Wednesday 13 July 2016

Stormboy, development

That night, Simon and I headed up to the Uplands Tavern.
It was not normally a destination of ours, it being – and I’m aware of the irony – too full of students.

We manage to find a place to stand as the Herons – Adam (rhythm guitar and vocals), Ryan (drums), Gwen (bass and vocals) and... yeah. We find a place as they set up.

When they finally came on, ten minutes late – Gwen, apparently, had a fight with Adam over some leads – they got only a smattering of applause.

They’re good. Jangly sweet. Guitars that ring.

Adam was miked up really high; you can hear every word. The songs, they were OK. Songs about people our age being lonely or miserable or not getting laid. Slow verses, choruses that rose.

Adam’s voice, a clear tenor, sang the notes he gave himself, no histrionics.

More people listened, took notice; more applause throughout the evening, although the biggest applause came from a not-entirely-successful attempt to do that Stone Roses song with the five-minute guitar solo. Adam spoke, thanked the audience.

This is going to be our last song tonight. I wrote this one last week. It’s called Stormboy.
And I asked to be martyred. Politely
Put up my fists, told them to fight me.
My bruises aren't so bad. 
My attitude is unsightly. 

It follows the same formula as all the others, but somehow these things all come together. The words aren’t especially good, the melody is really no more catchy than any of their others.

The cumulative effect of the song – its bland lyrics, its pedestrian tune, the performance of the band, particularly the lead guitar, his performance that makes so much sense now – is still the same. It tugs at you, a dreadful, clutching, lonely sadness that fills you

Every single person in the pub – every single person – stopped what they were doing, listened.

A man sat with his hand on his mouth.

A young woman by the bar with pink hair stood enthralled, unaware that she had dropped her pint, that it had smashed all over the floor.

The bar help – a skinny boy in a Guinness T-shirt, leant on the bar as if that was all that was holding him up, crying.

Lager stopped halfway to mouths.
It takes you too long to get just what that means
When nothing ever changes, except the cut of your jeans

The last chord rang out, echoed across the bar, faded into silence. No one moved, said anything. The band stood, unaware of what has just happened – what just happened? I didn’t know.

They stand, confused, in a whole minute of silence. Simon stood up then, started to applaud and whoop, and I took the clue, joined in. One or two began to applaud. Most people were quiet. It died.

They stood down, Adam, Ryan, Gwen and... you know. Conversation arose again, subdued, forced, awkward, about anything except that last song played by the band.

Adam and Gwen came to sit with us. Adam was apologetic, almost.
I don’t know what happened. It was never like that when we rehearsed it.

Have you played that last one live before?

No. This is the first time we’ve done that one in front of an audience. It died on its arse.

No, said Simon. No, mate. You’ve got it all wrong, you have. That wasn’t everyone hating it, see. That, man, was the best thing that I or anyone else in this fine drinking establishment have ever heard.

Fuck off, said Adam.

No, man. I’m serious. You have to play that one again. You have to.