For a short while, while I was around 16, there was a flurry of great concerts in my home town, Stoke-on-Trent. To be more precise, there was a flurry of great concerts at the Victoria Hall in Hanley. Old, small, and frankly off the beaten track of the gig circuit for quite a while, suddenly this place brought in some wonderful bands. My school friends and I took advantage of this, and as a result I saw Manchester favourites James, a very early performance by The Charlatans (just on the release of ‘Some Friendly’), and a beyond-shambolic performance by The Farm (truly, truly awful – it went beyond comic and came back out on the side of ‘was that for real?’). The highlight, beyond any doubt, however was a performance by Pixies to celebrate the release of ‘Bossanova’. Pixies. Stoke. I can still barely believe that it happened.
A few things stick with me from that night. First of all – it was an amazing show. I truly wish that I could just transport back to witness it again – I’d get so much more out of it now (youth is wasted on the young). At the time, I realised that it was a special occasion – I was acutely aware of it – but still didn’t appreciate the full gravity of a show by a band that were essentially still in the process of laying the foundations for ‘guitar driven music’ in the 90s.
Secondly, there was the fact that me and my mate Nick were clearly far younger than any of the other people in the standing area of the concert. I realise that a lot of you won’t know Stoke. Suffice to say that, as the birthplace of Lemmy, it’s a place with more than its fair share of ‘rockers’. The volume of studded black leather jackets, and old blokes with facial hair was tremendous. My mate and I clearly stood out.
Thirdly, and this is where I get to making my point, it was exactly the same as every other concert I went to in that period in one particular manner. To my young ears, hearing the pre-concert chatter among the older clientele was infuriating. It seemed that just about every conversation was about ‘going to see Zeppelin at Bingley Hall’, or ‘Motorhead playing in Manchester’ or ‘Black Sabbath playing Hanley’. Honestly, it drove me bonkers. It felt like there was just an endless stream of old blokes trying to justify why they had a valid say in the current state of music. They didn’t. I was 16. What could they have to say to me?
Fast forward 20 years, and I am one of those old blokes. I am here, talking about ‘seeing Pixies at Victoria Hall’. I am actually even worse – I’m shouting this out on the internet. Of course, now I have the perspective. Now I wish that I had actually just turned around, and shown interest when the ‘old blokes’ (who were probably only about 28) were sharing their war stories with each other. There’s so much music out there, so little time to enjoy it, and so few ways of actually cutting through the clutter to find what is genuinely exciting. The recommendations of other people are therefore gold dust. I love it when people give me a nudge and point towards a band that I haven’t come across. Hell, beyond the basics of business, I feel that some of the most important things I left university knowing are a bunch of jazz tunes that I had previously no idea even existed.
So – in my own small way, I just want to acknowledge to my 16 year old self that I am now that old bloke. And do you know what? I’ve got a few tunes that I could recommend to you that would make your head spin.