The last ‘rock’ act to play this all-seater venue was pop-eyed, mad-haired and soup-stained professional eccentric Patrick Moore and his amazing xylophone. And when some of the crowd leapt to their feet and started to mosh like maniacs, old Jack – the bloke who built and runs the building – corralled them like some septuagenarian sheep dog and forced them all to sit the fuck back down. And the ‘rock’ gig before that was wanky no-bollocks soft-wockers Del Amitri. About four years ago. Before most of tonight’s audience had even started sprouting the first few tufts of pubic fluff.
So where the pigging frig are we? We’re in the Orkneys – get the bus to John O’Groats and then hop on the ferry and get off when you reach the windlashed islands full of cows, sheep, seals and puffins – just before you get to Norway.
The doors open at 7.30pm and – shooooom – 250 Orcadian teens march in under ole Jack’s baleful gaze and sit patiently through the hippyishly nauseating melodic West Coast folk rock provided by a local support band. Meanwhile – down in the artificial limb-pink painted dressing room – hard-drinking, fist-fucking, bleach-snorting Glaswegian/Edinburgian punk rock hard men [a]Idlewild[/a] are bricking it big-time because they’ve got no sodding idea what to expect and are worried that the crowd’ll beat them half to death with baby-seal clubs and then burn them alive in a giant wicker man if they disappoint.
“Children of the Orkneys! Burn down the churches! Kill your parents! We come to sing the praises of your new master – SATAN!” barks Roddy Woomble. OK, so he doesn’t. But he should’ve.
When [a]Idlewild[/a] start to rock, rows two to four (all boys) leap to their feet and start gesticulating and singing along and generally doing all those things that boys do when they wish to communicate to a band that they are REAL fans who’ve got all the records and are not (spit!) GURLZ and are thus COOL! The front row, all girls, just take one look at cute lickle Roddy Woomble with his floppy fringe and dead puppy dog in a tumble dryer body language and go, “Aaaaaaah! PHWOOOAR!” Within seconds almost the entire venue is on its feet. A lass shyly edges her way to the mini-moshpit in front of the stage. “What do I do?” she asks a friend. “You just jump and down – like THIS!” shouts her chum. Ole Jack growls but can do nothing. Punk rock or what?
[a]Idlewild[/a] trundle through ‘Captain’, ‘I’m A Message’ and the new single ‘Discourage’ and the kids bounce like puffins on pogo sticks through the fast bits and wait politely and patiently through the not-so-fast bits and to those few of us who’ve ever experienced the spine-crushing frenetic madhouse rabidity of a full-blown ebola-on-toast Idlewild-at-their-most-mEnTaL show, it’s all a bit subdued. It’s hard to guess who’s most nervous – the kids down the front or the kids onstage. But, fuck it, there’s one hell of a lot of rock’n’roll cherries getting popped tonight and, let’s face facts – these kids are lucky ‘cos it could have been smug wankers Belle & Sebastian that took their virginity. Which, of course, would have meant that none of these kids would ever have gone to a rock show ever again and the evil folk enemy would have won 250 instant converts.
At 10.30pm the lights go up and 250 freshly shagged urchins stream out into the night. Ole Jack examines the three bust seats and barks at the stragglers. It’s school tomorrow but one suspects that for these kids things are never going to be quite the same again.
Orkneys! Lock up your puffins! You have been rocked!