The Bellowhead concert was great. We suffered some preliminary confusion because I hadn't grasped that the Ipswich Corn Exchange and the Ipswich Regent are two different venues, although they share the same booking office and ticketing system. Fortunately we looked at the tickets before we were due to go out, and managed to work out where we were supposed to be, which wasn't where I thought we were going. The Systems Administrator was duly impressed at my success in finding the car park I was aiming at without driving around Ipswich's one way system for fifteen minutes first in an increasingly erratic fashion as the starting time for the concert approached and my stress levels rocketed.
It took me a while to appreciate Bellowhead. They are a titan among folk bands, a vast eleven piece group with a brass section, who have won umpteen awards in recent years. Their material is traditional, or was before it was given the Bellowhead treatment, but their sound is folk-rock with the emphasis on rock. I only began to like them once I gave up measuring them against traditional folk, and listened to them on their own terms, at which point they started to make sense. Initially, faced with Bellowhead, I was like somebody who, loving Gothic architecture, appraises all cathedrals according to how closely they approach the Gothic ideal, and finds St Paul's sadly lacking, when the fault is not with Wren's masterpiece but in the blinkered eye of the beholder.
Bellowhead have a reputation as a superb stage act. Indeed, they have won Radio 2 awards for best live performance. That's one reason why I wanted to see them live, and was prepared to trek all the way to Ipswich, and buy two concert tickets, instead of just getting their last couple of CDs. They lived up to their legend, with a proper light show, while the musicians danced (sometimes while still playing. I can't work out how you play the fiddle while pogo-ing, but it can be done, unless the next scandalous revelation in the music industry is Bellowhead Mimes at Ipswich Regent), and the brass section posed theatrically with their instruments like members of Madness. Lead singer and driving force Jon Boden was in full Freddy Mercury homage mode, arms flailing. It was, as the SA observed, the only folk concert we've been to where there was a mosh pit.
The SA did overhear a fellow concert goer complain in the interval that they couldn't hear the words, but I don't think you should expect to in a live concert, or at least not all of them. I knew versions of most of the songs so could generally work out what was going on, though it took me a couple of verses to realise that one was the familiar ditty of my teenage folk club-going years, The Old Dun Cow Caught Fire. The audience spanned a wide age range, from children to the significantly senior, and as far as I could tell was solidly middle class, in that there were lots of neatly trimmed beards, I saw loads of rugby shirts, but only one tattoo even when the auditorium got warmer and men began to roll their sleeves up.
That was a nice evening. At work this morning the manager was excited as we walked up to the office to see the pile of plants sold over the weekend and waiting to be delivered, then the owner announced that sales over the weekend had been busy, but not busy enough, in fact a bit disappointing, and we must all speak to any customers who came into the plant centre to help them find what they wanted so that they wouldn't leave without buying it. The atmosphere deflated like a pricked balloon.
After that I was quite glad to spend most of the day sticking price labels into the little 9cm pots that were delivered last Monday. This is a fairly straightforward job, provided you don't stop reading the plant names after the first word, and regard 'Sunrise' and 'Sundown' as interchangeable. There is a physical knack to it, in that you can't push a flexible plastic label through compost, but have to slide it between the root ball and the side of the pot. If it sticks you can make a space by gently squeezing the pot, but this takes much longer as you have to lift the pot, and if you squeeze too hard it will crack. The easiest pots to label are the ones that are mostly showing compost, with a few small leaves or dormant buds in the middle. The worst ones are those where the edges of the pot are completely hidden by overhanging leaves, which if you care about plants you will carefully part, instead of shoving the label right through them. The whole job is made harder by the fact that the tunnel is so crammed with pots that you are working from walkways between 15 and 45 centimetres wide. If you weren't fairly flexible you couldn't do it. I am, and have a good enough sense of balance to have avoided falling over or treading on any of the pots, but I think I'm going to feel a bit stiff tomorrow.