As a warm up for their performance at Reading Festival, the band have announced a low-key gig in Gloucester. As we’ve already decided to go to Reading, it makes sense to go to this gig on the way. Val comes to my parents’ house and Rebecca picks us up in her beige Mini Metro.
When we find the Guildhall, the show is a sell out. Val is on a promise of another interview with a band member for the zine and so we head for a pub to compose questions. But when we arrive back at the venue and we find Tim the Tour Manager, he has forgotten about the proposed interview, the band are supposed to be talking to the NME now and so we hang around to see if they can fit us in later.
We’re shown into a large room where band and crew are eating dinner. Val chats to Ed about her current enthusiasm for Shed 7 and the band’s visit to New Zealand. Thom leaves and we all exchange greetings. We decide to get out of the way and go to a different pub; Val and Rebecca get caught up on zine gossip. I get even more jittery than I have been already.
On the way back we pass Colin, who has got very thin and now sports a smart ‘Al Pacino in The Godfather’ haircut. He compliments us on the latest zine. Thom is just going inside when we reach the venue, the guy from NME has a migraine so there will be no interviews after all. He goes in, pulling his “see you later” expression. I’m Val’s plus-one on the guest list for this show, which leaves me with a spare ticket. I attempt to sell it but want to go inside so end up giving it to Paul from Green River Records, Reading, who is a mate of the band, he’s going to try and find a taker for it. It’s a very small-scale affair tonight. I leave my belongings with Julie from the Management, who is manning the T-shirt stall. We leave her a few copies of PID to sell.
Tiny Monroe are the support. Apparently this gig was their booking originally and they’ve let Radiohead take over. We get pretty close to the front, on Jonny’s side. There are more pedals laid out in front of him than ever before. They come on stage to what I now know is Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps, the magnificently doomy string music that they’d been coming out to on the last few dates. In contrast to this Thom looks almost happy as he bounds on stage wearing a red polo shirt. They do Bones, You, Ripcord then Creep (“This is one of our many songs…”) and Thom’s all over the place waving his arms and emoting. People in the front row reach out and ruffle his hair. On the first soaring “Sheeeee’s” he’s in front of me, he reaches over and winks at me and I wink back. And then he launches into the long bit and I have this incredible feeling of KNOWING, I don’t know how else to explain it, something has clicked.
Thom starts to introduce the next song, “After a long period of indecision and not knowing how the fuck to follow it…” and someone interrupts “When’s the album?” “It’s coming!” he exasperatedly replies.
Everyone on stage has smiles all over their faces. Then they launch into My Iron Lung and it’s huge and loud and full of power. There follow more new songs including Black Star, until they play Inside My Head, which is still beautiful to my ears. The song that might have been called Ex-Pat Glitterati is now called Interstate 5. (It ends up being recorded as Maquilladora.) Just is next and it is fast becoming the highlight of the set. Pop Is Dead and Anyone Can Play Guitar push everyone to the edge. …But wait for it, there’s an encore.
Thom and Jonny come back on with their guitars and Thom says “This one’s called Fade Out” and proceeds to pick out the tune on his acoustic, behind him Jonny oscillates his hair and strums his electric. The song is simply heart wrenching. I just about recognise the “La la la’s” from the Astoria when they played it as a full band. It’s cold and dark and beautiful. “We’re sloppy gits really” says Thom when they’re done.
They play Lurgee and Prove Yourself, which much to Jonny’s amusement is still a popular sing along. Rebecca shouts for “Another sloppy one,” from behind me.
“It’s all right this one’s half sloppy” says Thom. Some girl at the back shouts, “Say fuck or something”.
“Say fuck or something?!” Thom repeats, “That’s the sort of thing Rage Against The Machine would do. That means they’re hard.” Cheers and whistles, “And American!” Blow Out starts out gently and ends as a noisy beast of a thing.
All the way through this gig Thom has teetered between amusement, anger and aggression. Val says it’s one of the best performances she’s seen. Afterwards we wait for Tim, Caffy or Colin, anyone who could do the interview that we need if there’s going to be able to produce another issue of PID.
Jonny passes us and Val says something like “How was it for you?” and he giggles and grins at us before scurrying off blushing. We congratulate Phil and his new wife Cait and they show us their matching wedding rings. Tim is busy counting T-shirt money, we can’t find Caffy. Paul from Green River gives me a tenner for my ticket and I never did get to give him back the £2 I owed him in change.
We end up outside watching the exits. Just about to give up, we spot Caffy at the front along with most of Gloucester’s indie population. Ed, Colin and a very spiky haired Thom emerge from the doorway. He’s baring armfuls of posters advertising tonight’s gig. “There’s shit loads of these in the dressing room, I’ve just found them.”
He sees me and says “I know you’ll have one” and grins. I try to peel one off the pile, but people are moving in and I end up with about four posters stuck to together. He is swamped by the indie kids, somehow managing to sign some of the posters for them. A girl breaks away from the throng beaming, “He signed my arm!”
Rebecca tells Colin how much she liked Fade Out. I can only stand there glowing, unable to speak. I got a wink and a smile and it’s like he knows how it feels. It was what I most wanted.
We follow Caffy to her hotel where she has a tiny single room. We all sleep on the floor. I prop my head on a towel and am thankful for deep pile carpet. I get a cold and fitful few hours of rest. I only know I was asleep because of the dream I had. When I wake up all I can remember is that I was walking down endless corridors and when I got to the end I was sitting crossed legged on the floor. I got to explain myself. I had the feeling I was forgiven for something.