Never in the field of human blagging has so much rock been missed so narrowly by so few. Me, essentially: In a week when London was a teeming torrent of major rock thrills, I somehow missed all but the last few chords of it.
Rufus Wainwright took over the grand old hall of the Old Vic for a week (I couldn’t get a plus one for my girlfriend, so I passed). Manic Street Preachers brought their alleged ”return to form” to the Forum for three days (I gave their Greatest Hits something of a kicking a few years back, so didn’t bother). The Cribs, after four years of being every indie band’s favourite band, celebrated finally breaking the Top Ten album chart with an ecstatic Astoria show. (Jesus, have plus-ones been made illegal while I was in the toilet or what?)
No, instead I opted for the Topman NME tour at Koko. Now, naturally NME tours are always packed to the pissed-up gills with great pop bands, but this was ridiculous: Blood Red Shoes, the Little Ones, Pull Tiger Tail and the Rumble Strips? That’s all the best indie-pop acts on the planet today on one bill. And one I can’t stand.
Racing down early to catch Blood Red Shoes — a boy/girl duo from Brighton featuring a guitarist, Laura-Mary Carter, capable of making the sound of a thousand Thurston Moores engaged in a flamethrower war — I arrived just in time to watch Laura-Mary strike the last chord and smash up her guitar just to hear what sort of noise it would make. Shame, but never mind — after the impeccable pop of the Little Ones (the only full set I’d catch all week, it would transpire) and half a gig by the plain brilliant electro-indie hotties Pull Tiger Tail, my girlfriend and I absconded to Cargo for a rare London appearance by Of Montreal. We get there to find, predictably, that my plus one has been cut. My girlfriend tells me they were ”very psychedelic” and ”very gay.”
WEEE-OOOO-WEEE-OOO! ”Please evacuate the building!” Two days later and half of the people at the Roundhouse think that this noise is the Chemical Brothers coming onstage early. It’s not. It’s a fire alarm telling us they’ll come onstage 90 minutes late at best and if we don’t want to stand around drinking overpriced wine in a car park for the next hour we’d best get our arses down to the Astoria and watch the Twang instead. Which we obviously do — only to find that, thanks to Draconian new Astoria curfews, they’re on their encore by the time we arrive and sweaty punters are already pouring onto the streets, giddy from the buzz of the New Happy Mondays. At the aftershow, various other late-comers arrive babbling about a secret Jack White set they’d just witnessed at the Sonic Cathedral club across town — one had even gained entry using my name but had to leave their mate outside. ”I couldn’t believe it,” they grin mawkishly, ”you didn’t have a plus one….”