Val phones. She is coming today after all. Rebecca arrives in the Metro and we hit the M1 listening to the new REM album.
In Leeds we see the tour buses outside the University venue. I go and wait for Val near the Union. Her hair is dyed a darker shade of magenta. We bump into a gang of Irish and Scottish Manic Street Preachers fans that she knows and we go into The Dry Dock pub. We drink some Red Stripe and they talk about the band touring in America. I’m in a state of pre-gig turmoil and not really saying much.
Once we’re inside the venue we have a look at the new T-Shirts. Val has a laminate tour pass from Tim. He recognises me now and says hello. We wish him luck he goes off to be busy elsewhere. We stand at the front of stage barrier as the venue is still quiet, but Val moves to the back before Julie Dolphin come on. Once the band starts I’m standing next to a girl who knows the words; she was at the Manchester show in May. Between bands Tim says hello to me again from the stage. The intro tape plays jazz and then Blur, Portishead and Iggy Pop. The band come out not to the doom-laden strings this time, but to a track full of bubbling noises that I don’t recognise. (It’s Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda)
Thom’s had a haircut! Blimey he went and did it. It’s not quite a skinhead, more like the short do he had on the Anyone Can Play Guitar cover; it’s a dramatic change. He has orange jeans and a grey T-shirt on.
They open with Bones and You. Thom announces that his “Daddy” is in the crowd tonight to see them for the first time ever. They play Just, Stop Whispering; He asks to be reminded of the words. Creep is “our karaoke song” and sure enough the crowd take it over. I can’t help laughing and a verse in I can see Thom is laughing at the ludicrousness of it too. Fade Out has become Street Spirit. They play Permanent Daylight and Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong off the new EPs. The wow-w ending note is restored to Inside My Head. Blow Out is the second encore and Thom’s down in the pit, pulled until he falls in and has to be shoved back up on stage again.
The crowd know the words except the ones that no one can make out in My Iron Lung. “It’s number 16 in the midweek’s,” he says proudly. They finish on Pop Is Dead with “one final line of coke for Whitney Houston.”
Val has got one extra after show pass, but she and Rebecca take them so they can go to the ladies. This leaves me in the venue as it clears, trying to not get thrown out. I go to the sound desk and sit on the floor. At least three security guards ask me if I’ve fallen. I must look like I’m off my face; I’m battered and sweaty. Someone gives me a pint of water and I am able to stand up, but I’m not leaving. I spot Paul from Green River Records and ask if I owe him any money from Gloucester. I try to make like I know what I’m doing, stay put and don’t panic. If I behave like I belong here then I won’t get thrown out.
Thom passes through the room from the backstage door; he’s looking for his dad. We exchange startled facial expressions. I see them on their way back a bit later; they are the same build and from the back at least seem remarkably alike. Val reappears; she’s been talking to Colin about setting up a proper fan club.
Tim appears, surrounded by eager girls, tells us that they’re off to a club called The Music Factory and gives me a pass. We go out and find Val’s friend Claire and her boyfriend Ste. Rebecca wants to get changed if we’re going to a club, and this involves an elaborate technique of hiding behind some bushes to put new clothes on. We drive around Leeds to find the club and eventually park on double yellow lines.
We get some drinks, I spot Diane from The Julie Dolphin, Claire and Ste get in without passes (having gone to get money and paid to get in, so much for exclusivity) and then we spot the band members minus Colin, whom Tim said earlier was off for a “romantic evening with his new girlfriend”. Someone is singing along to Cigarettes And Alcohol and I overhear someone else quip that Oasis thought Radiohead were “shite”. We drink and watch Phil dancing and stand around wondering if anything is going to happen, it’s an average indie night with too much Oasis playing. Then The Beastie Boys’ Sure Shot comes on and Thom hits the dance floor, throwing some disco moves that seem to suit the 1970s cop show vibes of the song.
Parklife comes on and we spot Thom picking out the chords in mid air. The DJs try to have a bit of a techno interlude but it impresses no one. They go back to playing standard indie disco fare like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Jane’s Addiction after that. I sit down and drink my pint, swing my feet and shake my head to the music. I Wanna Be Adored by The Stone Roses comes on and Thom is opposite us, leaning on the wall with his drink, staring at the room in that way that he does when he’s a bit drunk. For a while I wished I were more drunk, drunk enough to see if anyone wanted to dance. But that blank stare doesn’t invite company.
They play Love Will Tear Us Apart; I refuse to dance to Joy Division in public. Then they play Cannonball by The Breeders. Rebecca and I can no longer resist. Ed is already on the dance floor. There is one song left to clear the floor at the end of the night. The opening chords cause an audible groan to ricochet around the place. With an incredible lack of tact, they are closing their night with Creep. Everyone looks uncomfortable and tries not to catch Thom’s attention or run over to kill one of the DJs.
We leave and hit the M62; vaguely lost we pull up at Julie’s Pantry burger van at 3am and then wind our way back to Manchester.