Flying champagne bottles, stitches, sleep-deprivation and swollen tonsils can’t hold back the best new music on the planet
Leeds Cockpit, Sunday May 22
7pm To embark on this year’s NME New Music Tour 2005 Inspired By Rizla, you either have to be very brave or very foolish. Overshadowed by a dark curse that’s already seen The Checks wiped out early on with tonsilitis and Nine Black Alps having to pull the entire tour due to singer Sam Forrest being struck down with mumps, it’s no surprise that, when NME arrives in Leeds, we find all the bands trying to avoid walking under ladders, smashing mirrors or encountering queasy-looking bassists. But with The Checks nursed back to health and Boy Kill Boy stepping in to replace Nine Black Alps, things finally look like they’re on the up, right? “Not really,” says The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman as he wanders out of his dressing room. “I glassed our Gaz last night.”
7.20pm Sure enough, the curse has struck again and Gary’s eye is being held together with some flimsy-looking stitches. Apparently during last night’s gig in Hull, Ryan attempted to relieve the rising onstage tension, not by giving his twin brother a hug or a friendly word of support, but by booting a champagne bottle at him. He didn’t mean to strike him full on in the face, though. “We bashed out a couple more songs, then I went straight off to casualty,” mutters Gary.
7.30pm Fresh-faced New Zealanders The Checks head out onstage, armed with 30 minutes’ worth of electrified blues riffs and a singer, Ed Knowles, who appears to have been cross-bred with the DNA of Ian Curtis and Mr Bean. Best of all, he lays claim to having hips made out of elastic and kecks so tight he’s happy to sacrifice his fertility in the name of rock’n’roll. Musical boundaries remain fixed firmly in place with their goodtime R&B and bluesy stoner rock, but as a spectacle of well-choreographed guitar-bashing they’re both exciting and hilarious: imagine a jelly-limbed Jet if you could bear to think about sleeping with them.
9pm The Kaisers’ Ricky Wilson and Nick Hodgson arrive through the back entrance (proper pop stars now, you see) to cheer everyone on. Ricky looks like he hasn’t been to bed since ‘I Predict A Riot’ came out last November. They’ve bought Ryan Jarman a T-shirt as a gift. Prior to tonight’s show, Ryan only owned one T-shirt.
9.30pm Tonight The Cribs are in ultra-professional mode, as the whole thing’s being recorded for a live CD. What ‘ultra-professional’ means is that nobody gets twatted with a champagne bottle: because from ‘Hey Scenesters!’ to future single ‘Mirror Kissers’, there’s still time for Ryan to split his face open on the mic and surf the crowd while Gary broods, looking like he might wrap his bass around Ryan at any time. As always, they’re amazing.
10.10pm “Have you heard of a band called Kaiser Chiefs?” asks Ryan. The response suggests that the crowd probably have. Then Ricky Wilson emerges, leaps his way through ‘Another Number’ and buggers off home to get some kip.
11.30pm Members of the Leeds glitterati – Kaisers, Black Wire, 10,000 Things – descend on the dressing room to raid The Checks’ and The Cribs’ riders. A stack of lager and Jim Beam only stretches so far and soon it’s time for the bands to head off. In search of more booze, obviously.
Northampton Roadmenders Monday May 23
7.45pm It’s all change as the tour rolls into Northampton. The Checks and The Cribs take a breather while The Rakes join the mayhem, alongside Maximo Park. Backstage, The Rakes’ Alan Donohoe is practising some dance moves, inspired he says, by watching Sean Paul videos.
9.15pm In Alan Donohoe, The Rakes have a frontman so genuinely strange it makes The Checks’ Ed Knowles look like a model of sanity: rocking an entire repertoire of body-twitching and rattling off some onstage banter that makes as much sense as a deranged man making wild bird noises. The music’s thrilling: riffs sharp enough to have been carved from the teeth of Gang Of Four, held together by ass-shaking basslines. ‘Strasbourg’ prompts a bothering of the Richter scale and, as if Alan needs to prove he’s not on this planet, he finishes with: “Enjoy Bloc Party!” Um, that was the last NME tour…
10.30pm In Paul Smith, Maximo Park have a frontman so genuinely strange it makes Alan Donohoe look like a model of sanity. OD-ing on Brylcreem and clutching a book of poetry, he’s on a mission to prove that anything other bands can do, he can do stranger. Northampton approves, bouncing through ‘Apply Some Pressure’ while Paul does the mid-air splits in a manner that inflicts irreparable damage to his nether region. Don’t rock stars want children these days?
11pm Maximo retreat to the dressing rooms being mobbed by fans. Two days gone and there hasn’t been a freak illness, broken bone or blown amp. Right now, bruised eardrums and a booze-addled headache feel more like a blessing than a curse.