02 Academy, Newcastle, February 7, Academy 1, Manchester, February 8 and 02 Academy, Leeds, February 9
02 Academy, Newcastle, February 7
The stage is wired. The bands are wired. The crowd is wired. Everybody is wired. Behind the scenes the bands try to play it cool while sizing each other up. Everybody’s got that nervy feeling, shuffling their feet like they’re waiting for a blind date. It’s up to four boys from Birmingham to break the ice, and as soon as Peace saunter onstage to open the 2013 edition of the NME Awards Tour with ‘Higher Than The Sun’ it’s clear that this – this tour, this gig, this night, this whole thing – is going to be a righteous kind of fun.
They’ve only had 10 minutes to soundcheck, but Peace kill it. Their record isn’t even out for a full month but songs like ‘Wraith’ connect immediately. The band aren’t satisfied when they come offstage, determined to get even better. Palma Violets are electric, but run out of time and offer the crowd the choice of ‘We Found Love’ and ‘14’. They pick the latter.
Miles Kane hits the ground running. He’s played a couple of warm-up shows in preparation and he’s bringing his A-game. His shtick goes down well in a room where a decent number of young men have come dressed in buttoned-up paisley shirts and blazers, like miniature facsimiles of their mod idol. They start queuing up at the stage door before he even finishes. When the Palmas duck outside for smokes they’re swamped with posters and tickets to autograph.
Unbeknown to the band, one of their entourage has lifted a bottle of Jack Daniel’s from Miles’ empty dressing room. This is not a good way to become best of friends. There are bad waves of paranoia and intolerable vibrations on this first night on the road. “No-one trusts us any more!” says Chilli from the Palmas later. “It’s not our fault!” Harry from Peace reassures him: “I trust you! Mi casa, su casa.” The culprit is found and dispatched to buy a replacement bottle. Amends are made.
Back in the main room, Django Django are storming their set, winning over even the diehard Kane fans when they namedrop the Toon into ‘Skies Over Cairo’. When the show’s over the headliners and Miles head to their spacious tourbuses to rest and recuperate ahead of the drive to Manchester. Peace and Palmas, who are touring in tiny splitter vans, have other ideas. They head off into the night to down shots in sticky-floored indie haven Gotham Town, break into the city-centre ice-rink to skate rings around the half-arsed security, and finish the night being propositioned in the toilets of a gay bar. Hell, why not?
Academy 1, Manchester, February 8
Palmas’ tour van judders into a truckstop greasy spoon. Feral hangovers are fed before they get back in, trying to catch some sleep to a soothing soundtrack of Suicide and Television Personalities. Most of the band are still suffering from the night before, but when we get to Manchester Pete Palma initiates a mission to roll across town to Blueprint Studios to congratulate a certain Johnny Marr on being named NME’s Godlike Genius. Pete’s reward is the chance to play Marr’s signature Fender Jaguar. When we get to the venue everything is starting to run a bit more smoothly. Peace even have time for a full soundcheck, and the result is an even bigger, richer sound as the minor hiccups of the opening night are ironed out.
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Palmas’ set is monstrously loud. Will’s drumming on ‘Tom The Drum’ is ferocious and the crowd pogo furiously as soon as ‘Best Of Friends’ kicks in. Miles Kane doesn’t want to leave the stage when his show ends, and he repeats the call-and-response at the end of ‘Come Closer’ (“Ah-ah-ah-ah” “Woah-oah-oah-oh”) even more than usual after his band leave the stage. He’s buzzing afterwards. “There was a great atmosphere in there,” he says later. “You have good gigs, but then sometimes you just feel something else. It had that tonight.”
Django Django limber up like athletes before their set, lunging and stretching just before they head on for a show that gets an even bigger reaction than in Newcastle. Later, Miles Kane and his band head over to the official afterparty to watch scarily talented scamps The Strypes, before all four bands end up in adjacent boozer Big Hands. Everybody’s friends again. Compared to Newcastle it’s a relatively quiet night, but we’re still in there at 2am when they kick out.
02 Academy, Leeds, February 9
Leeds brings the most up-for-it crowd of the tour so far, with moshpits all the way back to the sound desk. Miles Kane has become a huge fan of Peace since the tour started. “It’s early doors for them, but I think those tunes can connect,” he says, before watching their whole set from the balcony.
The crowd react to every Palma Violets song tonight like they’re at a festival, circle pits as far as the eye can see. It goes so well that for the first time this tour they add ‘Brand New Song’ to the end of their set. Chilli dives into the crowd and his shirt gets torn apart. Sam ends up in the drumkit. It’s the most exciting and visceral rock’n’roll show I’ve seen in years.
Backstage a lone voice is loudly demanding to be brought the finest narcotics known to humanity. Three storeys below the smoking balcony, gathered fans call up for the bands to come down and hang out. The Palmas head downstairs but Doug from Peace has other ideas, pushing himself up over the railing. It’s unclear whether he’s pissed enough to jump, but he’s definitely pissed enough to fall. I wrestle him back off the ledge, which only encourages him to try and make it past me again. ‘Splattered guitarist’ is not the headline I’m looking for. I have to keep Peace in one piece.
The scene is descending into bad craziness. By the time Peace and Palma Violets finally make it to basement club The Wire for their respective DJ sets we can tell ‘restraint’ is not a word you’d use to describe Leeds on a Saturday night. One guy near the DJ booth is so paralytic he’s struggling to make it to the toilet. Will from the Palmas, because he’s a gentleman, begins to help him across the dancefloor but they only make it halfway before the guy drops his trousers. This is the exact moment that Chilli arrives, and the guy slashes all over his legs. Understandably, Chilli’s pretty pissed off about being pissed on. The tour van is called to bring clothes that don’t reek of another man’s urine.
Around 3am, long after the bands have stopped DJing, somebody puts on ‘Best Of Friends’. I grin at Pete and ask: “What the fuck is this shit?” He shakes his head even as the club erupts around us. Time to leave. We head next door to a club called Milo’s, where the soundtrack jumps back 60 years. “A-wop bop-a loo-mop, a lop bam boom”, as a wise man once said. It’s gone 5am by the time Will and Harry lead the search for fried chicken and eventual beds. Then you realise… By Christ! It’s only day three…
Kevin EG Perry