Monday, 18 January 2010

634 "Boston Rock Promotions" presents THE PILLS, YOU ARE HERE, Swindon Broadwalk, Sunday 23 May 2004

"Boston Rock Promotions" presents the Pills? Well, that's Rachel and myself! After 24 years and 633 gigs as a fan, I'm finally helping to put one on! Taking advantage of an opportunity - The Pills were in the UK and mainman, and Boston friend, Corin Ashley, asked about gig possibilities in Swindon; finding little enthusiasm from the people I approached, I finally thought, "why not do it ourselves? How hard can it be?"

The answer? Not too hard at all actually! Corin suggested a free date in the Pills' UK schedule, we got the venue for free as they're not normally open on a Sunday but were happy to open for bar takings from a guaranteed audience, Tim's band acted as both support and equipment/drumkit providers for the light-travelling Pills, Tim also offered to put a couple of the band up for the night (as did we). Tim also recommended a soundman (who I duly hired for £150 guaranteed), I ghost-wrote a piece for the Swindon Advertiser, my brother offered to be "Larry Lights", friend Stuart Gould's company did posters, flyers and tickets for a discount, and we were all systems go!

So, we headed on down to the venue at 4.30 on the big day, to find the sound guy already unloading! Tim's band arrived shortly thereafter, and my brother arrived at 5.30 with some impressive light-rigs. Got the call at 5.45 that The Pills were in town (Corin serenading me on the mobile with "The Boys Are Back In Town"!) so I duly greeted them from the station, then brought them back to the venue which was ready for their soundcheck. Popped home briefly with my brother during the soundcheck (to get the ring - more later!), then headed back to the venue. The Pills' soundcheck was done by then, so we gave them a nice surprise; a letter from XTC's Colin Moulding, delivered to the venue, wishing them well for the gig! This, needless to say, bowled Corin over somewhat, but wasn't the only XTC-related incident that night...

Doors opened at 7, so Rach and I took turns on the door, as the punters - mainly our friends whom we'd sold tickets to - arrived. I stayed as "Norman The Doorman" during You Are Here's support set at 8.30. The sound, a little loud and lairy during soundcheck in the empty venue, was sorted for the set and from my door vantage point sounded pretty damn good. You Are Here belied their expected ring-rust and delivered a slick, professional and enthusiastically-rendered set of their 90's US Alt-rock influenced pop. As usual, shades of Buffalo Tom and Sebadoh, but with less of the nervousness of yore, particularly from vocalist "The Hawk". I danced with Rach to a perfectly-executed and heartfelt "I May Hate You Sometimes", which ironically served as a perfect prelude for what was to come...

So, just before the Pills were due on, I dragged Rach onstage under the pretext of jointly introducing the band, then got down on one knee and, to a couple of incredulous gasps from the audience, asked her to marry me! Luckily she said, "yes!" Incredible!

So, after that little bit of thunder-stealing, we actually did jointly introduce The Pills, who broke into a perfectly-timed "Halifax", as Rach and I accepted - and fended off - congratulations from all and sundry down the front. The Pills were "on it" from the outset, and belted through the first five numbers with their trademark non-stop amphetamine fast enthusiasm and intensity. Sounding perfect - how does our soundman not do this for a living? - and playing with a frenzied full-on throttle speed, the Pills won over this Swindon crowd with their blend of upbeat, very idiosyncratically English (Kinks, XTC and Costello evident influences) yet swaggeringly American pop.

"Engagements happen all the time at our gigs," said vocalist Dave Thompson, somewhat inaccurately, before "Apologise", dedicated to us. A splendid "Rub My Eyes" was introduced by Dave as, "a song I wrote about my wife," before he then introduced the flippant "Continental Breakfast" as, "a song I wrote about his (guitarist Dave Aaranoff's) wife!"

The hour-plus set dashed by far too soon, but we dragged them back onstage for a couple of encores - "Butternut", as requested by none other than Holly Partridge (Andy Partridge's daughter, who in the other XTC-related incident tonight had shown up, introduced herself to Corin and gotten the Pills in a right old state, phoning her dad and getting him to talk to them!), and an unexpected, unhinged and raucous run-through David Bowie's "Suffragette City". A great climax to undoubtedly the show of the year, and one of the greats of all time.

The one hitch I was panicking about came afterwards - guest Pills drummer Matt from Bleu, apparently a "soft hitter" according to my watching brother, a drummer himself, had managed to crack YAH drummer Danny's large crash cymbal, so the £120 clear profit we'd made - which we'd originally planned to give to The Pills, had to go towards that instead. D'oh! But this didn't detract from an extraordinary night.

Back to ours afterwards, where we cracked open the celebratory sparkling wine kindly provided by the venue, then talked Boston Rock with the boys until the small hours. Then after a short nights sleep, we all met up for breakfast in the Grove's Company Inn (except Corin, who'd caught a train in the morning to see his mum, also visiting the UK!) before the boys left on the midday train.

God bless The Pills, the musical accompaniment to one of the most important nights of my life. Incredible!

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