We never escape. Every time we play Leeds on a Friday we are confronted with the Wankers' Parade,
proof positive that a transport system reliant almost entirely upon private cars is already
discredited, doomed, dull, dirty, dreary and shat. On occasions too many to number traffic on the
M1 would slow to a crawl, grind along for twenty minutes and then dissolve into perfectly regular
traffic once again, without there ever being any indication whatsoever as to the cause of the
blockage. One driver per vehicle, of course, over and over again. Very important people. They'd
tell you so themselves if they weren't already on the phone to somebody else almost as important as
From Northampton NN1 to Leeds LS6 (you can get tee-shirts with their postcode on too now, I
noticed), a distance of some 180 miles, took us four and a half hours. No roadworks. No accidents.
Just the Wankers' Parade. Rat-a-tat.
Still, Don't write a song about it.
Rich Morris and Disco Stu have gone for it this time. Two separate stages in the large-ish
Brudenell Cheap Beer Club, five separate acts and an M.C. We've not been in Leeds long before
things get underway with an earnest fellow with a laptop. It was a bit unfair of the compere to let
on that the poor fellow was really playing Solitaire while a dodgy old drum n bass tape played in
the background. To be honest, though, he really might as well have done that. How would anybody
have known? Except it wasn't drum n bass - it was avant-bleepy Octopus Records 1997 sort of stuff.
Two numbers and he was gone.
Then the deeply culturally significant, dapper and generally swell D. Millard did his thing. He
scared elements among the swelling crowd of punters and came across loud and clear, thank you very
much indeed. Why is he not famous? We must make it so.
Thing is...when you're watching D. Millard screaming "Religion OOOOUUUUUTTTT!!!!" at people over a
tinny eccentrically-tuned guitar, you're pretty much tempted to ask yourself, or a nearby punter.
Well, how mental is that, then?
As it turned out, tonight, it would register as well, only a bit mental.
But next, before there was time even to think of food, it was Wilson. Or "Mister Wilson", as we
were so amusingly introduced by the M.C. We played the same set as at the Labour Club. I believe
that the sound in the room was significantly better than what some of us were hearing at the time.
It's not unusual. It didn't feel like we really caught fire (we could all hear ourselves, but you
need to hear what everyone is doing before you can really get into something.) Still, no horrors,
and good, solid versions of everything, well received. Our last tune, which seems to be called
Buffalo Sniper or something now, on only its second outing, turned really evil. It was like Neil
Young or something, but with horrid speed-garage blighters shouting "HIT HIM AGAIN!" over the top.
One of those huge feedback pile-ups to close and we're done. An away draw, shall we say, although I
might be being hard on the band there. Later, as I searched for the cigarette machine, two young
teen girls stopped me and told me that we were their favourite band of the night. "G'night, Mister
Wilson," they called. Curse that Diamond Jim!
Then things went a bit strange for a while. You know how some bands have exactly the right name?
How they really couldn't be called anything else but that? Conjurer of Monikers stuff - inevitable,
axiomatic and unchangeable. Hey, kids. Permit me to present: The Unpleasants.
I don't know if I'm equal to the task of describing this act. I understand that it's really a
member of the highly-regarded northern indie combo Hood. having a bit of a laugh on his nights off.
Straight away, might I just suggest to Hood's agent (in the slim hope that he might read these
thoughts) that he should be getting the band a lot more work. The Devil makes work for idle hands,
even for folks in indie bands. That almost rhymes, that does. (Stick with me...if you're beginning
to feel a touch irritated at the tone, please bear with it. It's my effort to give a feeling of
what it was like to be there.)
A man in a farmer's suit and flat cap sits at an electronic keyboard. He is wearing a ludicrous
false beard. On the keyboard sits a monkey. Yes, a monkey. They talk to each other. It's like Keith
Harris and Orville gone horribly, bickeringly, unpleasantly wrong.
In between their little chats, the farmer and the monkey play this...music... that sounds like what
might happen if Richard Formby accidentally blew up a science laboratory and went hopelessly,
irredeemably mad. Kids, this is not Tom Waits noodling around coz the piano's been drinking, not
him. No, Virginia, this is hideously well-organised, cheesy northern English...music and it's
wrong, boys and girls, it's deeply, deeply wrong. And there's a monkey.
In my innocence, I imagined that the farmer was taking advantage of his beard disguise to do the
talking on the monkey's behalf as well. Admittedly, he seemed to have the exchanges down to a fine
art, but - hey! - if you're going to be good at something, eh, son? But no, it was so much worse
than that. There was another man - concealed about the back end of the club with a microphone -
doing the monkey's bit. This intelligence caused my brain to explode. Oh God, people, if you could
just hear their ghastly music. People say it was the monkey. The monkey was cack, sure. But, oh,
God help me, it was the music. The horrible, horrible, English music. Make it stop, oh, please,
please make it stop...
We had heard that Sammy USA were highly-regarded round these parts, and liable to sign some kinda
deal in the next three quarters of an hour or so. In geological time, anyway. Five-piece
traditional indie band. Madonna on keyboards (dressed down for the occasion), Monkey (Great King,
Equal of Heaven) on lead guitar, Rufus and Doofus on drums and bass (indie sprawl, plod, splatter,
plop) and some fey southern youth singing and playing guitar. "You can't act like you created the
stars, it's not right" was their lyric (their enormous entourage will probably now have me arrested
for daring to print their lyrics without permission. Swivel.) sung to a very pretty melody. It
helped that Madonna consented to adding a bit of backing vocal at this point. (I've heard she's all
right on the consent thing.) And, errrrm...that was it. It churned on and on, self-regarding and
self-pitying. Pack of bedwetters. I'm sure they'll do well. Rat-a-tat.
But, hang on - the name thing : I mean, for Christ's sake - "Sammy USA" - surely, if anything means
anything at all in this meretricious, facile shop-window of a world, then might we not count on a
name like that to offer the prospect of some good old electricity, excitement, danger? Irony even,
if you must. For a UK band even to have the letters "USA" in their name at this moment in "history"
(Hey, gang? Remember when History wuz Dead? Me too! Francis Fukuyama - crazy name, crazy guy!)
should surely be some kind of signifier? Or (may I quote En Vogue here?) WHY EVEN BOTHER? Call
yourselves the Richard and the Judies or something, if all you're going to write about is your
piss-poor, rather short life in a suburb in Hertfordshire. Most importantly, just Get the Fuck
Outta My Face, You Can't Afford It. Me Courtney, you Hollyoaks. Whenever you're ready, lads...
(PS - Madonna - dump these puddingy losers now. We all know you've still got it in you, love.)
Errrm, yes. Well there it is. Good band, bit like Blur. Excuse me a minute...
Back to Richard's, where we were royally paid and fed pizzas that tasted of carrots. It's just
plain weird up north.
Leeds footnote: They're not all nutters. Watch out for the Echo Chamber. And if you don't already
know about D. Millard, then drop by http://www.dmillard.co.uk.