Smoking, bad dancing and Playstation II...
In a cavernous room in Temple Bar Centre, an arts centre in the middle of
Dublin, [a]Music[/a] are winding up their mid-afternoon soundcheck. Wandering
downstairs to the dressing room, bassist Stuart Coleman – in a scene that
would outrage society’s moral guardians – plops into a seat and commences rolling a joint the size of a small canoe on a copy of the Daily Mail. “[I]Do we always skin up after soundcheck?[/I]” he snorts, pointing accusingly at guitarist Adam Nutter. “[I]He’d skin up during, if he could.[/I]”
[a]Music[/a] are on a roll. After their last nationwide jaunt – a proposed double-header with [a]Coral[/a] – disintegrated when tousel-headed frontman Rob Harvey was struck down with a throat infection that turned his Robert Plant howl into an adolescent squeak, the band’s ascent looked like it’d end before their wheels had ever left the ground.
Recent shows, however, have been a triumph. The band enjoyed the Carling
Weekender, which found them playing a focused headline set to a crowd of
their newest devotees. “[I]We were supposed to play at the same time as Guns ‘N Roses did the main stage,[/I]” said Stuart. “[I]But we’d finished
before they came on.[/I]”
“[I]So we went and watched them from the top of a Big Wheel,[/I]” chips in Rob. “[I]It
A couple of hours later, Temple Bar is heaving. A gaggle of Japanese fans are
representative of [a]Music[/a]’s success in the Far East: the band describe their
performance at this year’s Fuji Rock as “[I]our best ever[/I]” and next year’s
show at a 2,000 capacity venue in Tokyo – that’s five times the size of the
venue they’re playing tonight – sold out in under an hour. “[I]I love The
Music,[/I]” proffers a young Japanese girl named Keiko, shyly. “[I]They are very
In front of an immense, 40-foot replica of the psychedelic concentric circles
that adorn [a]Music[/a]’s album cover, the four drive that statement home.
There’s no sign of first-night jitters: Rob’s voice holds firm through taxing
numbers like ‘The People’ and ‘The Dance’, and up the front, a sozzled Dublin
mimics his limb-flailing dance to the letter.
After the gig, the band decamp to the dressing room. Although the presence of
Rob’s proud parents means that cheeky spliff will have to wait, beers are
cracked, and the show is deemed to be a success. But why no encore? “[I]What’s the point?[/I]” blurts Rob – now looking impish in a knitted beanie hat given to him by his girlfriend. “[I]Walking off and coming back on? We’ve already given it everything.[/I]”
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Early afternoon in Belfast city centre. Round the corner from tonight’s
venue, the Limelight, [a]Music[/a] mosey about in a car-park daubed with
sectarian graffiti and play kick-ups with a deflating football before their appearance at the NME Bring It On night. Footie is the band’s favourite time-waster, and as soon as the band find an appropriate patch of grass, drummer Phil Jordan demonstrates his ball-juggling skills and Rob enthusiastically embarks on a number of overhead kicks.
After a quick soundcheck – where a beaming Rob, now in a shiny red tracky top
emblazoned with ‘Great Britain’, gets behind the drumkit and joins the guitar
tech in a rendition of ‘Rapper’s Delight’ – the band decide to kick back in
the tourbus for a game of [I]Stuntman[/I] on Playstation 2.
At tonight’s show, [a]Music[/a] really reach beyond. From the opening chord, the
moshpit is a sweaty horde of bounding tracky tops. Rob – in Adidas shorts –
dances like he’s warming up next to the sub’s bench. Between songs, the crowd chant “[I]The Muuuuuusic! The Muuuuuusic![/I]” like the band are returning heroes, not fresh hopes. The heartfelt ‘Human’ sees Rob strapping on a burgundy Gibson, while the swaggering ‘The Truth Is No Words’ sets the dancefloor alight. But there’s more to come.
“[I]Sing along as I walk it… [/I]” mutters Rob, as the band swing into ‘Take The Long Road… ’ – and there’s this spine-tingling moment where the drums fall away, Adam wrings a shrieking Zep riff from his guitar, and Rob steps up onto the barrier to drawl the song’s immortal hookline, a sea of hands reaching out for him as one, a chorus of voices shrieking back the words as they leave his mouth. At one point, Rob’s voice cracks reaching for a note, but he recovers well, and the show ends with the glorious feeling that [a]Music[/a]’s philosophy – of boundless self-belief, of the power of sound as catharsis and celebration – has really hit home.
Post-show, the band are mobbed. For the first time ever, Rob is asked to sign
a pair of breasts – “[I]Of course I did![/I]” he chirps – but before long, thick
Belfast accents and public drunkenness drive a sober Rob, Stu, and Phil to
the calm of the tourbus. It’s now they choose to reflect on the way the band
are represented in the media. Sure, they smoke weed – who doesn’t? But a
rumour printed in NME that claimed the band spent more on hash than on studio fees during the recording of ‘[a]Music[/a]’ is dismissed as ridiculous. “[I]Did you know[/I],” begins Stuart, sarkily, “[/I]That our weed habit costs more than the hire
of this tourbus?[/I]”
Back in the venue, Belfast is celebrating its new musical heroes. Cormac and
Dermot, two royally-trollied Belfast teenagers, literally demand to be
interviewed by NME. “[I][a]Music[/a] are the best fucking band since Oasis in ‘94![/I]”
they bellow. “[I]And they’ve written the best fucking album since ‘Definitely
Maybe’![/I]” [a]Music[/a] might not be willing icons, but Ireland has pulled them
close to its sweaty chest, and it looks reluctant to let go.