Wednesday, 22 December 2010

199 ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, The Lucid Dream, Wholesome Crack, Swindon Link Arts Centre, Friday 22 November 1991


Echo And The Bunnymen in Swindon? Well, it's Echo And The Bunnymen, but not as we know it. I will explain, but first...

I got over to the Link early for this one and watched the two supports from the balcony; Wholesome Crack (wholly crap?) were a local load of student art-wank, and The Lucid Dream a bouncy dance pop band who weren't too bad. However, I tucked into the cider, which was more interesting than both.

I first saw Echo And The Bunnymen 10 years ago at the Oxford Apollo at the inception of my gigging days. This incarnation is not that band though; now minus the face and voice of iconic vocalist Ian McCulloch, and the driving rhythms of the sadly deceased Pete DeFreitas, they're starting afresh with a frankly anonymous vocalist, thankfully singing none of the McCulloch-voiced songs. A reasonably good band in their own right, purveyors of swirling, psychedelic-tinged dancey pop with some good tunes, they played a good set, but compared to the titanic Bunnysongs of old, they were massively disappointing. And therein lies their problem; by still calling themselves The Bunnymen, they'll always be compared to what went before. They should have changed the name...

200 THE BELLTOWER, The Lovebirds (or me, Ady and Beef...), Trowbridge Psychic Pig, Tuesday 26 November 1991


The landmark gig 2000, and it proved an unusually memorable one! We bopped down windy and winding roads to Trowbridge and, having located and scoped out the venue (an indie night in Stargazers nightclub), snuck in the back entrance before the doors opened to hear The Belltower soundcheck! A Psychic Pig person then mistook us for the support band and led us through to the venue, giving us "Pig Passes" to get back in free - although her confusion wasn't helped by Beef immediately replying to her enquiry of how many there were in the band, "just us 3"!

However we were sussed out after a couple of beers in the pub opposite; said Pig person, now the door-person, realised her error and made us pay to get in! Bah! We got in just as the support band, a derivative but not bad dancey rock combo with a godawful name, were starting off their set. We'd have probably been better, though!

I met an old gigging friend from Bristol and caught up during the looong wait for the main event. The Belltower eventually took the stage just before 11, and played another searing set of high-octane guitar tunes, ringing melodies and sinister, spooky pop with that undefinable "edge" that separates the great bands from the merely quite good. The Belltower have it, and if there's any justice they're going to get bigger. An American version of The Parachute Men, let's hope they aren't as criminally ignored as The Paras were...

201 THE FAMILY CAT, Hen, Swindon Link Arts Centre, Saturday 7 December 1991

More gigs at the Link! Very handy indeed! This time, it was a "Bring The Noise" promotion opening with local band Hen, a band fronted by our old friend Roger's new girlfriend Paula, who unfortunately played a ropey sounding support set.

I popped up onto the balcony for the main event, and we got a great view of the FCUK tour show, Swindon leg. The Family Cat played a groovy if short set of bouncy indie guitar pop, formulaic but a pleasing way to pass a Saturday night. Memorable moments for me were "Remember What It Is That You Love", easily their best number, plus the extremely silly encore version of their Xmas single "Jesus Christ". An indie Xmas single? Whatever next?

202 THE WONDER STUFF, Kingmaker, London Brixton Academy, Saturday 14 December 1991

A 2 car posse travelled up to this one, suffering a nightmare journey in thick fog! We left at 4.30 and parked in Ealing Common, West London, leaving the cars in dense fog next to the open common. All very spooky! A loooong tube journey over to Brixton meant we actually didn't get to the Academy until 8 o'clock! Wow!

So we missed first band on, Eat, but I wasn't too worried as they'd not exactly set the world alight on my previous viewings. However, next up, fuck me it's Kingmaker; they came on just after 8.15 and played another fine set of cool heavy guitar pop. Loz' voice sounded a little strained, however, which I guess is not surprising given all the touring they've done this year! New single "Really Scrape The Sky" was a highlight of their slightly drum-dominated set.

I'd forgotten how huge Brixton Academy was! A converted old theatre, with all the stalls ripped out, meant that it actually sloped from back to front-of-stage, and provided a good view from virtually anywhere! I went for a wander around the expansive foyer before being attracted back in by Queen's "Seven Seas Of Rhye", The Wonder Stuff's intro tune. They took the stage at 9.30, vocalist and mainman Miles in pith helmet and khaki shorts and very much the focal point as ever, and stormed into "Red Berry Joy Town", the precursor to a fantastic set of their own distinctive brand of flippant but classic 90's rock'n'roll. The hits kept coming, from "Disco King" to "Cartoon Boyfriend" via "Radio Ass Kiss", and even their own note-perfect version of their (and Vic Reeves', absent tonight) number 1 hit single "Dizzy"!

Superb acoustics, a brilliant sound, a stunning set and light show, a confident band at the height of their powers and in top form. It more than made up for the foggy and lengthy trip there - and back!

203 THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, Family Go Town, London Bloomsbury Theatre, Tuesday 4 February 1992

There are few better ways to kick off the new year, gig-wise, than a London jaunt to see They Might Be Giants with fellow devotee Mr. Garratt! First time for me at the Bloomsbury Theatre, a posh seated venue where, according to PG, the phrase "G'wannnn Teeeem!" was originally coined at a 1985 vintage James gig!

Support Family Go Town were on at 8 - an early one, this, good thing we got an early train! - and played the sort of innocuous zeitgeisty dance pop blast that would have sounded more apt as support to Thousand Yard Stare, for example. We decanted to the bar and sampled Mr. Branigan's beer nuts instead!

This odd Brooklyn two-piece, They Might Be Giants, actually featured a drumkit this time (well, one snare and one cymbal, at least) instead of the lectern-mounted metronome, but their musical approach is still sparse, tinny, clever-clever without venturing into smugness, and as funny as a barrel of monkeys. Being appointed the Official Band of International Space Year (allegedly) hasn't changed them; "we're promoting a record that isn't out for two months, so this next song represents the non-audience participation element of the show!"

"I Palindrome I" (whaaaat??) was the most memorable of the new stuff; "We Want A Rock" and oldie "Don't Let's Start" the best of the more familiar material. However, everyone was a winner as usual. Another remarkable show from an idiosyncratic yet thoroughly entertaining band!

204 COWBOY JUNKIES, Steve Forbert, London Royal Albert Hall, Friday 6 March 1992


Not so much a gig, this, more an event! The Royal Albert Hall, an utterly majestic setting, and entirely appropriate for a similarly majestic performance from The Cowboy Junkies, as it turned out!

I took the train on my own and got to this palatial venue in time for Steve Forbert's solo set of acoustic C&W which went down fairly well, but I could take or leave really. I spent my time people spotting as I was similarly flying solo for this one; the Cowboy Junkies crowd is a broad church, attracting all sorts from fresh faced indie kids to pensioners in their best suits. All human life was here, it seemed, and packed into this hushed auditorium, ready to receive Margo Timmins and the boys.

They took the stage at 9, and proceeded to draw us all in with their hypnotic, hushed and frankly downright beautiful set of C&W, blues, rock and balladry. "Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning" I found was dedicated to me by an understanding Margo (well, not me per se, but to everyone who's dealing with a recent break-up, like I was at this point), and I felt the hairs on my neck stand on end. The set, mainly based on the current LP, the wonderful "Black Eyed Man", highlighted the excellent musicianship of this band, but more so Margo's angelic voice, as big as The Albert Hall, yet intimate and personal at the same time.

"A night we'll never forget," according to Margo, stretched to 1 3/4 hours of set plus encores, and culminated in an extraordinary reading of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane". Simply brilliant stuff from an extraordinary band.

205 MIDWAY STILL, Supp. Mega City Four, Reading University Student Union, Saturday 7 March 1992

After a brilliant Cowboy Junkies gig (nay, experience) last night, anything would have been a bit of an anti-climax. But hey ho, it's off to Reading Uni we go, for something completely different...

Got there too early for the bar to open (!) so had a walk around campus, then got back in time to see Midway Still deliver a support set full of power, intensity and fire. With rocking choruses and driving guitar skirting around the outside of grunge but keeping the tuneful side of potential disjointed heaviness, they currently appear to be the band Teenage Fanclub seem to be scared to be, and they really rocked the place!

I watched a few Mega City Four numbers before confirming that actually they don't really appeal to me, just finding them dull and formulaic after the energy of the Still, so I retreated to the bar and left MC4 devotee Rich to them. Still, he enjoyed their set, and I loved The Still, so fair play to both of us!

206 CURVE, Adorable, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Wednesday 18 March 1992

Had a carload of interested parties for this one, and we got there just as the support band were coming on, so popped in to check out their worthy, rockist guitar set, like House Of Love only with more wah-wah. A name to watch, perhaps, as they certainly went down well with the student audience - and me, actually!

Hit the bar in the interval before Curve graced us with their presence at 9.30, Toni Halliday, allegedly the world's sexiest female vocalist, led the boys and (other) girl through the copious dry ice, clad in figure-hugging black dress and matching feather boa. Curve predictably went down a storm, but left me cold; why do I get the impression that their choppy, overlayered and overdubbed guitarry dance set tended to merge all into one song? "Coast Is Clear" and the encore "10 Little Girls" apart, all the songs sounded the same - yet again! Curve, you've got one great song, and another reasonably good one - please please write some more!

207 REVOLVER, Sweet Jesus, Swindon Link Arts Centre, Thursday 30 April 1992


Popped off to this local gig at The Link Centre after playing 6 a side footy, and got there just in time to catch the arse end of Sweet Jesus' last number. Shame! Their set was apparently melodic indie-pop, according to Clive who caught it all.

Revolver took their time getting on with it, but eventually took the stage at 10.30 to their best song, "Crimson", and offered a challenging if not particularly original set of guitar angst and disjointed rhythm. They're like a junior early Ride, with more obvious zeitgeisty rhythm and tunes, and "Cradle Snatch" and the encore, their first single "Heaven Sent An Angel" were other highlights of a set I nevertheless spent bopping along to!

208 MIDWAY STILL, Jacob's Mouse, Oxford Jericho Tavern, Thursday 14 April 1992

My first gig I've travelled to with this extraordinary character Clive; whenever I think I'm too old for gigs at a ripe old 26, I'll just remember he's 35 - and still rocking. I hope I am at his age!

Got to the Jericho in time to see Jacob's Mouse, who featured a hairy drumming vocalist giving it some serious welly in a set with very loud guitar and overall more good than bad bits.

Midway Still came on at 10, promoting new LP "Dial Square" - are they closet Arsenal fans, perhaps? Their set bristled with pace, power and bollocks, delivered in an arrogant swagger of an attitude by a confident band who know they're going places. Thrilling, visceral noise punctuated a set I spent hammering away to in the mosh. I could have done without enthusiastic stage-divers landing on my head, but all in all a small price to pay to see "The Still" in this form!

209 THE SULTANS OF PING FC, the Shanks, Windsor Old Trout, Monday 18 May 1992

A nice sunny Monday evening trip down to a small venue by the banks of the Thames; very picturesque, despite the huge bouncers with bad attitudes everywhere. Still, I appreciated the "no stage diving!" signs, given the number of punters that have landed on my head during my gigging years!

Got there in time for The Shanks' young, energetic and erratic support set. One excellent song, "When I Go" and some other goodies revealed them as a cool band with some potential, if they tightened up. A lot.

"The Ping" came on at 10; an extraordinary sight, led by very eccentric frontman Niall, whose stage presence was no less than a cross between Mick Jagger and Julian Clary, if you can imagine that. Musically, "The Ping" are a Half Man Half Biscuit/ Fall type fairly ramshackle musician-free rabble, but "live" they put on a marvellously entertaining show, focused obviously on Niall's frontman antics and retorts to the heckling audience. "Give Him A Ball And A Yard Of Grass", a song about the Godlike Nigel Clough, revealed some supreme taste in footballers and was the best number in their wildly eccentric and excellent set, which culminated in everyone doing the dying fly! Hugely entertaining!

Friday, 17 December 2010

210 PULP, The Blood Oranges, Oxford Jericho Tavern, Friday 29 May 1992


Decided to take pix at this gig, but felt a right prat when I forgot my flash! So, back in Clive's car went the camera (damn!), and I returned to this upstairs venue for the start of support The Blood Oranges' set. An old looking bunch of muso types playing a varied set of rocky pop which was sadly spoiled by excess wah wah and went on far too long for a support - 50 minutes!

Pulp came on at 10 past 10. They've been many things in their time - I first came across them in 1985, when they were peddling deliciously dour introspective Scott Walker-esque balladry, and before that they were an optimistic whimsical indie pop band - but the latest reinvention as World Of Twist-like pop divas with a touch of Oxfam glam kitsch is about the best; certainly the most bright and dynamic sounding. Jarvis Cocker, a barefoot, skeletal frontman with a nice line in patter ("are we ready to, erm, play some music, then?") is a stunning visual focus with a delicious baritone, and the band, a collection of wild eccentrics, back him up to the hilt. This was a brilliant, sinister set of powerful, edgy material, which not even a slightly disappointingly messy encore of "My Legendary Girlfriend" could spoil. A unique talent - next big thing, anyone?

211 SUEDE, The Auteurs, Windsor Old Trout, Wednesday 10 June 1992



Had a pleasant drive with Clive down to this venue on the river, listening to European Championship footy on the radio. Sweden and France drew 1-1, if you're interested...

Support The Auteurs, a 3-piece, played an odd set of excellently crafted mid-paced songs, in an Only Ones/ Weather Prophets vein, but as I commented to Clive, I reckon the be-fringed lead singer must love his songs so much, as he treated them like they were made of glass. Still, top marks for using the word, "pre-ordained" in a lyric!

Suede were an unknown quantity; press darlings of the NME, a good but not great single in "The Drowners" which made a huge nod to early 70's Bowie, and a varied clientele attracted by their hype - "normal" folks as well as us indie kids! This was all I had to go on before they took the stage.

Nevertheless, they immediately made a favourable impression; a well rocking start with "Animal Lover" and fast-paced "Moving", a very charismatic frontman in young Brett Anderson, and an ultimately varied set of slightly off-kilter, glammy and sleazy guitar pop played with enthusiasm to an unusually reserved crowd won me over. They belted through the set and, sadly, left us encore-less, after 45 minutes which prompted comparisons to early Smiths, both in image, Brett's fey charisma, and possible potential. I was hardly star-struck, but I enjoyed the set thoroughly, and can comfortably say that Suede are going places. Here's a band worth the hype - for once!

212 THE POPGUNS, Wholesome Crack, Swindon Link Arts Centre, Friday 19 June 1992

Had a couple of Freedy neet beers in the Beehive before taxi-ing over to this gig, meeting the boys on arrival. Stayed in the bar getting well oiled, as is our wont, whilst the support band were on, as I'm not a fan... Their long set delayed the Popguns until nearly 20 to 11!

When they finally came on, The Popguns, led by vivacious vocalist Wendy Morgan, sprinted through an enthusiastically received but slightly disappointing set of new numbers, which lacked the pop fizz and soaring vitality they showed in abundance on their last visit here. Cries for the old stuff were also sadly met by Wendy's response of, "stop living in the past". A shame, really. "Someone You Love", a rare oldie, was also a rare highlight of a disappointing set.

213 WONKY ALICE, Submariner, Leicester Princess Charlotte, Wednesday 24 June 1992


Hmmm. We lost our way around Stow-On-The-Wold, spent 20 minutes trying to find the venue on arrival in far-flung Leicester, then found out our intended headliners, The Belltower, had postponed due to illness. What a way to spend my birthday!

Still, we were here, so cut our losses and ventured in for 2 rather than 3 bands. I'd never heard of either, so a voyage of discovery for me, and at least it was only £2 entry and they served Copperhead cider!

Submariner were first on and played an excellent set, reminiscent of Cud, Ride and Power Of Dreams with it's insistent energy and pace, but full also of excellent songs. The boy can sing too!

Wonky Alice came on at 10.15, and were superb, thankfully; they played a great set of dynamic rock with lots of oddball lyricism and tempo changes for good measure. Clive and I had a bloody good bop down the front and went backstage to congratulate the Wonkies afterwards for making it a worthwhile birthday trip after all. They've got a dreadful name, but even so it's a name to watch!

214 TABITHA ZU, Homage Freaks, Swindon Link Arts Centre, Thursday 2 July 1992

Well, despite my taking on my mortgage on my own, I'm still getting to a fair few gigs! This, my twelfth of the year midway through 1992, was a local one featuring 2 bands I'd never heard of before, and admittedly I was only going as it was preferential to Hardings or a night in!

Got there at 9 just after The Homage Freaks took the stage. They were a gang of noisy beatniks playing Chilli Peppers style bollocks, so I adjourned to the bar to get away from their exhortations of, "dance, you motherfuckers!". Sometimes, NO! is enough...

I didn't know what to expect from Tabitha Zu; they look like new age punks, their vocalist Mel is the younger sister of the truly appalling Daisy Chainsaw's Katie Jane Gartside, and the pre-gig hype pointed to a Faith Healers/ Silverfish noise. However they took the stage at 10.15 and quickly wiped away any preconceptions with a thoughtful, moody opening number dominated by a fine performance from Mel's 12-string guitar and yodelling style of vocal gymnastics. This was thankfully typical of the set which was varied in pace, but always sinister, edgy and moody, revealing influences like X-Mal Deutschland and Throwing Muses. Very enjoyable!

215 SCORPIO RISING, Trowbridge Psychic Pig, Tuesday 7 July 1992


Popped down to Trowbridge with Clive after football training, basically because I had nowt else to do! Got there to find Pig hosts Stargazers had metamorphosed into Capones, but hey, I'll still call it the Pig!

Had a bop to some fine indie stuff over the disco before the non-supported Scorpio Rising took the stage just after 10.30. A band I was largely unfamiliar with, I demanded they impress me, and the four Liverpool long-haired lads, plus Belltower's bassist (guesting for the normal man at the helm) did their best to do so with a dynamic, drum dominated set of crafted but fresh-sounding poppy dancey tunes. Very zeitgeisty, hardly original, but good fun nonetheless; I enjoyed having a good old bop to a band I'd overlooked unfairly before. A good gig!

216 ADORABLE, Blind Mr. Jones, Trowbridge Psychic Pig, Tuesday 21 July 1992


Off early to this one with Clive, which meant watching his Saturday footy team, Cricklade Town FC, get hammered 5-0 by a village side on the way! Got to the Pig at 9.30, to be confronted with a huge queue; thankfully the gig was late opening!

Support Blind Mr. Jones played an excellent set of considered guitar pop, with occasional and unorthodox breaks from a flautist! Most surprising, and it embellished the sound well.

Riding on the back of 2 astonishingly good singles, Adorable were full of confidence, with a swagger bordering almost on cockiness, but it didn't detract from a fine, well-rocking set of moody, atmospheric guitar material, with single "Sunshine Smile" an obvious highlight. Well worth the often self-generated hype, Adorable are a band with a future so bright you've gotta wear a blindfold...

217 THE HEART THROBS, Death By Crimpers, Oxford Jericho Tavern, Sunday 9 August 1992


Confronted almost immediately on arrival by the support band, Death By Crimpers, a local band of screaming rawk chicks with one good song - "Circles" - and bad but almost funny Joan Jett/ Suzi Quatro impressions; leopardskin pants, no less! Ewww!

From the ridiculous to the sublime, and a welcome sight in the Heart Throbs line-up; former Parachute Men bassist Colleen Browne, replacing former bassist Rachel Carlotti. Perhaps some of the Parachute Men's magic has rubbed off on the Heart Throbs in the process, because they were nothing short of utterly stunning tonight! Melodic, driving, creepy, sassy, sexy and intelligent, picking a set drawn from old stuff and the forthcoming "Jubilee Twist" LP (which seems an essential purchase, given some of the quality on display tonight, particularly the breathy and breathless "Girl Became Stairs"). Tiny singer Rose Carlotti led her band through an utterly wonderful set.

Popped backstage afterwards for a nice chat with the band, particularly Steve, Rose and Coleen (who I'm glad to say remembered me from those Paras days), and complimented them on their immense achievement; make no mistake, tonight The Heart Throbs were promoted to the select ranks of the very special live bands!

218 A HOUSE, The Bigger The God, Oxford Jericho Tavern, Thursday 13 August 1992


Despite setting off later than usual, we still managed to hit the Jericho in time for the highly rated (by Clive, anyway!) support band. Their set had some sparkling moments in a carefree, soaring way, especially a track entitled "Jason Donovan", but most of their numbers seemed too short! I suppose that's a good thing, really. A name to watch?

Despite being an A House fan for at least 5 years now (their debut single "Kick Me Again Jesus" was one of my favourites of 1987!) this was the first time I'd seen these Irish purveyors of slightly arty, rocking yet left field brainy pop. Vocalist Dave Couse, a downbeat wordsmith, led this six piece band through a varied and entertaining set drawing from all 3 of their very fine LPs. My problem was that because I love all their stuff, they missed a whole load of very fine songs out for me. Still, what they did play was cool, intelligent, deliciously cynical, and lived up to all my expectations. Hosts of a very fine gig!

219 THE 1992 READING FESTIVAL




SHERIFF'S DIARY, DAY 1 - FRIDAY 28 AUGUST 1992

Bollocks to camping! Remembering last year's sleepless nightmare (which I appreciate is somewhat of an oxymoron), and with the forecast for inclement weather this weekend, I decided to travel up and down every day and get some proper kip in my own bed at night!

The weather was OK the first day, so I travelled up with the happy campers, pitching their tents in the field directly behind the arena, then got the festival gear in; namely comedy Clive beads, and Soke style bandanas!

Kicking off musical festivities in the main arena were REDD KROSS at 2; a girlie in pink trouser suit introducing the set with the keyboard refrain to "The Candyman Can", leading on a weird set of chaps (including the vocalist in a shiny yellow top and basin hair, and also a hillbilly!) who played an initially leaden but ultimately worthy set of dirty seventies style retro glam rock'n'roll. FATIMA MANSIONS followed, and disappointed with a patchy struggle of a set, despite vocalist Cathal Coughlan's obvious intense conviction. Made me wonder how many other people cared what he was talking about. "Only Losers Take The Bus" was the best of a set, the end of which I missed while wandering around the arena, passing SOME HAVE FINS' noisy tent set on the way.

I returned to the tent shortly afterwards for the last half of a LEATHERFACE set which made me so pissed off I'd missed the first half! T'was the bollocks; loud driving rock with urgent, memorable tunes in a Husker Du meets Motorhead kind of way. A cover of "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" climaxed a breathtaking set. Ugly as fuck and from Sunderland they may be, but they cranked out a helluva noise and had compere John Peel commenting on the main arena PA, "I've just come from the tent and if you weren't there you've missed a shit hot set!"

Met up with the boys at base camp afterwards, and decamped to the arena for MEGA CITY FOUR's disappointingly samey set - all the songs being similarly rhythmed and merging into each other. Dull, I'm afraid. Next up, PJ HARVEY graced us with her presence; clad in PVC, she played a dodgy set in keeping with her patchy debut LP "Dry". I didn't stop for the set as I was tent-bound for a potential first day highlight, but as I left the arena it seemed to be going South for poor old Polly, with one song being stopped halfway through and re-started. "Dress", second number in, was good, though.

GOD MACHINE, running late in the tent on my arrival, were loud and pretentious; their set seemed interminably long, but when they finally finished I pushed to the front for said first day highlight. Onto the barriers for MIDWAY STILL; they rushed through a high-octane set of confident, breathtaking guitar-driven power rock, highlighting their new EP material, but with "Better Than Before" the set highlight. Excellent, and living up to my expectations!

Early evening now, as I came into the arena for PUBLIC IMAGE LTD., who were sad, old, out of date and out of touch. John Lydon seemed to have nothing better to do than insult the audience, so I got some grub in and ignored it! Popped back in to the tent briefly for CRACKER's gawkily appealing, Noo Yawk cool set of driving pop rock with a slight country lilt. Nice, but nothing stuck, really. Back into the arena - hectic stuff, this - for all of THE CHARLATANS' pleasant retro 60's keyboard fuelled pop set. I lay down in the twilight and let their greatest hits set wash over me.

Then it was headliner time, as THE WONDERSTUFF blitzed the crowd with lasers, and wowed them with a top set of their unique slightly-delic fiddle powered flippant guitar pop. Miles was in excellent form, flippant as ever ("how the fuck are ya!"), and they dragged on Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer for the inevitable encore "Dizzy", which I actually missed as I hit the road at the end of their set proper to head for the station and home. And a good night's kip!

SHERIFF'S DIARY, DAY 2 - SATURDAY 29 AUGUST 1992

Rumours of inclement weather being (so far) exaggerated, I dragged Clive out today; he drove and we parked directly outside the campsite, then we met up with the boys at base camp - all with comedy Clive beads on!

Sensitise, due on at 12 in the tent, were replaced by a brassy Latin salsa outfit called JUPITERS, so as this wasn't my cup of tea, I popped into the arena for some of THERAPY?'s set. They were extremely noisy and unimpressive with a sub-Killing Joke sheet metal music style, only with no "edge" like da Joke.

Headed for the moshpit down the front for BUFFALO TOM at 1. Their set was excellently paced with their hard-rocking laze rock mixed in with touching and heartfelt tunes, and, hey let's face it, downright wonderful songs. Much like The Fat Lady Sings, last year, their self-deprecating attitude ("excuse our inexperience at this size of event") won everyone over, and this top set, which culminated in an excellent "Sunflower Suit" and "Velvet Roof", won the day in the arena.

Baked potatoes and cider during THOUSAND YARD STARE; their set was full of their easy-on-the-ears melodies and good pop dance music. "Buttermouth", second number in, was the highlight. Then into the tent for SPITFIRE, who showed the 90's are the 60's upside down, with a shocking, dynamic set of powerful retro pop, with dancing girls onstage and wah wah effects in abundance. Good stuff!

SHONEN KNIFE followed; much lauded by festival headliners Nirvana, they were plain silly, a throwaway set of simple Japanese girly bubblegum Ramones-ish pop. Weird but cute - songs about cats and bison? Back into the arena for SMASHING PUMPKINS' set conclusion, which culminated in the vocalist smashing the stage up. Compere Peel remarked, "perhaps he's a Leeds supporter because they're losing..."

Back off to the tent as THE FARM started their poor baggy stuff, catching the last of FORCE N K ZEE's ragga rap set there. However, we were on a mission - Clive and I went straight down the front for THE HEART THROBS. Their set made the adjective "Godlike" seem somewhat inadequate; with much more oomph even than their recent superb Jericho set to augment their obvious class, style, sex, suss and heart-tugging melody, Rose and co. stormed through their set in a confident and totally assured manner. Best Band Of The Weekend - by a million miles!

From the tent to the arena and from the sublime to the ridiculous; MANIC STREET PREACHERS kicked through a comic but nevertheless entertaining set of their well-known powerpop punk rock, which culminated in vocalist James giving his guitar away to some lucky punter down the front! I then caught some of EMF's techno guitar pop before heading tent-side and joining the hysterical reception for THE SULTANS OF PING FC's early evening tent set. Niall, the evil sex punk himself, and his band of leather loons put on a supremely entertaining performance of their ramshackle DIY rabble rock.

Out for a few of RIDE's opening numbers, which sounded really good, their buzzsaw approach being augmented with maturity and style, and I'd have loved to catch some more. However, I was back in the tent for SUEDE, who capped the best day of the festival with a wonderful performance of classy and touching glam-tinged dreamy pop. Boundless potential, superb songs, vocalist Brett Anderson a true star of our times, this lot are destined for the main stage very very soon!

This took us to 10, so, not bothered about seeing either headliner, Clive and I hit the road and went to Level 3! Encountered rain on the M4 on the way home; is this an ominous sign, or what...

SHERIFF'S DIARY, DAY 3 - SUNDAY 30 AUGUST 1992

Short answer to that - Yes! It had pissed down in the night, so I caught the train to Reading to find the arena and campsite a mudbath, my weekend friends' "base camp" collapsed, and the boys nowhere! It turned out they'd been washed out at 5 am, so went home shortly afterwards to dry everything off and get some kip!

So, I was on my own for starters; into the tent for TABITHA ZU; a dead good opener of spooky, mysterious gothy pop, with Mel's gymnastic larynx again the feature. Dinner, then SWEET JESUS; their wall of noise/ Manics meets Weddoes in a honey factory set was excellent, especially "Phonefreak Honey". Vocalist Ben's fey, lilting singing voice was at odds with his more masculine speaking voice, but the lilt fitted the Spector-ish mood perfectly. However, rather ominously, the tent started bucking and swaying precariously in the high wind...

Into the arena for the last half of SCREAMING TREES' pretty standard actually rock set, before seeing half of PAVEMENT's much hyped but ultimately disappointingly discordant and obviously derivative set - Mark E Smith of The Fall should either be flattered, or sue! Decided then to head for the tent, only to find it had been evacuated for safety reasons! Fuck!

So, stuck with the mainstage fayre, I caught BJORN AGAIN. They were totally unfunny Abba "pisstakes", who, disappointingly, played the songs straight! "We're glad to be at the Reading Festival; we've brought many books and I hope you have too," was the extent of their humour. T'uh! Met up afterwards with the boys at their collapsed campsite and heard the whole sorry story. I'm glad I commuted! Stayed there awhile as it had started to rain quite hard again - that's all we need!

Tent still shut, so caught the last of THE BEASTIE BOYS set - which I thought was a load of bollocks - and wandered around the arena while the terrible L7 were on. Eventually the tent re-opened for a truncated PELE set at 5; they did 4 numbers - all singles - and made the most of their short time with their happy fiddle pop. At least they got to play, unlike the cancelled Power Of Dreams (bugger!) and Captain America (fuck)!.

Next up, then, were SCORPIO RISING; I gratefully lay down under cover and drifted off to their not bad poppy wah wah dancey set. Unpacked the boys campsite before REVOLVER; caught most of their mighty fine breathy rockist style set. The half-acoustic "Heaven Sent An Angel" was the highlight of their set.

Into the mudbath of an arena, for, appropriately enough, MUDHONEY ("is that Nirvana, darling?" "No, it's Mud, honey..."). In between slagging off the crowd for throwing mud at them (what d'you expect, with a name like that?), and actually slinging it back, they played a dynamic set of their unique unhinged grunge rock, which varied from the excellent to the dirge-like. Back to the tent afterwards for EAT and their early evening performance. I've not been their biggest fan over the years, but tonight they were excellent. A fine selection of rocking tunes in a Doors/ Wonderstuff way, but very individual and fun, and with vocalist Ange Doolittle giving an excellent frontman performance. Smat!

CATHERINE WHEEL started very promisingly in their fuzzy guitar maelstrom kind of way, but grub was a more attractive idea, so I ate in the arena while listening to NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS' final funereal dirges, and pretty awful deathly doomy encores.

Then, the big one; NIRVANA. The headliners of the day, indeed the whole weekend. The biggest draw on the planet right now and ultimately, for me, a big disappointment. After their excellent "Nevermind" LP, merging rock, punk, metal and powerpop together in a mighty mush, expectations were high, but on tonight's evidence I'm not sure they're ready for this size of gig/ level of adulation just yet. The sodden crowd were "treated" to a rushed-sounding, slapdash performance by a band who seemed ill at ease, as if they wanted to be elsewhere. Titanic tracks such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "In Bloom" were low grumbles in the distance, and not a patch on the album interpretations.

So off we went at 10.45, after Nirvana started the last number of their (also short) set. A messy, sodden and disappointing end to a festival which started well, got better, then went out like a damp squib. But don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went; and even gladder I commuted!


THE SHERIFF 1992 READING FESTIVAL AWARDS

Friday Best: 1. MIDWAY STILL, 2. LEATHERFACE, 3. THE WONDERSTUFF (of 12)
Saturday Best: 1. HEART THROBS, 2. SUEDE, 3. BUFFALO TOM (of 15)
Sunday Best: 1. SWEET JESUS, 2. EAT, 3. TABITHA ZU(of 15)

OVERALL - 1. HEART THROBS, 2. SUEDE, 3. MIDWAY STILL, 4. BUFFALO TOM, 5. LEATHERFACE (of 42)

Best New Band: 1. LEATHERFACE.
Crap! 1. PUBLIC IMAGE LTD
Sorry I Missed: half of LEATHERFACE's set, TEENAGE FANCLUB, URGE OVERKILL
Star Of The Show: 1. ME! For commuting! That was my idea!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

220 THROWING MUSES, Unrest, Bristol Bierkeller, Sunday 6 September 1992

The hectic gig pace continues after a fine Reading Festival! Bopped down to the Bierkeller with a 5-man carload and got there in time for openers Unrest, a very fine US three-piece with a melodic hard-driving sound not a million miles removed from The Wedding Present - only with more than one tune! (Ouch, that's bitchy...)

Another three-piece followed; surprisingly Throwing Muses! Now bereft of the pop-candyfloss element previously supplied by Belly-bound Tanya Donelly, Throwing Muses were down to a bob-haired Kristen Hersh in shorts and a tight USA t-shirt; Bernard Georges, imposing and funky on bass; and David Narcizo, dynamic as ever on drums.

The set was stunning. Not as harsh as a Hersh-only Muses set might have sounded, but varied in pace and mood, and paying ample tribute to their impressive back catalogue ("Snailhead", a wondrously jagged "Mania" and a melancholic "Hate My Way" all featured in the set), this was a lesson in controlled aggression and emotiveness.

After 2 encores, an acoustic "Delicate Cutters" capped another superb Muses evening. Tanya-less they may now be, but they're still one of the best live acts around in this or any other age!

221 SUGAR, Adorable, Venus Beads, London Kentish Town Town And Country Club, Sunday 27 September 1992


A hugely anticipated gig to see Sugar, the band who've tore up 1992, with this year's best single and album by miles. A good journey up listening to live footy on the radio got us there in time for Venus Beads' rocking but hardly original guitar set. Got the beers in instead!

Popped up onto the balcony for Adorable's set. Vocalist Piotr, again sporting a thin black tie and beige leather box jacket (apparently a homage to the dead one out of 60's cult TV programme "Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased)"), tore into the set with enthusiasm and passion, and pulled off a fine home win. Adorable, despite poor sound, were vital, fresh and exciting, with a swagger and style, and an excellent rendition of best number "Sunshine Smile" which even prompted old cynic Dave Bevan to comment on its' excellence. Top stuff, but even better was to come...

We stayed up on the balcony as Sugar took the stage; vocalist Bob Mould, looking more like the gigantic monolith of Husker Du days than the slimmer figure on his recent "Workbook" tour; Malcolm Travis, a constantly blinking unfocused drummer with forearms like hams; and Dave Barbe, resembling an ex-con with a boxers nose, cropped hair and five o'clock shadow. The three casually ambled onstage unannounced, donned instruments, then literally tore into the set like a pack of tinder wolves.

"The Act We Act", "A Good Idea", "Changes", the triumphant opening triumvirate to their awesome album "Copper Blue", plus 2 newer numbers, blasted by without pause, by which time I was downstairs and in the moshpit, hammering away for all I was worth. The set was raw, passionate, angry, mesmeric, UNBELIEVABLY LOUD, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Virtually all of "Copper Blue", at least half a dozen new numbers, mostly delivered by Barbe's rasping voice, each one a nugget of sonic overload rock'n'roll of the highest calibre. 2 encores, culminating in a jaw-dropping "JC Auto", which culminated in Mould bellowing, "I'm no Jesus Christ, I'm not," to a frenzied sell out crowd convinced of his divinity. Then, "thanks," and it was over.

Wow.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

222 ANNA, Slap, Swindon Link Arts Centre, Friday 16 October 1992

First of 3 gigs in 4 days - luckily the first is nearby! Clive picked me up at 8, so we got in at 8.15 to start some Friday night drinkies - Stella Artois (gosh!).

Slap featured an old friend of mine on vocals, and a nice line in early 80's mystery Goth pop - a poppier Bauhaus, perhaps. Good enough to bop to, anyway.

Anna blasted on just after 9 - a band I know only thanks to one track, "Different Friends" on a compilation tape, but they were excellent, noisy and guitar-fuelled, like a messier, less focussed version of the splendid Midway Still, which is actually no small compliment from me. I rocked out manically to their slightly derivative but dynamic laze-rock, and complimented them backstage afterwards, which earned me a freebie t-shirt. Result!

That was enough rock for me; I didn't stay for the silly Popinjays, headlining; went to Level 3 and got pissed instead!

223 SUEDE, The Auteurs, Bristol Bierkeller, Sunday 18 October 1992

Limped into the Bierkeller for this sold out gig after doing my knee in playing Sunday League footy this morning. Had Soke and his mates, whom we met in the large queue beforehand, taking the piss out of me all night for it - D'oh!

The Auteurs came on at 8.30; I popped down the front to see them handle their set in a much more carefree and confident manner than before. Their excellently crafted songs, previously held back a little by the bands "precious" attitude and performance, took flight tonight and made for a superb opening set. "Showgirl" and "Bail Out" were highlights of a set from a band destined to not remain support material for much longer!

Suede, clearly a band on the up and up right now, kept us waiting for an irritatingly long time, but on arrival immediately satiated our heightened appetites with the opener, "Animal Lover", Brett chiming the hook "Animal lav-aaaah" in perfect falsetto, like Morrissey asking for advice... "Moving" followed, songs so familiar already, yet not even recorded yet. "We're moving, so moving..."

The set continued in this dreamy yet powerful perfect pop mold, other highlights being "Metal Mickey" powerful, glam and brash; Brett replying to a heckle from a Morrissey-fixated saddo with the line, "you vex me, you snotty chap"; and the sweeping range of closer "To The Birds". A set which underlined what we all feel - Suede are destined for the big time, and very soon!

224 NEW FAST AUTOMATIC DAFFODILS, Bristol Lakota Club, Monday 19 October 1992

A slightly unwanted first, this; my first (and hopefully only) gig on crutches! After doing my leg in playing football yesterday, I'm now hobbling about quite badly, but not enough to stop me getting to gigs! Ady drove down and we got there at 9 - my first ever gig at this club, a weird shaped place with an overhanging balcony, so I perched on a bar stool while the anonymous and rather grating Happy Mondays-ish support band were on.

Hobbled down the stairs for the main event though, waiting around until gone 11 for The New FADs, who eventually ambled on with an apology for their tardiness. Took a front seat view at the side of the stage as vocalist Andy and the boys launched into their best number, opener "Man Without Qualities Part One". Thence followed a brisk and exciting work-through of a varied set of their oblique, offbeat dancey agit-pop. I found it tough to stay still (and painful to move - D'oh!) as chunks of dance-shaped rock like "Big", "Bong" and "Exit Body, Exit Mind" got the joint jumping. 4 encores, including "Lions" and a rampant cover of "Purple Haze" culminated a breathless and enjoyable (despite the crutches) evening.

Note for future reference, however - don't go to the Lakota if you've got an early start the next morning; we didn't get back until after 1.15! Bah!

225 WONKY ALICE, Sunshot, Windsor Old Trout, Tuesday 10 November 1992


Hey, they've changed the entrance at the Trout! Perhaps that accounted for the poor turnout - people couldn't find their way in, so didn't bother! Sunshot's lead singer ironically announced at one point, "don't push at the back as the people at the front are getting crushed," to a virtually empty hall. A weird 2 girl, one chap one drum machine combo, made a noise which was at times oddly appealing in a pseudo Goth Curve/ Banshees vein, and at other times grating and chaotic. The jury is still out on them...

Luckily we had the Wonkies to rescue us from the tedium of the disinterested Windsor clientele. My 2 gig buddies and myself all freaked out down the front as the band took to the stage dressed in matching black polo necks with silver "W" motifs (clearly made of cardboard and tinfoil, but hey, that's their DIY ethic for you!), and dashed (or should it be, "warped") through a great set of supermarionation cosmic dance pop. At times like the early B52's played at 78 RPM (an explanation I, struggling for comparisons, offered to a curious punter), other times sounding like a late 60's space opera theme tune (especially Karen's sinister bass lines), but overall unique, thrilling and impossible to keep still to. So we didn't.

Went backstage afterwards, for mutual compliments and autographs. A great gig!

226 BELLY, Bettie Serveert, Puressence, London Harlesden Mean Fiddler, Monday 16 November 1992



Zipped up the M4 in Dave's car listening to FA Cup footy, arriving at the venue at 8.30 to find a sizable crowd already in - obviously we weren't the only ones eagerly anticipating this one, the UK debut of Belly, former Throwing Muses' Tanya Donelly's new band!

Puressence, first support, hit the stage at 8.45 and did 5 numbers of sloppy, doom laden rock, not unlike God Machine. Not really too good either. Meandered our way to the front before main support Bettie Serveert came on at 9.30; despite sounding an identikit recipe for disaster - a Canadian female vocalist fronting a mess of Dutch yobs - they were a lot better. Be-dimpled vocalist Carole lilted over a sometimes hard driving, sometimes thoughtful, but usually quite good set of country-tinged US alt-rock, circa REM's "Reckoning" phase. Their set climaxed with energetic guitarist Peter jumping over me off the stage, and going walkies in the crowd!

Stayed exactly where I was in order to get a good vantage point for Belly. Tanya, currently my favourite rock-type female following The Parachute Men's unfortunate demise, opened with a solo number, but was quickly joined onstage by her new charges, who included former Throwing Muse bassist Leslie Langston in their number. They bounced, flounced, giggled and gurgled their way through a wonderfully shiny happy set of insistent, dreamy, heart- and mind-hugging tunes. No-one writes pop songs as off-kilter yet melodically mainstream sounding as Tanya, and with Belly she's excelling herself. 2 encores reflected the extent of their popularity - a wonderful solo "Sweet Ride" (Tanya hitting the high notes with aplomb) followed by a joyous romp through Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual"!

Great stuff - and quite apart from her talent, she's also the most gorgeous woman in rock, too! A perfect evening!

227 JULIANA HATFIELD, Adrehend, Windsor Old Trout, Saturday 12 December 1992


Popped down the M4 for a Saturday night excursion with Beef, however a car-parking mare delayed us so we only got to see half of the support band. I just wished we'd missed all of their set as they were unnecessarily noisy yet anonymous identikit indie guitar dreck. Hit the bar for cider instead!

Former Blake Babies frontperson Juliana Hatfield took the stage just after 10 with her new 3-piece band, but playing the same magic brand of pure melodic college pop as her former charges. I bopped down the front with Beef and a few others as the normally complacent Old Trout crowd finally showed a little respect. A fine set, highlighted by a sparkling "Everybody Loves Me But You", and unfortunately clouded slightly by Juliana's crystal-clear, pure little girl lost voice being muddied a little in the mix. Commented on this afterwards to a nevertheless pleased band and Juliana, who confirmed that tonight was the best reception they'd received on their UK tour. A shame they didn't play any Blake Babies stuff, however - I'd been calling for "Out There" throughout the set, which drummer Todd Phillips noted, and scribbled a reference to on my set-list!

228 THE RAMONES, Terrorvision, Sunday 13 December 1992


A bungled ticket-mare by the Bristol Rainbow (formerly Studio) box office meant needing to get there well early to ensure entry. It also meant, unfortunately, that we were there for all of the ham-fisted noisenik support band's poor set. Dreck! Dreck!

I decided on a "kill or cure" treatment for a recently onset bout of flu, and joined The Big Man in the moshpit for this dose of surf punk nostalgia. First time I'd seen "Da Bruddas", one of my first musical ever loves, since 1986 (back in gig 45), but the only change is that nowadays they play even faster - so fast, in fact, that beanpole vocalist Joey Ramone now has trouble keeping up with the verses! About 30 songs of breakneck-speed sheer euphoric punk rock classics ("Lobotomy"! "Blitzkrieg Bop"! "I Wanna Be Well"! "Sheena"! "Cretin Hop"! "Commando"! highlights amongst many many others) zoomed by in a, "take it CJ"; "wanchoofreefour!" haze. The brick wall backdrop, the leather jackets, the eagle, Joey's "Gabba Gabba Hey" sign; all the key elements were there. The Ramones never change, never even seem to age, they just get faster!

Oh, and by the way it was "kill" for me, as the flu (or was it the pounding I received in the moshpit?) left me bedridden for a few days afterwards! Yuck! Still, at least we had fun (in the warm California Sun) so it was well worth it!

229 SUGAR, Magnapop, Cardiff University Great Hall, Thursday 17 December 1992

Had a jolly good run down to Cardiff with a packed carload in less than 1 1/2 hours (new note - it's Junction 29 for Cardiff, sez lorry driver Ady!). I decided to go to this gig despite still being ill from a particularly unfriendly flu bug which had put me in bed for over a week prior to tonight! One suffers for one's rock'n'roll, one really does...

Circumvented the large queue and got in just in time for Magnapop's set, starting dead on 8.30 with "Garden", and subsequently struggling to get their own unique brand of, erm, "magna-pop" to beat the poor sound in this large hall. "Merry" was breathtaking, though, although we wished they'd saved it until last! Also breathtaking was the energy displayed in delivering their performance, especially very pneumatic vocalist Linda. Their perky heavy guitar pop thrills would be excellent in a small venue. we wait in hope...

Sugar, on at 8.30, gave a lesson in transcending the poor sound - simply play louder! Their set was full of the same ferocity, noise assault and thundering power as last time out, the play switching from mainman Bob Mould to his trusted lieutenant Dave Barbe and back without losing any momentum, drive or passion. "If I Can't Change Your Mind", more tuneful and ridiculously hooky than the usual heavier Sugar material, was nevertheless the set highlight for me. A second encore, introduced by Mould (the only occasion he spoke directly to the audience!), was a cover of the Who's "Armenia City", which was messy and overlong, but couldn't spoil another consummate performance by Bob Mould, indisputably the Man Of The Year, and by Sugar, the Band Of The Year!

230 NOVA MOB, Zuzu's Petals, Sunshot, Reading Trade Union Club, Sunday 7 February 1993

What a crazy way to start the 1993 gigging year! Can't find the venue, then went to the wrong one! After we eventually found the right venue, we had to scale a 10 foot wall to actually get in, then got subjected to such a thorough search at the door, that we even had to empty our wallets!

Then, when we got in, unexpected support Sunshot were sat on the stage, having suffered a power cut! Eventually things got sorted out, and Sunshot resumed their drum machine driven chunder. Like Becky and Darlene from "Roseanne" playing at punk rock, the 2 girlies comprising Sunshot's personnel jumped about to a mad unhinged noise resembling Curve, only with more oomph. I'm still undecided on them... Still, I wouldn't climb over them to get to all American girlie combo Zuzu's Petals. Despite a bassist who seemed as if she had 2 polar bears fighting in a sack down her front, they were decidedly unimpressive, with the anorexic blonde vocalist/ guitarist able to play guitar about as well as I can. Which is to say, not at all. Crap or what!

My recent Husker Du gig connection however continued with Nova Mob, following Bob Mould's Sugar, last time out. And an interesting contrast - whereas Sugar rely on raw power and emotional intensity "live", former Husker Du drummer and co-songwriter Grant Hart's Nova Mob trust to a fine blues-based desert driving sound, and the emotiveness of Grant's voice. A little more corpulent (actually, make that a lot more!) than his Husker days, Grant still tugs the heartstrings with his voice like few others. A fine set, including a beautifully delivered "Admiral Of The Sea" (Grant solo, centre stage, no mic), culminated in an manic encore somewhat out of character with the rest of the set; Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog", sung by a roadie, climaxing in the band handing out their rider to the front rows (of which I, or course, was one). Strange end to an overall groovy evening!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

231 RADIOHEAD, Kinky Machine, Bristol Fleece, Wednesday 17 February 1993



I was more attracted to this gig, featuring a couple of intriguing new bands, than to the footy on the telly (England beating San Marino 6-0); my first time at The Fleece for an age, and the first time I'd seen it so packed as well!

T'was heaving and sweaty well before support Kinky Machine surfaced, a little after 9 (bands get to the stage here via the bar, so perhaps they were delayed pulling pints). They played a cool set of well-structured guitar pop, slightly Bowie-ish, which was ponderous to kick off with, but which took flight after "Swivelhead". Overall a jolly fine set.

Radiohead, current media darlings, took the stage at 10 past 10. A moody, atmospheric set (which harshly could be described as "plodding", but at this stage I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and call them "thoughtful") of indie music, in a mature type of c86 guitar pop style genre, followed. The blistering single "Creep" was by far the highlight of a set which nevertheless suggests that the blond (peroxide, natch) diminutive vocalist Thom and his band of retro-waifs have a lot to offer. I moshed, naturally, got a set list and managed to keep my (quite sweaty) waistcoat on, although Clive lost his beads - shame!

232 BELLY, The Cranberries, Portsmouth Pyramids Centre, Tuesday 23 February 1993


A different crew to the intended gigging group tonight as both Bevan boys dropped out for various reasons. Clive was drafted in late and ended up driving! A pleasant jaunt down to Southsea, to a venue right on the seafront. Quite a posh - and large - place. Went for a beer before the Cranberries set, and promptly ended up being "carded" by a barmaid young enough to be my... erm, young sister! Also bumped into Miki from Lush at the bar, and gave her a copy of a pic I took of her down the front at Belly's Mean Fiddler gig last year, during The Cranberries uninspiring and overlong set.

Belly came on at 10 and eased into their set with 3 slow numbers, to a crowd who definitely wanted to dance. The new bass player, an L7 reject lookalike called Gail, flailed around and seemed somewhat out of place amongst Belly's lush, pristine finer moments. The set certainly had a number of special moments - "Angel" and "Feed The Tree" were corking, as were both encores, but somehow, despite my being in the moshpit with a good view, for me the performance didn't really scale the highest heights that I know Tanya to be capable of, from the previous Belly gig and her time with the always brilliant "live" Throwing Muses. Maybe a slight illness, alluded to by Gail in a brief post-gig chat, affected Tanya. Maybe I'm setting my expectations too high, or maybe they're just not ready for the success that being number 4 in the album charts gives.

Still, it's good, I guess, that they're successful - Tanya deserves it!

233 PULP, Supp. St. Etienne, Cardiff University Terminal 396, Sunday 28 February 1993


A very quick trip (less than 1 1/2 hours!) down to Cardiff after the live footy got us (me, Clive and infrequent gig-goer Soke) there in time for doors. Not the usual Uni main hall, but an industrial decor pipe-lines psychic dancehall backroom as well! An excellent venue, and certainly one to go back to! Pulp, our main reason for being here tonight, came on at 8.20 and played a totally brilliant set of their haunting, sleazy organ-led pop; seventies-influenced, sleazy, sexy, sinister but always startling and superb. Jarvis Cocker, as I've always believed would happen, is well on his way to becoming a true star of our times, and was an inspiring and eye-catching focus for this brilliant band of misfits and strays. Every one a winner, but highlights were "Stacks", "She's A Lady", the God-like "Babies" and closer "OU". Another highlight was Jarv sharing his late-arriving pizza order with the front rows; I had a mouthful of garlic bread while dancing to "Stacks"! It's only February, but I'll be hard pushed to see a better performance than Pulp's this year!

St. Etienne, however, paled in comparison to their support. Due on at 9.30 but eventually emerging at 10 with "Nothing Can Stop Us", a fine but very laid-back opener, their subsequent set was ambient, unusual and very nice, but never startling and always suffering in comparison to Pulp's sparkling performance. 2 unusual covers, of Bowie's "Absolute Beginners" and the Fall's "Choc Stock", and their own cinematic pop classic "You're In A Bad Way" were the highlights of a set, during which I spent much of the time watching the projections on their heart-shaped backdrop. A very short set as well - off at 10.35 having played considerably shorter than their support, they introduced the last number with vocalist Sarah Cracknell announcing, "sorry to disappoint anyone but we don't do encores. We're not a rock'n'roll band, we're a pop group." Hmmm. So, off we went to the chippy, to celebrate Pulp's set.

Final score; Sheffield 4, St. Etienne 2. An impressive home win!

234 MIDWAY STILL, Pop Am Good, Bristol Fleece, Wednesday 10 March 1993


Expecting a packed one tonight for the return of our favourite hairy noiseniks The Still, but there were surprisingly few people out early doors at the Fleece for support Pop Am Good's set. Energy and melody, but messily and shambolically presented and focused, were the key points of their set. Like a jam session in a student union bar, really...

The place thankfully filled up for The Still, who came on at 10, roaring impressively into opener "What You Said". A noisy and thrilling hard rocking set, based around a clutch of new songs from a possible forthcoming LP (soon as you can, please, boys...) plus old faves like "Found", "I Won't Try" and the phenomenal "Better Than Before" followed. Clive and I formed part of an expanding mosh as, as ever, we gave it loads to the Still's energetic rock stylings! Quick words of congratulations with the band afterwards; they also commented on my "Grunge Is Dead" t-shirt. "But we're not grunge," was their comment, to which my reply was, "what you are, is shit hot live!" No arguments there!

235 REVOLVER, Sweet Jesus, Swindon Link Arts Centre, Tuesday 23 March 1993


A badly advertised one, this, which nearly slipped through even my highly evolved gig radar! I only found out about it thanks to The Daily Mirror, no less, and didn't know Sweet Jesus was the support band until the night before! Needless to say, I got there early this time!

Sweet Jesus were on at 9 and initially were a disappointment - all new numbers on the set, so no "Phonefreak Honey" in particular, which I was really looking forward to. D'oh! Nevertheless, I'd worn my shorts for a reason - to bop - so certainly did as Ben Bentley led the band through their all-new set with verve and style. Sporting a mane comparable only to a lion, his distinctive falsetto soared over a clutch of fine glittery pop songs and a couple of real gems in "Peter Pan Man" and "Pretty When You're Down". Great stuff!

Revolver however, were slightly disappointing; well, what I heard of them, anyway. After a couple of new numbers and a bop to "Crimson", their Teenage Fanclub-like best number by miles, I popped out for a drink and ended up having a lengthy chat with Sweet Jesus mainman Ben, who turned out to be a very interesting conversationalist! Popped back in for the tail-end of Revolver's set - a couple of newies which were quite good (I'm damning them with faint praise, I know...) - and their fine encore, "Heaven Sent An Angel". But really, in Ben Bentley, I'd already seen the star of the show tonight!

236 WONKY ALICE, Bleed, Bath Moles Club, Friday 2 April 1993


First gig back at this tiny, difficult to get in, hole in the wall Moles venue for over 6 years; good thing Beef is a member! We got in at 10.30 - virtually first in, forgot it was such a late one! - and hung out with Wonky lad Yves prior to the support band, Bleed, on at 10 to 11. A shame every song had to be a manifesto, as they were OK in a sub PJ Harvey kind of spiky blues way. The female vocalist however needed a soapbox, not a stage, for her liberalist beliefs which, whilst finding sympathy, left a bad taste when they're rammed down your throat all the time!

Sloshed the taste out with a few ciders before getting Wonky down the front, as the band came on at 11.30. Myself, Clive and Beef formed a 3 man moshpit as the band kicked into a surprisingly powerful "Sirius", and a subsequent astonishingly titanic set of their unique, sinewy mutant dance, spacey and unpredictable. No manifestos here, thankfully; just songs about space! A superb "Crazy Caterpillar" encored and rounded off Wonky Alice's best performance yet. Hung around afterwards, backstage with the band, helping them to finish their rider. They're in Bristol soon - so are we!

237 KINGMAKER, Surreal, Bath Moles Club, Tuesday 13 April 1993

Like buses; you wait for ages then two appear at once! This was also the case with Bath Moles gigs, but in contrast to the Wonky Alice gig a couple of weeks ago, this was a packed-to-the-rafters Members only Kingmaker fan club cut-price special, at only £2.50 admission. Good thing Beef is a member...again...!

Support Surreal were on, fashionably yet irritatingly half an hour late, at 10; a frighteningly young looking vocalist leading this stroppy and confident young band through a blistering set of fresh, spiky rock'n'roll, with shades of The Beatles, The Jam, C86 and Mott The Hoople in equal measure. A fine set, notable for a unusually rasping vocal performance from said youngster.

Kingmaker were admittedly preaching to the converted tonight, with this fan club "do", and could therefore have been forgiven for keeping foot off loud pedal, but far from it - they produced a driving, hard rocking but still refreshing sounding set of their rhythmic, drum-driven pop. "Really Scrape the Sky" and the climax "When Lucy's Down" were highlights from a band it's really been too long since I last saw, particularly in a small venue such as Moles. They're still worth it - especially for £2.50!

238 ADORABLE, Santa Psychotic, Swindon The Link Centre, Wednesday 14 April 1993


Along for this one anyway, I rather sneakily got in for free when a friend got one pass-out ticket too many! Result! Into the venue therefore just in time for Santa Psychotic. Led by an old school chum, they kicked up a grungy rock'n'roll fuss, capped with a cover of Status Quo's "Pictures Of Matchstick Men". Derivative but fun, with my old school pal a nevertheless energetic frontman.

Adorable are now a band with a significant track record of brilliant releases, so expectations were sky high for this one. They didn't disappoint; Piotr and the boys blasted the audience to smithereens with powerful renditions of their haunting, melodic rock; vitality and energy were the key-words of this performance, as Adorable held the audience in their palms, and delivered a brilliant set leaving us all in the moshpit stunned and sweaty. Highlights? Well, I could pick out the rush of "Fallen Idol", the soaring brilliance of "Sunshine Smile" and the melancholy wonder of "A To Fade In", but they were all highlights, really. It's only April, I know, but this was the best gig of the year so far - by miles, ref!

239 THE HEART THROBS, Earth Babies, Windsor Old Trout, Thursday 15 April 1993


The last of 3 gigs in 3 days; a punishing schedule but worth it! Clive and I got to the Old Trout halfway through the Earth Babies equally punishing (on the ears, that is) poor, ham-fisted set, subsequently ignoring them and getting a beer in!

The Heart Throbs, now sadly minus Pale Saints-bound bassist Colleen Browne, my favourite Canadian (hey, everybody's got one...), and sporting in her place an Ian McCulloch lookalike young chappie, positively roared through their set! A lot harder-edged than before, The Heart throbs' new numbers still shimmered with their usual melodic brilliance, and the old favourites, especially the titanic "I Wonder Why" and "In Vain", oozed with slinky sex and style. A couple of more punk rock new numbers climaxed the set wonderfully, Rose Carlotti's fragile vocalist still ringing their way through the admittedly poor sound. They're getting angrier with age, and it's great to hear it. Equally great to see her - and them - back!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

240 WONKY ALICE, Supp. The Bardots, Bristol Mauretania, Tuesday 27 April 1993


Despite being first into this venue tonight, we didn't manage to get on Wonky Alice's comprehensive guest list (which numbered 35 - mainly from locally based distribution company Revolver), unfortunately, although promises were made about us being on it next time! My first gig at The Mauretania - a dinky little pub venue with an oddly carpeted dancefloor, which gave the impression of dancing in someone's living room!

However, that didn't stop us from getting down the front and having a good old bop to Wonky Alice's set. They're getting better each time I see them, I reckon, and tonight they were rapier-sharp, insistent, itchy and atmospheric. Music it's impossible to keep still to, they totally spaced out the sparse crowd with their sci-fi mutant madness.

Off the dancefloor, sweaty as bollocks, I then kept a watching brief at the bar for headliners The Bardots; as, it seemed, did everyone else! They were OK in a Pale Saints/ B Movie shimmering guitars-y kind of way - damning them with faint praise, I know - but they played like a band who knew they'd been blown offstage by their support before they even turned up. Tonight belonged to Wonky Alice!

241 MIDGE URE, The Dear Janes, Swindon The Link Centre, Friday 30 April 1993

An unusual one this; my first gig in the main hall of the Link, rather than the smaller and more clubby Arts Centre hall. Popped into the hall, where seats had been tastefully arranged in a round amphitheatre layout, partway through The Dear Janes' set of acoustic folk numbers. Quite dull really, but one good number about not trusting lady pilots with PMT!

Former Ultravox vocalist Midge Ure took the stage solo at 9; one man and his acoustic/ electric guitar and small beatbox. A real "back to basics" approach and a selection of material to match; his favourite songs, including an old Thin Lizzy number (he briefly saw time as a Thin Lizzy touring guitarist), interspersed with chat and questions from the audience about his varied career, providing a fascinating insight into the man. A little too much chat, perhaps, meant probably 10 songs in 1 3/4 hours, but the 2 Ultravox songs he played, the folky "All Fall Down" and my favourite, the soaring "One Small Day" were really worth the price of admission alone. As also was one line in reference to a beer-soaked former colleague, when an empty pint pot was kicked across the floor; "Is Billy Currie here?"

242 RADIOHEAD, Strangelove, Superstar, Bristol University Anson Rooms, Monday 10 May 1993


Got an early start for this one, and arrived well in time to join an otherwise virtually deserted hall to catch opening band Superstar, a band who wear their Teenage Fanclub influences on their collective sleeves and, despite being somewhat untogether, showed a lot of melodic and harmonic potential.

Local boys Strangelove were next up; they delivered an impressive, doom-laden psychedelic growl of a set. A few good numbers and an excellently charismatic frontman made for a band I reckon may be going places...

Had some beer in the bar afterwards, rubbing shoulders with Blue Aeroplanes frontman Gerard Langley (I'm not a fan, but Ady was impressed, anyway), before repairing to the main hall and piling into the moshpit for Radiohead. Augmented by atmospheric dry ice and added dynamism, Radiohead this time took flight, in a set which was a million times better than their recent, slightly flat, Fleece gig. Moody, mean and magnificent, blond vocalist Thom Yorke cut an excellent dash as the main visual focus, and (I appreciated this point) sweated profusely whilst delivering a fine evening's worth of deliberate yet thrilling power rock. Potential becoming realised!

243 THE FAT LADY SINGS, Swindon The Link Centre, Saturday 15 May 1993


A weirdly deserted Link Arts Centre for a Saturday night, for these Irish-tinged folky popsters' first visit to town, soon filled up, albeit with loads of, erm, "old" people. For once I didn't feel like I was the oldest person at a gig!

The Fat Lady Sings took the stage at 9.30; vocalist Nick Kelly explained that despite advertising to the contrary, there was no support, so they were going to do a longer set! Fair play! A fine mixture of absorbing new numbers from forthcoming LP "Johnson" and the old favourites from their tuneful debut "Twist" were subsequently delivered with precision, care, songcraft and their familiar old self-deprecating charm. Nick's soft Irish brogue complimented the Irish folk-tinged music; slightly Waterboys-like, but usually without obvious comparisons otherwise. TFLS are essentially a very thoughtful and considered band, who morph into a quite exciting and fun act in the "live" environment. Great too that Nick took the piss out of a heckling idiot who was getting on everyone's nerves.

A 1 hour 10 minute set was further extended with 3 groovy encores and a promise that Nick and the boys will be back again in Swindon. Let's hope so!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

244 XFM "GREAT X-PECTATIONS", Finsbury Park, Sunday 13 June 1993


"Clive And Drive!" Clive drove a minibus carrying a dynamic dozen of us (most with hangovers, actually, thanks to the usual Saturday night Lev drinkies, so maybe not so dynamic...) to an all day Festival with a rather fine and promising bill, in North London's Finsbury Park. After crossing Ye Olde London Town, we arrived and parked up at 1.30, gaining access to the site and large arena just as openers THE FAMILY CAT were taking the stage. Their oddball surf rock was a good opener, bright and upbeat, but got a little swallowed up by the size of the still-filling arena.

I took a vantage point nearer the front for KINGMAKER, late replacements for Levitation on the bill. They played a bolshy set of fan favourites; good, but a little too "angry young mannish" for the sunny vibe today. Indeed, the sun really poked through as we got food during CATHERINE WHEEL's very poor doomy sludge of a set, a disappointed Clive suggesting it almost bordered on HM... THE SENSELESS THINGS, next up, were a messy mush of punky rumblings in the distance. "Too Much Kissing" was the only number to make my ears prick up and take notice, and even that was poor. Even Rich, a big fan said they were "bollocks".

Things were therefore drifting, so it fell to THE FRANK AND WALTERS to breathe some life into a sagging Festival. And breathe it they did... and then some! Taking the stage in matching straw boaters, orange blazers (which, when discarded, revealed iridescent blue and red striped waistcoats!) and beige slacks with a broad red stripe, they'd clearly prepared for this, and took the crowd by storm with healthy doses of fun, fire and good old rocking tunes. A totally wonderful set of their ramshackle dreampop, delivered with honesty, humour and happiness, with a totally unexpected cover of The Vapors' post-punk classic "Turning Japanese" a highlight.

Damon Albarn of BLUR played one solo song prior to BELLY taking the stage just before 6. Vocalist Tanya and new "rock" guitarist Gail now seeming more like a team, they used their stage time economically, playing a varied set of slow moody numbers and fan favourites like the spiky "Slow Dog", "Gepetto" and my favourite, the soaring "Angel". A fine set; much better than their recent disappointing Portsmouth gig.

I left the posse and wandered down the front, after Guy Chadwick of THE HOUSE OF LOVE had soloed with "Shine On" (which was good) and 2 new numbers (which unfortunately weren't). The scene was set for Bob...

Rambling nonchalantly onstage, SUGAR kitted up amidst a hail of vegetable missiles, until vocalist Bob Mould took the mic with a growled, "anyone who throws things can suck my dick!" Nothing more thereafter was thrown. Respect! As for the set, they charged into "The Act We Act", "A Good Idea" and "Changes", "Copper Blue"s mighty opening salvo, nary pausing for breath. A mixture of moody, titanic new numbers and excerpts from the heavier, harder-edged "Beaster" completed an awesome set of controlled power and passion, during which I was caught up in the moshpit, hammering away for dear life, and eventually emerging dripping with sweat and ears ringing, in the knowledge that I had experienced the best set of the day, not merely seen or heard it.

More food after that, and a new t-shirt, during CARTER USM, whom I have to say were just background noise to the post-Sugar buzzing in my ears, then THE CURE capped a memorable day with a professional set of their angst-fuelled doomy pop, which, apart from the solo encore of oldie "Fire In Cairo", did very little for me. But I'd seen the stars of the show, for me, earlier on!

A nightmare journey back ensued, however, via Euston and Holborn. In at 1.30 in the end, tired but happy!

245 MIDWAY STILL, Caffeine, Swindon The Link Centre, Thursday 17 June 1993


I decided to wear my stars and stripes shorts to this one, as I was expecting a hot and sweaty time! Also, I persuaded my brother to come along, thanks to my erudite description of The Still as a dirty black rock'n'roll band! None more finer...

Local band (I think) Caffeine stank the place out with their ham-fisted sub Rage Against The Machine grungy mess and crappy rappy antics. Grunge is dead, you know - and I had the t-shirt on to prove it!

The Still came on at 10 to a rabid welcome, and blasted into a couple of fan favourites, followed by a well-chosen set varying from hard-rocking Husker Du-like oldies from first LP "Dial Square", to their more thoughtful, considered (relatively speaking - they still rock, of course!) new stuff, but all played with their usual venom and strident power and riffery. Clive and I, down the front, gave it loads as usual to The Still, and the expected sweat duly arrived!

Popped backstage for mutual compliments and encouragement. It seemed they enjoyed it too, despite Swindon having a reputation for being a "difficult" gig. Well, you're welcome back any time, boys!

246 SUPERCHUNK, Saturn 5, Windsor Old Trout, Thursday 24 June 1993

Another happy birthday gig with Clive, Ady and Beef - I can't think of a better way to spend my birthday than with some rock! We thought this would be a busy one (if you miss it, it'll be like 'Chunk never happened! D'oh!), so we drove down to Windsor promptly - and ended up being first in!

Support Saturn 5 played a bright set of chunky post-C86 jangle pop, with echoey vocals reminiscent of Galaxie 500, on some of their slower numbers, from the vocalist who apparently used to be with the Razorcuts! Clive had a bop down the front and I tapped a toe or two.

I had a beer in when US alternative rock reprobates Superchunk took the stage at 10, so I sat stageside during their earlier numbers and chugged my beer. However, when the 'Chunk unleashed "Skip Steps 1 And 3", I finished it promptly and joined in with the sweaty thrashing moshpit. Beads splintered asunder as I flailed about with the best of 'em (and, indeed, the rest of 'em) to Superchunk's awesome beast of a post-grunge rock noise. A great set, capped with (despite rumours to the effect that they weren't playing it anymore) a thrilling, massive "Slack Motherfucker". A perfect birthday present - happy birthday Sheriff!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

247 U2, Stereo MCs, Utah Saints, Cardiff Arms Park, Wednesday 18 August 1993

A 2 month hiatus from gigs, ended by U2's massive "Zoo TV" tour; talk about getting into it again in a big way! Got there at 4, and joined the milling throng to get into the Welsh National Stadium, a 55,000 capacity 3/4 bowl 2-tier amphitheatre, smack in the middle of Cardiff, and an ideal venue for this show. Took a viewing position in the seats by the halfway line, upper tier, getting a bloody good view of proceedings!

After a no doubt incredibly symbolic but totally baffling papier mache costume mime show on the stage, we finally had some music! Utah Saints took the stage at 6 and united the crowd with a superb set of their techno-punk meets rave dance music, showing excellent taste in samples (early Human League, Simple Minds et al) in the process. A corker of an opening set. The Stereo MC's, next up, kept the crowd's momentum going with their yo-dance funk chants, but I'm afraid they left me cold. The scrawny, ugly little vocalist irritated me no end with his antics, and the notion of a Mancunian scally not only pretending to talk like a Rastafarian, but also patronisingly chanting "Cymru Am Blith" left a bad taste and was treated with the contempt it deserved. Better was to come, though...

8.45; I'd just missed the spectacle of 4 figures with papier mache cartoon U2 heads jumping out of laundry baskets wheeled onstage, but then the lights were off and massive banks of TVs and white light heralded the triumphant entrance of U2. Nice to see that despite all the overblown stage show hype, they're still the same old band ("this is an away game for us, but it always seems like home here," said Bono to a predictable ovation), and the opening foray, drawn from the disappointing recent "Achtung Baby" LP, made best use of the massive stage set-up. Particularly entertaining, although somewhat at the expense of the songs, were various slogans flashed up on the huge TV screens during "The Fly", such as "Evolution Is Over!", "What Did The First Punk Rock Girl Wear To Your School?", "Call Your Mother", and the much heralded "Everything You Know is Wrong".

For me, however, the gig only really took flight during the opening bars of "New Year's Day". This was the point when it stopped being a media event and became a rock concert. At last. From then on, the technology thankfully took second place to the music, which included excellent renditions of "Bad", a sinewy "Bullet The Blue Sky", and my favourite of the set, "Where The Streets Have No Name", the intro as haunting and majestic as ever.

The encore, led by Bono's new "persona", Mr. MacPhisto, was again a little contrived and silly, especially the phone call to Margaret Thatcher, but overall, the gimmicks and huge stage sets were ultimately dwarfed by the music. Which is how it should be; take note, please, boys. So overall, despite some pre-gig trepidation, I'm glad I went; but not so happy with the 2 hours it took to get from the centre of Cardiff to the Severn Bridge. Still, it could have been worse; my brother took 4 1/2 hours to get home. Ouch!

248 THE 1993 READING FESTIVAL


SHERIFF'S DIARY - DAY 1, FRIDAY 27 AUGUST 1993

It's Reading Festival time again! This year, however, it's without weekend Posse representation, thanks to a late announcement of an alleged "weak" bill. So "sans" the lads, I made the daily commute for the first day, a dull, overcast but thankfully dry and warm one!

Got into the arena at 1.30, just too late to catch the bulk of CUCKOOLAND's pretty, Sunshot-with-pop-sensibilities set, which opened things up in the Big Tent, but hung around for FENN, next up, and their alleged "melodic thrash pop". Turning out to be more thrash than anything else, it was at times fierce yet overall still not bad. I caught some rays on the fringes of the tent while they were on, as the sun peeked through. VOODOO QUEENS were next up; with songs like "Who Needs Men When You've Got A Guitar", they turned out to be dreadful screeching harpie rock of the first water, despite some occasional neat organ embellishments and one half-decent, spooky little Cramps-like number.

The tent then inexplicably emptied for the mid-afternoon set from GREEN APPLE QUICK STEP. Maybe they knew something we didn't; despite a neat line in understated intros ("We're Green Apple Quick Step and we're a long way from home, but that doesn't matter right now..."), they were powerful but unfocussed sub-grunge with few tunes. Grunge is dead; someone please tell Green Apple Quick Step! Popped out for a cuppa during BAD BRAINS' mainstage crap rap antics, which I'm glad were in the distance, then returned to the tent, on a hunch, for THE FLAMING LIPS. They surprisingly scored a direct hit as the first highlight of a festival which was taking time to really get going; all driving rock tunes, guitar frenzy and thrilling sonic assault. Not even an occasional overdose of wah-wah detracted from this absorbing musical beast!

Teatime in the arena, and BABES IN TOYLAND were musical accompaniment to the nosh, the Babes unfortunately again not impressing with a plodding and noisy set. Vocalist Kat still wants to be Throwing Muses' Kristen Hersh; a shame she's not a patch on her for emotional projection. Screeching as loud as you can doesn't mean you "mean it, maaan". Back to the tent, then, being greeted on arrival with the proclamation, "you can dance if you want to," from THE DOUGHBOYS to the tent audience. They served up a lean and driving style of rock at odds with their name, and feet were duly tapped, although I confess I also spent time playing with some freebie "Adorable" balloons floating around during the Doughboys' early Lemonheads-like set.

Onto early evening; LEATHERFACE's splendid set last year, unbelievably, had the effect of moving them up the running order all of two hours! Whoop-de-doo! Taking the Tent stage at 6.15, they ripped into their set with venom and power, with "vocalist" Frankie Stubbs' gravel throat the focal point of an attack their hometown Sunderland FC would die for. "Wise Men Say" was a closing highlight of a noisy yet thrilling set. I then nipped out of the tent for a pee, and had my attention distracted (as did most people) by a crane bungee jumper who totally bottled it! Then back into the tent for ADORABLE. A brilliantly-chosen singles run-through, this; vocalist Piotr taking the stage in an ironically worn but quickly discarded crown, and loads of swagger and attitude (as evidenced by his response to a heckler; "Phil, what have you done with your life?"). "A To Fade In" was the haunting, shimmering and sparkling highlight of a diamond-in-a-coalmine set, which I experienced from the sweaty moshpit. Set Of The Day!

Took a walk about as darkness fell, and BACK TO THE PLANET peddled their innocuous dancy funk Pigbag-like background noise in the tent. Not the pseudo crusty shite I'd dreaded, however, and infinitely preferable to the mainstage antics of the dreadfully ham-fisted RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, on the main stage. Something deeply ironic about a band getting their audience to sing along, "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me," methinks; are RATM the voice of the disenfranchised youth of this generation? Gimme a break! Anyway, I then made my only trip to the comedy tent all weekend, for FRANK SIDEBOTTOM. "Who's been on "Match Of The Day"? I have, in my big shorts!" Pure silliness, and the perfect antidote to the po-faced protests on the main stage, with 3/4 hour of silly Queen, Kylie and Beatles covers, delivered both by Frank and a body-less Little Frank. Predictable as Rangers wining the Scottish League, but who cares? Totally bobbins!

Finally, the Big Tent headliners THE FRANK AND WALTERS rounded off an uneven but fun day with a charming set of their oddball guitar pop. Despite being hampered by poor sound, they were on top form and fully deserved their very noisy ovation after an entertaining and enthusiastically delivered set. Then back to the car and home by half past midnight! Sod camping, this is Festival life as I know it!


SHERIFF'S DIARY - DAY 2, SATURDAY 28 AUGUST 1993

Had a good trundle down the M4 to Reading this morning, and entered the arena just as compere John Peel requested a, "disproportionate welcome," for midday mainstage openers THE GIGOLO AUNTS. I was intrigued by the "irresistible melodic and harmonic pop noise" reference in the programme, as well as their being from Boston, home of many a fine band, so was keen to check them out; and I certainly wasn't disappointed! They entertained mightily with a wholesome set of chunky and brain-hugging melodies, served with a side helping of Buffalo Tom influences. The "Doo Doo Doo" opening to their splendid single "Mrs. Washington" was particularly memorable. Excellent, excellent start!

Quality control was maintained with MADDER ROSE, whose careful balladry mixed in with some carefree driving US pop rock, augmented with honeyed Noo Yawk girly vocals, recalled for me a more sussed and streetwise version of Belly, no less. I like 'em, I'll buy their record! Following their set, I ventured down the front for EAT, promptly running into day trippers Rich, Jared, Nina and Ady. Eat vocalist Ange Doolittle, last year's surprising last-day hero and now the type of lizard king performance superstar INXS' Michael Hutchence can only aspire to, was an utterly stunning focus for the band's dynamic swamp rock. Sinister, self-assured and splendid!

Grabbed some late dinner during KINGMAKER's set; they again struggled in the open air and delivered virtually the same set as for June's Great Xpectations day Festival, losing a bit of dynamism in the process. A patchy, poor sounding set notable only for the flight of dozens of yellow Kingmaker frisbees at the end - shame! A quick wander to catch some of BIVOUAC's set (in the tent, ironically enough) revealed a sub-Neds brand of doomy fraggle rock. OK I suppose but unfortunately loud and indistinct. Wandered back to the arena after 3 numbers, for the zenith of SENSELESS THINGS' set, and was almost sorry! Their cartoon helium anarcho punk pop sounded infinitely more focused than their messy Great Xpectations set, with a very fine "Too Much Kissing" the highlight of what I was able to catch.

Staying in the arena, I listened to the footy on the radio during GARY CLAIL's mainstage rhythmic funk set, after a bevvied Ady nevertheless showed some sense by refusing to do a bungee jump! The news came in from Carrow Road that Swindon Town FC had secured their first Premier League point by virtue of a 0-0 draw with Norwich, so I celebrated (although not as ridiculously as Rich, who mutated into Zebedee when he heard) with mushroom and chips for tea during OZRIC TENTACLES' overlong, aimless set of meandering, flute driven instrumental hippy pap. Decided against sticking around for much of THERAPY? and their loud but empty bluster on the mainstage (they must be students of Macbeth, methinks, as the Scottish play aptly describes their current music; "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"), and headed into the tent, absent-mindedly, for a real treat!

DROP NINETEENS were on. Drop Nineteens, from Boston but apparently more akin to London's more dour shoegaze bands, so perhaps their answer to Slowdive? Ha! Variously deliciously discordant, touching, melodious but never malodorous, and occasionally excitingly noisy, they more accurately called to mind Throwing Muses or The Belltower - high praise indeed! A brilliant "Winona" and a charming rendition of the old AOR chestnut "Mandy" were the highlights of another unexpectedly sparkling set.

Back in the arena for 8-ish, for SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES' set; "we're not doing a greatest hits set, we're not going to treat you like a bunch of muppets," announced Siouxsie to a crowd wanting to be treated like a bunch of muppets. The Godmother of Goth, looking and sounding a little fat these days, then delivered a creepy but samey set of dull doomy pop to a dwindling audience. I wandered to the Tent for a second helping of EAT, late replacements for Radiohead in the tent (the day's potential highlights having cancelled at seriously short notice, due to Thom Yorke suffering from a sore throat - extremely bloody hell!). Ange, pressure (and jazzy matching great-coat and trouser set) off, let his hair down and led the band through a looser yet more powerful set than lunchtime. A searing "Shame", "Bleed Me White" and closing "Tombstone" were the highlights of another super set, with Ange again inviting the inevitable Morrison comparisons as he, stripped to the waist, sashayed through another fine demonstration of the art of the frontman.

Finally, mainstage headliners THE THE were the last attractions of the day. A sparse, broken window backdrop accurately reflected Matt Johnson's vision of pop as misery and urban decay. He's never really been my cup of introspectiveness, however, so after the opening few numbers I left him to wallow, and hit the road - home and asleep by midnight!

SHERIFF'S DIARY - DAY 3, SUNDAY 29 AUGUST 1993

An early start today; on the road and into the arena by 11.15! I had to be, as I didn't want to miss any of mainstage openers GRANT LEE BUFFALO! I hit the front in time for their set; they delivered a haunting, mesmeric performance, with very loud shimmering acoustic guitars, and tales of angst delivered in a cracked, almost Mike Scott (Waterboys) like drawl by vocalist Grant Lee Phillips. A stunner of a start, but things were looking promising for this day already...

T'was looking ropey, weather wise, however, so I adjourned to the tent at this point, finding Ady there; he'd allegedly slept in a hedge last night, which was entirely believable! SHAMPOO, a 2-blonde girl fronted band with glammy Manic Street leanings and pretensions to be a trashier UK Shonen Knife, were stirring up a derivative but enjoyable concoction of punky power pop. However, they were swiftly forgotten as MAGNAPOP took the stage to follow them. The Athens, GA. combo, the band with the most appropriate name in rock, sped energetically through a dazzling, shiny happy set. Groovy tunes all, but the driving pop of "Merry"s soaring chorus was the undoubted highlight (but then I'm bound to say that, aren't I?). Brilliant stuff!

However even better was to come, as the nodding dog backdrop heralded the entrance of BETTIE SERVEERT. Since damning them with paint praise when supporting Belly last Autumn (only "quite good"? Sheesh!), I've grown to utterly adore their deliciously textured yet maverick LP "Palomine", bleak and introspective though it is at times. This afternoon, "live", they made utter sense; their songs soared majestically, the gorgeous vocal stylings of Carol Van Dijk (the woman with the best dimples in rock, surely?) drawing a hush over the crowd, as the band in turn handled the songs delicately, and rocked out in a totally carefree fashion when appropriate. An astonishing "Under the Surface" was the highlight of the set of the weekend... so far...

Stayed in the tent for TRUMAN'S WATER and their difficult, disjoined Pavement-like US alt-rock noise. To be fair, Ady, who went missing at this point, had warned that they were like that, and he wasn't far wrong! Then THE PASTELS... golly, are they still going? Their set was firmly entrenched in C86, gauche jangle-pop; charming at that time, but sounding twee and somewhat dated now. The set meandered, largely unnoticed, in the background, so I took a walk to catch a few of THE BREEDERS numbers on the main stage. Mrs. John Murphy, aka Kim Deal, and her post-Pixies band played a set of magical mystery college pop, which unfortunately caught the wind and drifted away slightly. They'd have been better off in the tent, maybe... which was where I headed back to, about 5, for THE JULIANA HATFIELD THREE, who kicked up a right storm with their fresh sounding brand of pure pop. The guys, in dresses, backed Juliana (wearing the trousers both figuratively and literally!) up perfectly, and that voice, so crystal clear on record, finally came across well live. A watching Evan Dando wandered onstage mid-set and kissed Juliana's neck; we all felt like that, a little!

I then found out Bettie Serveert were doing a signing session in the Melody Maker tent next to the big tent, so stood for an hour in an immovable queue, within earshot but not visual range of another set from GRANT LEE BUFFALO, this time in the tent, I guess as a late replacement for someone. Not one of my better Reading Festival decisions... finally gave that up as a bad job at 7, just as THE LEMONHEADS took the main stage to their titanic best number, "Stove". So I dashed down the front and joined the moshpit for a frantic hour of the Boston boys' unique hard rocking yet cool rock, now with a country tinge following their splendid "It's A Shame About Ray" album; a harder REM, maybe? Vocalist and main inspiration Evan Dando, resplendent in a black daisy-pattern dress and suspenders (!) was a kooky focal point, and was joined by Juliana Hatfield on occasional backing vocals. A super fun, immense set, based largely on "Ray", ensued, and I got soaked in the moshpit to the undisputed Best Set Of The Weekend. Great stuff!

As night enveloped the arena, DINOSAUR JR. formed the musical backdrop for some stalls shopping. Their "greatest hits" run-through was loud and mighty fine, with mainman J Mascis torturing his guitar like a medieval outlaw. The arena was dusky and smoky (due to all the polystyrene food container fires) and their set was a totally fitting soundtrack; very evocative and atmospheric! Then, the headliners; NEW ORDER. They, soundwise, were utterly perfect, totally faithful to their recorded work - perhaps a little too much in parts. Their set was a splendidly chosen selection of newies from LP "Republic" and their old favourites. "True Faith" took a dig at some alleged Michael Jackson rumours, but "Temptation" was the highlight of their superbly lit, excellently professional dancey pop show. A perfect end to the best day of a great Reading Festival. A "weak bill" for Reading 1993? Not! This was the best one yet!


THE SHERIFF 1993 READING FESTIVAL AWARDS

Friday Best: 1. ADORABLE, 2. FRANK SIDEBOTTOM (!), 3. FRANK AND WALTERS (of 14)
Saturday Best: 1. GIGOLO AUNTS, 2. DROP NINETEENS, 3. MADDER ROSE (of 9)
Sunday Best: 1. LEMONHEADS, 2. BETTIE SERVEERT, 3. MAGNAPOP (of 11)

OVERALL - 1. LEMONHEADS, 2. BETTIE SERVEERT, 3. MAGNAPOP, 4. GIGOLO AUNTS, 5. GRANT LEE BUFFALO (of 34)

Best New Band: 1. GIGOLO AUNTS.
Crap! 1. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, by miles!
Sorry I Missed: RADIOHEAD. That's all really.
Stars Of The Show: 1. EVAN DANDO, 2. ANGE DOOLITTLE, 3. BETTIE SERVEERT'S nodding dog!