Episodes of Band Management Part 1.
A cough masks the click of the guitarist’s effect pedal being pressed into action and then the opening flickers of the band’s first number begins. I smile recognising their song but I have a problem, I’m not in the building yet.
It’s Friday night and a full moon should be centre stage the sky, instead it’s hiding beneath a curtain of cloud and I’m already late to Valentine Gray’s pre-Bestival gig. I’m sort of their manager and/or press guy and continuing my useless streak by only just making it in time.
They’re playing their breed of super-fuzz and weird beauty pop in a space that can only be described as the entrance to the rear smoking area. It’s a decent size gathering and I try my best to mingle in the crowd and make eye-contact with one of the members.
“Hey, hey! Sounding sweet guys,” I say internally, hoping it reaches one of them telepathically.
Instead, I’m spooked to see Jon, guitarist, making the classic “Why the fuck isn’t my guitar working?” face. It’s a look of sheer panic I’d like to see on The Edge’s face at every one of U2’s over-priced, hypocritical and vain arena shows. It’s like finding a child face down in a swimming pool, eventually someone makes methodical steps to revive the lifeless void, which in tonight’s instance, is a Fender Telecaster and a multi-effects unit. I realise I should help, but I have no idea what to do and, as the rest of the band carry on, a gargle of distortion rumbles from Jon’s amp.
I exhale with relief. The last time I saw these boys live, I witnessed a gig riddled with problems mainly due to an inadequate drum kit and the main songwriter forgetting how to play his own song.
Alas, the problems arise again.
“What is going on, boys? That feedback is driving me fucking mental.”
Owain isn’t very happy. Although feedback is very present in their sound it’s wrapped in beauty and used with precession like a painter using a specific brush in a masterpiece. This constant screech isn’t enjoyable and has nothing to do with the band and whilst readjusting his kit Owain asks again.
“What the fuck is going on?”
Regardless, they carry on and sound fucking brilliant. I know I’m biased but I’m also sober and this is definitely fucking brilliant.
As an ill educated guitar geek, I chuckle at Ross’ Big Muff. I’m very immature. With their pop-thrash-gem Dirty World piercing skulls, I begin to imagine other rude names for stomp boxes like the Mighty Knockers delay pedal or The Randy Cowgirl wah-wah, when I detect a distinct lack of drumming. Yet again, Owain is rearranging his kit mid-song.
For fuck sake, this is what happens when Owain is provided with a drum kit that looks like Fisher Price built it during an industrial strike. The problem lies with the fact that Owain isn’t a boring human metronome, he’s actually a motherfucking monster who smashes the kit so hard you’d fear for your teeth if you accidentally knock over his pint. And he can keep time too, obviously.
With one more song to go, both Owain and Ross take a swig of beer from a glass that had been happily sitting on Firm’s bass amp. Owain takes an almighty gulp just as the intro begins. Attention switches to Ross picking the opening notes of Monocle, but in the background Owain is waving his arms with alarm.
He’s spilt delicious beer all over Firm’s bass amp.
Firm, unawares, carries on plucking his part oblivious to the possible near-death experience he’s about to part-take in. Whilst I bystander begins mopping up with a hoodie, I begin scripting the call to the emergency services if things go bang. This seems sensible as band manager, who’s turned up late and hasn’t helped rescue a single problem.
An hour or so later, after hearing every member tell me or someone else that was the worst show they’ve ever played, I try assuring Ross their set was brilliant and highlight their resistance to allow these problems bring them down.
He looks at me as if he wishes I was playing bass, whilst he, and the rest of the band, pour an entire barrel of beer over the amp.
I decide to go head outside to find the full moon.
I can’t, so decide to catch a bus home, which is inevitably running late.
More on Valentine Gray HERE
Jack Gorman HERE