Varsity Wolverhampton – 19th March
I woke up on the morning of the gig and wandered into the lounge to see, as usual, all the gear set up, cables draped everywhere, a mangle of musical technology. As I started to wrap everything up and painstakingly stow it all away into a transportable format, I glanced out of the window. It was pissing it down. A portent perhaps? I hoped not…
Not particularly telling. I fired up the laptop and wandered towards the barren wasteground that is Myspace nowadays. I’d been having a conversation with a chap from From the Get Go, nice bloke, so I went there first. Fired up their player, just one track on there. Sounded good, some fairly polished power pop, hardcore sort of stuff. They seemed pretty competent. Crimson Joy, oddly no music up but a video there was. More of the same, American style punk, hardcore type of thing. Fairly well presented. Then Bad Apes, some terrible, tinny recordings that you really couldn’t hear what was going on in. Post-punk, shoegaze sort of stuff with no lyrics. Brings to mind a yam=yam 65 Days of Static.
All seemed pretty good, but one thing was for sure, as usual we’d been billed with a bunch of irrelevant acts. This seems to happen every time, I don’t know whether it’s because the promoters aren’t even listening to the demos or whether it’s because there aren’t any other remotely electronic acts left gigging in the Midlands. I expect it’s a combination of the two. Either way, that and the portentious rain made me a little uneasy about the whole thing.
We weren’t expecting many people to turn up to see us any way. Bad timing, too close to another gig, either way one can’t expect one’s friends to turn up to every show, it would get boring. That combined with a few more apologies during the course of the day and I started to feel a bit down about it. In my head I’d got a room full of black t-shirted, Nike hi-top wearing, Tony and Guy haircutted 19-year-old genre whores. Nihilistic, I know…
The day wore on and I dismissed it all from my mind. I had a day off work so I mucked about with some new tunes in Ableton for a bit and played some games. I started to restring my guitar towards ther latter end of the afternoon and it started playing on my mind again, this was our first gig outside of our home town, without an entourage of loyal friends, in fact, I’d never played this venue before in any band. The weather got shittier and so did my mood. Sam got home from work with his dad, John at about 4.30. He spent about and hour making himself beautiful and we made our way down to the soundcheck.
On the way to Wolverhmapton, Sam and I both fell asleep, more omens? We loaded the gear into the place and as usual, we were pretty much the first there. A couple of guys from From the Get Go were there too. We had a shaking of hands and some banter. Then we went for a pint.
By the time we got round to soundcheck, everyone was there and the room was full of bands and girlfriends. I always find soundchecking considerably more nervewracking than actually performing. The only other people in the room are either musicians, techies or indoctrinated WAGs. Either way it’s always a hyper-critical atmosphere. It went well though and for the first time in this band, I could hear a decent mix out of the monitors. My mood started to climb a bit. Also, chatting with the other bands afterwards, they were all very affable and complimentary. One of them even asked if we were going to do Pokemon Face, which is awesome, but also one feels a bit typecast when that’s all one ever gets asked.
About an hour later and we go up for the first act’s set, Bad Apes. I can see what they were trying to do, some kind of neo-post-punk-shoegaze thing. I think they need to put a bit more polish on it and try and aim it at specialist sort of crowds. The denizens of Wolverhampton’s hardcore scene didn’t appreciate it and they pretty much cleared the room. Very energetic performance though, if they’d dplayed it to the right crowd it would have been immense. Maybe one day boys.
Then we’re up. A quick re-assembly of kit, and accidental triggering of one of the samples, a vocoder glitch and we’re ready. I look out at the previously empty room and it has miraculously filled with blank expressions. I think the ironing board af flashy gizmos may have nonplussed them. Off we go. Easily the hottest stage I’ve played on with the Ninjas and as the noisy intro to ‘Theme from 8-Bit Dojo’ kicks in, I can feel the sweat running down my back and my hair sticking to my face. I spend the first minute playing the keyboard part and not paying much attention to anything except what is in front of me. Sam’s bass part sounds fat, I can hear the stereo delay effect on my C64 synth working, maybe this won’t be so bad. I turn in the break in the tune and kick my guitar into life, I can hardly hear it, no matter Sam’s bass is making up the deficit. I look out and beneath the almost blinding lights I can see smiles and maybe even the odd head bob and shuffle dance. That is about as much acceptance as one can hope to get in a pub gig and it feels good, I start getting into it properly.
I introduce the band and kick off ‘Fight in a Bus Stop’ having sorted out my guitar monitor situation. Always a little bit tentative about the start of this one as it’s the first song with vocals. I’m always worried that if I can’t hear myself, my barely acceptable vocals will be horrific. Turns out that my fears are allayed and my vocal monitor is sweet. We blast through our best rendition of ‘Fight’ to date. ‘Disco terror’ goes equally as well. I look out and the shuffling as increased, maybe even a leg-jerk and a smile knocking about. This is good! They are enjoying it, I didn’t give the acolytes of Americana the credit they deserved. Soon it’s time for ‘Pokemon Face’ and as the recognisable plinks at the start begin, I hear some whoops and a cry of “you stole my ringtone!” The song went wonderfully and I had to fight off laughter all the way through at some of the outrageous dancing I could see. ‘Occam’s Disco Razor’ went swimmingly and I heard people singing ‘Push It’ back to me. Finally we finished with ‘Shiny Spaceship’ and people were genuinely shouting “More!” at us. Cue Clive (may or may not be his real name), an elderly Caribbean gentleman in a dapper sable overcoat who runs to the fore and danced like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’m trying to sing a sentimental song without bursting into hysterics. The solo comes up, never nailed it yet and it goes splendidly, I can’t remember dropping a note. By the last line of the refrain I can see and hear people singing it back to me. Goosebumps, honestly. We had a lovely round of applause and whooping and cries of “More!” All my fears and worries had been destroyed. What a bloody lovely day out!
Thank you Wolverhampton, you were immense <3