All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 125 – Lush, Saturday, May 07, 2016, Roundhouse

My new 40-something gigging life began in earnest with my first – and sadly also last – gig from the wonderful Lush.

It was May 2016, and compared to how things had been going at the time of my last gig – Little Boots in November 2015 – things were looking up. My neverending PhD finally had its end in sight, and I had taken out a loan to cover my living costs so that I could focus completely on getting the damn thesis finished without a day job getting in the way. So I was, for probably the last time in my life, a full time student.

But more importantly than that, I’d just turned 41 and my midlife crisis was in full swing. Happily for me it involved no ill-advised flings or car purchases, just an unquenchable desire to go to as many gigs as possible. I’d tested the water at Little Boots back in November, but in truth, what I really wanted was to see all the bands I’d loved in my youth once again. I named this plan the New ’97 Life, after the best year of gigs I’d ever experienced, 1997. After a mini escapade in March to see Suede performing on the One Show, here in May I had three gigs by three of my absolute favorite bands from my youth lined up in quick succession. This is where my new ’97-style gigging life truly began.

And the first of these three gigs was this dazzlingly uplifting show from Lush. They were a band I’d fallen in love with in around the time of my Great Indie Conversion in 1992. Even though they’d been overshadowed in my obsessions by Ride at the time, “Spooky” was rarely far from my CD player that year, and I loved its 1994 follow-up “Split” even more. I might even have been able to see the band live when they’d toured Perth in 1992, had I been a more confident girl, equipped with the wherewithal to rebel against my parents’ decree that on no account could my 17 year old self think of sneaking into an 18+ gig. Sadly, this was not the case, and by the time I made it to London in 1997, they had disbanded.

I had therefore never expected to get the chance to see them live, but in 2016, the stars seemed to align to allow me to witness almost every band I’d ever loved, including Lush. So out I went this spring evening to commence my new gigging life. Surprisingly. despite my prolific gig habit of the late 90’s, I’d never found myself at the Roundhouse before. It turned out that my first moments in the venue were not hugely auspicious ones. From my diary:

‘Got to the Roundhouse about half past eight, peered at the merch then stepped into the standing area as the support band Spectres were on. And nearly stepped out again. I mean, I know I loved many purveyors of loud feedback noise in my time, but either I’m too old for it now, or Spectres were just bloody awful at it.’

Somewhat perturbed by this racket I hastily retreated to the loo, then the bar. ‘I hadn’t planned on booze, as it’s not in the ’97 spirit, but the queasy heat of the tube plus the prospect of standing through this cacophony made me request a small house red on top of my bottle of water. Happily, the precise moment I stepped away from the bar the barrage ended, so I was able to wander around the standing space in comfort to find the best spot to stand.’

I had planned to stand back a bit and have space to bop about, but old instincts propelled me towards the barrier and I ended up second row to the far right. Finding myself back in this familiar gig spot, and about to see a band I’d loved for years when my recent habits would probably have seen me ignoring their tour entirely, made me feel a little emotional as I sipped my wine.

‘When the band walked on stage, there was a moment when I nearly dissolved into tears, not so much because of them, but because it was actually real, I had successfully relaunched my gigging life. And then they lunch into “De-Luxe” and there’s no time to be maudlin and just time to dance!’

And so I proceeded to have a night full of of joyful, uplifting tunes. As someone who perhaps can get a tad over-emotional about my all-time favourite bands, sometimes I overlook the ones who may not have changed my life, but still provided the songs and sounds that made being a teen in the 90s the best possible gift a music fan could ask of the universe. This night, I was reminded of just how big a part Lush had played in that.

‘You know, it was just song after song of happy indie memories. There was nothing that was epically moving or surprising, but why should there be? That’s not what Lush are to me, after all. They were never a band I lived and died for, but a solid friend, backgrounding the early 90s while other bands squeezed my soul.’

I was happy to hear many tunes from my favourite era of the band. ‘There was a definite “Split” bias to the setlist, with songs like “Lovelife” and “Hypocrite” being joyful singalongs, “Undertow” and “Light From A Dead Star” shining and atmospheric.’

As for their earlier tracks, there were thrills aplenty, even if my absolute fave was sadly missing. ‘The “Gala” era songs all still kind of merge in my head, but they were all great. I would have loved “Nothing Natural” but “For Love”, “Stray” and the closing “Monochrome” flew the “Spooky” flag admirably. Best of all though had to be “Sweetness and Light”, closing the main set with jangly ethereal joy.’

The crowd that night were predictably middle aged, ‘though Miki got quite a loud response when she asked if anyone was under 40 (one suspects that most of these were 39, but still.)‘ This was good as there was no crush at all, even near the front. But the lack of crush didn’t mean people weren’t having an incredible gig. I was particularly taken by the woman in front of me, a ‘Bjork-haired girl who was having the gig of her life, screaming and shouting and dancing like a loon. She notably did not shout out when Miki asked for the under 40s, so maybe there’s hope for us yet!

I had a great time, but even more important was the fact that I had made a conscious effort to rekindle my love for the gigging life, and had succeeded. ‘The point is that I was bothered. I got on the tube to Camden and stood and danced and sang, when I could so easily have stayed home listening to audiobooks and playing Candy Crush Saga. Is that not amazing?’

Most of all, I’m just so glad that I have at least this one gig experience to cherish from a band who soundtracked my late teens so wonderfully. I was struck with an enormous sense of affection for the four wonderful people on the stage: ‘Though it was my very first Lush gig, I had the overwhelming sense of greeting an old old friend.’

I do live in hope that the time might one day be right for them to reform again, perhaps for one final album and a few gigs. In the mean time, however, we at least have Miki’s fantastic new band Piroshka to enjoy, and with live music actually looking likely to return in the very near future, I can’t wait to see her up on a stage again soon.

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