After intense rehearsals we played our debut show in a Manchester rock club the following month. Transporting our equipment (2 guitars, 1 bass, 3 amplifiers, 1 PA rig and a full drum kit) in 3 bus trips from Ancoats to Piccadilly was like a long drawn out and very unwatchable Crystal Maze task. Whilst unpacking our gear at the venue American Pete noticed that one of the other bands on the bill was comically entitled “Cowpuncher”
Seething with leftist rage and self righteous indignation, he immediately set about finding a member of the band, anyone, just so that he could “kick their fucking ass” for cruelty to animals. After storming around the venue moaning like an injured bovine he didn’t manage to find any unsuspecting member of Cowpuncher until the soundcheck. By that time however, luckily for them, his coiled spring of resentment and rage had been deflated earlier when he upturned a hot dog vendors cart in an ad-hoc protest against meat eating on Market Street.
The set was an unmitigated disaster – prior to playing the opening song, it struck me with horror that we hadn’t actually formalised between ourselves a common consensus as to how many bars the opening riff lasted. I rushed up to the bass player in a panic, his demeanour told me it was too late to commence negotiations 3 seconds before we were about to start – so we started. I seem to recall the riff going on for about 2 and a half minutes – it should have been 25 seconds – each band member took to wandering around the stage trying to make eye contact with another with a view to physically signal some sort of break in the wall of noise. The entire song should have only lasted 3 and a quarter minutes. The rest of the set was went downhill from there.
Nearly 2 years passed of gigging and rehearsing. The egregious attitude and lack of gumption of my band mates began to grate. For example – we were rehearsing one afternoon when the guitar player’s phone rang. He went outside to take the call then returned five minutes later, sullen faced and in a state of shock. Asking him if he’s just received news of a bereavement, he retorted that he had just been fired because he had forgotten to turn up for work.
The schism between competence and wanton idiocy was already perceivable at this point, and this act of unsurpassable doltery simply widened it even more. How can we be penning lyrics about changing the world and spreading the word of a better way of living to the unwashed masses? One of our number can’t even remember if he has a fucking job. Hardly the template for the “new world citizen” that the hardcore punk scene envisaged for the little people.
One day, in an act of self amusement more than anything else I stuck a Union Flag sticker onto the back of my guitar. Now this may seem like a fairly tame and innocuous act considering that at the time Noel Gallagher had an entire guitar bearing the very same flag, but upon reflection Oasis didn’t write songs entitled “Fuck National Pride” and “Blowup your Borders”. The mere fact it was there as a surreptitious symbol of irony afforded me the occasional subtle smirk that enabled me to weather the increasingly frequent bouts of frustration – think Paul Merton’s face whilst listening to a rambling Hislop monologue. Anyway…it backfired soon enough.
A few weeks hence I arrived at the rehearsal room in dire need of the toilet. I threw my guitar case and amplifier into the practice room and instructed the band to set up in my absence so we weren’t paying for dead time. I returned ten minutes later to the sight of four grown men standing around my open guitar case wearing an expression usually reserved for emergency first responders when they encounter the cadaver of a child. Quite how our national flag occupies one side of an equation balanced by racism on the other still remains a mystery to me – the two in my mind are mutually exclusive – but alas the majority of musicians don’t see it in that light, and they proceeded to spend the next 15 mins angrily endeavouring to convince otherwise. Tensions died down after a while, but always remained perceptible – like an adulterous husband on an uneasy post-affair probation with his wife, both knowing that the next transgression was “when” as opposed to “if”.
© Shibusa 2017