Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #12

(* probably not actually that many, but who’s counting?)

#12: Feeder
The Sailor’s Arms, Newquay – 30th July 1996
Also in attendance: Steve B

Spontaneity is the spice of life. Sometimes things can get just too organised, planned to the point of tedium. Every so often you just have to act on impulse. By the summer of ’96, my time as a budding journo was drawing to a close – my disillusionment reached its peak and I quit without having another job to go to. I spent most of my time either in the pub or hanging out with the future Mrs Robster, both very worthwhile occupations in my book.

However, one Tuesday afternoon there was a knock at the door. It was Steve, my old buddy from Our Price. At the time, if I remember, he and his wife were experiencing a temporary hiatus from each other, which meant he was free to do pretty much what he wanted, when he wanted. Just like me. On this occasion he was looking for some company on a trip down to Cornwall.

“Feeder are playing Newquay tonight,” he announced. “Fancy coming?”

Now I never really got into Feeder, but Steve had been following them since one of their earliest gigs in Barnstaple the previous year. Now this is a few years before they had that massive hit with Buck Rogers. They were also a lot heavier at this point, too. Anyway, Steve had become friends with the band and only had to give their manager a call to get himself on the guest list for any of their shows. That was the case here, so with no cost involved and nothing much else to do, I jumped at the chance.

Steve was great company, he always had an anecdote of some sort and his taste in music was eclectic but awesome. No wonder we got on so well – we were so alike!

In spite of the spontaneous nature of our trip, we had a loose plan:
  1. Get to Newquay.
  2. Find a campsite.
  3. Grab a couple of beers before the show. 
  4. Go to the show.
  5. Back to the tent, sleep, go home in the morning.
Simple. Well, therein lies the problem with making plans. They don’t always work out. The first part was simple enough. Steve was driving, the tank was full, we knew the way. Getting to Newquay was not the problem. They started when we arrived.

You’d think finding a campsite at one of the UK’s most popular coastal tourist destinations would be easy, right? Well yeah, it is actually. There’s loads of ‘em. But if you’re two blokes? Different story. For some reason, campsite owners in Newquay in 1996 didn’t like two blokes turning up looking for a pitch. Why? Who knows. Maybe they thought we were going to get extraordinarily drunk and lairy. Perhaps they feared we might indulge in ‘unnatural erotic persuits’ and they didn’t want any of that behaviour around those parts. Whatever, they were wrong on both counts. We just wanted a place to kip. After three or four unsuccessful attempts, one kind person allowed us into their field.

“Just find a quiet spot and keep yourselves to yourselves,” she advised us.

OK, so points one and two of our plan were ticked. Number three quickly followed. Getting a pint or two in Newquay is one of the easiest things you can do, there’s no shortage of places to try.

Which brings us to number four, and the reason we were in Newquay in the first place – to see a Feeder concert. This is where our best laid plans went awry…

The Sailor’s Arms is a nightclub, even though it sounds like it should be a pub. Like many nightclubs during the summer months in a popular holiday destination, it was pretty busy. So busy in fact, by the time we got there, a lengthy queue had formed. No worries, we were on the guest list so our entry was guaranteed. Up we strolled to the burly doorman.  

“We’re on the guest list.”
“No you’re not.”
“Yeah, Grant from Feeder put us on the guest list, the name’s Steve Beardsley.”
“There’s NO guest list. There’s a queue.”

And that was it. We soon realised, mainly by the look on the bruiser’s face, that we weren’t going to get in, even if we did queue. Of course, you know exactly how bouncers work: had we been two attractive young ladies with legs up to our armpits and skirts shorter than a belt, there would have been a ‘guest list’ and our names would have been on it. As it was – back to the pub for us.

However, we returned a couple hours later. There was now no queue and the door staff were nowhere to be seen. But the show was over. Nonetheless we went inside to find Feeder packing up. Grant was pleased to see Steve and thanked us for making the trip. Steve then explained that we missed the show and why.

“Yeah, the bouncers have been total wankers tonight,” Grant conceded.

Not the actual caravan we stayed in
(or the field)
But that wasn’t the end of it. To compensate for our wasted journey, the band invited Steve and I back to where they were staying for an after show drink. We, of course, accepted. What you have to remember is that, at this point, Feeder had only released a couple of singles on a small indie label. There was no record deal to speak of. They were on a budget. A very tight one. No expensive hotel rooms for them, oh no. Post-gig accommodation for Feeder that night was… a caravan. Not a posh one, just a normal caravan. In a field. Two or three miles from town. I can’t remember how we got there, but owing to the proximity of the place I don’t think taxis were involved. We were also joined by a third party, coincidentally another guy from our neck of the woods who I had seen at gigs before. Shamefully, I cannot remember his name for the life of me now. Nice chap though.

At Feeder’s caravan, they brought out the rider - a crate of Hooch and a couple of bottles of tequila. We drank Hooch and tequila, we listened to music (the band was rather fond of the first Ocean Colour Scene album, I seem to recall) and we smoked a couple of joints. We had a right laugh. The result of the booze I drank that night is that I really don’t remember a great deal about it, suffice to say that at some ungodly hour of the night (make that early morning), Steve and I trekked back to the campsite. We were miles away but the fresh air did us good and by the time we reached the tent, we had sobered up a little. But we were knackered. Too tired to engage in any drunken, unruly or immoral behaviour even if we wanted to. We slept until morning and left Newquay with a great story.

When Feeder hit the big time and were selling out arenas the length and breadth of the country, I told people “I drank tequila with those guys in a caravan in Cornwall.” I’m not sure they ever believed me. Now that I live in the band’s hometown of Newport, there’s probably a number of people round here who hung out with Feeder whilst swigging tequila and listening to Ocean Colour Scene, so it’s not such an impressive story. I still tell it regardless…


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