Saturday, January 29, 2005


January 29 (Saturday): Today was a day I had been looking forward to for a very long time. At the Colchester Arts Centre this evening is a John Peel tribute show made up of local bands that once recorded a session for him. It’s a genuine shame that Hirameka could not do this show considering they did two Peel sessions; this event should have reflected some gratitude from Gringo Records. It is a free event so as a result it will be packed and a lot of people will be out including Richard coming down from London for the show. Likewise Mark will be in attendance and so will Chris and Sofie.

After doing the newspaper run otherwise it is a pretty normal, stock Saturday sat waiting for the event to happen. I spend the day tidying my flat in anticipation of Richard’s stay and pulling together some CDs with view to possibly DJing at the gig as Staff asked me yesterday. With the prospect of it being a full house though this is a very scary prospect.

In the evening I meet up with Mark and head to the venue where we are plainly some of the first people to turn up.

Slowly the others turn up and when Richard arrives from London he has just come from watching the movies Sideways with his housemates. He says how the movie is pretty emotional and at the end his friend has to take some time to himself.

The Arts Centre looks great this evening. Behind the stage is a huge video backdrop playing a documentary about John Peel which has the audience transfixed at his greatness. Some people get more emotionally involved than others.

The first band to play are THE SECRET HAIRDRESSER performing in front of a huge backdrop of Peel’s head. There is something incredibly likeable this band, something reminiscent of Urusei Yatsura, chunky but clean and with some kind of sense of adventure and charm attached to their set.

In order to fit in so many acts (and a Steve Lamacq DJ set) this evening the bands are doing short sets which keeps things light and zippy.

Next comes Adam and his CATS AGAINST THE BOMB set. By this point the venue is now almost full and with so many baying people squashed towards the front below him Adam puts on a true industrial sounding heavy set in order to knock aside any detractors. Wearing his customary Hawaiian shirt there is a big sound applied to his set as he overcomes a potentially sceptical audience by pummelling them into the ground. With the photo of John Peel behind him looking on like the face in 1984 there is an almost Nine Inch Nails feel to the bubbling sound.

Following on the bill come the DAWN PARADE. Here is a band fucking designed to appeal to wet indie kids. With their sound some kind of filtered guitar schmindie you get the impression that their main inspirations and favourite bands are Suede and Placebo, in that order. They churn out their set, they pull poses and they attempt to look disjointed and rebellious while also concentrating really hard on getting every single part of their set right and perfect. This is so horribly well adjusted, adult approved rock. Why on earth did Peel see in them?

In contrast EXTREME NOISE TERROR rip up the stage, not caring what people think only that they think something. The two headed monster that screams out the vocals (and lyrics?) is what the spirit of Peel is truly about. In the audience today are some smart people in sensible clothes looking forward to seeing Steve Harley this evening. With their din EXTREME NOISE TERROR blow off their wigs. More times that not appears as if they are screaming direct into the face of the John Peel visual. The barrage rocks the old church and at this time seldom could there be a tribute so fitting.

By this point STEVE LAMACQ has turned up and just before he begins his DJ set he rolls out a short heartfelt tribute to John Peel of genuine affection and appreciation. He then tears into the first song of his set which is a Mudhoney song from the Peel Session Sub Pop compilation, a CD I have ripped songs from myself for DJing if required.

Some dance people, some people cry but all dispose memories of Peel onto proceedings. Behind us standing is the sour faced girl I always fancied when clubbing at this venue and for once she appears to be actually moved away from frown.

The night ends with STEVE HARLEY taking to the stage with his mate in tow playing guitar. He is well seasoned and well groomed professional. He shares anecdotes and oozes some kind of personality in the kind of form that appeals to the parents in attendance tonight. When he delivers “Come Make Me Smile” it is done so in manner that completely strips and mutates the song down to a level of personal connection with anyone in the audience looking to be touched. This truly displays the strength of the song and why over the years it has rightfully been acknowledged as a classic. His jokes about getting paid fail on the highest level (we are not his generation) but despite not being the most obvious of choices as a Peel act his performance feels sincere and true in its dedication.

As the night comes to an end Staff comes over to me to ask if I have “Teenage Kicks” in my CD collection. I nod vehemently, I truly hate that song. He looks at me disappointed before heading off elsewhere in search of a copy so that the night can end with tribute to the man with his favourite song.

After the Harley set Anthony from the Arts Centre hits the stage with a final appreciation and tribute for John Peel before the documentary rolls with “Teenage Kicks” playing and Anthony bowing in a “we’re not worthy” manner at the spectre of John Peel.

Quickly I get asked to DJ as Steve Lamacq has run out of tunes (more likely packed up for the evening) and as I grab the CD decks I open with “I Want You” by the Inspiral Carpets and Mark E. Smith. I say “hello” to Steve Lamacq and as ever I am pleasantly surprised/shocked when he remembers me. We do a brief bit of the usual chit chat before I remember that his dad may or may not have been an accountant in Halstead and I ask him if his dad has any jobs going.

At this point I am pulled away by a delighted punter shouting at me “is this the Inspiral Carpets?” See, I know my crowd and what they want. Sometimes.

My set is brief as the decks are switched off after the next song (The Fall’s version of “A Day In The Life” I think) in order for people to clear the venue.

Today was a great night, a true celebration that felt appropriate and well judged/measured.

After the show we linger outside the venue for a while, everyone freezing in the winter coats and the suffocation of a chilly January night. With this out comes the camera and many great memories are digitally caught for history. All reality of my current job situation is long forgotten for a brief evening and no worries are in sight.

We wind up in Sam’s Pizzeria where they make the finest pizza pies in Colchester. We sit eating facing mirrored walls with smiles glowing and true promise lying ahead.

We rule the school.


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