Community Jam

One of the best things I’ve done lately is join in a weekly jam session held at my local music studio. The fact that we have a local music studio is amazing. The fact that I can just drop in, join a bunch of strangers, smash out some tunes and blether about music for a few hours, all for free, is incredible.

I live in a medium-sized town – by Scottish standards – around 15,000 people, but one with very few amenities. All over the country, local services and facilities are being cut or forced to close. Places like this – not just music studios, but libraries, community centres and cafes are so valuable. Places where people can gather for a particular purpose, or none. Places run by people who know the community want to make it better. Erskine Arts offers music lessons to kids and adults, various projects for young people, drop in soup & chat sessions as well as the jam sessions. It’s run by a great group of guys who are always looking for ways to contribute to the community and to get the community involved in what they are doing. My older child went there for guitar lessons for a while and I loved going there, seeing what they were up to and secretly (ok sometimes not to secretly) wished I could jump on the drum kit and have a play.

I took up drums again a few years ago, well twice, I wrote about it here and here. The second time I did end up joining with some others to form a wee band, playing covers. Unfortunately that petered out, then the pandemic happened. I continued to practice a bit at home, sadly my acoustic kit had to be relegated to the attic when I needed more space in my bedroom for home working, but I have a cheap electronic kit that is fine for a bashabout. Not having lessons or band practice meant I lacked any focus or motivation, plus there’s always something else to do with the kids, work, house, etc drumming just got lower in the priority list. Then I started to get a weird thing happen to my foot, then leg then whole left side (it’s being investigated by neurology but so far there’s been a lot of ruling things out and not much agreement on what it actually is) so that was scary and I stopped playing at all for over a year for fear that I wouldn’t be able to or that it would show up exactly how much function I had lost.

Then started the adult jam sessions. I didn’t go immediately, but eventually made tentative enquiries, told them about my weird foot/leg/arm thing but was encouraged to come along and just watch or join in if I felt like it. I was reminded that everyone brings something, maybe they have just started learning to play their instrument, have physical or mental health issues, or just lack confidence playing in front of others. It’s on a Friday afternoon, which luckily is the 1 day I don’t usually work. It’s usually me and a bunch of older men. The demographic of the group definitely influences the song choices – we’ve done Eric Clapton, Elvis, Cat Stephens, Kenny Rogers, Chuck Berry and a load of blues numbers that I don’t really know but that doesn’t matter. Someone suggests a song, gets cajoled into taking the mic, gives a quick rundown of the chords and we give it a whirl. People join in with what they can, whether it’s simple strumming along or contributing a lead solo. We are good at starting, the middle bits sound great we’re usually not so hot on endings, but nobody cares, it’s all good fun.

Jam session in progress, that’s me on drums! – photo by Erskine Arts

I’ve written before that improvising was never part of my learning before, I was taught technical skills but not anything about interpreting a song. That combined with never having access to a kit to play about on meant that now I struggle with adding my own elements into playing. I can play along to most song with a basic beat but am still reticent about adding fills or variations. At the moment it’s mainly confidence, but as each week goes by I get more comfortable behind the kit, more familiar with the songs and more aware of how I need to adapt my playing to suit my wonky arm and foot. The guys are nothing but supportive, to me and to each other. It’s great to see everyone helping each other out and encouraging them to have a go of singing or improvising a solo.

Continuing the theme of my last post, we’re lucky to have this facility in our town. I most likely wouldn’t go if this was in Renfrew or Paisley. Practically, it’s only a 5 minute drive away, but more than that it feels like something that is for me because it’s here just down the road. Almost like it would be rude not to get involved with something so amazing, friendly and welcoming for my community, for all of us, for me.

Lucky Just To Be Here

Lately I’ve been trying to find the positive in things. Sometimes good things come through effort, other times through luck.

I had bought tickets to a couple of gigs over the past year but ended up selling them on due to either difficulties with the logistics of getting there or a reluctance to be in large crowds. I’ve not even really listened to much music lately, I’ve been struggling to find anything to really get into. Also music = emotion and I’ve had quite enough of those without inducing any more. Music = opening myself up and I’ve been doing the opposite for a while. Saying that, I have BBC 6Music on in the car and on longer journeys I’ve been giving my kids a musical education with playlists from the 60s, 70s, 80s and a Beatles only special, cos, The Beatles. They like the 60s best so far, although I’m excited to make the 90s playlist next despite them objecting when I sing along. I’m lucky that they both have an interest in music and that I can share this with them. Anyway, when We Are Scientists announce a new album and tour, then you know I’m going to be there no matter what.

I think, I’m pretty sure that this was We Are Scientists gig number 20 for me. I tried to count them all (I’ve written about most on this blog but not all) and I reckon I’m at 20. I’m lucky to have seen them that many times, even luckier to have done so in about 8 towns and cities across 3 countries.

Their album, “Lobes“, came out last month. Initially I popped it on in the car and didn’t really think much of what I heard. Bit too much disco-pop all at once. Then I realised that I wasn’t properly paying attention (due to the driving) and that I had put it on shuffle by accident. I started it again, in order from the start and paid attention (also to the road, I got there safely). Unexpectedly, I got a bit tearful. Those guys. I suddenly remembered all the good music, good gigs, good people that I’ve met through this band and the good times we’ve had. I’m lucky to have that in my life.

The album is great. It’s probably the only We Are Scientists album where comparisons to other bands have sprung to mind (all good ones). It is another highly produced album, which I’m not usually a fan of. I don’t like when bells and whistles get in the way of the essence of good melody, rhythm, hooks and lyrics. Fortunately in this case the not-quite-literal-but-almost bells and whistles only enhance and complement those core elements which are as strong as ever. It’s a more consistent album than previous ones, no big surprises like Headlights, KIT, or Bought Myself a Grave. Parachute maybe comes closest but anyone familiar with the band’s acoustic work won’t find it straying too far from their wheelhouse. Actually perhaps Turn it Up is the outlier of the group. Perhaps I’m also changing my mind about this album’s consistency, there are indeed a couple of nice surprises in there… I’m lucky that my favourite band keep making music that I genuinely enjoy and keep finding new depths in.

So to gig night. I haven’t been to a gig since…well the last gig was also We Are Scientists, unless you count the Strictly Live Tour… I made the necessary arrangements for the kids and puppy and ventured into the West End to Oran Mor. I got there in the middle of the support set, a band called Bleach Lab. They were good. More confident and polished than some support bands I’ve seen. They had a solid, atmospheric sound and the singer had a great voice.

Bleach Lab

My usual gig compadres couldn’t make it so I was considering just losing myself inconspicuously in the middle of the crowd, but then the inevitable Tall Ones appeared all around, so I slinked forward, eyeing up a free space on the barrier, hoping that it wasn’t reserved for someone at the bar/loo when I luckily found people I had met at previous gigs. I secured my favoured spot and wasn’t a lonely loser.

The guys set up their own equipment, so we saw them busy about the stage then go off for a quick costume change and pause for dramatic effect. I kinda miss the days of coordinated outfits or matching smart suits but they all looked great, despite both Keith and Chris wearing dad jeans. Carne was channelling 1970s George Harrison (the hottest Beatle, obvs). They kicked off with Lucky Just To Be Here which is a bold move considering it features Keith singing with minimal accompaniment for a long stretch but it’s a great song that builds in energy and vitality. It’s my favourite song on the new record. Most days. I have trouble picking absolute favourites. Keith’s vocals are powerful and captivating enough that he could easily hold the attention of the crowd that was still warming up. By the end of the number we were thoroughly warmed and ready for more.

We got a generous helping of Lobes, the catchiest tunes from Huffy and a nice mix of older stuff. Kudos to the person who requested Return the Favor, that was an unexpected bonus inclusion in the setlist. I was not at all sorry that It’s a Hit has been ditched to make room for newer/better songs. The additional sounds of the new record sounded more funky than disco-ey live, with most of the elements being added by Carne’s Amazing Magical Effects Gizmo, that he masterfully played in addition to the usual percussion. Despite having a gazillion things to hit all at once, he still amazingly looks like he’s just having a chilled fun bash about, always under control, energetic but never frenetic. I do love that amongst all the trigger pads, loops and effects, a single orange maraca was wielded to the greatest effect. Keith had busy time of it too. With each album comes a signature guitar sound, by now after album number eight, his pedal board must have expanded exponentially and he was as frantic with his feet as he was with his fingers, and the small matter of lead vocals as well, obviously. Chris was as cool as ever. The basslines on Lobes are particularly outstanding and Chris delivered them with aplomb. We are lucky that the band love Glasgow and keep coming back here.

Afterwards I joined the merch queue to see what was on offer, unfortunately the guys themselves weren’t manning it so it was left to a poor fella who had to contend with piles of shirts overflowing on a too-small table, trip-hazard boxes all around his feet and a payment system that seemed to require manual typed entries each time, making for very slow progress indeed. He persevered bravely and eventually got through the long line of people. I picked up a deck of the tarot cards cos they have cool artwork and I really don’t need any more WAS t-shirts. Many thanks to the Oran Mor staff who luckily helped me out the locked door after they let me stay and chat after chucking out time.

It’s been tough times for us all over the past few years. We all need a little bit of luck now and again to help us on our way. All of us who secured tickets to this gig had some luck. We saw a great band have a great time playing some great songs. We were all lucky just to be there.

I’m not going to patronise you all…

Earlier this week one of my favourite bands, The Airborne Toxic Event, announced they were launching a new platform on a subscription basis to allow fans special access to some of their output. For a monthly fee, members get unreleased tracks, members-only shows, VIP access to gigs, videos of concerts, contact with the band etc. Lead singer Mikel Jollett put out a video explaining their reasoning behind the move. In it, he makes a lot of very valid and persuasive points, delivered eloquently and passionately, about how the music industry is changing, the importance of the band’s relationship with its fans and their search for new ways to connect with us.

Aside from logistical questions about how access to in-person shows would work for those of us not US-based and the practicalities of livestreams scheduled for 5pm PST, which is 1am UK time, I’m struggling with the whole concept of payment for access.

I have no problem with the general idea of crowdfunding, or the Patreon type model. I know it can work well for creatives and fans alike. Spotify notoriously pay artists shockingly little for streaming their music, and other platforms aren’t much better. I pay for a Spotify account but I always try to support bands I listen to on there in other ways, especially if they are smaller or newish and haven’t got a massive record deal. I personally have signed up to Patreon and support a couple of smaller-scale musicians and have subscribed to a podcast to get extra content. I’m also a subscriber to Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women project which I strongly believe in. Today, on International Women’s Day, that kind of action is more meaningful and productive than posting some soon-forgotten social media meme. I also like the Bandcamp model of accessing music, where you can buy direct from the artists who get to keep more of the funds for themselves. Some have a “pay what you can” arrangement which allows fans to contribute according to their means. I like that there are these new and innovative ways to access and own content that artists produce that are less reliant on big corporations and offer more control to those who create the work.

The Airborne Toxic Event have been a firm favourite of mine for over 10 years, and exactly as Mikel says in his video, from the first time I heard them, I felt an instant connection to the music, the lyrics, the storytelling and the *vibe* of the band in general that ran deep. I absolutely understand why a band, especially a band like this would opt for such a venture. My instinct was to say yes, sign me up! And yet…I have reservations about the whole idea.

I’ve never had a large amount of disposable income. I put myself through 4 years of university then a Masters. In London. I worked in the voluntary sector for years, then in education. I gave up my salaried job to go freelance in a new career then 6 months later the pandemic hit. I have 2 kids and have been a single parent for the last 7 years. I’ve worked hard my whole life but have never had much spare cash at the end of the month. I don’t go out much, don’t drink or smoke or get frequent take-aways. I’m pretty frugal but the one thing I would happily spend any spare money on is music, whether that be buying albums, concert tickets or merchandise. But these are one-off expenses and if I was a bit skint I would buy the album but not the ticket, or the ticket but not a t-shirt. When you have limited funds you make judgments about which albums or gig tickets to buy. This can be more frequent in good times and something you sacrifice in hard times. The subscription model asks for a regular monthly payment, or an annual fee (often discounted compared to monthly but obviously a significantly larger amount in one go). This is quite a commitment. Each individual band might only ask for ~£10. Ok, so I’m a fan of TATE so I hand over my £10. But what if other bands I like adopt similar models? Then it’s another £10, then another £10 and before I know it there’s a financial commitment of £50 to £100 a month, which is just not feasible on my budget and nowhere near what I would have spent on music related things before. Does that mean I’m any less of a fan of those bands that I can’t afford to patronise? Not at all. Any less committed to supporting the band? Absolutely not. But it does mean that I’ve been priced out of offering my support and have become a 2nd class fan, while only those with the financial means get the privilege of higher-status super-fan.

It’s this idea of there being segregation among fans that doesn’t sit right with me. Those who can afford it get top tier access while those who can’t, miss out. The one good thing about going to gigs was that we were all in it together. Fans from all backgrounds could come together, put differences aside and enjoy the collective experience of being fans of the same band. Now with VIP access, early access, special areas, backstage passes etc for the select few, a 2-tier fandom has been created for the haves and the have-nots, separated by disposable income levels and not according to loyalty or enthusiasm.

Covid hit us all hard, and as we were locked down, staying at home and wanting to be entertained, most musicians and other performers were unable to make any kind of living. Furlough schemes often didn’t apply to them and as venues shut down, some of them for good, those in the creative industries were left without a living or a lifeline. Understandably, many have looked to these alternative means to earn an income. However, at a time when food prices are rising, energy prices are rising at an alarming rate, covid is still having an effect and we still don’t know the economic impact of the war between Russia and Ukraine, we are living in very uncertain times. Asking fans to make a regular commitment is, I think, asking too much.

So how do we square this? Musicians, bands and artists need to make a living in difficult times. They want to keep creating and sharing their work with fans. But if playing live, touring and international travel is going to continue to be affected by covid and/or war (ffs this is seriously a thing) in the coming months and years, they need to find a way to get that connection with fans back, as Mikel said. Fans want that connection too. We want to see our favourite bands perform, either live or recorded. We want them to create new music and be creatively fulfilled. We want them to continue to earn a living from their craft and we want to support them. I’m sure no band sets up such a subscription scheme with the aim of excluding a portion of their fandom, but they inevitably will. I’m sure they think that as long as some of their output is available in the traditional way that fans are still being served. However it really feels to me as though this is only going to create a system that is inherently unequal and unfair. The best music, live experiences and access to bands will end up behind a paywall and that is a very sad prospect indeed.

And don’t get me started on NFTs…

Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, Glasgow Hydro, 6th February 2022

In the never ending hellstorm that is living in the UK at the moment, we all need moments of levity and escape. For us, on Sunday afternoon that took the shape of the Strictly Come Dancing live tour.

A quick wikipedia search suggests that the first series I properly watched was in 2012, meaning there’s been a good 10 years of Strictly in my life. My eldest child was very into it from a young age, and just as their interest waned the younger one became a fan – such is the life when your kids have a 4 year age gap. Even so, we continued to watch it as a family every year. Some series and contestants/pairings have been more memorable than others. The most recent series was a particularly good one, which prompted me to buy tickets for the tour for the first time. Both my kids and myself were drawn into the stories, the highs and lows, the drama and the glamour. It is good old-fashioned family entertainment. We don’t tend to watch things like that, we’ve never as a family watched Britain’s Got Talent or I’m a Celebrity or anything starring Ant & Dec. When the kids can agree to watch the same thing, they prefer movies or David Attenborough type programmes but generally have very different tastes. Even if we don’t always get to watch Strictly live, because they spend every 2nd weekend with their dad, there’s still something nice and wholesome about sitting down each week to watch something that’s full of joy, positivity and about trying your best at something and having fun, even if you’ve never done it before and you have 2 left feet. Or only 1 foot. Who cares, get all dressed up and shimmy your troubles away.

These past 2 years have robbed us of any feelings of excited anticipation. We haven’t been able to look forward to anything due to the constant threat of more restrictions, positive tests, cancellations. Every time I made tentative plans with my kids I always had to give them the speech about nothing being certain, things might change, we just don’t know. It was the same for this. I told them about the Strictly show just a few weeks ago and it was sad to see them stifle any excitement they would normally have displayed. When Omicron reared its head I expected this tour to be postponed but restrictions on indoor gatherings were lifted here recently. We took the recommended precautions, of course. I was pleased to see the vast majority of people also wearing masks and the venue had the air conditioning turned up to the max, to the point where I thought the air flow might blow me down on to the dance floor.

As usual when kids are involved, we were running a bit late, but made it to the Hydro just in time, only to find that doors hadn’t actually opened an hour before as planned and everyone was waiting in massive queues in the freezing cold outside. We joined the back of one line and thankfully things soon got moving. We found our seats just as the lights went down and the iconic music struck up. 

The Strictly dance floor in full swing

The set featured many, many glitterballs, the familiar curving stairs rising up either side with the 3 judges chairs in the middle. We had Shirley, Craig in a kilt, the return of Bruno. Sadly no Anton or Motsi. Janette Manrara was the host in a series of increasingly sparkly outfits. The format was similar to the tv series, with couples taking turns to perform dances, short chats with Janette afterwards, then judges comments. There were some group dances interspersed throughout. I for one could have done without the interviews after every dance. They all said pretty much the same thing – it’s great to be in Glasgow (cue cheers), I love dancing with my partner, it’s great to be on the tour etc etc. There were, however, some very funny moments and exchanges between Janette, the dancers and the judges. I’m not sure to what extent they were scripted and thus same for every show, but they were funny nevertheless.

At one point during the 2nd half the judges had us up on our feet and tried, with varying success, to get us all to follow them in a wee routine. The less said about our shimmies the better I think…

We got to vote for our favourites via text (up to 10 times at 25p a go) and a winner was declared at the end, although I think we all knew who it would be before anyone even stepped foot on the dance floor.

Rose Ayling-Ellis was the stand-out star of Strictly last year and the first deaf celebrity to take part. Strictly has always been ahead of the curve in terms of diversity. Jonnie Peacock was the first celebrity with a disability to join in 2017, followed by several other Paralympians and JJ Chalmers who was injured in Afghanistan. A professionals dance featured 2 male leads in 2019 and in 2020 the first same-sex female couple competed, although their stint was short-lived due to covid. The latest series had the first same-sex male partnership who made it all the way to the final. I knew of Rose from a couple of things she’s acted in but don’t watch Eastenders. Due to my job (I’m a sign language interpreter) I had a special interest in Rose’s participation and how Strictly would adapt to having a deaf competitor. The answer is they adapted very well indeed. There were sign language interpreters with Rose in training and on show nights, deaf awareness and BSL lessons were given to the cast and crew. Rose’s professional partner Giovanni obviously played a huge part in their success. Giovanni was the perfect pick for Rose, I remember when he was paired with Debbie McGee and rather than treating her like a novelty act he showed her nothing but respect and devised beautiful choreography that played to her strengths. with Debbie he often stepped back and let her dance alone, out front, be the focus (yeah I may have gone into a youtube wormhole, all in the name of research, obviously…) With Rose it was all about communicating through touch and body language, they became one unit. There’s a good article here on how he and Rose worked together. Rose is funny, warm and charming, Giovanni seemed to genuinely grow and learn from her and we all fell in love with them both. Their partnership and friendship was beautiful to watch, if you didn’t see their instagram videos you missed a treat, they were hilarious and I hope they manage to keep dancing together after the tour ends.

On the tour they performed their “couple’s choice” dance with it’s famous silent section and I held my breath throughout, as did most of the audience it seemed. Not a sound was heard from anyone in the near-capacity Hydro on that Sunday matinee which included a lot of children. We also saw their Tango, which in its own way I found just as moving. Intense, thoughtful and engaging, I could have watched them all day. Keeping with the theme of accessibility and inclusion, the tour had BSL interpreters at every single performance, rather than the usual 1 or 2, hopefully this is something they will continue after Rose’s involvement and other productions will learn from.   

Rose & Giovanni chatting with Janette after their tango, with BSL interpreter on the big screen

Unfortunately one of our favourite contestants from this year, John Whaite wasn’t performing that day due to illness and AJ was still suffering the effects of an injury picked up during the series so we were treated to seeing Maisie Smith from last year join with Kai. They were great but I was sad that Maisie wasn’t with her partner Gorka, but really only cos Gorka is one of my favourites.

A special mention has to be made of the live band and singers who were very impressive. Unlike on the telly, the singers came out on to the dance floor, became part of the performance, doing their own dance moves alongside the other performers. Particular credit to the drummer who had his moment of glory during a dance to “In the air tonight” and the singer who somehow managed to perform a flawless Kate Bush number while flat on her back on the floor.

There was Strictly merch on sale! Of course. J wanted to check it out and I was prepared for long queues and/or extortionate prices, but happily we found neither. Tshirts and hoodies were on sale at about the same rate you’d expect at a gig. J opted for a rainbow Strictly mug, S wasn’t interested, I think she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this point and just wanted to get out.

Rainbow coloured Strictly Live mug

Unfortunately we weren’t to have a quick getaway, having parked in the notorious Hydro multistory car park, it took us over an hour of queueing to get out of the place. Thankfully it didn’t put a dampner on the afternoon, although the promise of a delivery from our favouite local pizza restaurant did help.

Both kids loved it, J immediately asked if we can go again next year. It is quite expensive, but if you are a Strictly fan it is definitely worth the money. You get to see your favourites (most of them) in action, they put on a proper show – with all the razzmatazz of the lights, flamethrower things and bucketloads of glitter and sparkles.

The whole Strictly Come Dancing operation is something to be treasured. At a time when the continued existence of the BBC is being threatened, it’s important to remember that, merch and 25p text votes aside, a programme full of uplifting positivity, inclusivity and representation and free from commercial interests and advertising could only be made by the BBC. They have created something magical, appealing to people of all ages that deliver important messages, open minds and be highly entertaining all at the same time. And if a deaf actor can discover a talent for dancing and lift a glitterball trophy, then who knows what the rest of us could achieve if only we take the chance to try.

A gig! A weird, emotional, awesome gig.

We Are Scientists, St Luke’s Glasgow, 1st December 2021

I went to a gig! An actual real life, in-person, proper gig! I cried a bit, took stock and had some self-realisations and saw things through new eyes. It was quite an evening.

This was my first gig since I saw Editors in March 2020 (yep, just squeezed one in there before it all went down!) First post-covid, wait, now there’s Omicron, first post-lockdown hmm let’s not be too hasty….first for a long time! My first gig should really have been Self Esteem aka Rebecca Taylor, ex Slow Club. I had a ticket but somehow hadn’t put it in my diary, so the gig came and went without me. I was disappointed, by all accounts she’s been storming this tour and puts on a great show, but was still covid-wary so thought maybe it was for the best. Then the date for We Are Scientists drew nearer and nearer. I’m still super covid-wary, I’ve been doing indoor stuff only when strictly necessary for work, I went to a restaurant for the first time just last week and we all had an LFT pact prior to meeting up. But it’s We Are Scientists!!! I don’t need to tell you how much I love this band. If I do, just search for previous posts and you’ll quickly get the idea. Even still, I swithered up to the last minute then decided to go for it, thinking I would most definitely regret it if I didn’t.

St Luke’s is a beautiful venue, a converted old church. The last time I was there was a very different affair, an all-seated show featuring Nerija as part of the Glasgow Jazz Festival. Unfortunately this time I arrived too late to catch all of support band Coach Party, I only heard their last couple of songs but they were really good and worth checking out if you haven’t heard of them. Once in, I initially lingered near the back thinking I would hang there, near the well ventilated door with the other masked people. I was there solo due to my usual gig buddies having other commitments or being not quite ready to delve back into gigs yet, so I felt a bit awkward at the back on my own. Then the Tall People made an appearance and I remembered why I usually go down the front. I didn’t want to spend my first gig in almost 2 years looking at the back of people’s heads. Or shoulders to be more accurate. I carefully crept forward wondering how far I would go, loitering here and there until a spot opened up on the barrier and I unashamedly grabbed it. Oh well, back in familiar territory!

I got speaking to 2 girls next to me, who were at their very first We Are Scientists gig. They were only 18 years old and had recently discovered the band. I thought that was incredible and was delighted for them. They thought it was incredible that I’d seen WAS 15 times over 10 years. (edit – it’s actually more like 18 times over 13 years. Yikes.) We agreed that new album Huffy is one of their best and they couldn’t wait to hear the songs. I promised them they’d sound even better live.

It was weird being in among a crowd of people again. My natural unsociability plus covid has meant that I’ve been even more solitary than usual of late, apart from my 2 kids. Sometimes that’s an active preference that I’m fine with, but sometimes I realise that it’s doing me more harm than good. I wrote a bit about this last year. Even those of us who aren’t gregarious or touchy-feely need some human contact. I hate crowds in any other place but am quite happy being squished on 3 sides by fellow gig-goers. It was nice to hear the chatter all around me of what gigs people had coming up, how they hated LFTs but would suffer the discomfort if it meant getting out again, how bloody freezing it was and can you believe it’s December already?

When the band came on the roar of the small crowd was better than music to my ears. Until the actual music started of course. They jumped straight into Huffy with “You’ve Lost Your Shit” and the girls I’d been speaking to lost their shit. I loved their reaction and enthusiasm. As the elderly veteran that I am, I forgot what it’s like to be new to the We Are Scientists experience. I’m always asking them to play more new stuff and ditch the older tunes (It’s a Hit can be canned first IMO) although I realise that they are likely wedded to playing Nobody Move and Great Escape at every show for all eternity. After 18 (19?) times I’m ready for the new songs, but seeing these girls utterly ecstatic at hearing the classics for the first time reminded me not to be so selfish and let the crowd enjoy the experience they came for. It was infectious and after scolding myself I sang along with the rest of them. It was enlightening and refreshing to witness the show through their eyes. And of course they agreed with me that the songs sounds even better live.

We got a good sampling of Huffy, some good old classics – Scene should be spared the oldies cull and in fact should be played at every gig – as well as some surprises in the form of KIT and Lousy Reputation. KIT was gorgeous and I’m glad it got an airing. They played Five Leaves and I almost lost it at that point, but managed to hold it together, just. The encore brought us the absolute delight that is Bought Myself a Grave. Honestly, if WAS decide to move entirely to country-rock ballads I’ll be there for it. Chris on vocals was awesome, for some reason Keith was cracking himself up laughing through the backing vocals towards the end, I’ve no idea why but it just made my grin even wider.

The crowd got quite lively as the gig went on, apparently there were shirts being removed behind me but I decided I could do without witnessing that spectacle. I loved how everyone sang along to all the Huffy songs, and my new friends gave it laldy singing the guitar parts too which amused me greatly.

It’s obvious to say that the last almost 2 years have been hard on everyone. We’ve all got our personal troubles and challenges and no-one knows what anyone else is really going through. While the lockdowns and restrictions etc have had their upsides – I’ve had some fantastic quality time with my kids – but I’m a single parent and one of my kids is going through a whole heap of things just now that makes it extra challenging for all 3 of us. Most of my time and energy is spent dealing with that and I’m exhausted and mentally drained all the time. The kids go to their dad’s every 2nd weekend and that used to be my “me” time, well after the housework and my coursework etc etc….but I used to go for cycles, play drums, meet friends, do projects around the house or garden. A few weeks ago I had a “free” weekend and realised that I couldn’t focus on anything, had no interest in anything and was just zoned out and disconnected from everything I used to enjoy doing. I made a decision to try to turn things around before I really spiralled out of control. I made some plans with friends, arranged to borrow a dog for the afternoon to go for a walk and started planning out my time to incorporate actual rests and time to recharge.

I’m not going to get back to my old self overnight, but small steps are important and going to this gig was a pretty massive step. I felt at home, I felt relaxed and for the first time in ages I could switch off from the worry and the to-do list and the frustration and just enjoy myself in the moment. I needed that so badly. And it had to be this band. This band who are so familiar, who always come through, who can make me laugh and cry and want to throw my arms in the air like I’m also 18, not 42. Immediately after the show, the reality of what I’d just experienced hit me. I couldn’t help but get a bit tearful. It’s a good job I was driving home, having to keep a clear head and eyes to focus on the road. If I’d been on the train I’m sure I would have been a blubbering mess.

Before I left I stopped by the merch stand and bought some We Are Scientists socks. Well, obviously I need them to go with my We Are Scientists underpants.