Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

peter docherty calamity shenanigan tryst

on a evening full of strangeness I headed out to the Least Charitable Room in the Zafira and as there were some Mongolian nose flutes or something playing on Future Radio, I gave Zane Lowe a twiddle for the 5 minute drive, only to find that Mr Docherty was croaking all hopeful about Libertines reunions and playing in Norwich tonight, which, I thought, is where he should be right now which he probably was but nonetheless it was the first of many strange occurrences that would take place during the course of the evening. I’d failed in a number of previous attempts to pin down Sir Docherty, from the being a bit drunk on stage and having lots of fights period, through the being a bit out of it on stage and having lots of fights period, and the not being on stage at all when he should have been and he was having a fight somewhere else period, but since Mr Douchery has determined that he is now reincarnate as the thing he first thought of in 6th form, then its from that point we might evaluate tonight’s performance. in Grace/Wastelands, he’s made a record that meets that 6th form objective very neatly, so we should all give him the chance to show us his art in the way he would like us to experience it, before he degenerates much further and crosses that very thin line he treads between Peter Docherty and Shane McGowan.

when you turn up to a venue the size of the Lethergic Clapping Room you might expect to see a couple of 18-wheelers with enormous cables hanging out of them, full of upside-down crates with something like ‘bloc party’ stencilled, banksy-like, on the side and in your mind you’re already visualising a show of such epic grandieur that you suddenly need to go to the toilet. so when you actually trip round some dug-up concrete fountain in the misty half-light and catch sight of a transit van with something like ‘a1 rentals’ stencilled on the side with a couple of coat hangers where the aerial should be, you’re not quite filled with that same sense of awe. still, it is a solo acoustic show, for that is what it do say on the listings, so maybe in fact a transit van is overkill. notwithstanding this mental setback, I’m making way through the doors expecting that the room will be the living embodiment of a facebook page dedicated to underage girls who think kilimangiro is that hill what that Cheryl Cole sicked up on. I’m a bit disappointed when in actual fact the rather less than full room is more of a homburg and cardigan festival, although there does seem to be a healthy contingent of scary stoners, so there might be a good fight later, if nothing else. it does occur to me that there is something inherently wrong about 17 year olds dressed as Tony Hancock. strangely, the house lights are already down between supporting acts, which is either because it hides the empty spaces quite nicely, or because it really is too distressing to see what everybody looks like when you’re standing next to each other in a place like this, for which I’m rather grateful. and so is everybody else, probably. a cursory glance around at tonight’s hardware shop reaveals a curious demographic. not for this crowd the trusty motorola, nokia or sony ericsson. not even the jesus phone. no, tonight Matthew, we’re Jill Furmanovsky. look, we’ve all got our digital SLR cameras. look, there’s a canon 450. there’s a d50. don’t you people just come and watch any more?

once I’ve been to the bar and wandered around a bit, of the overheard conversations around me, the most discernable was that of a couple looking wistfully at the door, bemoaning that fact that, apparently, he doesn’t come on until 9:15. which is, like, ages away. mostly the other conversations went something like ‘OI OI! PEEETAH! CAAHM ON SAAHN!’ and were accompanied by much large bloke posturing which was good natured in a fearing for your safety kind of way. in fact, as 9 o’clock approached, there was a strange violent tension building and at 8:52, we applaud the first beer lob. I suspect it won’t be the last. as another expensive camera that my dad got me fires off another flash bulb at the back of another person’s head, there’s a flurry of excitement and the sound of one hand clapping. there he is. hang on, no he isn’t. who’s that then? I don’t know. I think they’re his mates or something.

I tell myself that if I was at the arts centre on a thursday evening watching these three perform their licks then I might quite like it, but I’m not, and I don’t. the couple stood directly in front of me start extracting each other’s teeth with their tongues and that annoying thing happens when you suddenly become a thoroughfare with an invisible drink in your hand. I think the last time I saw a banjo at the Lacklustre Country Room was at Gogol Bordello, but now, people are wondering if they’ve somehow stumbled into a fairy tent at the cambridge folk festival, but one full of agitated boors. by song 8 we’ve stopped pretending to clap. not even a spirited rendition of teardrop can disguise the fact that we’d quite like them to leave. so they do.

in another strange but subtle shift of mood, people are suddenly taking photos of themselves with their best gurning faces and there’s even a jovial half-baked slow hand clap being passed around like left-over celery. another overheard conversation goes something like ‘trouble is, first day of tour, been in Norwich all day, gets back here, nothing to do, jacks up and gets out of it’, which is plainly totally inaccurate. there’s plenty to do here. we’re starting to think the whole evening might be another no-show and the agitation creeps back in, making a fight seem the most likely significant occurrrence in the next few minutes, which might at least be midly entertaining in an I couldn’t possibly condone it kind of way. but then, just as you’re looking at the football scores on your phone, there he is.

Mr Doubtfire ambles on stage looking just like he’s already played for an hour in another room in some parallel universe next door and there’s nothing short of rapture as he launches straight into some song or other. the collective shrieky OMGOMG is almost palpable and overwhelms you for a few seconds, and in that short ecstatic period I’m led to think that right now he is a most curious mix of Bob Dylan and Rodney Bewes. after just a couple of craftily selected singalongs from the back catalogue there’s really no stopping him. anyone who had turned up having listed to Grace/Wastelands on repeat on Napster expecting him to be sitting Val Doonican style on a bar stool and just running through the new tracks really wasted an afternoon. not that I did that. there’s a healthy plundering of all that was and is great about the Libertines, Babyshambles and the erstwhile Peter himself, threaded randomly and with apprent ease throughout the set, for which everyone is spectacularly grateful. the performance effortlessly captivates what might as well be some north London bedroom packed with 1000 mates from down the pub, but there’s a nagging feeling that you’re witnessing the last and brightest of a light that will surely, sometime soon, go out. at one point during a sprited rendition of something or other, it feels eerily like being at Woodstock.

and then we get a bit bored. just like that. even our Peter looks somehow suddenly unclear as to what is actually going on. and he’s halfway through it. ‘you better be liking this’ he tells us, as if to remind us that actually, he’s baring his soul, thank you. so he throws himsef with much gusto into Kilimangiro and, for good measure, gives us Don’t Look Back into the Sun, after which there’s really no reason to doubt that to the people who paid to be here, he is actually the way, the truth and the light. at least, he’s done enough of this to know what makes a great show. the stoners go ape-like mental. there’s a fully-whipped frenzy. so Peter sits down for a bit. on the Val Doonican bar stool. but let this not sound the alarm bells of whimsy. he gets up again and gives us a splendid ham-fisted version of the Specials’ Gangsters. all together now. a fat drunk bloke looks at his watch and then looks at me. oh dear. not drunk. funny how people can take a dislike to you just for being taller than they are.

not even the appearance on stage of guests-that-aren’t-graham-coxon and a banjo reprise can detract from the delightful shenanigans that continued for the next hour or so. as we reached, passed, and waved our private parts in the face of the decibel meter hour, there seemed no end to the spontaneous outpourings of Pete and even though there were more false endings than the 17th series of Lost we mostly stuck with it, even though some people really had to get their last bus, like, you know, even though he was doing that song about Kate Moss what I do love. by the strange anticlimactic conclusion to the performance, he really didn’t care what was going on and were it not for the fact that he would have probably collapsed, would, I’m sure, have continued into the small hours, as if it were some kind of lock-in.

it was a glorious shambles.

a year of looking like someone’s dad

with only 3 things already booked for this new year I figured I might take a look back at all the times I stood around in dark sweaty rooms trying not to look like someone’s dad but failing miserably last year to try and pick out a few highlights and lowlights like that woman’s hair that just walked past.

as it happens, the first thing I booked for this year isn’t in a small sweaty room at all but in a huge park in the summer sunshine in london which will be crammed full of people just like me wondering whether to stand just here, or here, or maybe go right over there and which piece of technology I’ll look at next to see how much battery life I’ve got left and I wonder what the train home will be like and, oh, there they are. that’s right, I only paid 8 voluntary quid for the download album, but I shelled out an enormous 100 quid for 2 tickets to see radioh_ead in victoria park or wherever it is. I could say that I saw them back when pablo honey just came out and there were 17 of us in a pub in camden shuffling around in front of his royal eye-wonkyness or something by way of establishing some kind of ‘before they were dead famous’ credentials, but that’s not quite true. but you would probably have believed me. as neil says, 50 quid for a ticket = payb_ack time for : free al_bum. I will also be going mental at the futureheads at the waterfront in january and stabbing ryan from the cribs with a knitting needle at the NME tour in february so there are already some guitar loudness calamities in the diary. I almost bought a ticket for the enormous NME gig at the O2 but as I’d seen all the acts last year in <1500 capacity venues (apart from the kaiser chiefs, but I feel like I’ve seen them a million times already even though I haven’t actually seen them), I decided against another 40 quid and the whole O2ness of it. I’ll go to the arts centre and see some kind of techno nose flute opera or something instead.

so that’s it for this year’s calendar so far. I’m sure there’ll be a couple of big band coups at the UEA to hustle tickets for and undoubtedly the waterfront will book somebody who will turn out to be enormous by the time the gig arrives but they can’t transfer to the UEA because due to phenomenal demand, a led zeppelin tribute act are already performing the entire knebworth set there.

but what of last year, I hear the 25 people who read this and have actually read this far cry, well, kind of moan a bit. you’re resigned to it now, you might as well read on. you might even have been to some of the gigs I mention later so you can disagree with me once you’ve worked out whether I liked it or not even if I give that much away or don’t get distracted by the person in the phone box over the road and start talking about pies or something for no reason when you thought I was talking about gogol bordello.

to be honest, I can’t remember what I saw last year, so I’m going to spend the next 10 minutes looking at a calendar I only started on june and various web sites that don’t have archives either just to work out what I did. nothing new there. I think it probably averaged 4 or 5 things a months, which is something like, erm, 50ish events. maybe. the easiest thing to do is to hand out the “crushingly awful can’t even be polite let’s leave” award, which goes, in a fanfare of bored one-hand clapping, to black rebel motorcycle club. oops. shame, as I was taken out by a friend who really wanted to go and see something and was pleasantly surprised to get tickets for something. but now we know why she could. it’s the first time I’ve walked out of a gig since I was trying to watch robert cray in a half empty UEA in about 1985 while extraordinarily drunk and I didn’t really walk out. I think the term is ‘expelled’, but I think it was for my own good.

as highlights go, if I’d written this a month ago, it would probably have been, um, I’m From Barcelona, who managed to make the waterfront seem like christmas in september. no, it was probably the Manic Street Preachers. except I got there late after a meeting and couldn’t get down the front. no no no. it was The Enemy. they were good. mind you, so were The Twang. and Editors, kind of. and Bloc Party, well, the were alright. ah, I know. it was the Pigeon Detectives. they were right good, and at the waterfront. hmmm. I did actually go and see Genesis in july…

an admission, if needs be needy be, that, as you know, even if you don’t, I’m mostly looking like someone’s dad who’s mistakenly wandered into a venue when I’m supposed to be waiting outside in the megane scenic at most of these gigs. but not at twickenham. having done a little bit of ebay negotiation with the 2 tickets I originally got direct, for ‘great view (behind pillar in the loft)’ and getting instead the pitch seated variety for 1, I did indeed proceed to corporate nirvana, past concessionville and into the midsummer middle-aged middle earth that is a genesis reunion concert. I have to say I became completely anonymous in that crowd immediately, which was fine. someone might have seen me. for the record, I was in that place because there was the smallest of chances that they would play at least a few pre-1975 tracks and maybe even not as part of a party mix medley. I’m not a great fan of the eponymous albums of the mid-90s, but peter gabriel genesis including the mind-bending (for an 8-year-old) lamb lies down on broadway evokes childish public school man delight in me. so there. coincidentally, I was due to see peter gabriel the following week in a field in norfolk, but I decided to go and the Stereophonics instead and the kelly jones got a cough and I ended up in the bar down the road from my house eating turkish slipper pizzas through a copy of the guardian. they did do early tracks and so I was happy. I also went to the 1982 reunion concert featuring a broke peter gabriel, but he kept forgetting the words and I stood in the pissing rain in milton keynes bowl for 7 hours for that and if you’ve ever done that, you know how miserable it is, even if they do the knife in full.

bonus prize for “concert that could have been good somewhere else especially if the seats were the other way around” goes to george michael at the norwich city football ground. as an extra double joker-played bonus, that concert also gets the “ludicrously over-priced no wonder the people in the upper tier are abusing security” award for the aforementioned reason. I mean, george does a good show, but it would have been better on the telly. I wouldn’t of had to stand up and do embarrassing handclap dancing like prince charles or something then. either. dammit.

but, since this it written in january, the best gig of the year award goes to Gogol Bordello. it was one of those where I bought the tickets on a whim about 4 months earlier and when it actually came to the day, I couldn’t really be bothered to go and there was a midsommer murders repeat on ITV4. still, I dragged myself out and when I got there and a french hip-hop collective was jibbering around on stage you knew immediately it was going to be nice. I’ve run out of inclination to describe what the thing was actually like, but if you imagine baz luhrmann directing the punk gypsy circus apolcalypse then you’re halfway there. the showmanship was unsurpassed and when you look back on all the other home-grown trying-too-hard middle class indie seriouscrats that I normally really kind of like, you thank god for this night. my friend nearly stabbed me over some stilton in cinema city when I told him just how good it was, as he had his office party that day and couldn’t go. he was going to go with me. I went alone, as usual. here’s to 2008. ooh! Gallows! get in!