It is a very straight drive across very flat land from Grantham, where we stayed the night at Rebecca’s parents’ house, to Norwich. It’s a sunny day; we have mellow tapes on in the car. The Verve, Arthur Lee’s Love.
We follow a ring road around the outside of town until we find a car park near tonight’s venue, then stop at the shops to get a few supplies.
At the Waterfront, Fiona and Alison are already waiting, they’re introducing Izzy to the delights of Diamond White cider. Izzy spots the band on the cover of my copy of the Eastern Daily Press and goes off to buy one of her own. Later Thom and his girlfriend pass us on their way inside, “Is that the Guardian?” he asks.
“No, no just the local one.” I say.
“They picked the worst picture!”
I stick around and talk to Izzy. If Val were here we’d have found a pub by now, but in the middle of the afternoon, there is nothing open. Izzy and I are getting on well, comparing notes, promising to send each other tapes. We have a long walk to the railway station to use the loos, it kills some time. When we get back we settle down close enough to catch a bit of the sound check. Some of the others go a bit nearer to see if they can see anything in this rather oddly laid out venue. They come back with a mysterious object, given to them by a roadie. It’s a bit of one of Phil’s drums (a snare skin) and we end up putting it in the car.
We wait for a long time. We’re too far away from the town centre to do much else. It gets cold and dark. Rebecca is worried about whether we will be on the list tonight. When we reach the door and we’re not, she gets a bit panicky. I’m relatively calm for once and send someone in to ask for Tim. He soon appears, all smiles, and produces passes from his little belt-bag.
The deal with these triple A passes is that we can use them to get in, but not to wander about once inside. We’re only slightly behind everyone else when we get to the front. The Waterfront is a very small space with a low ceiling. I fetch a Red Stripe before the crush starts and get settled in. Soon the usual hyper-feelings take over, all this waiting makes me edgy. I keep my spot in spite of a lot of pushing and shoving during Marion’s set. When they’ve finished I swap places with Fiona, right at the front next to Izzy. We anchor ourselves to the barrier and stand firm. I can feel the pass burning a hole in my back pocket. We’re so close to the stage that even though there are bouncers and photographers in the pit, they’re not going to be in our way.
It is a rapturous set. They play The Bends and Thom is a little loose at first and then a bit more confrontational. By the time he gets to Bones he’s all electric-shock legs and jumps. During Vegetable he teases the front row, leaning over the short distance, grabbing people’s outstretched hands. We can almost touch his guitar from here. Planet Telex is a frenzy “Dance to this you fuckers!” Creep is for “Radio 1 listeners.” It would be perfect if he jumped into the crowd now. There is such an intense and concentrated feeling in the thin, sweaty air it feels like you could touch it.
I’m not sure how, but I remain uninjured tonight, maybe I’m getting used to protecting myself. There were a couple of people passing out. It’s very hot and the ceiling is dripping. Concern is expressed about this from the stage and Blow Out is dedicated to “the people at the front.”
Ed laughs at me laughing at something. Before Ripcord Thom shouts, “This is fun! You’ve got to make the most of fun!” there is a look of total surprise on his face. The band are on fire and feeding off the crowd’s reaction. As they leave the stage, Ed grabs the central mic and yells “You were fucking amazing!” there are cheers enough for another encore but they’ve already gone.
I peel myself off the barrier and hug Izzy. This was the best gig since the last best one. I fetch some water and find the others. I sit down to catch my breath, can see the Marion contingent talking to Jules, their bass player. I wander outside, the door staff here are a bit more relaxed than they were in Manchester. I see Tim and he says “That’s why it’s good to do so many!”
“Worth it!” I gasp and he’s pleased. Jonny is chatting to some lads who are explaining to him that the girl who was shouting at him wasn’t talking about “Happiness”. She was shouting “Show us your penis…”!
As I go back inside, I pass Thom and splutter “That was good!” and he pulls a face that simultaneously says ‘Understatement! Oh wow yes! And I know!’ He’s in a rush to collect everyone and get going. Tim asks us how far it is to Northampton. There is no question that we will also be heading there, the next stop on the tour, after tonight, we have to have one more.
We take Izzy to her B&B and then struggle out of town on the one-way system. Alison and Fiona are following us back to Grantham to sleep on the floor. It’s 3am and there’s not much traffic. When we get in we catch the end of the late night music show The Beat and to the delight of every one but me, Marion are on.