Last night saw me treading both new ground and retreading old as I played my first gig with new band ‘The Dying Lights,’ and saw my old band ‘Brave New World‘ play for the first time since I hung up my bass last year.
Brave New World
It was an emotionally charged evening for me in many ways.
I’ve been feeling a lot of guilt (I’m an over sensitive Methodist boy, it’s what I excel in!) about how things have gone since leaving Brave New World. After 3 great years with the band, I decided to stop playing bass and focus on my own music. … It then didn’t really happen like that. Yes, I finished my new album, but I also took on the radio show, and within a year was back to playing bass in a band again.
I’m back to doing exactly what I said I was leaving the band to stop doing. I feel from the outside this could make me look rather two-faced and contradictory; even dishonest in some ways.
It’s all been purely by coincidence rather than design however. Whereas Brave New World was the first band I’d auditioned to play bass in (and one where I definitely cut my teeth as a bass player), The Dying Lights was something I kind of ‘fell into,’ (don’t get me wrong, I’m loving it!) from originally being asked to play guitar and bass on a couple of songs for Derek’s solo project; to being asked to play some gigs to promote the EP; to becoming a fully fledged band member.
It seems even though I was finished with the bass, it wasn’t finished with me!
To try and assuage my guilt about letting my old band down (as well as because I love the band and Chris’s songwriting) I’ve tried to support Brave New World as much as I can since I left; through inviting them on my show twice (they’ve been busy both times, but hopefully I’ll get lucky the third time round), trying to promote their EP on the show (it’s not ready for radio promotion and Chris says he doesn’t want it ‘over-saturated’ by being played on too many radio shows – the offer is still there Chris!).
Last night was made even more poignant because of the location and the occasion of our mutual shows; the famous Cavern Pub and Cavern Club (two different venues, across the road from each other) for two sets at the annual International Pop Overthrow Festival; the first and second time of which I’d played with Brave New World, and where The Dying Lights were to play our first (and second) gig as a new band.
Knowing that Brave New World were playing on the same night (twice, as seems to be customary with the IPO festival), I wanted to make sure I was there to support them from the sidelines. Due to difficulties in getting to Liverpool, I missed their first set (through one thing and another it essentially took us four hours from the time I finished work at 5.45pm; only getting to the first venue just before we were due to go on!), but thankfully Brave New World were on for their second set just after we finished our first so I could catch it.
If I had any worries about how the old band would ‘cope’ after I’d left them in the lurch, they were thankfully soon eradicated when they started to play. Their new lineup is possibly the tightest I’ve seen them and I’m happy to say the new bass player was superb; much better than I was for sure! I was chuffed that some of the bass melodies/run ideas that I’d written for the songs had remained to a degree, but also that he’d taken the songs in different directions melodically too, vastly improving them from what I’d done before. Mike the drummer (who I always loved playing with and who played on my own album Hermit and the NotWe) was on fine form, as were Chris, Jen and their new guitarist Dave. It was also promising that my favourite song of the set was their newest one, ‘Save My Soul;’ a really strong piece of writing by Chris (as always) and one that I enthused about to the band afterwards (they tell me they are recording it soon, so I look forward to buying my copy!).
Anyway, all histrionics aside, I do feel bad about how the transition went, and I apologise to the band for letting them down at the time. I hope this explains things a bit better. They’ve never been anything but kind, friendly and supportive to me since I left the band, so all of this drama is most likely in my head (if I don’t have something to worry about, I’ll usually create it haha!).
I’m really chuffed to see them going from strength to strength and I hope I can continue to support them in whatever way I can.
Anyway, onto the Dying Lights; first gig!
The Dying Lights
Like I said before, I happily fell into being in a new band, thanks to the generosity of ‘project leader’ Derek Holmes’ offer to play on some tracks. I was unsure about joining another band but when he suggested I play guitar I was tempted (not having played guitar in a mate’s band since Frank is Dead in 2011). Due to difficulties in securing a regular bass player however I seemed the natural choice to step in; having played Derek’s songs when he was also in Brave New World. It didn’t take long from starting to play bass again before I realised how much I had missed it.
The band is made up of different local musicians from different musical projects. Me and Derek from Brave New World, Sheena from Venus Rising, Glyn from Flux (and Colossus Studios) and charismatic singer and front man Paul.
From the inception of the band we had just 6 weeks to go before our first gig. With the Cavern gig looming, we all worked super hard to learn the songs and get them ‘gig ready.’ But thankfully all the band are ‘natural’ and ‘intuitive’ musicians, having had so much experience with other bands before, so the songs came together pretty quickly. Even more importantly everyone is very easy to get along with, so forming a band was easy-going.
And so came the day! We loaded up the van with our gear (which Sheena’s super-generous husband had let us borrow for the evening) and we were off on our first adventure!
We stopped off at ‘Big Dollar Studios‘ for a last minute run through the songs and it was sounding pretty good. Paul forgot a couple of words and was beating himself up about it on the way to Liverpool (he hasn’t sung in a band for a few years so the gig meant more to him than any of us and he was putting a lot of pressure on himself to do a good job), but we reassured him it would all be great and he had nothing to worry about (he would go on to perform two blinding sets, as we all knew he would!).
We left Ellesmere Port feeling motivated, but the journey was far from over. A combination of traffic and closed Mersey Tunnels seemed destined to scupper our chances of getting to the venue on time. However, after a couple more false starts we got there, just…in…time!
Set Number One – The Cavern PUB
Our first set was at the Cavern PUB. We were pretty nervous and it took a while to get into the set, but we all relaxed and enjoyed it and settled into being an ‘onstage band’ (a very different set of skills to being the ‘rehearsal band’ we’d been so far). My bass was an issue from the off unfortunately. The amp I was playing through seemed to seriously distort the sound, which worked well for some songs but sounded awful for others, and in the end the sound guy came on stage and turned me down to an almost inaudible level. I have to say I mimed the majority of the set from then on, as I couldn’t hear a thing, and if people out the front could hear me I can only apologise! The set did its job however in getting rid of the nerves and proving to us that we could do it. It was fun to be back, and to play a live set with people I’d only practised with.
Next up were the mighty Brave New World – see above for my thoughts on how good their set was!
Alas because of all the difficulties in getting to the gig, me and Derek had yet to eat anything and it was getting on for 10.30pm, so we hotfooted it to the nearest chip shop (the glamorous life of rock n roll haha!) and scoffed down as much as we could before rushing back (giving the rest of our food to some poor homeless guys that were outside the venue) to catch the rest of BNW’s set.
We also just had chance to track down my mate Dave Coomer’s (him of the wonderful BlueYellows AND Venus Rising) old band ‘Zelda Plum,’ who have the honour of being one of the ‘brick bands’ carved into the bricks on the outside of the Cavern (the Liverpool equivalent of a Hollywood Star!). After trying to find it on three separate occasions I finally managed it!!
Set Number Two – The Cavern CLUB
Then it was straight over to the Cavern CLUB to prepare for our second set of the night. Playing on such an iconic stage never loses it’s charm (it was Sheena and Paul’s first time and they were understandably very excited!) and we couldn’t wait to get on; having got rid of the nerves in our first set (I reckon all gigs should have a ‘warm up gig’ beforehand haha). The next hurdle was Sheena’s guitar, which decided to break just before the set. Thankfully Derek had brought a spare; a beautiful looking Fender Jazzmaster which actually ended up sounding even better on stage than Sheena’s telecaster had. The band before us were a superb Americana style Swedish band called ‘Jengi,’ who blew the place apart, so the nerves did return slightly when we realised we’d have to follow them.
Once we got on that stage though we were like kids in a sweet shop. That iconic backdrop, the drum riser, the wall of classic Vox amplifiers; musician heaven! The sound on stage was also amazing; we could all hear each other, which made all the difference! Anyone who’s played any amount of gigs will know that the on-stage sound is often far inferior to what you hear in the audience, and it’s rare that you can properly hear everyone in the band. Me and Glyn (on drums) were loud and pounding, meaning that the ‘groove’ of the whole set was greatly improved from the first set, and the band just had a party onstage. We also got a good response from the crowd, who were dancing along and seemed to be really enjoying it.
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed playing a gig like that, and I am really thankful to the rest of the band!
On the way home we popped to the only open off-license we could find (it was about 2am at this point!) and made up for our ‘sensible’ pre-gig abstinence by getting as blotto as we could as quickly as we could on the way home.
I was a broken man this morning…but boy was it worth it! Thanks to all the Brave New World gang, The Dying Lights gang and everyone who came to see us last night!