Having contacted Caffy and found out I’m on the list, I get my brother to drive me up to Doncaster, from our parents’ place it takes about an hour to get there on straight roads.
The Dome is a leisure complex in an out of town site with a McBurger, an Asda and a sports field, surrounded by park land with a water feature. It’s like one of my inappropriate gig dreams coming true. (I have different dreams where the band are playing in places where gigs wouldn’t happen in real life. Doncaster reminds me in particularly of one where they were playing at a Center Parcs- like place, I can hear them in the distance but can’t find the stage, then I need the bathroom and have to keep walking in the opposite direction… then usually I wake up.)
After a brief recce, Caffy appears. After some reorientation, like us she can’t quite believe this is the venue, she goes to find Tim and we’re sorted with tickets. When she returns we explore the grassy hillocks behind the venue so she can have a smoke and we can talk. On the press front, it’s getting madder. The Daily Mirror offered the band a double page to do what they like with but they didn’t do it. The Daily Mail, who ran a rather dubious piece with a photos of Abingdon School and of Thom’s rather modest suburban house, had wanted an interview. They ran the sneaky pictures without it when he said no. They don’t talk to tabloids. The Telegraph rang up to ask if they could do a fashion shoot with Thom.. to everyone’s amusement.
All the guest lists on this tour have been full for months and Caffy is putting hacks off until the bigger tour in November. She’d had my name down for this gig already.
When we return to the venue, the queue is already snaking through the entire building and out the front. I manage to eat some bananas and drink some coke, my brother eats cheese balls with Lucozade. He finds some mates from college and then we pile into the ‘sports bar’, the football is on the telly and there are lads everywhere.
Caffy orders her speciality a “Woof Woof” : vodka with Hooch alcoholic lemonade as a mixer. I have a vodka and coke. I am tired and restless. We can’t hear anything from the arena and when we go down at about 8pm we’ve missed most of Laika’s set. It’s packed and it’s going to get sweaty. I leave my bag at the T shirt stall, where dreadlocked Pete remembers me, then join my brother at the edge of the crush, on Jonny’s side.
The dub rumbles on and I try not to say stupid things. I’m in a hole in this unreal place. Fitter, Happier kicks in and the room roars and there’s too much smoke. My brother goes off into the throng and I dodge my way in a bit further, I’m too small to make an impact on this very laddish audience. Airbag, Karma Police, My Iron Lung and onto Banana Co, nearly all the newer stuff. The Rhodes piano on Subterranean Homesick Alien, B-sides Polyethylene and A Reminder. You – the only track of the night off Pablo Honey. I keep trying to be able to see the stage and wiping the sweat off my face with my clothes. I need to be swept up, to feel it, so I close my eyes and let it take me.
Somewhere in there, a stomping version of Talk Show Host, Just, Bones, Paranoid Android, No Surprises, the ‘D major’ chords of The Bends and off beat clapping for Fake Plastic Trees. High & Dry is still the ‘pop song’ Climbing Up The Walls, Lucky is still the tune that tips the balance of the night, Planet Telex goes and goes but Thom forgets a few words and chords fly out and off and it’s not totally there. It’s this place, it’s too shiny, too much of a sports centre.
There are two encores of mostly slower numbers, ending with The Tourist which is for ‘discerning listeners in Doncaster and the surrounding area’ perhaps a reference to the fact that we’re not actually in the town.
Afterwards I’m soaked and in pain. I claim my bag and the bottle of water I’ve been visualising for the last hour. I recover my senses and my feet stick to the floor. My brother doesn’t quite know which way is up. He’s soaked from head to foot apart from a tiny bit at his ankles. I watch the ever growing crew dismantling the PA and become quietly anxious that there’s no one around except for Phil.
Caffy reappears having been back to the bar, watching the show from the balcony. She goes back stage and we wait for Tim. This is not an aftershow as such. He seems a bit confused, but when I tell him we’re cold he let’s us follow him back to the catering room so we can have a sit down. We find some soft drinks and when Caffy comes in she brings us some orange juice. There are two girls who seem to work for Radio 1 Newsbeat, but they’ve finished for the night. Phil and Colin are talking to their friends. I say hello, and Colin asks politely if I enjoyed the show, the same thing he always asks.
We decide to leave and downstairs there is a crowd of fans waiting by the bus. They double-take at my brother, I hear someone call out: “That’s not Phil!” I can’t quite make myself leave yet. I wander about and catch Tim on the stairs, I ask if he can fit me on the list for The Astoria gig tomorrow.
Thom’s already gone. I’ll have to be satisfied with that, it’s been weird and I’m knackered and cold. We try to leave again. Caffy offers me her train ticket back to London, as she might be getting a lift with the crew, but we have to wait while Jim Warren goes to check. It turns out she’ll have to stay in a hotel tonight anyway, but it was a nice thought. I use her phone to call JC (my friend who is now based in London) and tell her that we’re on for tomorrow. On the notice board by the door someone has written: ‘Tonight – the best band in the world’. Caf takes a picture. Everyone is on the bus and most of the crowd are gone. We have the car heaters on all the way back to my parent’s to dry my brother out.