Sunday, 16 February 2014

four first gigs

A couple of Facebook posts by Donalda yesterday, of music she was listening to, made me think of the second and third of these, and the fourth came up recently in a conversation with my minister, Andy. So here are four first gigs.

a) The first gig I paid to go to: a couple of punk bands from Stornoway, at Bayble School hall. I have a feeling I was still in Bayble rather than in the Nicolson, because I'm pretty sure I didn't know any of the folk who had come down for it from town except by repute, though I may be misremembering, but if I was in the Nicolson it would have only been third year. Pretty sure Malcolm Smith was in one of them; pretty sure one of them was The Rong; another may have been Noise Annoys. I can't remember anything in particular about it - except that there weren't many people there, that there were people from the strange and exotic land of Stornoway there (including two girls standing right at the front who I would later learn were Kathryn Wood (not sure how that's spelt, but she was in my Latin class) and Anne Falconer - I don't know why that sticks in my mind) - or what I thought of it.

I remember going to a subsequent Stornoway punk band gig in Aird School, but literally all I remember about that is a mental picture of myself at the outside door, leaving very early, telling the grown-ups on the door that it was too loud, and them agreeing with me. Oh, the shame of it.

b) The first gig I went to by a band who were making a living from it: Runrig, in the Caberfeidh. I saw them two or three times when I was in school, I think always in the Caberfeidh. I saw them when Richard Cherns was their 'new' keyboard player; I don't remember if that was the first time.

In London I've seen them over the years at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, the Hammersmith Odeon (or whatever it was called at that point) and the Royal Albert Hall, though I haven't seen them recently. I remember thinking, I think at the Shepherd's Bush Empire but it would certainly have been true at those other two venues, that they were now playing on a stage that was bigger than the room I first saw them in. I mentioned that in my speech at my wedding, for some reason.

c) The first gig I went to by a band who were a big deal nationally: Echo and the Bunnymen, in the Caberfeidh, July 1983 (so, end of fifth year). I think they were on their way back from Iceland and for the sake of novelty/publicity they did a gig in Stornoway and possibly somewhere else tiny on the way back down. A band like that performing in Lewis was a very big deal: I'm not sure there had been anything like it before. The fact that I wasn't exactly a fan (as Donalda reminded me on another Facebook occasion, my view was 'Ian McCulloch? Give me Connie Francis any day!', a view I stand by) didn't stop me wanting to go (and there were certainly others there who were paying it less attention than I was during the gig - Lewis has I think a long tradition of sections of an audience treating the band as simply live background music for their night out); lots of my friends were there too, most of whom liked them more than I did, including Donalda (who mentioned this gig on her Facebook post; I'm pretty sure she and I stayed the night at my auntie Cathie's, in the Cearns). I remember a long queue waiting outside to get in, seemingly made up entirely of people I knew or recognised from school (and which, as Donalda points out, means that a huge number of the audience were there illegally as it was meant to be over-18s; I was just over sixteen). I remember seeing a 'historical' article on it long afterwards in Q, in which Torcuil Crichton was one of the people quoted. I remember quite enjoying the experience of it, even if they weren't really my thing; I liked the 'moving coloured oil on rotating slide' lightshow; I remember thinking they were a bit 'drunk' (which they may or may not have been) and that perhaps they weren't giving it everything or treating it very seriously (but whether they were or not, we had a great time and were very happy they were here).

d) The first gig I went to at university: The Stranglers, in the Capitol, Aberdeen. (Hmm, suddenly doubting myself and wondering if it was Runrig again, who I think I saw just before going home one Christmas - and online checking suggests The Stranglers would have been Feb 85 - but I don't think it was the first Christmas.) They weren't in fact the first band I saw: that was the support band, Egebamyasi (the name has stuck with me), who were awful. I got there unfashionably early, as I still do, and was surprised how few people were there, even when the support act started. I have a vague memory of people wandering around the stage, dressed oddly, someone whipping someone else and declaiming 'Suffer for Jesus!'. I wondered if The Stranglers had ever heard their support band; I couldn't imagine you would deliberately choose a support band who were so terrible. Now, I could. I stayed in my seat, among a sea of empty seats, for that, but went down the front for the Stranglers, as so many did, and ended up pretty near the front. I had gone by myself, but there were others from home there. I enjoyed it, but remember thinking it felt a bit like they'd passed their prime and were doing a greatest hits set; I don't know how true that was, but I did feel I was seeing them 'after the event'. (If it was Feb 85, then they were touring Aural Sculpture, which had No Mercy and Skin Deep on, which were pretty good, but I don't remember that from the concert.) I remember we had to wait ages for the encore because the keyboards broke down and they took ages to fix them; but I didn't really know how long big name bands made you wait for their encore, so I didn't know if the length of time was unusual; it was. I also remember there was a group of folk further back who would chant the intro to a song which would then turn out to be the next song the Stranglers played; this mystified me, until I realised, I think some long time later, that hardcore fans of a band would follow them around on tour, so they'd have heard the same setlist and running order for who knows how many nights previously.

e) The first gig I went to after I came down to London? I don't remember. I did keep a diary when I came down first, so there may be a note of it somewhere.