Ladies and gentlemen: I know how shocking this sounds, but yesterday I thought for a brief minute or two that I had found enlightenment in the pages of the Daily Mail. It was just before we left for the airport, and I was flicking through one of its deceptively glossy supplements (oh shush – your nan buys it too) when I came across an article on weekend stress.
Oh go on, laugh. I am well aware how pathetic identifying with such an article makes me sound, and I would like to stress (ha!) that it is not the case that weekends stress me out. I just have a habit of taking on too many fun things I don’t have time for during the week, and then getting worried about the housework/grocery shopping type things that I end up not having time for during the week or at the weekend. Believe me, I was rolling my eyes and giggling by the time I got as far as I start to panic that I can’t possibly get the house clean and the food cooked for Saturday dinner, not if I’m getting everything fresh from the local farmers’ market too. Gawd bless you, Daily Mail, for reminding me that my life will never be so soul-destroying.
Okay. Picture the scene. It’s Monday morning – last Monday when I was off, so as good as the weekend – and after an unfruitful Sunday spend tramping the streets of the city centre in search of an open hairdresser (we eventually gave up and went to see Be Kind Rewind instead) I decide that it might be nice to have a quick cut and colour before I head out for physiotherapy. So I shove a hoodie on over my pyjamas and pop outside for some breakfast, a newspaper and to enquire as to the possibility of an appointment. “Oh, we can just take you now,” they say. And so, folding my arms over my chest so that nobody can tell I’m not wearing a bra under the grotty old t-shirt and jogging buttoms that comprises my nightwear, I sit in the chair and get fussed over for TWO HOURS. They do a good job, but I end up having to wolf down a sandwich in the bath before jumping in a taxi. I’m so stressed out by the time I get to the hospital that I almost don’t enjoy the gig that night.
Actually, that last part was me just feeling overly sorry for myself and I don’t think I’m fooling anyone. The Hold Steady are still the greatest live band touring today, and seeing them twice in the space of three days didn’t take away from my enjoyment any. Between the Glasgow and London shows, Jay and I were lucky to dance and scream along to all of our favourites – even such unlikely live cuts as “Banging Camp” and “How A Resurrection Really Feels”. The new tracks haven’t really found their feet as yet, but it’s difficult to judge them fairly when the rest of the material is this strong.
Local band The Haze opened both shows; swagger and bravado in trench coats and megaphones. Like lager, fart jokes and Razorlight the band had a distinct flavour of “not my demographic” about them, but they were good at what they did and the shower of numpties down the front seemed into it. (The onstage banter was decidedly more subdued in London). I enjoyed their set, but by that stage I was so excited I would have danced to my brother battering out “Free Bird” on his acoustic guitar.
Bombay Bicycle Club held down the second support slot at the Koko, performing to a crowd of NME competition winners in the pit soem of whom spent the entire set trying to figure out how their digital SLRs worked. Sweet kids, the band, with a hint of the Vampire Weekend about them – not world music influences, or whatever they’re calling it, so much as the Oxon that slipped out every time they opened their mouths. They were dead good, for ones so young, and I’m sure you’ll be reading more about them in the music press in the coming months. And they didn’t excite the headliners’ fans enough that I wasn’t able to make it back to my prime bit of barrier real estate after a necessary loo break.
I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about too-cool-for-school London crowds, but I can’t imagine anybody listening to The Hold Steady to be “cool”. The band approach the stage with the joyful enthusiasm of five-year-old kids in a sandpit, and it’s an enthusiasm that’s infectious. I danced the night away in Glasgow, and avoided flailing elbows in London while Jay single-handedly held a moshpit off my back. Good times though, good times – and I grinned at Hold Steady champion and celebrity Last Year’s Girl commenter Michael Hann of the Guardian in his safe space behind the stage.
It’s been a great week, and a change is as good as a rest after all. Still to come, if I get the chance: scrumpy, jelly beans and eight-week-old puppies! Sneak previews, as well as more gig photos, on Flickr here.