Pics Juls Sampson
It was a normal practise, the four of us had finished our set, brushing off the cobwebs that had gathered after months of lockdown. We enjoyed playing ‘February’ live and as we started to pack up Derek grimaced in pain.
We all looked, concerned that he was trying to stretch out his upper back, he had had physio but judging by his resignation, it seemed as through his drumming days were coming to an end.
‘That’s it’ I selfishly thought, finally that’s the end of the band. We can’t go on if one of us can no longer play.
However, there was a bright spark of hope, Derek had heard of a back support that may just hold him together, it came with a caveat, it could not be worn for long periods of time, or it would disrupt his posture. This didn’t sit right with me, but he wanted to give it a try.
A few weeks later we were setting up. It felt like our last chance if this doesn’t work then Weird Decibels is finished. Then Derek asked me to lift him up, “You sure” I asked tentatively, “yes” came the reply. So, I did.
And his back went pop.
A few minutes later he adorned his new armour, he looked like a contestant from the 90s classic gladiator. He sat behind the kit, clicked his sticks and we rocked out like we had always done. Full throttle.
Later at break, we were all looking at him. “Well?” we collectively asked.
“It works.” He replied, smiling.
Months passed, we practised whenever we could but its normal for us to miss weeks due to shifts and family life. It’s a rhythm we have settled into.
Back in 2019 I was amazed when we manged to get away and record February. Once we had finished that, well, we all know what happened.
Time passed, all those live casts, yeah, they were fun, but it wasn’t us together on the stage. As the lockdown eased and bands started playing again, I wondered if we would return to the stage. The local scene, our peers included all started to post about gigs they were playing, We were going nowhere, and I was getting frustrated.
Greg was trying, he books most of our gigs. We were offered a cracking event, but it fell through as for various reasons we couldn’t commit.
The phoned pinged, it was the band chat, it had fallen a little quiet, so I wondered what was happening. To my delight Greg had secured us an offer of a gig at Bannermans, a great wee rock bar in Edinburgh.
After a few details were ironed out (we don’t do pay to play, and thankfully nor do they) we confirmed that we would be playing alongside punk funk rockers Radiofury and metal veterans Rhabstallion on June the 11th 2022.
It was only a few weeks’ notice; we managed a couple of rehearsals but these days its fair to say we practise separately then bring it together. It seems to work. We finally had a set list and within that were songs from February that we had waited two years to play.
After nearly four years we were back on the live scene. Greg and I arrived at Bannerman’s, the pub was bustling, a mixture of punks, rockers and everything in-between. Thunderous music blared from the darkest corners of the stone walled building. The atmosphere was lively.
I now remember the wait to play, we had arrived for the load in at half six, there was to be no sound check, which was a little disappointing. However, we’ve been there before! Derek and Stu arrived, advising me not to look at the latest Scotland score…
I cracked and had a beer; Derek was amazed at how slowly I was drinking it. Time continued to crawl, I wasn’t nervous, after all we had played many gigs before. ‘Always get the first line right’ is what I always tell myself.
We watched Radiofury, loved that band. Tight, energetic, superb live and their tunes flew by.
We were up, James the sound engineer was helpful, we had to use the backline of the venue, which was handy for us, no lugging amps tonight.
We had just a few minutes to get ready, would the amp work? Stu’s was…mine? Phew yes, we were on. Derek did a roll of the drums, lovely deep kick reverberated through me as I stood on the stage, that feeling of playing live is hard to beat.
I flung the set list around the stage, and we began.
Not Giving Up opened, according to our stream count this is by far our most popular song. Its hard to tell if we have written everyone’s favourite after 25 years, many of our songs were released before Napster was even a threat. Still, it went down well and will probably open many future sets.
I somehow fell half a bar behind the rest of the guys in Stranded but got there in the end. The nerves were surprisingly bad…it had been too long.
We dug out a few older tunes, Its Who You Knows is always a pleasure and it went down well with your ever loyal crowd. It was great to see some of our pals, some who, have followed us from our first nervous steps on stage at the Martell back in the 90s.
Angry was tremendous to play live, sure the lyrics went awry, sometimes it’s nice to sing what you’re thinking at the time. This could be another live favourite. Some songs work recorded; some work better live, Angry very much falls into the latter.
Speak is staple…possibly our most played live track now. Written back in 2008, it’s been in our sets ever since. The drum intro just gets the heart beating faster.
Then came The Ability. We had avoided this ever since we put it to record. During the recording we nailed it, but it had been a horror to play live at rehearsal, in particular the ending.
I was desperate to give it a try, but I will say a little annoyed as I thought we were going to avoid it. However, to be fair to the guys we tried it at practise, and it clicked. Instead of counting the bars, I just sang, Stu kept his eyes on the drums, and it just worked. I could hear Stu cheering, what a moment. It just blew me away. So much fun to play.
Before we knew where we were it was time to play our last song Protein Shaker, probably our new closer! What a gig that was…
Rhabstallion played some amazing rock and metal. Solo after solo bounced off the cavernous walls. And it was loud. You can tell these guys have played for years together, it just looked effortless.
Before long and after a few welcome IPAs the night was ending. I got a good catch up with the guys from Radiofury. After a stressful night behind the desk James looked a little calmer now that the job was done. The sound was excellent it was surely a challenging room.
The music scene is struggling, especially at grass roots level. Its rare to make money these days, and our concerns were confounded by the reduced train services which has wiped out a few of the last trains.
Derek had ordered a bus, we had a little wait in the street, it gave us a chance to catch up with some of the people that came through to see us. Eventually we were safely on the bus and on our way home. Singing started, then came Kirsty’s crisps, she had bought a bag full! That silenced everyone, all that could be heard was rustling and munching of hungry drunk folk.
Once we were dropped off, Kirsty and I walked off into the stillness of the night towards our home. My ears were ringing, and I was a little tired. But I was buzzing.
Thanks to all our friends and family for coming through, hopefully made some new ones!