Wednesday, October 06, 2004
A Noisy Bristol Crowd
The man on the cliff was wrapped in a sleeping bag yesterday morning, which I am taking to mean that he is definitely living in the observation shelter. It’s turning cold enough at night now, but I pity him when it gets to January if he’s still there. One morning I’m going to walk past a corpse. What does one do if this happens?
Tried to get some trainers in Bristol yesterday afternoon, some Nike Air Max preferably, but the only good designs were £90-£110. Except for a pair of very nice Air Max Rock Roach (or something), which were only £60. But which they didn’t have in my size. Bastard Bristol. Maybe I should have just pimped out for a £90 pair? Brown Air Max are not easy to come across in Exeter, because it sucks for shopping.
But anyway, the gig…
Normally at Embrace gigs I’m either with loads of people I know and/or hideously drunk; last night I was only with Emma and, as I was driving the 80 miles back after the gig, sober as a judge (not a drop passed my lips). I met two new people – one kid to sell a ticket to (for a bargain £5) and also Nathan (Cavs), who was sound as a pound / a good egg / refreshingly normal compared to some of the people you occasionally meet prior to gigs after arranging it via the net. Nathan, we must meet for a proper beer sometime, and discuss the vagaries of higher education and useless degrees in full.
Dogs Die In Hot Cars were very good, very early 80s spiky songwriting, a bit Cure, a bit Dexys, a bit XTC, a lot Elvis Costello. Good harmonies, good dynamics, interested in getting hold of the album = result for DDIHC (despite their shitty name. Danny did the lighting for them, disguising himself with a woolly hat and Mickey’s glasses (he tried mine but they were too strong and sent his eyes weird). While he was arranging his cunning disguise we got a playback via Mickey’s laptop of a preliminary edit of the video for “Ashes” – it looked very good, but the band all agreed that they preferred the previous edit (which I didn’t see).
Embrace came onstage to a medley of songs that have heralded their arrival over the years – “I Want To Take You Higher” by Sly & The Family Stone, “Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “Down To The River” from the O Brother soundtrack. They forgot “Don’t Believe The Hype” though, which was a shame because that’s what they came onstage to (in conjunction with Sly) when I first saw them in Bristol some seven years ago, a cheeky riposte to all the glowing press they were getting at the time, and early evidence of the band’s always-ignored (by the press) sense of humour and pathos.
So… swathe of white noise, building and building, the band standing stock still, barely visible, and then… big house beat vanquishes the noise, four-to-the-floor, held for a few bars to raise tension to a stupid level, a slither of guitar from Richard and “Ashes” implodes, explodes, lifts-off. It’s a great way to start a set, probably the best opener they’ve had, huge yet also tight and utterly valedictory and vindicating. Vocals spot on, crowd singing and bouncing from front to balcony (where we were), band in control and on the edge too. In the dressing room beforehand Mike and Steve had been napping side-by-side, perhaps synchronising circadian rhythms to keep them in better time on stage. (Or perhaps, after the chaos of the last few months, they’re just knackered?) This will be, when it’s released in November, a smash hit single. It can’t fail, surely?
A word on the venue. This is the third time I’ve been to the Bristol Carling Academy with Emma (Flaming Lips and Ash being the other two – the Lips gig their being one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen [only partly because of the company, J & Josie!]), and the third time it’s rained on us when we’ve left. It’s also the umpteenth time I’ve been distressed at how badly run Carling venues are. £2 for a bottle of water, only able to buy cans of Carling and even then you have to have them (messily and wastefully) dispensed into a plastic cup because you might use it as a weapon or something, possibly. They don’t let you have the lid to your water bottles because you might throw it at the band or you might use it as a weapon as well or something. Plus shit with cameras (I didn’t bother to take mine this time because last time I had to run back up Park Street to put it in the car, the assholes) and all sorts of other petty shitty, badly-thought-out commerce-over-experience nonsense. Carling? Mean Fiddler? You fucking suck. But they have a total monopoly over live music venues for any band wanting to play to between 1500 and 2500 people in this country (or 6000 in London or whatever).
Highlights… “All You Good Good People” now climaxes tighter and with more noise than ever before, Rik’s guitar playing and the tautness of Mike & Steve much improved from 7 years ago, an intense wash of delirium now awesome even when sober and on the balcony watching onstage antics via a monitor because I was too short and not aggro enough to be able to see properly (I’ve seen them plenty of times, it was nice to be able to listen). Danny’s constant exhortations to the crowd, getting them to dance, sing along, wave arms. His announcements of “Richard McNamara on guitar!” prompting Rik when he has to play a fiddly bit – he even did an announcement for Mike, Steve and Mickey at one point too, proof positive (if any were needed) that he loves Sly & The Family Stone (“you might like to hear my organ!” indeed). The introduction to “Come Back To What You Know” – “I was on a TV show with Lemmy, and I asked him if he ever got bored of playing The Ace Of Spades. He said Well you know, Dan, it’s a fucking good song; it’s not Agadoo”, proof, if proof were needed, that they’re right to play it again. People want to hear it, so who are the band to deny? I’m still not overly keen (I sang along, as per, and everyone else loved it), but, as Emma pointed out, I’ve always been an awkward sod.
More highlights… “Even Smaller Stones” is a fucking amazing song and I cannot wait to hear it recorded. Mickey, after the gig, was full of enthusiasm and eagerness to get onto working on new material, the new modus operandi the band have regarding the creation of their music obviously a positive new phase for them – if other results of this new method are as good as “Even Smaller Stones” then the fifth album will be their best (four songs and one chorus totally finished already). “New Adam New Eve” and “Out Of Nothing” were both awesome as well, likewise the D12 cover. Rik’s mad harmonies during “Someday” and the “dur-dur-dur-dur” intro he did to the chorus of “Save Me” at one point. News that they’re very close to sorting a deal for Out Of Nothing to be released in America. The cavernous kick-drum in the intro to “One Big Family”. A wry smile from Rik when I asked him if they’d play “Blind” and told him, through a big grin, that it was their best song because “all the others are shite”.
Lowlights… The venue. Danny’s voice cracking during “Looking As You Are” and faltering during “Spell It Out” (Rik carried him through it, thankfully – that’s what brothers are for). TP (good man, as ever) mentioning that the band looked tired, and the fact that he was right. I doubt anyone else in the crowd (with the exception of Stu) noticed because the reaction from front to balcony was phenomenal, and the energy the band put into the gig was awesome, but they were clearly tired after the show when I nipped back to say cheerio before the drive home (I walked in my front door at five past 1). The absence of family, friends and loved ones (and, Emma pointed out, drugs) was obvious – after the high of being onstage, the expended energy, the fatigue and melancholy that I imagine kicks in as they board the bus again must be deadening. There’s no one there to give them a hug and say well done, apart from each other. Still, a couple of weeks (after tonight and Liverpool) to sort things out, rest and recuperate, and do a fuck-load more publicity for “Ashes” before hitting the circuit again in November.
But even despite the rapturous reception and raucous performance I went away with the impression that this is still the calm before the storm. Shepherd’s Bush was a celebration, a welcome home. This was one of the last missiles in the final volley before invasion.
Seven years ago there were crowd surfers. We're a bit old for that now. But not too past it.
10/06/2004 09:02:00 am