Gigs of our Lives – Graham Jackson

1

Danni Nicholls

This time it’s the turn of  Graham Jackson to tell us about the gig of his life. Graham’s one of those people with a huge amount of experience of the music business and artist management, but he also has something that’s much more important; he’s one of the good guys. He’s one of the people that you always want to bump into at a gig because he’s a  great person to have a beer with and catch up on what’s going on. Like all of the contributors to this piece he’s passionate and knowledgeable about music and able to articulate this passion and knowledge  with the written and spoken word. He takes a pretty good photo as well; the title shot here is one of his. Let’s hear about Graham’s memorable gig:

Saturday 26th August 2017, ‘The Women’s Circle’ gig at Tønder Festival in Denmark – a moment that has stuck in my mind since, a moment even now on reflection gets my heartbeat racing. I was there as Tour Manager for the wonderful UK singer/songwriter Danni Nicholls.

Tønder is a beautiful town in the Region of Southern Denmark with a population of around just 7,500 situated on the southern border with Germany – to get to the festival, the transfer is actually quicker from Hamburg in Germany than from Copenhagen in Denmark, still a good few hours but a chance to see the countries.

Tønder Festival is an incredibly friendly annual festival held on the edge of and around the town of Tønder, the music based on Folk, Roots, Traditional and Americana genres. Smaller stages offer intimate gigs in places like the Old Mill and the Pump House, along with artists such as Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Sturgill Simpson, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Runrig, Mary Black and The Mavericks, to name a few, featured at some point in history on the main stages in Tent 1 and Tent 2.

So the scene was set for The Women’s Circle that was to be staged in Tent 2, always a popular feature with wonderful female singer/songwriters in the round. But this year, there was a real buzz about the gig that was to happen, so much so that a last minute decision was made to remove the seating to increase the capacity. Nearly an hour before it was to go live, Tent 2 was heaving with some 2,500 people crammed inside, ten rows deep outside as more tried to get in. The air was high with expectancy, this transmitting itself back stage.

The five female artists invited to perform were Dorthe Gelach (Denmark), Laura Mo (Denmark), Kaia Kater (Canada), Tami Neilson (New Zealand) and Danni Nicholls (UK) – none had met each other before but I could feel a bonding happening between them. Though the tension was building, a relaxed vibe was going on, helped by the Festival organisers arranging a birthday cake for Danni!

I took my place in the photographer’s pit, sitting next to me was Maria Theessink, the Artistic Director for the Festival.

Not knowing what each was going to sing and play, the artists listened to each other, taking it in turn as their selection of songs complemented and flowed together, drawing the audience in – incredible that so many people can listen intently and respectfully to the stories being told and to the music, clapping in time at the right time (the unique ‘Danish Clap’?), then bursting into applause and cheers that could be heard across the town. Each of the ‘Women’ was creating a stunning show, seemingly effortlessly and so natural, an absolute credit to themselves and their art, a total joy for the audience.

Then the ultimate moment came for me, Danni singing ‘Ancient Embers’, a favourite song of mine from her latest album ‘The Melted Morning’. She did not disappoint. Introducing the song about ‘self-love’ that she said she “wrote for myself”, the humour and sentiment producing a huge cheer and applause from the attentive audience. Then the performance, goodness, the whole place was electrified, I have never known a feeling like it – goose bumps, the spine tingling …it was  incredible. At the end, the noise of appreciation was stunning, it brought tears to my eyes. I turned to Maria, she was the same, we just smiled and nodded to each other as if to say, “yep, that was a moment”.

I have been to special shows such as Pink Floyd at Earls Court, totally magical for the music, the lighting and the atmosphere, I never thought anything would surpass that, but there in Tent 2 at  the wonderful Tønder Festival, something special happened, a ‘never again moment’.

It is so difficult to put in words, I guess you just know it and feel it when it happens, it is personal, I am sure each of us has had such a moment.

Graham Jackson – GJ Artist Services (www.gjartistservices.co.uk)