Pub visits this week 6
Monday night doesn’t look good. There’s a gig on. And it’s a Monday night. This alone would tend to suggest that the promoter should hope realistically for no more than 15 people to turn up. In terms of potential attendance, other circumstances are no more propitious. One of the bands is mine, and we’re playing in our home town of Sheffield, where nobody particularly likes us. It’s an indiepop gig, and actual, real indiepop is a tiny cult; tiny. Sometimes you can hope one of the other bands will be able to bring a few people along from home. Tonight the other bands are from Nottingham, France and Sweden. Approximately 15 people turn up.
Aside from the question of numbers, the signs are no better. Usually you’d expect the promoters to have organised all the equipment weeks in advance. Tonight the promoters remember that there’ll need to be some amplifiers and things about three hours before the doors open. Three of the four bands have spent a weekend of debauched excess at an indiepop festival and are knackered. Indeed, my band is at the end of a nine-day, six-date tour. I woke up this morning wishing this gig wasn’t happening at all.
As well as playing, I’m one of the promoters, by the way.
But perhaps we’ve found our second wind, or we’re running on sheer exhilaration or adrenaline from the weekend, or there’s something very special about the Red House that brings out the best. Whatever it is, we’re riding it like never before. The music is incredible, like nothing you’ve ever heard. The venue is swept by a perfect storm of derangement. And somehow, despite everything, it’s the greatest gig I’ve ever been a part of.
Fancy that, eh?
After all that I deem it wise to drink a pint of orange juice instead of beer when I meet Cara for lunch the next day at the West End. It’s just a couple of minutes’ walk from my work at the university and Cara’s at the children’s hospital, but it’s the first time I’ve eaten here. We very much appreciate the relaxed ambience, the tasty pub food, and the delicious 10 per cent discount for employees of the university and the NHS.
Midway through the week I get a message from Catherine. Catherine is one of the people I made friends with during my lovely day at the Blue Bell in York towards the end of last year. They’re coming over to Sheffield this Saturday for some pub fun. As I get to the Wellington to meet Catherine and Paddy it’s about seven o’clock, which means I’m about six and a half hours behind. A little inadvisedly, I do a bit of ‘catching up’ – for which, read: I drink too quickly.
Still, there’s fun to be had. When we head to the Fat Cat – with Dan and Cara having joined the party – we bump into a couple of people I know, and I always wonder why I don’t come to the Fat Cat more often, what with having had such a fabulous time here that summer of moving to Sheffield in 2004, crowding into a corner with my girlfriend and waiting for random, brilliant, enlightening, funny conversations with kind strangers. Maybe it’s because we have plenty of friends now. But that’d be a shame. There’s always something marvellous about those conversations. I might start pretending I’ve only just moved here again.
The Rutland Arms (featured here; pictured above) seems a little sparse when we roll up there – perhaps it’s destined to be more of a Friday night than a Saturday night sort of pub. But we glow in the amber-lit garden, and by the time our guests leave for their train at about ten o’clock I think they’ve seen some of Sheffield’s best.
By this point I’m gagging for a bag of chips. There aren’t any chippies open though, so some beer will have to do instead. I jump on a tram – actually, it’s more of a slump by this point – then miss my stop and have to walk up through Ruskin Park to the Blake Hotel. For some reason much of the walk seems to take me through thickets of hawthorn and bracken that come up to my neck. I don’t remember that being there before. Inexplicably, it takes me about 20 minutes, too, when normally it would only take five.
Still, it’s worth it for some great beer and conversation at the Blake with Tonieee, Jo and Markie. I can’t quite remember which beers we drank or what we talked about, but it’s definitely been a great night. When you wake up with thorn scratches all over your chest, you know it’s been a great night.