This was an early one, so Rachel and I decided to make a day of it, meeting friends for lunch and shopping, then into the queue for this sold-out show at 6.15. As doors were 6.30, this wasn't as crazily early as it sounds! Made our way into the foyer and spotted Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws by the merch stand, so we stopped for a few words. Matt, an old acquaintance of Gravel Pit bassist and our good friend Ed Valauskas, had a lot of complimentary things to say about The Pit, liked my TGP tattoo, and invited us onto the Guest List for Thursday's Cardiff show! Shame we had to decline - we'd already booked tickets for that one!
Got down the front to see The Bandits, first band on at 7. They were a Scouse band peddling a ramshackle and clumsy clash of musical styles, like the guys who failed the audition for the Coral or something. I heckled, then headed for the loo!
Back for da Surf's set at an early 7.45; a truncated 8 song set serving as a taster for their own forthcoming headline shows. They were on it straight from the off; from the touching strum-along of "Blizzard Of 77", then straight into the punky Buzzcocks groove of "The Way You Wear Your Head", one of the best singles of 2002 and surely the best title! Nada Surf's set again surfed, appropriately enough, between a textural, shoegazing wall of guitar sound and a more clear college rock sound a la early Sebadoh. They sounded superb in the big venue, and put on a committed performance. A brilliantly heartbreaking "80 Windows" was followed by a totally unexpected "Popular", their sarcastic MTV hit High School romance "millstone number", with a thrillingly amphetamine-fast "Hyperspace" capping a superb vignette-style show from one of the real rediscovered joys of 2002.
Afterwards, Matthew confided that "Popular" was a, "one-hit for tonight only;" we met another Surf fan who'd travelled from Bournemouth to see them; and I clumsily tried to explain how much "80 Windows" increasingly means to me. Matt appreciated the sentiment, I think.
We're then in for The Vines, possibly the single most over-hyped band of recent times. So-say unhinged frontman Craig Nicholls has all the credentials; pretty, skinny, great scarecrow haircut and an engagingly potty stage presence. He now needs to learn that intensity doesn't necessarily mean screaming inaudibly, and the band need to write some original material, rather than just rifling through Nirvana's dustbin. Don't believe the hype; or rather, ignore the hype and let this very young band develop in their own time. I quite liked the snappy "Highly Evolved", though. Matthew and Bournemouth fan joined us at our bottom of the stairs, stage right, vantage point, for "Get Free", by which time Nicholls is shirtless (to the delight of the young sell-out crowd) and flinging himself about with gay abandon. But we'd seen The Vines play their best 3 numbers - all singles - by then, so we head off.
Not until we're back at the car do we realise it's only 9.15! This was an early one and no mistake, but a trip to the mosh for da Surf had left us knackered. So home for pizza with the sounds of Nada Surf ringing in our ears!