In the summer of 2007 Kendal Brewery Arts Centre ran a Women’s Arts Festival featuring a host of great writers, artists and performers. One of those was Patti Smith who turns 71 today.
On the Friday night she played the Coronation Hall in Ulverston with her band, in what was billed as the European premiere of her covers album Twelve. It was a great show, her shows always are, with the highlight being the gorgeous antiwar rage of ‘Peaceable Kingdom’
The night before, though, she was scheduled in the tiny Malt Room of The Brewery for a poetry reading so at the last minute i went along. It wasn’t a sell out and seating was unallocated so there I was front centre puzzling over a couple of acoustic guitars onstage.
On time, Patti Smith walked on to the low stage. Dressed in skinny jeans, men’s jacket and white shirt, her iconic look, she spoke to about a hundred of us..
“Hi, this is going to be something different. It’s supposed to be a reading but since the guys are here we thought we’d work up some acoustic versions of a few songs we’ll be doing tomorrow night.”
A few oohs and applause around the room. Then she pulled a battered notebook from her back pocket.
“But first, this…”
“Sixteen and time to pay off…”
Ten feet from me Patti Smith snarled and ranted through the b-side of her first single from 1974. ‘Piss Factory’ live, unaccompanied and in our faces in a small room is one of the most incredible moments of nigh on 40 years of gigs.
Afterwards I chatted with the legendary Lenny Kaye (who turned 71 himself three days ago). Come on, Lenny Kaye, chatting in the Brewery Malt Room. That’s amazing enough but Patti came by.
I have no idea if I said anything coherent or total gibberish but, you know, Patti Smith. What do you say?
Graciously, she signed my books and thanked me for coming. I think I said something about how great she was and “see you tomorrow night.”
Happy Birthday Patti Smith.