All across the country there must be thousands of middle aged people (blokes, mainly) who look back with increasing fondness on the failed bands they put together in their youth, in the 90s and early 00s. In their hearts, they remember the scorn with which they regarded bands that were older than twenty five and attempt to justify to themselves why thirty five might not be beyond the pale after all. Maybe it’s time for one more go?
On Saturday, I joined their number, having never really stopped, (although I haven’t actually played in public since 2004 and not properly since 2000), pitching up in Kings Cross with a car full of dusty old equipment and a bunch of new songs. Being in possession of a car was in itself a significant difference. Last time we did this, we were practically destitute, living in a flat teeming with cockroaches and an alcoholic sub-letting landlord. The idea of driving anywhere was laughable – we would pitch up to rehearsals at 11am with a bottle of Aldi vodka each and would go out afterwards until 4am. The sessions took place in a basement in East Acton under a burnt out chip shop, with an outside toilet (without a seat) that looked as if a nuclear test had been conducted within the bowl.
The Joint in Kings Cross is a rather more plush facility. It is clean, bright and airy, although lacking a certain something from the old days – the experience of being in a rehearsal studio post-smoking ban is an odd one. Thirteen years ago it was rather like inhabiting a giant ashtray, with yellowing walls, the fug of a cheaply bought teenth of soap bar occupying the area around the ceiling and the smell of stale cider emanating from the saturated carpets (Barnstormer – a 8% brew with a label featuring a charging, snorting bull). In those days we would race each other to the end of the song, the first to finish being the winner, with a free run at the vodka. In those days, we insisted on only playing a twenty minute set, reasoning – correctly – that no-one in their right mind would want to hear any more, so we just ran through it endlessly, over and over again until we could play it with the lights turned off, in the pitch black. When we’d play, the stage would be littered with broken glass and on occasion, the odd spot of blood.
But, on Saturday, the grime, the fighting and the filth seemed to have been consigned to history and there began to emerge what John Peel once referred to as “dangerous hints of melody”. We might even have been ‘better’ than before, whatever that means. I’m not even sure what we are trying to achieve, but it might be nice to have something more solid to look back on than a sum total of 90mins worth of gigs (we split up after five gigs in a huff because we hadn’t been signed). But the big immovable questions remain. What’s the point in a band reforming when no-one gave a tinker’s cuss in the first place? Even in an age where people are growing up less and less and grown men tool about on skateboards, is it really acceptable for a bunch of people in their mid-thirties to do this?
Mind you, on the way home when I stopped off to get some cider at Sainsburys – sadly they were all out of Barnstormer – I did actually get ID’d.
Maybe it’s a sign.