So last Thursday I got a call from an old friend to say that she would be photographing a band that night at Oran Mor, and she asked if I’d like to come along. The main act was Los Campesinos!, and she had been doing some work for Strange News From Another Star, who had been touring with them. I didn’t know much about either band, but it had been a while since I’d seen her and she lured me with the promise of a guest—list spot, so I couldn’t refuse. I’m not at liberty to divulge the name of this friend for various complicated reasons so I’ll just call her Holly.
After receiving a parking ticket last time I attended a gig at Oran Mor I decided to play it safe and get the bus. I got to the venue, doors weren’t open yet (do Oran Mor ever open on time?) but I couldn’t get Holly on the phone so I just waited in line and hoped for the best. Eventually they let us in and I was relieved to find that my name had indeed been added to the guest list. First time that’s ever happened and it was for a band that I had barely heard of prior to that morning. I could see people in the queue behind me wondering why I was so special, I daren’t let slip the tenuous connection I had with their favourite band lest they blew my cover and stole my little chitty.
Once in the main hall I found Holly who told me she had also managed to acquire an Access All Areas pass for me. There was a bit of time to kill before Strange News were on, so we headed up to the band’s changing room. Now if this was any band that I liked I would have been freaking out at this point. As it happened I was casually sharing a lift and being introduced to people that I had no idea who they were and I’m sure some of the kids downstairs would have given their right arm to be in my position. It was probably just as well because I was able to act like a normal human being among other normal(ish) human beings rather than a blithering idiot or start-struck fangirl. I will say that everyone I met was very nice and I got offered several beers and food from their rider.
I chatted to Holly for a bit and we caught up on her recent adventures. Then it was time for Strange News to go on so we headed back downstairs. The band and Holly were a bit disappointed to see that the hall was still quite empty and no-one was down at the front. I tried to explain that this was fairly normal fro Glasgow and that people would drift down eventually. The band were having none of it. Say what you want about Strange News, but they are not shy and they do like a bit of audience participation. Lead singer/guitarist Jimmy was practically herding people to the front and demanding that they join in. Strange News are a loud band to say the least. I had learned my lesson after sustaining ear-trauma at The Airborne Toxic Event earlier in the week and had purchased some ear plugs. I was glad of them. There are only 3 in the band but they go hell for leather and thrash, wail, yell and shout their way through their songs. I think most of the audience was somewhat taken aback by the sheer force of nature in front of them but with some encouragement they were soon jumping around, squatting on the floor and yelling as per Jimmy’s instructions. Holly was down by the stage taking some shots, and went back for a second burst after the drummer, Harry, took his shirt off. Towards the end bassist Mark, who had been playing the whole set perched on an amp, came down into the crowd, gave his guitar to some unsuspecting bloke at the front then went for a wander and a dance with some other people.
After they were done Holly and I wandered back upstairs again. I met more of the guys from Los Campesinos! who were mostly just quietly preparing by themselves. Unlike Strange News who had been scoffing burgers or kebabs or something about 2 minutes prior to going on stage. Oran Mor used to be a big church, so all the rooms are quite grand with arched ceilings and remnants its former glory scattered around. There are two or three different performance spaces, a couple of bars and restaurants. The dressing rooms were upstairs and the guys were all impressed with the facilities, although they kept getting out the lift on the wrong floor and bursting loudly out into the dining rooms where genteel West End ladies were trying to enjoy their supper. I kept pinching myself to make sure this wasn’t some surreal dream.
When it was time for Los Campesinos! to go on Holly and I went down to have a look. She had already seen them a couple of times, but it was the first time for me so I was curious to see what they were like. I liked them. Thankfully they were less angry and shouty that Strange News, but the earplugs still came in handy. There were loads of them on stage, I think about 7 in the band. We hung about at the back for a bit, then Holly wanted to try and get some shots so we went round to the side nearer the front. I couldn’t see most of the band members but I got a good view of the lead singer and a couple of others. Realised I’d been chatting to the lead singer earlier. Once again thought to myself how different I’d be feeling if this had been a band I was really into. It was a nice reminder that they are just people.
The guys from Strange News came to join us at the side and I’m afraid my attention was diverted from Los Campesinos! for a while as I chatted to Jimmy et al, discussed the show and got lots of hugs from each of them. Well Holly was getting hugs so I thought I might as well get in on the action too. Strange News joined Los Camp on stage for their last number and a final goodbye.
We returned to the dressing room where a bit of a celebration was going on. Well Strange News were celebrating by drinking lots, Los Camp had a brief period where they analysed their performance then decided they might as well drink some more too. I borrowed Holly’s camera (yay!) to take some group shots. I haven’t seen the results yet, and I’ll admit I’d had a fair amount of vodka by then so I’m sure they were all blurry or squint.
We decided to go out and get some food, because the rider had been pretty well decimated. Holly, Jimmy and I went round the corner to a fast-food place where she got some pizza, I got some questionable-tasting chips and Jimmy tried to chat up a girl who had been at the gig, and was clutching one of his EPs, but who turned out to be a 15 year old lesbian who was having none of it.
We wandered back round to the venue. Actually that may have been when we took the photos. I can’t remember exactly. Anyway, things were winding down, people were starting to move on. The tour was heading to Leeds next, and more than once I got invited along, they seem to just pick people up as they go, but I had to decline as I had a small child to take care of at home. One of Los Camp (I think) suggested that I bring her along, which I’m sure she would have loved, but I’m sure once the reality of having a toddler in a tour van hit home they would have chucked us out somewhere around Carlisle.
The group were heading on into town to go to Nice N Sleazy’s and much as I would have loved to go there with Holly I had to go and get a bus home. I found the Strange News guys, said goodbye and thanked them for letting me in and arranging the guest-list and pass. They were such cool, friendly guys. It had been an unexpected, fun, surreal evening. All in a day’s work for an indie-band on the road and their photographer.