Well, the sign did say Piccadilly Circus…
Safe to say that was a pretty decent weekend. Two gigs in two different cities, in some way showcasing two different sides of my personality – as pompous as that sounds. On Saturday night Kate, Steff and I squeezed into the Captain’s Rest’s tiny basement with a hundred or so other people, and danced our socks off to the Vivian Girls’ riotous fuzzbox punk. “More reverb!” cried bassist Kickball Katy, with a laugh and a toss of her long red hair. “If you can still make out what I’m saying, then we need more reverb!” You might have heard the stories or seen some infamous internet video or other; but in real life the band are sweet, charming and giggle like schoolgirls at a sorority party. Afterwards Kate and I dash for a taxi, similarly giggling, and get told off by our driver for shouting right under his intercom. She can hardly hear and I, unfortunately positioned behind the guy with the biggest camera and biggest flash-gun in the room who insisted on shooting the band the WHOLE. FUCKING. NIGHT., can hardly see. But I feel like I’m fifteen years old, and don’t even mind that I still have to pack for the morning’s early flight.
Twelve hours later I’m in Leicester Square and Lola, Murph and some post-Neds Midlands boys have already finished their burgers. It’s a miracle I even made it after misjudging the train to Prestwick Airport for maximum time in bed, but with just a change of underwear and a tenner in my Oyster card I’m traveling lighter than I do normally. After putting Jay on a train back to Glasgow, the bezzer and I retired to the Travelodge, set up base camp for the rest of the weekend and nerded out on Fun Facts About the London Underground.
The quality of both the food and the eavesdropping at Masala Zone was excellent – so excellent, in fact, that we lingered too long over dinner, although perhaps the District Line was to blame. Whatever the reason, Dave and Christine were mid-song when we finally arrived at the Half Moon. “Bollocks to it,” I thought, having assumed that I had once again missed a Marah set by all but half a song… but the show was not like that at all. Rather than play discrete sets the performers sat in a line onstage and took it in turns to play a track, with whoever hadn’t nipped out for a fly ciggie in their down time often joining in. Rather than witness a conventional gig on the tiny stage, it was like being a part of the best open mic night ever – and if you disagree, just let me know next time Jesse Malin’s down your local and I’m there!
So it turns out I rather like Badly Drawn Boy – I had no reason to think I wouldn’t, but exploring his back catalogue is something I’ve never gotten around to. He seemed a little quiet on stage with the revolving Light of Day performers, most of whom had been on the road to benefit the Parkinsons Disease Foundation for a couple of months. I fell in love with the warm-voiced Joe D’Urzo, and while I don’t know if I’d ever listen to his music independently I wasn’t complaining when it was his or Willie Nile’s turn to step up to the mic. But it was the double sucker-punch of songs to save your life in “Solitaire” (which the old guy next to me and I sang along to louder than anyone else in the room) and “Walt Whitman Bridge” which got to me most, as did a closing full line-up cover of one of my favourite Dylan songs and a bizarre medley which featured “Twist and Shout”, “Blitzkreig Bop” and “La Bamba”.
And then it almost went horribly wrong. I emerged bleary-eyed from the shower this morning to find the bezzer glued to BBC News. “There’s some fucking hippies on the runway at Stansted, they’ve closed the airport,” she said. My first thought was not delight at a potential enforced extension to my visit to a city I’ve grown to love (particularly from the top floor of a bus through Knightsbridge with the Christmas lights on) but rather upset that my ridiculously expensive Stansted Express return might end up going to waste. It turned out that everything was up and running in time for my 11:55am plane, but passengers on 52 earlier Ryanair flights had not been so lucky. Reason to be glad of my need for a little more sleep in the mornings, and reliance on the public transport system to take me places. It wasn’t enough to detract from the sheer fabness of the weekend though, much as it stressed me out at the time.
Oh, and an announcement: 2009 may be Scotland’s year of Homecoming, but more importantly it marks a decade of me knowing this bint. We’re planning a programme of events that will put Alex Salmond to shame – consider yourselves warned.