Monday, August 13, 2007

Second night nerves- Blackpool's Burning

The second and last show of the 'should have been cancelled' mini tour was the big one- on the main stage at The Rebellion Festival at The Winter Gardens in Blackpool. A gig to be nervous about at the best of times, this one's compounded by the fact that the band was initially billed as 'The Ruts' as opposed to 'Foxy's Ruts' which led to speculation as to how many original members were due to be performing and even as to whether Henry Rollins might be singing; add to that the fact that The Empress Ballroom holds several thousand people and that we were on the same day as such punk luminaries as The U.K. Subs, Penetration and The Adicts and you have what could politely be called a 'pressure' gig.

I was working in the shop on Saturday which meant that I couldn't go up then with the rest of the band- a shame since old Price cronies were everywhere (Newtown Neurotics, T.V. Smith, Lurkers, Blaggers etc) as well as plenty of other people that I'd like to have seen- ah well, there's always next year... so I was up worryingly early Sunday morning and on the tube to Euston Square by 8.30a.m.- I'd forgotten how quiet it is at that time of the week (if you see what I mean). I wanted to get on the 10.01 service to Lancaster- change at Preston for the Blackpool North train. I was at Euston for 9.25- plenty of time to get my ticket (£63.90!) and some overpriced food and drink (£5.15! -mind you, a good 'Quadrophenia' reference methinks) and await the arrival of the 10.01... which, to cut a long story short, becomes the 11.01 (a disembodied voice blamed 'over-running engineering work in the Rugby area') amid much foaming-at-the-mouth from a large number of Manchester United supporters- and some human beings unfortunate enough to be near them at the time.

Scum. Nothing else.

Meanwhile I'm on the train at last with the latest 'Mojo' magazine (excellent Stones/Keef feature) and Derren Brown's 'Trick of the Mind' book (excellent generally) for company. We wind our way up the country- I always remember Crewe station as being massive 'though I guess I was smaller the last time I went through it?- without too many hiccups until a voice announces 'due to the late running of this service it will now be terminating at... (pauses, almost as if they're deciding where it's going to be terminating at; everybody's listening now...) Preston' (a relief for me but not so good for the man down the aisle from me currently barking into his mobile phone...). At Wigan a family get on and sit nearby; Dad's wearing a suit without a tie, Mum's in what I'd imagine to be her 'best' dress, the boy and two girls are smartly dressed too but Mum & Dad aren't happy- the boy points out the local football ground and his Mum scowls 'why would I want to see that?'. Dad stares out of the window, not looking at any of them and not looking as though he ever wants to again. After what seems like hours we reach Preston where the words 'WELCOME TO LANCASHIRE' are emblazoned over the exit. There's a train in for Blackpool North- I've got a ticket for Blackpool South but the ticket inspector says it's ok for me to use it on this train. The carriage is full of seaside-bound revellers singing 'Glory glory Man. United'. I can't wait to get out; to take my mind off them I send a suitably unpleasant text about them to Stuart the guitar repairman who responds with enough vitriol to melt my phone. Good man.

At last I'm in Blackpool. (there's something I never thought I'd write!). Outside the venue there's about a hundred or so punky looking people, most of whom are smoking. I call Mark Wyeth who brings me out my 'Access All Areas' wristband- we walk through to the Ballroom where the evocatively-named Suicide Bid are finishing their set; I follow Mark into our dressing room and say hello to drummer Laurie and singer Mark. We're due on in about an hour-and-a-half so there's plenty of time to write a setlist out (after much discussion we settle on the same one as the previous show), get changed, warm up by running through 'H-Eyes' and generally sort ourselves out for the show. I wandered back into the ballroom where Sonic Boom Six are now playing- the hall's not that full but I still reckon there was a thousand or so people watching them. Hmm... imagine if it were full...
An hour-and-a-quarter later and the hall is very full indeed. I'm on the stage setting my stuff up- I've got a Marshall TSL 100W stack to play through and it sounds terrific. I look out into the hall- it's the one that you see on telly, you know the one, where the political conferences come from? The audience looks a bit different today though. Most of them are expecting to see Paul Fox playing guitar but instead they're going to see me. Let's hope they like what they see.
15 minutes later and Max Splodge is on stage introducing us. He tells the story- similar to Kevin at the previous gig but better somehow, maybe a bit more heartfelt, or personal, or something... we walk out on to the stage, I pick up my guitar and look out- Price fan Andy Knight is in the front row, a friendly face among thousands. Halfway through 'H-Eyes' and no-one's thrown anything yet; I put my head down and solo- the song ends to enough applause to nearly knock us over. Thank God for that... after the show we all agreed that we played better at Fordham (Laurie was particularly unhappy with his performance saying that he felt that he 'ran out of steam') but couldn't believe the response from the crowd, everything that we could have hoped for and more. As I came offstage I heard my name called- it was Steve from The Neurotics. Talking to him I mention the lack of rehearsal; during the conversation I realise that we didn't play any of the songs that I ran through with the 2 Marks last Thursday (it seems so much longer ago than that). Amazing. People are coming over to me to shake my hand, to say thanks, to talk of the emotions that they felt as we played, as I played, the music meaning so much to them, to me, to us all. Incredible.

After getting changed and cooling off a bit Laurie and myself watched a couple of songs by The U.K. Subs (sounding as good as ever; actually I've just remembered that I lent them a guitar lead and didn't get it back. Bugger!) then went to get something to eat. We were talking about how no-one ever recognises either of us after gigs (Mark the singer gets mobbed every time!) when the guy on the table next to us comes over- he looks as though he's been crying and it turns out that he has. He couldn't believe our performance, how well we'd played under the circumstances, he shakes my hand so hard that it hurts but it doesn't matter. How could it after what he'd just said? Later on I meet Marco from Germany- The Ruts are his favourite band ever, he loved it, didn't want it to end. I tell him how much his comments mean to me; as I say it someone walks by with 'you only get one life- what you do with it is up to you' written on their t-shirt. I saw some of Penetration's set- I last saw them nearly 30 years ago, never thought I'd ever play on the same bill as them. As I'm t-shirt shopping for my brother Terry I bump into Arturo from The Lurkers who tells me how good it all sounded; I say I'll see him for a drink at the acoustic stage when John Cooper Clarke's on, in the meantime join the rest of the band in the bar. We swap stories of what people have said to us; Andy Knight comes over to say how much he loved it and how everyone he's spoken to are saying it was one of the best sets of the festival. Laurie says he's spoken to Paul, he sounded 'gutted' not to have been here but pleased that it went well. We go back in to see a bit of The Adicts set then I go off to meet Art and to see John Cooper Clarke. As I get there I'm told that JCC hadn't turned up.

Oh well- I guess something had to go wrong didn't it?!?

Here's a clip from the gig:-

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