My first gigs

I just stumbled on this hugely entertaining blog series about a Londoner’s earliest gig-going memories.

Reminds me of a few of my own.

FIRST: Soul II Soul / the Sindecut / Swervedriver
Brighton Centre, 1990

I was on Third Year Camp at the time (age 14), and my mother – I’ll always love her for this – drove out to where we were camped with our school-class, and drove me and my friends all the way to Brighton for the concert. I was still wearing my green wellington boots! After the gig, she picked us up and drove us all back to where we’d left our tents, in the forest in the middle of nowhere.

I remember being annoyed by the lack of enthusiasm for Swervedriver – really nice guys; great tunes. It was a pretty odd thing to have one of the heavier “shoegazing” bands supporting Soul II Soul anyway. The jazzy Sindecut had a really great single out that I don’t think actually got anywhere. I remember liking them.

I don’t actually remember if Soul II Soul were good or not, because I had no basis for comparison. They were just exactly as I expected them to be, and extremely slick and professional. I remember thinking Jazzy B was really sexy – and, like, totally profound. I might laugh now, but I’m still tapping my toe to this, even if the kiddie chorus grates.

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SECOND: Charlatans / Intastella
Brighton Event, 1990

I queued for four hours before the doors open, and even thirty minutes after we’d arrived, the queue went right around the block. We were right at the front of the queue – me and my mum. We went right to the front. Mum and I got separated, and she’s barely five feet tall. She ended up wedged between these two really big blokes, and every time they jumped up, she got pulled up into the air with them. The bouncers had a hose trained on the crowd just to keep people from passing out.

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Best Concerts Ever: Full Top Ten

I’m being nagged for my top 10 favourite gigs. This is, of course, just shows that I’ve been to. I caught footage of mid-70s Led Zep on TV the other day, so I’m pretty sure better shows have been played.

1. SMASHING PUMPKINS/FILTER

Wembley Arena, May 1996

(Review here)

The highlight of all highlights begins as the Pumpkins play another untitled track with incredible tribal percussion that threatens to cause the roof to cave in. The deep rumbling basslines resonate around the room, booming up through the floorboards. The sound is clear and pristine tonight, perfect conditions for a little experimentalism. Jimmy Chamberlain shows his true ingenuity as a drummer by holding the steady, complicated rhythms together as Billy and James churn out guitar lines in a vaguely Eastern-sounding fashion. The sound swells and holds for a full eight minutes before dying down to the percussion-based theme, and then something extraordinary happens.

2. RADIOHEAD/MANICS
Reading Festival, 1994

Saturday’s headliners Primal Scream were oddly disappointing – even if they had Dave Gahan as a guest star – because there was just no possible way they could have beaten the back-to-back double act that was Radiohead and the Manics. Two bands I personally rooted for, as much for their good-natured personalities as their music, and they never sounded better. I always felt afterwards that Richie had used this as a test run: see if they could survive without him before doing his disappearing act. I remember the surprisingly gorgeous James Dean Bradfield – a regular at the PR agency where I was doing an internship that summer – saying, “I gotta go play in front of 50,000 people” with a mixture of pride and terror to which I could only smile and wish him luck. They pulled off the challenge admirably. Radiohead were their consistent, excellent best.

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