Monday, 29 August 2011

Evan Dando: Promise Breaker

Evan Dando
The Globe, Cardiff
July 6th 2011

Evan Dando has always been on the periphery of my musical interests. As a 1990s grunge devotee, The Lemonheads was a band name I couldn’t fail to notice, yet somehow I didn’t delve into their discography, only being familiar with their most well known material such as the 1992 album It’s A Shame About Ray and their hugely successful cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson, released from the same record. And I had never even touched upon Dando’s non-Lemonhead solo stuff. So, I eagerly anticipated the evening of July 6th 2011, when I’d get to see the Boston born musical icon in the flesh, and finally have a taste of his music in the lovely setting of The Globe original, faded theatre style furnishings still in tact pre the August closure and refurb. The promise of a special night was implicit. 

                        Pic: taken from

Audience members gathered expectantly that warm Wednesday were of a certain age, indicative of fans old enough to have followed Dando since his musical birth in the late 1980s. A hush fell as Evan appeared on stage, his head bowed, hair in his eyes, fingers fiddling with guitar leads; but this slightly uncomfortable start was relieved as he began playing. His voice was beautiful; tender with gravelly undercurrents, melancholy and mesmerising. His music did not disappoint. Sparse and simple, pared back from the band sound of his recordings, emotive and heartbreaky. But as one track ended, another began instantly. There were scarcely any words from Dando to crowd, no banter, no eye contact, no warmth. It was a bit weird. He seemed a bit sad. His set finished and he seemingly could not wait to depart the stage, returning for the obligatory encore without enthusiasm. The audience were a bit bolshy by now, being noisy and no doubt adding to his maudlin mood, but despite my usual no talking tack, I couldn’t blame them. People had paid to watch him perform and he seemed rude - although I must admit to feeling torn, as though I ought to give a consolatory cwtch rather than criticism. 

Evan Dando - depressed or dour, who knows, but his Cardiff gig ended with the same whimper it began with, and two things were proven. Sometimes promises (of a special night) are broken. And sometimes a build up is better than reality. I will buy his records, but won't watch him live again.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Roath Observations

In May this year I moved to Roath, an area North East of Cardiff city centre. To summarise for those who aren't familiar, it has wide tree lined streets, wide swan lined park complete with boating lake, a host of charity shops, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, old-style pubs, and as a result of the previous list of attributes, heaps of character and a community feel. I moved here from Riverside, which lies South of centre, and have been collecting observations drawn from my new surroundings since...

Roath Park, photo from
1. I’ve calculated approximately half my time spent in Roath to date has been stood at the crossing between Albany and Richmond Road, dancing the ‘do I, don’t I’ move. Guaranteed on the occasions I disobey the Green Cross Code and Ralph the Police Witch by crossing before the green man says so – a process which takes an interminably long time – a car speeds around the corner, forcing me to run in flip flops, trip a bit, blush, and generally look a fool.

2. If you’re lucky, you can buy marmite for half the usual price in Home Bargains. This is the sole factor which cemented my gran’s approval of my new flat. She had not yet seen the creative arrangement of my furniture, or tasted tea made from Roath provided tap water, but made her decision upon sighting this Mecca of famous brands at cut prices. She favours their biscuits and corned beef; personally it fuels my diet coke habit with cans at an irresistibly low cost.

3. Almost everyone I know in Cardiff has a connection to Connaught Road, one of the aforementioned tree lined streets of Roath. Whether the link is through having personally resided there, having an uncle/best friend/girlfriend/cousin/hamster who lived there, or once going to a party in number seventeen/fifty six/thirty one, it’s a game which never fails. Try with your Cardiff friends!

4. Dave frequents the shops and pavements of Albany Road. Who’s Dave? He is a Cardiff character, who used to be a Merthyr Tydfil character. So, now instead of seeing him around the streets of Merthyr where I work, I pass him on the streets of Roath, en route to Cathays train station. Such is his fame, he was recently featured in Cardiff's Big Little City exhibition. In a nutshell, he bedecks himself in fancy dress, and sports a sign stating the theme of said fancy dress. Amongst other costumes, I’ve witnessed him as Halloween Dave, (dressed as a devil), and Purple People Eater Dave*, (resembling a human grape). What’s not to like? A mix of interesting characters make a place, and (Fancy Dress) Dave evokes a smile each time I see him.

5. The swans and geese in Roath Park are hungry for human legs. 

*I did not see him eating people.