconscious mind is a little less obvious. My most likely guess is “Chances”. Either way, after you finished your set, off I went to the lobby to call my grandmother. The contents of our (quite lengthy) conversation are mostly personal, but we said we loved each other and to take care and, most importantly, we ended with goodbye.

Just come back for one day
‘Cause there’s so much I never got to say
Just come back for one day
So I can remember your face
~ “Lay Your Head”

This conversation would turn out to be the last time I ever spoke to my grandmother. Without you it never would have happened. There may not be many things in life I am certain of, but this is one of them. Who knows why? If I hadn’t been at your show, if I hadn’t been really listening to you guys that night, then I wouldn’t have had that last conversation.

All of this is a round about way of saying thank you. Really and truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. My grandmother was one of the most important people in my life and thanks to you, although I didn’t know it at the time, we got to say goodbye.

I’ve been racing the clock and I’ve run out of steam;
I am ready for my final symphony.
Oh, my body is weak, but my soul is still strong;
I am ready to rest in your arms.

And the rain beat down on the rooftops:
But there was no sound, there was no sound.
And all my friends and family carried me,
They carried me home, carried me home.
~ “Black Swan Song”

I’d also like to express my thanks to you for the comfort your songs provided me with over the crazy days that followed. Music means different things to different people at different times in their lives. What I needed that horrible May in 2005, was Tourist. I used that album to effectively drown out the worst of the grief and focus instead on memories, something I fear I would have been unable to do without your songs.

So, there you have it. My thank you. I hope you enjoyed the show last night in Glasgow. I can’t decide which I enjoyed most: your conversation with the fan who travelled THROUGH BIG SNOW TO SEE YAS or the part where the audience wouldn’t stop singing long enough to let you sing your own songs. It was an excellent set. It was the sixth time I’ve seen you live and every time gets better. So, thank you for that as well.

Thank you for stopping to talk to me. I really did enjoy our chat last night even though I bolloxed my story. Thanks for the hug, too, I hope you didn’t catch my frostbite! I’m looking forward to the next time you come to Glasgow, maybe by that time I’ll have mastered the art of conversation. Or maybe even just “hello”.

Very Sincerely,
Allison

p.s. I’m sorry there’s no photos of the others – they were all blurry and indecipherable, so I didn’t post them. I did take loads, though…

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oh such grace, oh such beauty

The year was 2001; the venue was the Odeon in Cleveland, Ohio. The band was They Might Be Giants, but, to be honest, they only feature lightly in this story. And I suppose the dramatic beginning is a tad OTT for my little blog, so I am going to get right down to the point:

On October 21st 2001 Alison, Sarah and I went to the Odeon in Cleveland, Ohio to see They Might Be Giants. Little did I know that this would be the start of a (so far) 9 year long addiction. If I had known then that the opening band would grow to be one of my favourite bands of all time perhaps I would had left the show before they came on stage.

I would have missed out on a lot, though. I would have deprived myself of some of the best memories of my youth.

Who could I possibly be talking about? OK Go: A fairly unknown, unassuming and deliciously talented foursome masquerading as everyday musicians. I am not sure whether it was their wonderfully catchy songs, their (let’s face it, undeniable) gorgeousness or their cover of “Kiss Me Son of God”, a song by the headlining act. Imagine the opening band covering a well-known song by the headliners! Very, very awesome! There was also another cover song involved and, I am going out on a limb here, I think it was “Crimson & Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Buffalo, I think, early 2002

I was hooked. Mostly Alison, Sarah and I were glad because we had tickets to see They Might Be Giants again a few days later at the Newport and were thrilled to death that the opening band weren’t awful. I had no idea I would get so addicted! What hooked me for life? They were all extremely nice. I mean, apart from their almost manic insistence that we SIGN THE E-MAIL LIST!! They were funny and when we talked to them they listened. They took our advice that they should cover Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” because if there was ever a song written to be covered by OK Go it is “Jessie’s Girl”. It was bizarre. So the night after the show in Columbus we drove to Pittsburgh to see them at Club Laga and it was the beginning of the beginning.

But with a little bit of money we could buy us a car.
With a little luck we could get away from where we are.
Let’s get out of here.

We’ll drive, one thousand miles an hour.
We’ll fly by wheat fields and water towers.
We’ll go. We’ll go and we’ll go and we’ll go. Let’s go.

~ 1,000 Miles Per Hour

Over the last 9 years I have seen them in concert 46 times (27 times in 2002 alone), and tonight they are playing the ABC in Glasgow which will make 47. I have never once been disappointed. I have never once regretted my decision to drive however long/far to get to their shows, not even the time in Indianapolis when the show was 21+ and I was too young to get in. I have personalised number plates on my truck in Ohio that say OK GO. Somewhere in my Mom’s house I have four posters, one with each of their names on it, from after the Loyola show when Jorge lined them up on the bleachers to take pictures.

Andy, Dan, Tim & Damian

I’ve been there for the infamous e-mail list phase, both Andys (Duncan and Ross, equally awesome), their horn player phase (very cool) and their sound engineer with the “patented eyeball test”. I have been to shows on tours for all three of their albums. I’ve seen broken guitar strings, broken instruments and even a broken leg. I have seen them play 11 different cover songs and the scene from Les Mis. I have even been lucky enough to hear them play “The Unrequited Orchestra of Locomotion”. I miss seeing them do “Women & Men” which was a rap song and totally unforgettable. I have seen two dances added to the repertoire, neither of which was anything less than spectacular. I’ve seen them play in nine different states and three different countries. I’ve travelled over 18,000 miles (roughly) to see them in concert and I have even seen them play a gig with no power at all.

Women & Men, what a magic combination!

Every show I have ever seen has been surprising. Every song they play sounds better every time I hear it. Every time I see them there is something brand new, even if it’s only been 24 hours since the last show. They have always kept me guessing. Even now every time they post a tour I check to see if there are any shows near me. I think if I were still living in the US then I would be on the road a lot more.

My truck!

There is just something about these guys on stage that is utterly indescribable. They were all born to be performers, but what strikes me as fantastic is each of them could quite easily be anything else in the world.

I guess there’s got to be a break in the monotony, but Jesus, when it rains how it pours.
Throw on your clothes, the second side of Surfer Rosa, and you leave me, yeah, you leave me.

~ Here It Goes Again

But all of that is so far beside the point! The main point I want to make is that they’ve always been so nice! They never needed to be nice; I still would have gone to their shows (see above: addiction). I’m sure there were times when it was difficult to be nice to me (did I mention the year I saw them live 27 times?) They could have been like any number of bands out there who take their fans for granted but they never have and that is the most important thing. They get more popular and more famous every time I see them but they always have time to hang about and meet their fans, shake hands and sign autographs. It is fantastic and very much appreciated.

So, thanks guys. Thanks for making such great music and thanks very much for making it worth my while.

Some things I will never forget:

  • The “raging keyboard solo” from “There’s A Fire”
  • Andy's raging keyboard solo

  • A show at the Canopy Club in Urbana, Illinois simply because the club was decorated with palm trees
  • The gig at Notre Dame University which was outdoors and, therefore, quite amazing, and very green
  • The night in Toronto when I wore my velcro letters t-shirt (honestly I am so cool) and had it read “SO DAMN HOT” which wasn’t good enough for Dan who re-arranged them to read “M DAN SO HOT”. Fantastic.
  • Plastering every surface that would stand still long enough with okgo stickers – I made it into a game. Where can I stick that sticker now? If I take a running leap I am pretty sure I can get it to stick to that road sign…
  • The night at King Tut’s when the power was out but the boys sang from the steps of the building next door until the police came. Then they did their dance to “A Million Ways” with Tim and Damian humming and bopbopping along. Quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen them do.
  • The show at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis when I played air hockey with Dan. Erin and I had given an ill-advised lift to a fellow fan who had been at the Loyola University show a few weeks prior. She drank a lot of tequila.
  • The show at Modern Formations in Pittsburgh.
  • Any one of the times that Damian and Tim enacted the scene from Les Mis: absolutely some of the most entertaining minutes of my life.
  • The show at Fireside Bowl in Chicago which was amazing for so many reasons: It was in a bowling alley. There was an ancient Asteroids video game there that was receiving messages from the Mother Ship and intent on taking over the world. It was in a bowling alley.

Some favourites:

  • “The Unrequited Orchestra of Locomotion”
  • “1,000 Miles per Hour”
  • “Return”
  • “The Fix Is In”
  • “No Sign of Life”
  • “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet”
  • “A Good Idea at the Time”

I haven’t had much of a chance to listen to their new album, since it was only released a week ago, but I am sure there will be some favourites from that as well. Their new video is great, though, I know that.

Do yourself a favour: Buy their albums. Even more than that, though, go and see them live. You will not regret it. If you can’t manage either of those at least go and watch their video for “Here It Goes Again” at their website.  It’s phenomenal.

Also, while I am handing out thanks, I would like to thank the guys for introducing me to Longwave, another band I really like. Also for playing those shows with Phantom Planet.

xo

A

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Now this applies equally to you and I

the only thing that we share is the same sky.

These empty metaphors are all in vain,

like, ‘can’t you see the grass is greener where it rains?’

-Eve, the Apple of My Eye

Laura, Angela and I went to King Tut’s last night to see Bell X1.  I can’t remember for the life of me when I first heard them, but I know it was circa 2004/2005.  Their earlier incarnation as Juniper included a young Damien Rice before his solo years. 

DSC00290

The first album of theirs that I owned was Music in Mouth released in 2003, but their next album, Flock, is apparently “highly acclaimed”.  Even though I own it I must admit that I haven’t given it the credit I should.  Which is because I am busy listening to songs off Music in Mouth

Their latest album, titled Blue Lights on the Runway has come out to much anticipation and I am eager to get my hands on a copy – the songs they played off it last night promise an intriguing break from what I would consider their “norm” and I am happily looking forward to falling in love with them as heartily as those from Music and Flock.

All this serves to tell me

is maybe there’s no ladders in this game at all.

All this serves to tell me

is maybe only snakes like the one in the garden that has to crawl…

-Snakes & Snakes

Seeing them play live is something else!  Laura, Angela and I went to see them a few years ago when they played the Garage in Glasgow, and when we arrived they were already playing our favorite song,  Eve, the Apple of My Eye, and we were very excited.  Except that by some twist of fate and stage times, it was actually already the encore and we had missed the entire show.  I am happy to report that we arrived at King Tut’s not only on time – but early enough to hear one or two songs by the opening band as well!!! Way to go us!!

I should have know by the arc of the empty wine glass

I should have know ‘cos you step on don’t walk over cracks

Looking over my shoulder to see you looking back over yours

But you were paying the ferryman even after Chris said ‘don’t’

– Alphabet Soup

Anyway, the point of my post is that they were amazing and we had a great time.  The lead singer, Paul Noonan, was spot-on.  The rest of the musicians were ace and the entire gig was amazing.  They played a lot of new stuff, which, as I said above, sounded promising and they played a big handful of old favorites so they really covered everything.

setlist

If you get a chance, check them out.  If you’re looking for song suggestions get in touch with me because I can recommend some excellent tunes.

My next piece on Bell X1 will be dealing with their strong inclination towards religious allegory.

What’s with the angel and what’s with the devil?

They keep swapping shoulders and I can’t tell which from which.

‘Will you be my Kriskindle? Will you be my better nature?’

Said one to the other, but I think they’re only showing off.

-I’ll See Your Heart And I’ll Raise You Mine

xo

A

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I was driving home from the Counting Crows concert last night and I called my brother from the car.  It costs about a million £s for me to use my mobile to call The States, but I just had to do it. 

My brother and I both LOVE the Counting Crows.  Love may actually be a bit of an understatement.  I have seen them twice while my brother has never seen them live before.  When I saw them the last time I made sure to get an autograph from them for my brother and he assures me he still has it in a safe place.

But this is neither here nor there. 

 I told Eric about the gig last night and how good they sounded and how Adam Duritz is amazing. How he changed the lyrics to fit the situation and how he spent a good 5 minutes explaining to the audience what Goodnight Elisabeth is about.

 Adam said that he wrote the song when he first went away on tour and that he’d broken up with his girlfriend (presumably Elisabeth) because he knew it wouldn’t work with him being away.  So the song was about saying goodbye without actually saying goodbye.  Then he said, as time went on, he realized that the song wasn’t about that at all.  It was about saying goodnight to your loved ones at the end of the day and how, when you’re away on tour, the act of saying goodnight is the only way that time progresses.

So after I said all I had to say Eric and I wrapped up the conversation, said our goodbyes, etc.  Then Eric said he wished he had an appropriate Counting Crows quote to finalise the telephone call and I concurred, but we hung up anyway.

Two seconds later I knew exactly the quote that would finish our chat off perfectly, so I called him back.  Of course, the song I was thinking of was Raining in Baltimore, and of course, he was thinking of the same exact song.

Our conversation was rather brief.

So, this is for Eric.

Raining in Baltimore – Counting Crows

This circus is falling down on its knees
The big top is crumbling down
Its raining in Baltimore fifteen miles east
Where you should be, no ones around

I need a phone call
I need a raincoat
I need a big love
I need a phone call

These train conversations are passing me by
And I don’t have nothing to say
You get what you pay for
But I just had no intention of living this way

I need a phone call
I need a plane ride
I need a sunburn
I need a raincoat

And I get no answers
And I don’t get no change
Its raining in Baltimore, baby
But everything else is the same

There’s things I remember and things I forget
I miss you I guess that I should
Three thousand five hundred miles away
But what would you change if you could?

I need a phone call
Maybe I should buy a new car
I can always hear a freight train if I listen real hard
And I wish it was a small world
Because I’m lonely for the big towns
I’d like to hear a little guitar
I think its time to put the top down

I need a phone call
I need a raincoat

xo
A

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an open letter…

Dear Rob, Paul, Adam, Kyle and Brian,

I’ve written about a million versions of this letter in my head because it is very important that I get this right.  Because this is where it all started – The Beginning.

April 7th, 1997 at The Odeon – opening for Jackopierce.  And 51 days later, at The Grog Shop. For $2.  And again in August, October and then March of the following year.  And then August 1998 at Blossom for $30.  Meteoric rise?  Understatement.

Matchbox Twenty – the first band I loved

And imagine how different it all could have been.  If the music wasn’t just so or if the lyrics hadn’t seemingly been written specifically for me. If Paul wasn’t so damned adorable playing those drums with his bare feet.  If Adam hadn’t been so unbelievably nice to me. If Kyle wasn’t so good looking, Brian so quiet or if Rob didn’t have that certain something that oozed of stardom…

I was 16 and phenomenally uncool.  I listened to your album, Yourself or Someone Like You, every day for over a year.  I had a cassette taped copy of You & I & I recorded at radio station 99x and I’m pretty sure it was my most prized possession. I quoted you in my yearbook.  My best friend Betsey and I named our Uniracers bikes after you guys on our SNES.   A startling confession to make but it is the truth. Like I said, phenomenally uncool. 

Me & Adam, 1997

Me & Adam, 1997

“Well everyone here hides shades of shame
yeah but lookin’ inside we’re the same.
We’re the same and we’re all grown now,
yeah, but we don’t know how to get it back to good.”
– Matchbox Twenty , Back 2 Good

 It all has to do with that very first show in 1997.  We were front row at The Odeon – my Mom had driven us down to The Flats for the show and, I think, waited outside in the car the entire time.  I am certain I stared adoringly at you all as you played and sang the songs; I must have, anyway, because Adam came to the edge of the stage and handed me his guitar pick.  Me!  Little phenomenally uncool me in the front row.  Amazing.  I don’t think I stopped talking about it for months.  (Years?)

And I was hooked on live music and the thrill of getting some silly acknowledgement from a the band that your love of their music and their art was appreciated. A drumstick here, a guitar pick there.  A photo with the band after the gig (in the freezing cold, usually, at 1am).  As I grew older and got my own transportation it was the recognition I craved.  For one of them, any of them, to remember my name.

Allison, hello!  Good to see you again. Isn’t Chicago a little far from Cleveland?

“While you were sleeping I was listening to the radio wondering what you’re dreaming  when it came to mind that I didn’t care.  And I thought, hell, if it’s over then I had better end it quick or I could lose my neve. Are you listening? Can you hear me?”
– Matchbox Twenty, Rest Stop

 But I couldn’t keep up with you guys.  Before I blinked, it seemed, you were selling out shows at ticket prices I couldn’t really afford.  Even those who were there at the relative beginning for shows at The Grog Shop got lost amidst the massive crowd being reeled in by chart-topping hits (one after the other). 

I never forgot you, though, or that first guitar pick I ever received from a band at a live gig  which I still have in a safe place.  Or the way it felt to get your autographs and see you smile at me!

It is because of you guys, and the fire you lit inside me, that I have followed live music so obsessively over the past 11 years.  I’m not as avid as those who make a living by it, but I have been to 275 concerts and some of my closest friends are people in the industry.

“Some things in this world they don’t make sense.
Somethings you don’t need until they leave you,
They’re the things that you miss.
Oh, baby, baby, baby when all your love is gone
Who will save me from all I’m up against out in this world?
And maybe, maybe, maybe
You’ll find something that’s enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don’t receive you,
You can turn yourself around and come on home.
-Matchbox Twenty, Bright lights

You and your music inspired my love of music and it was partially my love of music that led me to study abroad.  Which led me to a band who, when next touring America, led me to another band who eventually led me here to Scotland where I wouldn’t be if it weren’t, in a roundabout way, for you guys and your  music.  Convoluted, I know, but the idea is there.

So.  Thank you.  For lighting the fire.  For making such good music that I still listen to rather more often than I’d like to admit.  For putting out a Live DVD so I don’t have to cry when you come and play my city and I can’t make it to the gig.  For continuing to strive towards that goal.

Without you five and your music none of this would have happened.  And I really sincerely mean that.


Matchbox Twenty, How Far We’ve Come – Live from Abbey Road Studios

“I’m waking up at the start of the end of the world
But it’s feeling just like every other morning before
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it’s gone.”
-Matchbox Twenty, How Far We’ve Come

So, thanks guys.  I grew up listening to you.  How far we’ve come, indeed.

Keep up the good work. 

Come and play Glasgow.  Somewhere small (my house?).  And please don’t charge me £30 for the ticket. Remember, I was there at the beginning.

xoA

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