Go on, switch off Jeremy Kyle – this is the best thing to happen to academia since the invention of the traffic cone
In ancient Greece, new students would be made to drink a ram’s horn of thick, perfumed wine to mark their transformation from boyhood into custodians of wisdom [Are you sure? – Dubious History Ed]. Tonight, on the streets of Liverpool something similar is happening. Well, two guys dressed as schoolgirls are cheering another freckled honey on as he guzzles a bottle of Lambrusco in one gulp and lamps it at a bus stop. Oh, freshers’ week: a time when the sharpest young minds blunt themselves though grotesquely orgiastic binges of booze and regrettable sexual exploration. Sounds amazing, right? That’s why NME has dusted off our college ties, filled our pockets with prophylactics and stormed Britain’s unis for the NME Freshers’ Tour Supported By Lowlife. Oh, and we’ve brought three bands along for the ride.
Tonight in Liverpool, Australia’s Operator Please may be at the wrong end of the rolling bill but that doesn’t bother a bunch of enthusiasts like them. Amandah, their wailing totem, takes one look at the thin audience and decides it’s not good enough. No worries though: like High School Musical recast with a gaggle of sequin-splattered Blondie fans, this teenage party troupe could fill a mass grave with more pep than a cheerleader drenched in Red Bull. Thirty seconds into ‘Get What You Want’’s manic chirp and the dancefloor is teeming with boozed-up academics. “You aren’t the glowstick girls we had last night are you?” asks Amandah as a trio of acolytes twirl their showy accessories. “No? I guess we just have that effect then.” We wouldn’t be surprised. On this class register, Operator Please are the excitable loons. They’re the kids tired of being holed up in their shit-stick town for too long and now they’ve landed in the big city they’re going to make a racket to celebrate.
“Man, they don’t have anything like this in Australia,” sighs the singer later, backstage in their concrete cell. “We had to go watch orchestra!”
“Hey,” pipes up OP’s glitter-punk violinist (and ex-member of said orchestra) Ashley, “That was cool!” “We’re totally hyped to be here,” Amandah continues, “The Go! Team is our favourite tourbus music, and now we’re on tour with them.”
Sharing the dressing room and sitting next to them in Class NME are Detroit’s Satin Peaches. If Operator Please are bouncing across campus with perma-grins, these dudes are in their room packing handfuls of skunk into their bongs while worshipping Pearl Jam rarities.
Tonight, however, this gang come alive. Lead singer George Morris bristles with anguish, bashing his mammoth mane about, lost in his band’s sound. Alongside him, lead guitarist Ryan is every inch the disenchanted outsider, dancing through the chiming glory of ‘Well Well Well Well’ while George’s voice swings from piercing wail to brow-furrowing growl. At their feet the freshly inducted youth swing their shoulders in appreciation, as it seems that weary indie misery is as popular as ever on the NME Freshers’ Tour.
Looking at the deathly eyes of The Satin Peaches’ bassist Aaron the next day in Loughborough you can see why. Hedonism takes no prisoners. “Last night was a heavy one,” he groans. “See, I learnt,” nods George, “you can’t go wild all tour or you’ll die.” Watching him throw back beer after beer, it’s not quite clear exactly what he’s learnt, but that’s OK. Operator Please are buzzing around them, leering into their fridge full of cider with the lust of a group barely old enough to drink. Ashley is sporting a Ronan Keating T-shirt she picked up (“He’s so fit!”) while Amandah is glamorous in gold. Still, one thing remains unsolved. While the giddy freshers and slacker stoners are all present and correct, what about party graduates The Go! Team. Has anyone seen them? Anyone?“Er, I think I said ‘hello’ to one of them the other day,” laughs Satin Peaches’ Aaron.
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Hmmm. This band are keeping their distance. Last night, after their storming hip-pop set which saw most of Liverpool sinking into a glitter-strewn crater, NME slipped towards their dressing room only to find party-priestess Ninja rushing off. “I’ve gotta go to Leicester!” she gasped for reasons unknown. It’s all, er, go for them.
Tonight in Loughborough, Operator Please grab the second support spot and rip it apart, finally throwing what’s left at a frantic crowd during ‘Just A Song About Ping Pong’. But tonight there’s little doubt that The Go! Team are here to rule, exemplified by Ninja’s acrobatic fury as she bullies the crowd into motion when not spitting lyrics like a Tommy gun. At her side Ian Parton, Go! Team captain, holds his brood together as each leaps across the stage without missing a single note. As her surrounding band flit between instruments, Ninja bounces over the glorious drone of ‘Ladyflash’ and ‘Bottle Rocket’. In front of her a few stragglers are desperately trying to grasp a breath between following her orders to clap/bounce/dance/chant/scream… louder. Louder! LOUDER! This is party music as an extreme sport. Bloody students, they get all the best tours.