I spent much of 2019 standing down at the deep end in the great swimming pool of life, with the water lapping just under my chin. I had hoped that 2020 would've seen me ease into a better place and gradually edge back towards the shallows - that didn't happen though. I was already struggling, even before world events took their many ominous turns and in recent weeks I've more than once found myself standing on tiptoes in even deeper waters, with my nose barely visible above the surface. But of course, in spite of my moans and groans, I know all too well that I'm one of the lucky ones - I have my health, an income and a roof over my head. There are a great many people who are not so fortunate. What I'm finding particularly distressing on a personal level is that the black cloud leaves me struggling to focus on anything requiring even a modicum of concentration - listening to records, reading books, watching films or indeed fully engaging with the blogging community. Weeks and months have drifted by - so much time wasted.
The steady flow of streamed gigs over the past few months have provided welcome distractions, moments of comfort and genuine pleasure. Richard Thompson, Steve Wynn, Ed Kuepper, Alden Patterson & Dashwood, Rozi Plain, This is the Kit and Alasdair Roberts have all played online shows, most of them more than one. None of my musical heroes has been quite as busy as Robyn Hitchcock though. Robyn and his partner, singer-songwriter Emma Swift, are nudging towards their 30th Sweet Home Quarantine show since the pandemic crisis began. Together they've tackled nuggets from Hitchcock's vast back catalogue, fan requested rarities and a fascinating array of covers, including whole evenings devoted to the works of Bob Dylan, Syd Barrett, The Beatles and David Bowie. Friday at 8 is the absolute highlight of my week and at different points in every single show I sing along with gusto, I laugh out loud and I cry real tears - much as I would do at a Robyn Hitchcock gig in the real world. Each Sweet Home Quarantine concert lasts 45 minutes, costs around £4.50 and is not officially archived - if you miss it, it's gone, just like an actual live concert - you remember them don't you? I really can't recommend these shows highly enough. They're helping me to keep my head above water.
Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift - The President