Well, it started with a phone call...! I happened to mention to Phil Hurley, friend and former Gigolo Aunt, on the previous Saturday that I was going to this gig, and he asked me to say hello to an old friend; only Lemonheads guitarist and one of my favourite axe heroes (thanks to his tenure in Blake Babies and Velo Deluxe) Mr. John Strohm! Hey, sure I will!
So, Tim picked me up at 6 - stick and all (my cruciate ligament operation kept me out of the gigging circles for exactly one month. Ha!) - and we parked at 7.30 by this seaside venue. The place filled up quite quickly so support You Am I (no scheduled first support She; dunno why!) took the stage to an expectant crowd. Their set was sizzling like raw bacon on a stove; powerful prime cuts of rock which smacked of early Who and Teenage Fanclub with rockets up their buttholes, with vocalist and guitar man Tim Rogers giving it the old Pete Townshend arm windmills! The set skated along like a rampaging ice hockey player, with "Cathy's Clown" (dedicated to The Lemonheads, oddly enough!) the highlight. Dynamic and hot stuff!
Well, I then determined to pass on Phil's message, so having totally failed to spot Mr. Strohm wandering around the venue, Tim and I barged backstage, interrupting You Am I changing clothes post-set in the process! We were eventually let into the Lemonheads dressing room, having used the "friend of a friend" line on a bouncer. One message duly passed on, we hung backstage with The Lemonheads for about 10 minutes, chatting with mainman Evan Dando (who was elegantly stoned, and impressed with my knowledge of old Boston band Volcano Suns sufficiently to remark to me, "you know your Boston Rock!") as well as John (who was more reserved, but happy to get his old friend Phil's current phone number from me, and also happy to give me a copy of his new solo CD! Superb!). A seminal moment in my gigging days!
After all that, The Lemonheads could not fail to be anything but Godlike, and they didn't disappoint with a brilliantly selected set of their best and most popular numbers, following pretty much of a similar pattern to their Astoria gig last year. I stood there grooving around my stick, revelling in the warm, friendly, heartfelt and glorious pop rock music. Country tinged without the mawkish sentiment, touching without being gooey, and driving and dynamic without submerging the pop sensibilities, the Lemonheads are a precious band back on top form. "Shame About Ray", "Rudderless" and a stripped back "Frank Mills" (the last verse of which Evan drew back from, leaving the audience to sing) will stick in the mind, as will Evan, still elegantly stoned but hitting every note of his solo acoustic encore, with his delicious rich baritone. I know it's March, but all bets are off now - this is Gig Of The Year for 1997!