Dreaming of the Starlight: 2

Previously on Dreaming of the Starlight:
After the first gig at Sheffield's Leadmill I'd curled up in a corner of the coach station. Now read on...

Sunday 5 June 1994

By the time it started getting light and other people started hanging around, I hadn't really slept. Despite the fact that this was only the first leg, I really felt I couldn't face an all day hitch to Glasgow after no sleep. Suppose I missed the gig? To go all that way for nothing would be too much to bear. Luckily having spent the night in the coach station gave me a cunning idea.

I could go by coach.

And so it came to pass that I ended up rolling into Glasgow on a bright June afternoon. Being able to check the locations of such things quickly and easily on the web was still a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee's eye at this point (and the Google founders were still two years away from their groundbreaking PhD research project) but luckily I had been at the self-same venue selling merchandise for Toyah a mere seven months before and any doubts were dispelled by a quick check of the music papers followed by a perusal of a Glasgow A to Z in WH Smiths. I found King Tut's easily enough.

Calling home from a call box across the road to let everyone know I was OK (as I tended to do back in those days to prevent myself inadvertently ending up as a missing person) I discovered that Toyah had called and wanted a chat. I called her back and we talked for a short while but got cut off unexpectedly and before I managed to reconnect she'd apparently called King Tut's as that's where I said I was. Luckily no-one had answered as I could have imagined the confusion that might have arisen had a mysterious call asking for "Chris" been received, seeing as that was the name of one of the members of Lush...

After that the gig was upon me. During the support act the guy selling the t-shirts asked me if I'd been at the Leadmill the night before and whether I was "thumbing" my way around. I confirmed that I was, deciding not to mention the coach I'd caught that morning to avoid clouding the issue.

In Glasgow I found Lush's performance more enjoyable than the previous night, perhaps due to the fact that the stage was lower - shin rather than chin level. It was also because I was getting to know the new songs better; perhaps not yet deciding upon favourites but certainly beginning to note the effect each one had on my brain.

The only negative point about this night out was that I had arranged to stay with a local friend, although to be honest I was stretching the definition of local more than a little. Local was Edinburgh. It was like attending a gig in London and then staying with someone in Brighton. Nevertheless I had to leave before the encores to make my way to Glasgow Queen Street station for the last of the express trains. After a night sleeping rough in Sheffield I could do with sleeping in a bed, however far I had to travel for it...

"Come on laddie you can't sleep here!"

I woke up with a train guard shaking my shoulder. I had no idea how long the journey had taken nor indeed how long I had been asleep, but the train was now sitting in a deserted Edinburgh Waverley station. I staggered out and up to Prince's Street and made my way on foot to Leith Walk where my friend lived. It seemed unnaturally quiet, not at all what my recent read of Trainspotting had led me to believe. I found Lynne's flat without any trouble. She and her boyfriend let me in and I was soon asleep on the sofa.

Monday 6 June 1994

The next day Lynne drove me to a convenient junction at the head of the A1and I stood beside the road with my thumb out hoping to head back down into England. I had a long way to go, but was confident that I'd make it to Manchester on time for the gig that evening. Having had a few hours sleep made a big difference and I was not remotely tempted to consider the coach like I had been in Sheffield. That had only been the previous morning. It seemed like days ago now.

I was in luck. The first of my lifts took me back across the border, dropping me off at a service station just outside Newcastle. The second was a sales rep in a fast white car who took me all the way to a services near Leeds where I needed to get off the A1 and onto the M62 to Manchester.

It was still late afternoon when I made it into Manchester. I'd been dropped off at another services just north of the city and made my way through it and into the adjoining district where I'd walked for about a mile through quiet suburban streets until I'd found a main road where there was a bus stop serving a route that would take me into the city centre itself. A single decker bus pulled up with Oasis playing loud over the sound system; the driver a shaggy-haired unshaven faux Gallagher in shades. Mad For It. Welcome to Manchester.

The venue itself was part of the university, located on Oxford Road opposite the Holy Name Church. How the hell, I wondered, had Morrissey managed to get all the way up there and had the vicar really worn a tutu?

The venue was another that I'd visited before, only the previous year. That had been a bad experience though; hitching to see Die Cheerleader I'd missed the gig altogether which was a terrible thing given the effort I had been making to get there. This time, with far more distance to travel, I had made it in plenty of time. It just went to show that I could cover the ground far more quickly when I was travelling on my own (on the Die Cheerleader occasion I'd thrown my lot in with a couple of other fans and had failed miserably as a result).

The venue was nothing more than a big pedagogical shed, the kind of place in which you could imagine people playing basketball or sitting engineering exams. I have no idea whether it ever was used for that purpose, but there was something soulless and academic about it. The bar was on a separate floor; on one of my trips there I passed Miki who said hi.

This was the odd thing. I'd made a conscious decision to do this tour with the purpose of going to see the shows with no thought of getting to know the band or anything like that.  And yet the fact that I had been to all three gigs so far seemed to have percolated through to them.  This may have partly been because no-one else seemed to be travelling around too, but I suspect it might also have been something to do with the fact that my signature look had a significant element in common with Miki's signature look. Even though this was coincidence as I mentioned before, I realise now that of course from the outside it almost certainly looked as if I loved the band so much that I'd dyed my hair to be the same colour as the singer's.

I did love the band, but imitation wasn't my thing. I really liked Star Trek and curry as well but had never dressed up as a Star Fleet officer or a vegetable dhansak.

But it was a good feeling to be noticed. I couldn't deny that.

Another good feeling was the cumulative effect of going to several gigs on the trot. I had embarked on this short band break because I enjoyed the music so much. The gigs.  So why not get as much pleasure as I could - they were playing six times, so I should go to all six gigs.

At times I'm sure we've all had a favourite album, an LP or CD that for a period of time we play constantly. Lush's set on the Split tour was becoming like that, a favourite total immersion album that I played to myself every night. Back then I was smoking and usually rolled myself a joint beforehand which I smoked during the gig in the safety of the crowd. I'd usually had enough before I reached the end of it - I was never much of a dope fiend - and would try to pass it on but the bright young indie kids that made up the rest of the audience refused, shocked looks on their faces.

I wasn't yet thirty and yet was already feeling old.

Next time...
From Bull Ring to Bath

many thanks to Mick Mercer for permission to use his Lush photos


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