If its Sunday we must be in Manchester. Home of the Smiths, Joy Division and New Order. Oh my god, it must have been the suicide capital of the UK during that time. Or maybe people took solace in the fact that it also spawned Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses and the Fall and Inspiral Carpets. Oh no, wait , those bands were fucking crap as well. At least the Chemical Brothers formed in Manchester. As awesome as they are, when the best music to come out of a city is made by 2 guys with computers, how does it get such a reputation for being a big rock n roll town? I guess the Madchester Sound had a heavy influence on Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica” OK, Im not being a total Debbie Downer on the town. Even though when I woke up on Sunday, almost nothing in the entire city was open. God fearing fuckers.
Rolled up to the Academy, which is actually located in the student union building of Manchester University. Saw Jane and Jane’s Dad Jack and my momma in the parking lot. And Lil T. Oh sweet Lil T. Took a quick look around inside and dropped our bags off in the dressing room and then headed out for Lunch. Me and Momma and Jane and Jack and Lil T got tossed out of two pubs straight away. The first one because it “Wasn’t open.” Even though they were playing “Welcome to the Jungle” on the jukebox, there were 6 people sitting at the bar drinking, and all the lights were on. Yeah, my mistake. So we walked a few blocks to the next “open” pub. We sat down looked over the menus, finally decided what we all wanted and then Jane went to the bar to order. It was then they told her that they didnt allow babies inside. Makes perfect sense once again. Why tell us that when we first walk in. Nah, let ius get all settled and comfy first. Imagine Lil T getting us tossed out of pubs. Like father, like son, I guess.
Okay, next stop, across the street. Some cafe type joint that looked like the British equivalent of an American Diner. Not the cool, trolley or 50s style “diners” you might be envisioning. But a more bland version of the type of diner you’d see on Seinfeld or any other wildly uproarious sitcom about 4 something-somethings and their wacky adventures in life, love, and their love lives.
Had some predictably bland chicken with some forgettably bland side. Then tried some of my mom’s “jacket potato” Which was you guessed it, bland. But she got hers with Tuna Fish. Which had a lot of mayo in it. you know what putting a lot of mayo in tuna fish does? Brings all the taste out! Nah, just shitting ya. It was bland. But you know what was bland but GOOD? Jack’s dinner. Toast with cheese. Exactly as it sounds, but yummy nonetheless.
Ginger came and joined us for the end of lunch and an eruption of photos ensued. I witnessed two firsts right then and there. Id never seen a father SO EXCITED to give his baby a bottle. And Ive never seen a baby who loved having his picture taken so much. This kid is 5 months old but knows what a camera is, and his eyes light up every time you point one at him. Before you go thinking he’s tooooo cuuuuuute…. remember he’s a baby. So he’s a shit machine by nature. Peee-eewwwww. Nah, just kidding: his shit didn’t stink. It just smelled bland.
Headed back to the venue so Gin-Gin could sound check. I went for a run around the campus. Which consisted of running circles through one quad and a parking lot. This served 2 purposes… since it was a Sunday and there was nobody around (I mean like ghost town, like the students disappeared to Ibiza for the weekend) I was afraid if I ran too far away then Id get lost and be screaming Hello Manchester for hours until bounding onto the stage in my running gear as soon as our set started. And two, I was told it was a rough town full of things called punters. Though I didn’t understand the term, since punters back home are usually the biggest pussies on the football team. But fuck it, I hadnt been stabbed yet, and I didnt wanna start in Manchester. If the food was that bland, I didn’t want to take a chance on their antibiotics.
Manchester was a first in a few regards, show-wise; it was the first venue that we got to hang our massive banner in. 13 feet wide by 9 feet tall. Massive yeah. It was sweet. Proper rigging meant they just lowered a pole and we tied our banner to it and they fly it up again. It was awesome til we saw it hung in front of the Wildhearts banner. I guess you need a banner the size of Buckingham Palace if you’re the Wildhearts. The ceiling was about 30 feet high and you could still only see half of their banner. The drummer actually obscured some of the logo. Damn these fools must play some big ass rooms. Or maybe they sketched their banner out to be 60? high, but mis-wrote it as 60?. Some say bigger is better, but even though theirs dwarved ours, you could still see our entire banner. So Im gonna chalk that one up to us. We’ll make an enormo banner when we play the enormo dome. Or the Download fest.
The other first was that there was no bar inside the room where the bands played. Just a big huge fucking room. 3 walls and a stage. Our super-mega-wicked-awesome driver Paul told us that when he played that room as a first of 3, they just opened with a wall of feedback for 3 minutes to make sure everyone in the bar next door and down below the venue heard that band was going on and made it up to the music room. This wasn’t really a viable option for us since we open with Night Fever, which starts with Pete doing the intro from offtstage with his wireless, the band walking out onto stage and a slow build. ”Oh well, fuck it” we thought. ”We’ll do what we do and they’ll see it or they wont.” When I bounded onstage at the end of the build, I was tickled pink (or was that just my hair getting in my face) to see that there were at least 100 people in the massive room, including the requisite 8 or 10 wild hearted fans who got to the barricade 6 seconds after doors opened every night. When we finished the song and looked up I was astounded. There were 6-700 people in the room . And a lot of them were clapping and smiling. In fact, I didnt hear a single boo. Though a few solo dudes, who I likely would have booed had they been onstage, were just staring at us, unsure yet if it was gonna be “okay” to like us. I made a mental note to grind my crotch in their general direction during You Should Be Dancing.
By the time the set was over there were well over 1,000 people in the room and they were having a blast. I think it helped that my mom created a one person tidal wave of support in the third row, on Pete’s side. I kept seeing a sea of arms waving out of the corner of my eye and would look down to see it was just my mom. I hadnt seen her move so much so fast since she chased me through the house trying to get her Benson and Hedges back from me when I was just a wee lad. Whatever she was doing, which I think she would call dancing, it worked. We killed it in Manchester. We all headed straight out to the merch booth after the show and the autograph hounds came a seeking. We sold and signed and signed and sold. Both after our set and at the end of the night. I signed so many autographs my damn hand was getting tired. It was like the day I discovered (internet) porn.
Predictably… the Wildhearts fucking ate Manchester up. But we held our own and set our tour merch sales record. Id like to think it was because we were so fucking awesome. But Im pretty sure it had a lot to do with the low rock bar the rest of the “Manchester Scene” had set over the past 30 years.