Image by Chris Familton
The other night I was sitting as a civilian at The Annandale watching bands and rubbing at the stamp on my wrist. It's been a while since I bothered to go to a gig I had to pay for. I pulled out my notebook out of habit, taking down the sentences music pushes through my head when I realised the whole rock'n'roll civilian feeling was a sham. Sure I paid like everyone else to get in to the venue but that's where the similarities ended.
I'm pretty sure most people don't make notes at gigs. I made a lap of the venue and spotted exactly no other notebooks so I gave up the sham and walked over to Gareth Liddiard to say hello. He said, "Come on Dale let's go upstairs for a durry". We were talking about taxes, new songs he's writing for his solo album and knock knock jokes when Spencer walked through the band room and out to the balcony where we were all sitting. He threw himself across a lounge. I kept hitting at the side of my head hoping to shake whatever was plaguing my ears out of my head. There was meandering and pointless conversation, free beer, I solved the mystery of The Faz* and of course there's always a photographer trying to get photos of Gareth sitting out on the balcony. Spencer is the only man I know who'll walk towards whoever is trying to take a shot to make it easier for them.
There was a formal party happening upstairs so we pushed our way down the hallway to get downstairs to watch Gareth do his solo set. I wanted to be standing right there, side of stage so I could watch to see if I could spot the moment this time. I've been trying to work out what happens when someone walks on stage and settles in front of the microphone. In between the time they turn their back on me and place one foot at the bottom of the stairs to go onstage and when they open their mouth to let the first sung syllable out something happens. I've seen it happen to Spencer hundreds, possibly thousands of times. I used to wonder if he'd come back, if it would be my friend that descended the stairs back down to ordinary floor space or if he'd remain transformed.
I've never seen anyone more transformed than Gareth Liddiard but it's not as simple as it sounds. He'll talk, tell stories, make jokes and then drop suddenly into song as though the devil got hold of him and every person standing in the room knows they're witnessing something more than music. I saw the moment again and again as he switched between banter and song. He was dropping in and out of his ordinary being without any hint of effort. I tried making notes, watching closer then closing my eyes but I came no closer to solving the riddle.
After the gig I was sitting over a cheeseburger with Spencer across the road from The Annandale. I could see the others still up on the balcony talking and drinking beer like nothing just happened. On reflection I suppose it's just the state of reverie made visible. This is the advantage that musicians, real ones and not just people who play music, have over the rest of us writers. It's just not very interesting to watch somebody type.
* All night Spencer and Worrad had been talking about 'The Faz' as though he was a mystical being but they refused to tell me who he was. When Luke from The Laurels came into the room I asked him if he was The Faz and he said yes. Not very interesting to read about but still I am pleased that I managed to solve the riddle so easily.
Click here to read one of my reviews of The Drones, if you can be bothered...