2021 – a nebulous and enlightening affair

I usually write some kind of annual review each year but have been a bit late with the one for 2021. I really didn’t know where to start at first. I thought that it was one which I was not keen to reflect upon, particularly in terms of music (which of course is my main focus in life). However, as the words appeared on the page it made me appreciate a few things despite a few mental stumbling blocks.

2021 was a mixed up year. It of course started with the lockdown due to Covid. This in itself wasn’t too much of an issue. As I said on my reflection on 2020, it brought different opportunities as it gave me a chance to work on recordings in my studio. There was some rehearsing with Threshold Shift at the back end of 2020 but lack of gigs and not much desire for the band to do much in the way of new material kind of killed the fun for me and I stepped down at the top of the year. The band was on the wind down at the time anyway as one of the guys was preparing to do some travelling in the spring.

Crash Scene Flowers has all but been on ice since the start of the pandemic. Following the production of the EP in 2020, we have only managed to get together in the rehearsal room a small handful of times. This has been for a variety of reasons. Each of us has been ill at various points, with some having to isolate sometimes for long periods. Personal circumstances have also played a part at times. We have just been incredibly unlucky. It even got to the point where we had got into the habit of being out of the habit, so even when we’d been all fit to get together, it resorted to meeting at the pub instead of rehearsing. We all still want to do it and we keep in touch regularly. Hopefully we’ll get it together again sometime soon. We all say “when the time is right” but none of us seem to be sure when that time will be and none of us are chasing the rest of us up to find out right now. Our bond goes much deeper than bandmates though and we’re close friends, very much a brotherhood and so there’s an air of bittersweetness surrounding the band I guess. None of us want to let go. I certainly don’t.

Dawn of Elysium was a game of two halves in 2021. It started off with bits of studio work but problems in terms of communication and progress. Our guitarist at the time Tim Furze had been finding the challenges of lockdown and working at home particularly difficult and he eventually felt he could no longer continue with the band. He wrestled with this decision for longer than any of us were comfortable with, especially him and so the band had felt unsettled for a while. It was nobody’s fault. For all there was a genuine sadness, there was also a sense of relief when it finally came to pass. We all love Tim and when I finally saw him socially some months later, I was so happy to reconnect. He’s a great musician and a kind hearted soul and I wish him all the best.

After Tim’s departure, we set about rebuilding the band and Izak Gloom stepped into the fold. Izak has brought a very different vibe to the band and we have since been reworking music new and old. It has been an exciting few months. We played our first gig with this line-up in October and there’s a real sense of a fresh start in 2022. Our first recording with Izak is set for imminent release in the shape of our forthcoming single “Storm”. Following that, there is much to do and work continues on the album “The Mandela Effect” as well as preparing a live set for gigs in the spring/summer. The whole thing is sounding bigger and better than ever. I am more excited about Dawn of Elysium than I have been in a long time as we step into our tenth year.

One fairly profound change for me this year was modifying my digital life. I came away from Facebook entirely and made some adjustments to my online world. I have written about this in more detail here and here. It has certainly been a journey. Despite the slight perception of having lost touch with the “hive”, the communications I have maintained with friends and family since have been so much more meaningful. I have certainly encouraged a few people to check their emails a bit more. For anyone reading this who doesn’t have my email address, if you want to keep in touch, then you can use the Contact form and it will reach my inbox.

One MASSIVE highlight of 2021 for me was a real bucketlist moment. I finally got to see my all time favourite band live on their final tour. I have loved the music of Genesis since I was a teenager and I mean all eras of Genesis. To see them play it live was a real treat for me. On the very few occasions when they have toured in my adult life, I had missed out but as soon as they announced this one I simply HAD to get tickets. They played in Leeds too so very local for us. Just before and since this concert, I embarked on a journey of rediscovery of the music of Genesis and various solo offshoots, some albums I had not listened to in 30 years. I had also got tickets to see former guitarist Steve Hackett and his band play a rendition of the 1977 live album Seconds Out. As it fell, after various reschedules of the Genesis tour due to Covid, Genesis played in Leeds on the Monday and Steve Hackett played in Bradford on the Friday of the same week. Two amazing yet different sets of the music of Genesis. I savoured every minute of both. The same week saw Emma and I celebrate our tenth anniversary of being together so it was a very special time indeed.

Despite the highlights, much of 2021 for me was mired by something which I embarked upon in the spring and finally moved on from in the autumn (or at least started to). In the end, my inner peace was awry and on reflection, the situation was pretty toxic bringing me much unrest. For all I was being encouraged to stick with it by my nearest and dearest, almost from the word go I knew it wasn’t right. It was a lot of hard work and I was neglecting my other musical pursuits because of it. I played some pretty big gigs in the late summer, including a bill with one of my favourite bands. Whilst it was certainly a great experience playing in front of a lot of people, I am struggling to reflect on it with any authentic fulfilment or pride. Before my departure, the band had been booked for another significant event but it was a case of the stick far outweighing the carrot. Ultimately it was all very superficial and meaningless and I came away with a deep disillusionment. Unfortunately this fell in the darkest part of the year and triggered my SAD for the first time in years. It wasn’t ideal. The whole episode is an experience which I would rather put behind me and one about which I am still feeling a sense of regret and disappointment. For all I am still a little sore, I take comfort in the fact that time will heal. I am also happy that I made a new friend in one of my erstwhile bandmates and I look forward to eventually keeping in touch outside the context of that situation.

I have always taken great pride in documenting and reflecting on all of my musical endeavours past and present on this website, no matter the circumstances of it ending or quality of material produced. The situation I described above is not one I wish to be reminded of and so this is the first ever exception to that rule. All posts and pages which pertain to this project have been removed.

Always, always follow your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right then it likely isn’t. The whole episode certainly reaffirmed my reasons for making music and made me reassess some values.

Kind thanks to some wonderful friends who have given me reassurance, support and encouragement in recent months. You know who you are. Even if you have just listened whilst I have rambled over a pint, you don’t know how much you have helped. I will never forget.

Let’s see what 2022 brings. There is much to look forward to!

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