I'm in the middle of Newcastle with the only person in the world that has such little sense of direction that she gets lost in her own house, yes this lady is my mother who I managed to drag with me to Newcastle to see Mr Simon Townshend. I personally have no idea where I am, my stomach is bloated after having a big bowl of pasta with a toffee ice cream desert, in Pizza Express, and we need to have a test walk to the O2 Academy because we have no idea where it is and we were told that a taxi wouldn't take us from the hotel to the venue, what a lie! We spoke to a lovely Geordie man in a High Vis jacket that stood on a little island in the middle of the road, he gave us directions but we couldn't be bothered doing a test walk, besides - my mam wanted to be back in time to watch the Chase (rock and roll!)
We eventually found out that we were alright to book a taxi, so we waited outside for this said taxi after the Chase had finished. I asked my mam if she had the tickets, she said yes, five minutes later I asked again and she replied yes again but with a hint of annoyance in her voice. The taxi came, a 16 seater for two people and my leg was just about long enough to help me get in.
The doors weren't meant to open until 6.30, we got there at 6 and were the first there. We waited around a bit, my mam was moaning about her foot aching and sat down on a step, more people arrived and then one of the bouncers came out and informed us that the band were late so the doors weren't going to open until about 7, so I asked him for some reading material and he gave me some sort of music publication which wasn't very interesting at all. I could see the sound check going on from a small screen in the building, it kept on picking up signals from other cameras that were filming traffic so the pictures kept on flicking from the sound check to vans in traffic. It began to rain, my Harrington doesn't have a hood so I was hiding underneath the big 02 sign and then the big Geordie bouncer let us in "Seen as though it's beginning to rain" he said as we walked through.
I treated my mam to a bar stool and she treated me to half a cider, it was a good deal in my eyes. A young group of lads entered the stage, these were the Middens, a group from North Shields and the lead singer/guitarist, Aaron James Duff, stepped up to the MIC, he spoke to us all - I couldn't help but compare him to James Bolam, the looks, the accent - it was uncanny but when he sang it was like hearing a 15 year old Johnny Rotten tear through their selection of songs. Who I was most impressed by was Jack Coe, the Middens drummer, his arms flayed about the air and over his drums creating beautiful drum rolls - it was like he was a restricted Keith Moon, and I say restricted because I never got the sense of freedom from him or his drumming, it was very tidy and neat whereas I feel that if he freed himself up a little, he could be the force behind them. Another good thing about these lads was their songs, for a long time there's not been a good political song, not since the eighties and these boys have a good selection of songs that will remind you of those Punk classics from the seventies, check out Building Baracades.
Everyone was running a bit late that night, Duff had mentioned having to speed along because of this, after the Middens had left the stage in a wave of glory the stage was getting set up for the next act; Modern Works. These guys were older, a lovely group of mods who were smartly dressed and raring to go. My mam enjoyed them, she told me it was like being sat in a pub with her boyfriend so, because Ben Fisher (lead singer and lead guitarist) looks like her boyfriend I told her to imagine she was there with Mike, and he'd just began a new band. What did I think of them? I loved them, a good ol' Middlesbrough band too and I'm proud to say it only takes me 45 minutes to get there on the bus because of these lads. Their song 'Can't get you out of my head' was the highlight of their performance, I was a little worried that they were going to burst out into Kylie Minogue when Fisher announced it but when the funky little bassline entered, curtsy of our Charlie Watts look alike Marc Dryden, I knew it was a great little number of their own, with one of the catchiest chorus's ever (I'm even singing it to myself now). Then a fantastic cover of 'All or Nothing' by the Small Faces was done, now drummers have been getting the compliments so far and I'm not going to stop here because Jimmy Hanley was just spot on, that's all I can describe it with really - spot on! And I must mention their rhythm guitarist Kris Dryden who stood closely to his brother, as the stage was incredibly cramped, with two drum sets on them, but Kris had enough room to play his axe powerfully, bringing this four piece together and making them what they are.
It took a good bit for the stage to be set up for Simon. Mam was enjoying herself, bless her, she bought me another cider and it was my second or third with a lemonade in between them, I checked my twitter a couple of times and then Simon came on with his band; Phil Spalding on bass, Tony Lowe on guitar and Greg Pringle on drums. I got off my bar stool and stepped down the stairs as Simon beckoned his audience forward, my mam came down too and before they started she mentioned how much she loved Spalding's hat wear, she like clothes - not a big fan of music. But it was a great hat, and he was a great bass player, my right leg actually went numb because of how heavy the bass was, it pumped through the floor and kept you energized - it was buzzing, I was buzzing. There's a woman beside me clutching hold of a cardboard box and if I were anywhere else I would have stared at her until she was forced to show me what was inside but Townshend has the stage presence that makes it hard to stare at women with mysterious packages, he stands steadily with his battered and bruised Schecter, his veins bulging from his arms because of the strength and effort he is putting into every chord change, every strum, every riff, everything bloody thing he's doing is with an A star effort and it pays off , Townshend doesn't need any fancy lighting effects (though I was almost blinded by one of the lights), outrageous clothes or stage props to give the audience a good time because it was great enough just watching him, roaring through his art with such songs as 'I'm the answer' and 'Making Waves', even treating us to 'Going Mobile' - which was a complete and utter treat!
The atmosphere was just lovely, this is why I love small venue gigs because it's calm but it's calm in the un-calmest of manners, being that there is an amazing charge of energy coming from each of the musicians on that stage. But for the first time in years I wasn't scared of getting hit by someone at a gig, or even accidently whacked or stood on because everyone stood still in their places, mesmerized by Simon. So what if he snapped his G string (hur hur hur), bollocks to anyone who was bothered with the tuning problem (this bloke who looked like Alfie from My Family had some issues with it) because that was one of the greatest gigs I've been to, every musician that night was on top form whether they were 15 year old lads with only some experience under their belt or whether they were an older bass player with a great hat.
I met Simon afterwards, I bought his new CD ('Looking out looking in') off a man with a Clash shirt on, great album - seriously anyone who has ears will enjoy it. He signed it, with my Twitter name, and got a photo with me too, he's a great guy - salt of the earth and I'll definitely be going to go and see him again.