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Simon Godfrey's Letter From America

In his fortnightly column, the Tinyfish/Shineback man reflects on his new life in the States...

I write this a week after a wedding. My wedding in point of fact, and very enjoyable it was too.

There were family, friends, food and lots and lots of awkward but enthusiastic dancing. I will readily admit that I joined in (because let’s face it, you have to) and happily lunged about the dance floor like the illegitimate offspring of MC Hammer and Wylie Coyote.

I won’t bore you with the usual litany of wedding related anecdotes because let’s face it; the chances are you’ve heard them all before. I will say however that a few days later, a young man mistook my long time writing partner and best man Robert Ramsay for my dad. Robert took it in good humour and let the police know the whereabouts of the gentleman’s body within 24 hours.

Oh, how we laughed.

With the wedding over, the search for a house in Philadelphia in full swing and a few gigs under my belt, I’m beginning to appreciate more of the similarities and differences between the USA and the UK music scenes than ever before. For example, after many years of attending and working in UK venues, I’ve noticed that when I enter a gig to watch a band or play a show here in America, the atmosphere is pretty much identical. The smiling faces and camaraderie between the fans is as familiar at RoSFest in the US as it is at Summers End in the UK. The same can be also said of the smaller venues like the North Star Bar in Philly and the much-missed Peel in London, Kingston. Music is music and people are people after all.

The main difference lies in the bands that play at these venues, which is quite natural considering the big pond which has been rather inconsiderately plonked down between us.

Bloody plate tectonics.

In the UK (and Europe), I could expect to see in any given year, Knifeworld, IQ, Pendragon, Magenta, Alan Reed, Touchstone, Matt Stevens, etc. play live. Here in the US, you’ll encounter a similar raft of bands such as Jolly, Discipline, Thank You Scientist, District 97, Heliopolis and Dream The Electric Sleep, all of whom play regularly and share a similar place in the hearts of their fans.

Occasionally you’ll find artists like Dream Theater, Steven Wilson, or Transatlantic who are able to bridge this gap. However, short of the invention of teleportation or a very tall stepladder and some excellent binoculars, the only way America and Europe gets to enjoy each other’s home grown talent is the occasional festival appearance or perhaps a concerted search on Google or YouTube.

I was only talking to dad… sorry I mean Robert, about this a few days ago. He thought about this predicament for a moment and said ‘Well in the meantime, perhaps you should help redress that balance by writing about them?’

He was absolutely right of course. I hate my dad.

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