All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 148 – Ride, Tuesday, November 7, 2017, Kentish Town Forum

My very first Ride gig. It had been a long, long wait.

In order to fully convey the significance of this, my first ever Ride gig in November 2017, I need to take you back to a bleak, desolate night in July 1992, a chilly midwinter Perth evening in which my 17 year old self was officially Not Happy At All. The reason? Ride, who were my favourite band in the world – for a whole four months at this point – had actually made it to Perth on their Australian tour and were playing in the city that night. But gigs were 18+ affairs in Australia in those days, and despite much pleading to my parents, I had not been allowed to go. In the short time since I had been completely blown away by their incredible single “Leave Them All Behind”, they had raced to a place in my obsessions that only David Bowie could rival, and the knowledge that they were so close and yet so far away was torturous. My diary entry of this night puts it very succinctly: ‘I am in hell‘.

Happily, I somehow managed to survive this most insurmountable episode of pain and anguish, and lived to listen to my Ride CDs another day. My dream of escaping to London one day so that I could finally see all my beloved bands live, and never go through such a hellish experience again, strengthened with each passing moment. However, by the time I did make it to London at the end of 1996, a few things had changed. First, Ride had been booted from my favourite band spot by the Manics in 1993. Then their 1994 album “Carnival Of Light” came along, full of bland and uninspiring tunes in a year when so many bands were releasing their career highlights, and caused them to drop yet further down my ranking of faves. And then, just to compound it all, they only went and split up.

Over the ensuing decades, I thought fondly of Ride as a band who had played a hugely important part in my music fan life, and whose songs helped me navigate and survive my difficult final year of high school. I was happy to see Andy Bell up on the stage with Oasis when I saw that band in 2000, but I certainly never expected Ride to get back together again.

But then came the 2010s, the decade in which it seems that every single 90s indie band decided it was time to patch up their differences and head out on the road or into the studio once more. And so I found myself down the front at the Kentish Town Forum, waiting to finally have the experience that it had crushed me so much to miss back in 1992. And that ’92 night was very much on my mind as I waited for the band to appear. From my diary:

‘I like to imagine that, round about 8.47pm, when I was down the front at the Forum staring at the RIDE logo through swirls of dry ice as the stage was being set for them, that just for a fraction of a second some magical imp or fairy god-demon appeared before my 17 year old self, sitting bitter and despondent on the night of 13th July 1992, and allowed her to see through her own 25 years and four months older eyes.

Perhaps omitting the fact that it would in fact take 25 years and 4 months to get to that moment, mind you.

One thing’s for sure: that 17 year old had damn good taste in favourite bands.’

My only photo from this night, alas. You can just about make out the logo!

Regardless of the actions of time travelling imps, or lack thereof, to finally be able to see this band who had been so pivotal to me at 17 was truly momentous. So, after all the time that had passed, and everything that had happened since that desolate July ’92 night, what was it like, seeing Ride live? It was, of course, absolutely incredible. Reflecting on the gig the following day, I marveled at the unique position the band holds in my music fan life.

‘They were everything for a short period of time, then kind of disappeared. It’s really only 1992 and 2017 that they feature in my life in any tangible sense, with minor outposts in ’93 and ’94. Yet they have a back catalogue that seems immense and all-conquering. Last night, as they stormed through “Seagull” and “Like A Daydream” and “Unfamiliar”, pulling out classic after classic from a seemingly bottomless well, I felt a strong sense of pride and vindication for 1992 me. Back then, Ride and their shoegazing chums were portrayed as lesser siblings to behemoths like My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, but now, they are the victors, the elder statesmen of shoe, owning the stage and throwing out storming tune after storming tune like it’s the easiest thing on earth. It seems unfeasible that for the best part of the last two decades they didn’t exist at all.’

As with many gigs in my revived gigging career, it was a night of middle aged blokes reliving their youth, ‘for the moshpit beside me was heaving with pogoing oldies, crashing about with sheepish grins on their faces. They’ll no doubt be feeling it in their hips and knees today.’

And me? ‘To the far-ish right, at the barrier, pretty much exactly the same spot as for Kula Shaker eleven months ago. Mostly, just in awe of their perfectly honed indie rock prowess. The new tunes sounded great – big, atmospheric, tuneful. But it was the classics that set the crowd alight.

But it was not all smooth sailing this night. As if to commemorate my night of despair 25 years earlier, I had to find something to stress about when I finally got to see Ride live, didn’t I?

‘Also: anxiety set in half way through, as song after song went by, and no “Leave Them All Behind”. I had just resigned myself, when it got to the encore, that I wasn’t going to hear it, when those bleeps emanated through the mists of memory, and I nearly burst into tears, and indeed flames, with the ecstatic relief.’

Luckily the ignition of Scruffy was narrowly evaded, and I had that incredible experience of hearing “Leave Them All Behind” live for the first time in my life – truly, one of the greatest gig experiences I’ve ever had.

And what came next? Merch frenzy, of course! Well, a small one. ‘Then they ended with “Chelsea Girl”, and I bought a t-shirt.’

And the rest, as they say, is history. Ride were fully resurrected to their spot as one of my all-time favourite bands, and claimed a VIP place in my gigging priorities, with gigs at Rough Trade East, PRYZM and the Barbican to come in 2019, and their Roundhouse show for the 21st anniversary of “Nowhere” booked for 2022.

But that’s not all. With this post, I have finally concluded my All The Gigs Of My Life series, and now, every single gig I have ever been to is recorded in as much detail as possible on this blog. After four years working on this project, it’s strange to think that I will no longer spend my days typing up diary entries from my youth (or at least slightly younger than I am now), and trying to turn those entries, strewn with exclamation marks and excitable proclamations about a brilliant gig I’d just been to, into some kind of coherent blog post.

There’s loads more to come – I have plenty still to write about my favourite songs and albums, for one thing. And of course, any new gigs I attend will receive the full Scruffy treatment, and I will aspire to be as true to the emotion, the inspiration and the joy of live music as I ever was when writing in my diary as an exhilarated teen or 20-something. But for now, it feels beautifully fitting to be ending this series with a gig that saw me finally, after a 25 year wait, getting to see the band that I had wished so much could have been my gig no.1.

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