Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Memories of a thousand* gigs #19

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

#19: Lush
The Cavern, Exeter – 25th March 1996

I used to judge just how good a night I’d had either by how many bruises I’d acquired in the mosh pit, or by how wet I was after a show. I had long gotten into the habit of taking a dry t-shirt to wear on the drive home from a hot, sweaty gig. If I left a gig dripping with sweat, it was a good one. By that reckoning then, this show is right up there among the best. It still rates as probably the hottest, sweatiest and downright wettest gig I’ve ever had the fortune to be at.

There were two main reasons it was so hot and sweaty. Firstly it was at the Cavern in Exeter, possibly my favourite venue EVER, which is small, dingy and, as its name suggests, underground. Even a moderately attended show was on the warm side. Which brings us to the second reason – it was totally rammed, more so than I think was strictly legit.

Emma Anderson at The Cavern
(pic: TheRobster)
By 1996, Lush were relative veterans of the indie scene. They formed in ’87, released their first record in ’89 and were generally regarded as a decent, if unspectacular, shoegaze band. I latched onto them pretty early on, buying their debut ‘Scar’ EP on account of it being on the 4AD label and having a nice sleeve! I ended up buying everything they ever released but always failed to catch them live. Until, that is, they hit Exeter with a bang on what would sadly turn out to be their last tour.

Having chugged along admirably for a number of years, Lush finally crashed into the mainstream in January 1996 at the height of Britpop with Single Girl, a song which saw them take a new pop-oriented direction with more prominent vocals and louder, sharper guitars. A second bonafide hit single – Ladykillers – and a Top 10 album followed. They did Top Of The Pops. Lush had finally arrived – they were too big for the Cavern, surely. It wouldn’t have been the first time a band booked to play a tiny place like that would have rescheduled to a larger venue. For whatever reason though, on this occasion, they didn’t. Hence the Cavern gig sold out faster than a fridge of half-price fudge cakes outside a Slimming World class.

Luckily, I was ‘in’ with the Cavern’s owners, mainly because I was still working at the North Devon Journal and listed all their events in my weekly Gig Guide. So a quick phone call and I was on the guest list in return for a review in the following week’s column. This was very probably the best deal I ever made. Hardcore Lush fans crammed in with the Britpop acolytes and it soon became impossible to move. I had made it right down to the front which was the best place to be, partly because the Cavern’s stage was so low and there were no barriers between stage and audience. It also meant I had an unobstructed view of the divine Miki Berenyi.

Miki Berenyi at The Cavern *swoon*
(pic: TheRobster)
Ah, Miki Berenyi (pronounced Be-ren-ee – a silent ‘y’) – the half-Japanese, half-Hungarian singer with the scarlet hair and a simply stunning smile – how I went weak at the knees when she arrived on stage. She looked absolutely gorgeous, even better in real life than in photos. It’s no secret I was head over heels in love with Miki, and here she was, just a few feet from me. I was smitten, for sure.

What followed was a raucous hour of guitar-pop and crazy moshing, generating so much heat and moisture, it started to drip from the ceiling! Yes, really - the audience’s combined sweat dripping onto our heads. I’d never seen this happen before and haven’t since.  

The set? A mix of the current Britpop-tinged album, including 'the hits', and plenty of older tunes - Sweetness And Light, always one of my faves, being particularly outstanding. Being there on ‘business’ as much as pleasure (of course!), I took a few photos and captured one of the best pics I ever shot. Needless to say it was one of Miki, and it took pride of place on my wall for a number of years.

The heat and the moisture from the walls and ceilings meant I emerged from the Cavern absolutely soaked. I wrung my t-shirt out after the show; it was as if I had been stood in a violent rainstorm for an hour, except this had been way more fun.

The tragic circumstances that ended Lush as a band a few months later[1] puts a bit of a dampener on my memories of this show. Lush were a good band who were really starting to get somewhere after years of under recognition. As a live act, this show exhibited just how energetic and engaging they were and I’m left wondering just how big Lush could have been if things had worked out differently.


[1] Drummer Chris Acland committed suicide in October 1996. The band split soon after, feeling unable to continue without him.


  1. A real goddess, this Miki, for sure! And, mind you, when I was younger and still pretty as a picture, I had a half-Japanese girlfriend as well for two years, which makes me some kind of expert here, I suppose!

  2. How does the mosh pit allow you to take some great photos??