Last Saturday myself and a couple of friends went to see Bell X1 in An Culturlann in Derry. Its a small venue which holds about 150 people. I’d never been before, and hadn’t seen the band in a few years. They were doing an acoustic tour, playing songs from all their albums, stripped back to how they would have written them before they were recorded. As usual, they were brilliant, and it was great to hear the songs played this way to such an attentive audience. I particularly loved hearing Dave Gerity on piano (and many other instruments), and he had a chance to sing a few tunes too. I really like his solo albums so I was happy. The night finished with a cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘she’s a mystery’ which was really beautiful.
Its great when I can take OJ to a gig with me too, and to some people’s surprise, he stays completely relaxed. He was happy last night for two reasons. Firstly, he’d had a long walk and a run on the beach during the day. The staff and people who were involved with putting the gig together also gave us a great seat; at the end of the front row, where O J had lots of room to stretch out and not be disturbed. I had great sound, and my mates had a great view! O J stood up a few times, when Paul Noonan first started playing the drums, and then mostly just to get petted. He got a lot of attention from people after, and a guy from our town was determined to use this to our advantage. The band were packing up to go home and he wanted to meet them, so decided to break the ice by telling them that O J wanted to say hi. It was embarrassing but they all came to talk and pet him and get photos, and it made things a bit less awkward for everyone. Dave in particular is a dog lover, so O J took full advantage of this and licked his ear when he bent down to pet him. My dog is so spoilled, but apparently, acording to Dave, “sure he works hard and deserves it!”
I’m very fussy about where I bring O J and what I bring him too. I’d never bring him somewhere that’s too loud or too busy. In a situation like a gig, if I’m with sighted friends I might not necessarily need him, but sometimes its good to be independent and follow people with the dog instead of always being guided around. Its also interesting to see how venue staff react, and I think it helps to make them more aware of guide dogs when they see one in their premises. Some venues, like An Culturlann make no big deal of it, and try to do all they can to help. Others can panic a bit, and think that accomodating the dog involves a lot of work, which of course it doesn’t. I’m going to a gig in Belfast in a few weeks, which hasn’t had a guide dog before. They have asked a lot of questions already, but are keen to help, so we’ll see how that goes.
If you like Bell X1, I’d definitely recommend their ‘field recordings’ album, which is a two disc CD of many of their songs played live and acoustic. You need to be familiar with their recorded music to really appreciate it, but its really good!