Andy's Random Posts
Three countries, two continents and all for one band; 2018 has been quite a year so far and this has been a rather hectic week.
I really wanted to catch more of Screaming Females’ current visit and had been trying so hard to work out where and how I could take in more shows. I was having to work around other events that had already been arranged before the tour was announced and there was the obligation to show up for work at some point, so things weren’t straight forward. I had almost got a trip to Amsterdam figured out but scrapped the idea when the band announced their return to the UK in September. So it’s just the three shows for me on this visit to Europe but from my limited experience of Screaming Females they are currently in top notch form and each show has been an unmissable experience.
Reading Kristina’s posts I see that she met Charlie Harper of UK Subs at the Oslo show. Was that the bloke with green hair who was wearing a Screamales shirt? Knew I’d seen him somewhere before! Shame we couldn’t get him on stage for a rendition of Stranglehold. I also see that Jarrett’s been for a swim and I wonder if he fancies a dip at the UK’s highest beach later in the year? It can be arranged.
When the band returns to London in September there are some interesting photo opportunities to be had should they have time. Along the north side of St Paul’s Cathedral (you’ve all seen it, it’s the one with the dome) runs Paternoster Row, where you’ll also find Paternoster House and Paternoster Square. Much more interesting is The Paternoster pub, to be found on one of the alleys running north from the cathedral. Surely there’s a tee shirt in there, somewhere….
After returning to work for a couple of shifts over the weekend I was back in Manchester on Monday to see Echo And The Bunnymen, a band I’ve loved since my youth. They are currently touring to promote their new album which is due out in October. That may seem odd timing, but the release has been delayed. They are back touring the USA later this Summer with Violent Femmes.
Tuesday allowed me to return home, albeit briefly, to swap bags before walking back to the train station to head to Leeds. The Breeders were playing and I’d been looking forward to this show since seeing them in Manchester in October last year. Another tremendous gig, I enjoy how Kelley always has a smile, Kim seems to be on the verge of a collapse in to fits of laughter and Jo’s dry wit.
Wednesday began early, far too early, in a Leeds hotel. I took some solace from the knowledge that I could nap on the train to Manchester airport but that still doesn’t compensate for a 5am alarm. Then once at the airport there’s a question that has bugged me for years: is it too late or too early for a beer? The conclusion I came to some months ago was that if The Beastie Boys were prepared to fight for our right to party then there’s nothing wrong with me taking up arms 24×7. So I headed to the bar.
I’ve been to Germany many times in the past but this is my first trip to Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city. The flight is only 80 minutes and the transfer into the city is typical Germany efficiency. I wish I could say the same about the rest of journey with a four hour delay in departure from Manchester Airport. I was on the cusp of not travelling if there was further delay as I’d miss the show but fortunately we were on German soil by 7pm local time and a tweet from the band told me they were on stage at 10. My hotel was right by the Hauptbahnhof but stepping in to the street was a shock to the system as the sun was blazing down with temperatures reaching 30C during the day. A hasty check in and a wonderfully air conditioned cab to the venue followed.
I found the tour party gathered in a small area at the back of the room where the merch stall was set up. Within seconds of entering the room I realised that I was going nowhere near the stage that night. The venue was like a sauna and conditions must have been very uncomfortable on stage. Nevertheless Screaming Females delivered another scorching set; opening with Ripe backed up later by great renditions of Agnes Martin, It All Means Nothing and both parts of Chamber back to back; then going on to play several tracks I hadn’t heard at my previous gigs. Broken Neck, Normal, Rotten Apple, I Don’t Mind It and Extinction were all given an airing as I spent the show by the merch with Kristina. At least we could breathe and although they had sold out of tee shirts and pins earlier in the tour so it was cds and vinyl only, there was still a steady stream of sales.
This trip provided my first opportunity to chat properly with the various members. Other shows were too loud, too busy or there was a rush to pack up to stay on schedule, so it’s been really nice to meet everyone on more of a personal basis. Jarrett is now aware that there is the opportunity to swim at the UK’s highest beach, Marissa knows what we Brits call an eraser (eraser? I thought that was something to shave with), Mike has seen the Bunnymen play and knows to be wary of Aussie slang, and Kristina remains suspicious of bathroom doors. In return I have some wonderful memories, a batch of swag for Charlie to give away and tips on a few NJ bands to investigate. Mike, Jarrett, Marissa and Kristina, I really can’t thank you all enough, you wonderful people.
I wasn’t due to fly home until the following evening so had a pleasant day exploring Hamburg. I like Germany, the beer’s good, the food doesn’t give you the trots, the public transport is excellent and if you are really stuck most people speak some English. What must not go unmentioned though are the ice cream parlours. Germany excels on this front and I couldn’t resist indulging myself at the appropriately named Glace Haus as the temperature again soared to a scorching 30C. Unfortunately though there were violent thunder storms over the rest of the country leading another delay in departure from the airport. Only an hour this time and I was back in Blighty in time to get home on the train.
That’s it then, excitement almost over. All I have to look forward to now is the football on 7th June as England warm up for the World Cup by playing Panama in Leeds on my birthday, and then it’s time to see old Johnny boy as Public image Limited play Manchester on the 16th.
That is until the September tour of course, when it appears that I’m going to have a visitor….
I’m just home from London and being English, I put the kettle on. Then, because I’m a philistine, I add milk and sugar to the Earl Grey. It’s tea, it’s how I like it and it’s time to sit in the sun reflecting on yesterday.
Home is a small market town called Todmorden, which sits at the head of the Calder Valley, high in the Pennine Hills of northern England. It seems pretty unremarkable place until I start thinking of its history. Birth place of Keith Emerson and John Helliwell (saxophonist in Supertramp), scene of the mysterious case of Zygmund Adamski and the alien abduction of PC Alan Godfrey, not to mention the start of Dr Harold Shipman’s killing spree, and the site of the only school to have produced two Nobel Prize winners. At least it was at one time, but it may still be. It’s home to the UK’s highest beach and then there’s our guerrilla gardeners, Incredible Edible Todmorden, who commandeer empty land and spaces to plant herbs and vegetables for people to take whenever they wish.
I’d been catching up on Kristina’s posts for the UK tour and it seems such a whirlwind itinerary. It’s a shame the touring party didn’t have opportunity see much of Manchester as we’d had a week of such glorious weather then the heavens open when the band arrives! It’s a shame they didn’t see the Town Hall which always reminds me of Hogwarts, and it’s a shame they didn’t get further north than Glasgow to see Scotland become a truly spectacular landscape.
I’ve travelled down by train. As a lifelong football supporter you gain a working knowledge of the road and rail network, and planning 12 weeks ahead meant I could secure bargain tickets. After checking in to a cheap and cheerful B and B I head for Hackney, part of the city I’ve never been to before, and it’s a surprise to find myself there a mere 12 minutes later. One stop on the tube, two by overground and the train deposits me at Hackney Central, right by the venue. Just the four hours to kill before the show then. I have a wander around and find Hackney to be like any other suburb, as it’s out to the east of the city and away from the areas readily identifiable as London, before returning to Oslo to eat, where a 20% discount is offered on the menu on production of your ticket for the show. The bar begins to fill up and I’m joined by a gentlemen meeting his daughter and her partner for the show. Last night he’d been to see the Rolling Stones, tomorrow night it’s Sparks, but this evening he was with his daughter who was eager to see Screaming Females for the first time. We chat about the band for a while and realise that that I’d not heard any sound check or seen any of the tour party. No cause for concern though, as Marissa suddenly appears outside.
The show itself was simply magnificent. Screaming Females absolutely tore the place up. 25 minutes and 6 songs into the set and the band have the crowd in the palms of their hands. They’ve not said a word, just ripped in to each song. This really was superlative stuff, with the crowd dancing and singing along.
As this is my first attempt a creative (or not!) writing ,I won’t attempt to review further when there are far better people than me to do so. Here’s a link to a review that hits the nail right on the head.
So it ends, and once again it’s all way too soon. I manage a brief chat with each of the band as I simply couldn’t leave without thanking them after seeing two performances that have taken me right back to being that awe struck 15 year old who watched the Ramones all those years ago.
At the station I see my erstwhile dining partner, with daughter and partner, all grinning from ear to ear. Then the train whisks me swiftly back in central London and I find that my mood changes dramatically as the intense experience of the show is left a few miles to the east. I’ve just walked away from something wonderful, something I feel as though I’ll never have again and I’m almost tempted to head back in a bid to recover the intense joy that tonight’s performance gave me. This is why I always hate seeing goodbye to the band members and the people I’ve met as it seems so final and I just never know whether I will have the chance to do it all again
Stiff upper lip old boy, so I head to a nearby pub for nightcap.
Next stop, work on Saturday morning for the first of two day shifts but there should be more to follow in what is shaping up to be a monumental 2018….
PS – Sock Update
Found the blighter! My bag has shoulder straps that allow it be worn as a backpack. These can be folded away in to a pouch when not in use, and that’s where the missing piece of hosiery was.
Shame I threw away its partner….
It’s 08:30, there’s sunlight streaming into the room, a tv news crew making a racket beneath the window, my ears are ringing and I can only find one sock. I know for certain that I had two when I returned to the room last night, and last night came to an end far too quickly.
The previous day I’d travelled by train in to Victoria station, which has Manchester Arena immediately adjacent to it. The two structures have been integrated in recent years, so that the foyer where a suicide bomb detonated following an Ariana Grande show last year is immediately above me as I leave the train and walk along the platform. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of that event and there is a very sombre atmosphere pervading the station as preparations are being made throughout the city to mark the occasion the next day. I head to my digs for the night, 2 minutes away, and dump my bag. A beer in one of Manchester’s many traditional pubs restores a brighter outlook with the chance to savour the prospect of Screaming Females playing on my home soil. The pint wasn’t bad either.
It’s not too long ago that I thought that the only way I’d ever get to see Screaming Females play live would be to travel to the States. The opportunity to do so arose in February 2017, which was a bit of a leap in to the unknown (I was the guy who turned up at a deserted Monty Hall at 10:30am looking for a ticket office), but everyone was so welcoming that I just had to make a return visit in February 2018. The second trip was even better as I had time to spend exploring NJ Transit and time to knock about with Charlie and meet other fan club members at the shows. I even took in my first NHL game and nipped over to Brooklyn with Charlie and Todd to see the Jacuzzi Boys play. So, the thought of Screaming Females in Manchester seems a little too good to be true. Thirty eight years ago, in this very city, my fifteen year old self saw the Ramones walk on stage and rock my socks off. Tonight ranks right up alongside that evening, and Screaming Females have even managed to go one step further and make one sock vanish.
I headed towards the venue which is located in the city’s Northern Quarter and only a few minutes’ walk from Band On The Wall, the venue for the band’s next visit this coming September. This is a former industrial and commercial area that fell in to neglect for a number of years but with a little TLC is now benefiting from a bohemian feel with plenty of quirky shops and businesses, and all manner of places to eat and drink. There’s a van parked outside, perhaps the band have arrived, which is immediately confirmed by the sound check blasting out from the basement. A few minutes later I spy Marissa getting a coffee so wander over to say hi and it takes her a moment to recognise me. I’ll never forget the first time I met her, February 2017, at Monty Hall. I was in rapture having seen the band belt out Bell whilst I was stood a mere six feet from Marissa. She heard my broad Lancashire accent and broke into a huge, dazzling smile. I get an after image just thinking about that moment, and she treats me to it again. We have a brief chat and I pass a small gift to Mike before leaving so that they can go for something to eat.
A phone alert summons me to a nearby bar. I’d talked a few friends from my local pub in to buying tickets and they have just arrived. Think you can guess what happened over the next hour.
Heading in to the no frills venue, which is a large cellar, there are two support bands for this evening’s show (to my eternal shame I never noted their names) before Screaming Females take to the stage. They sounded good from outside during the sound check but Empty Head would have blasted the plaster off the walls had there been any. Screamales have played over 1200 shows, and boy can you tell as they have the packed cellar enchanted, many singing along to Hopeless. Time flew by as they belt out Agnes Martin, Step Outside and Bell. It was over way, way too quickly before they returned for two encore tracks, Glasshouse and Boyfriend. I hang around afterward to bid farewell to the band and to say hello to Kristina on the merch stall, before heading back to the digs. I hate saying goodbye to Mike, Jarret and Marissa, as I never know whether I’ll get to see them again. This time I have London to look forward to in two days.
My room overlooks Manchester Cathedral so I have woken to racket of the tv crews setting up for the memorial service taking place that afternoon, my ears still ringing from last night’s majestic performance. Time to head home. I never did find that sock and had to trudge the streets of Manchester commando fashion.
I feel I should end with a personal note as there was a recent tweet from the band regarding comments some reviewer had made regarding “All At Once”.
If there’s a repeat Monty Hall weekend in February 2019 then I feel almost obliged to be there as following Screaming Females is no longer just about the music, it’s about the people as well. It’s about Marissa’s dazzling smile, it’s about Mike’s spontaneous show of appreciation that I had travelled over from the UK, it’s about Jarrett and his quiet friendliness, and it’s about Charlie and his merry band of fan club members – Pedro, Melissa, Morgan to name a few, then Hoboken Jack and Todd-O-Phonic from WFMU, and many more. Thank you to you all, it’s been such a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
I hope the band get to see that last bit as it represents something that their music has achieved and something that the hack who made those throwaway comments, probably on the basis of a free promo copy, will never understand.
Next stop Oslo. The one in Hackney, London. Not the one in Norway…..