Lock up your fruitbowl and spend three riotous days on the road with London’s wired’n’skinny mayhem-makers
“Can we please turn down the bass?” pleads Alan Donohoe, elastic-limbed frontman with [a]The Rakes[/a]. “It’s contorting my bowel movements and making me shit myself.” Perhaps we should explain. [a]NME[/a] has been sent on a three-day odyssey with [a]The Rakes[/a] to catch them in as many compromising positions as humanly possibly. Armed with nothing but a handful of drinks tokens and a lack of respect for other people’s dignity, our adventures will encompass bar brawls, stuffing bananas down trousers and, yes, secreting bodily waste in public.
SATURDAY MARCH 19, KING TUT’S WAH WAH HUT, GLASGOW
We arrive at the venue to make our acquaintances. Firstly, there’s Alan who, on a good day, can average 4,872 words per minute, but on a bad day chain-smokes silently in darkened corners. Guitarist Matthew Swinnerton, meanwhile, is a genetic splice of Neil Hannon’s looks and Graham Coxon’s axe-heroism, while drummer Lasse Petersen – whose belts and socks always match – is the band’s joker, and a man for whom too far isn’t far enough. Finally, there’s bassist Jamie Hornsmith, who seems to spend all his spare time talking to fans and enthusing about the support bands. He’s a good bloke.
In honour of the rugby match Scotland have just been shafted in by England, we decide it’s time for an impromptu act of nationalism, and so, unfurling a lion flag, we head in the direction of Glasgow’s mini-metropolis of inebriation, George Square. It’s here where binge-drinkers congregate after major sporting events to get tanked up and fight, and it’s here, we discover to our dismay, there is also a large construction site, just where the bloodshed used to be. While Lasse relieves himself on the city hall, the ever-helpful Matthew proffers a solution. “If we’re stuck for a photo opportunity,” he says, “I could always just piss on the flag.”
Showtime! Live, [a]The Rakes[/a] are rather special. They may adhere to the post-punk-funk blueprint of bands like Wire and Joy Division, but every song is a potential single, from ‘Automaton’’s bonkers party political broadcast (“I’ll give you more leisure time/I’ll make you a billionaire/ I’ll help Granny get down the stairs”) to the goose-stepping ‘Ausland Mission’. Alan, an indie icon in-waiting, jerks and twitches his way through the set, a quizzical look on his face, as though he’s not sure what he’s doing. All is well until a figure emerges from the crowd drenched in blood from a head wound, inflicted by the business end of a bottle. It’s a harrowing sight.
“The rest of the gig was downhill after that,” sighs Jamie. “It freaked us out. I only hope it wasn’t incited by the music.”
We retire to an authentic Glaswegian house party in the same flat where The Bravery’s Sam Endicott got “more drunk than I’ve ever been in my life” and Dominic Masters almost fought the law (he and his 40 followers high-tailed it before the filth arrived). But what’s the craziest thing [a]The Rakes[/a] have ever seen on tour? “On the last tour,” starts Jamie, “we somehow ended up with a leopardskin thong on the bus. We convinced Lasse to try it on, and then this girl gave him a fur coat and mirrored sunglasses to wear with it. When we made our next stop at a service station, Lasse got out and did a bit of shopping. The police had to ask him to leave…”
SUNDAY MARCH 20, THE SOCIAL, NOTTINGHAM
“We’ll start with a chilled-out jazz number,” explains Alan from the stage, “because, let’s face it, we’ve all got work or college in the morning, and we could all use the rest.”
Tonight’s gig is a riotous exercise in beverage-tossing and chemical-induced excitement, and represents a marked improvement on the night before. Drugs are a very bad thing when they lead to the mugging of old ladies and the world music stage at Glastonbury, but in sweaty, shithole gigs like this, they make everything seem that bit more exciting.
“How are the Jack and Jills in Nottingham this evening?” quips Alan, whose main vices seem to be smoking and ill-advised sockwear, but who has astutely noticed that everyone in tonight’s crowd is completely off their faces.
“I met a few people in the toilet. They were very friendly!”
New single ‘Retreat’ and ‘22 Grand Job’ ensure that everyone feels the love. They end – as they always do – with ‘Just Got Paid’’s lolloping guitar riff, which, by its climax, divides the audience into two discernible sections: those at the front throwing themselves at the stage, and those at the back nursing bruises from already having done so.
Another night, another house party, except this time we’ve come prepared with cheap wine and the proviso that [a]The Rakes[/a] MUST befriend some locals. While Lasse fools around with stuffed animals and entreats the room to “touch my monkey”, Jamie holds court in the bedroom upstairs, playing an acoustic guitar and having his body vandalised by teenage girls wielding marker pens. Alan ghosts around mysteriously, while Matthew disappears completely only to emerge the following day claiming to have been “in a bedroom! With five girls! Completely covered in cocaine! What a night!”
MONDAY MARCH 21, NIGHT & DAY CAFÉ, MANCHESTER
ve decided to hitch to Manchester, and while our driver heads to a garage for some jump leads for our malfunctioning carriage, [a]The Rakes[/a] have managed to get into a fight with a traffic warden. “You have six minutes to move this car or I’m towing it,” we’re warned. “You can fucking tow us away with it, you cunt,” is the reply.
In Manchester, the inter-band love begins over a few cans of Boddingtons. Battle and Vatican DC are supporting: “Battle are fucking brilliant,” gushes Jamie. “Look at them, they’re so young! They’re only about 17 and they’re already that good. Imagine how good they’ll be in two years!” In a corner of the room, Alan wedges a signed banana down his trews. “It’s tonight’s prize giveaway,” he explains.
The Night & Day is a proper venue, where lack of ventilation renders breathing a challenge. Tonight’s gig is as frantic as the night before – we’ve never seen a crowd go so wild for autographed fruit. As the final notes of ‘Just Got Paid’ sound, a tinge of sadness hits us: this is our last night.
We head back to the hotel. The last we see of [a]The Rakes[/a], they’re wandering around the city with crates of beer on their backs. [a]NME[/a] has nowt to show for our tour of duty but bruises, a sore head, two parking tickets and a promise that “we’ll need to do it again soon”. Indeed we shall. Only this time, hopefully without the bananas.