So what? you will probably say.
Well it was the first time I have been out….like really out…for over five months.
I went out into the big town, Brighton in East Sussex, one of the newly created cities in the UK.
It is pretty small for a city but, last night, it was like downtown Manhattan.
I have been living a gentle, if not dull life, in my home town since the brain haemorrhage and consequent fractured spine that I have been boring you with for some time now. So I have seldom been out at night, even to visit neighbours or friends in this small, peace-loving, if not law-abiding town.
So going in to Brighton is a big deal. My last night time visit was in the back of an ambulance with flashing lights and an oxygen mask in a semi-conscious state which I can only vaguely remember.
Night time in the city! Now that, these days, is an adventure.
I am not allowed to drive for at least a year due to the brain seizures that accompanied the haemorrhage, someone had to drive me whilst I hoped that my injured brain would let me stay out and have fun.
Please brain, I heard myself think, please just leave me alone for a bit.
Parking in a multistory car park was excitement enough – all those reflector lights shimmering under nighttime neon. This was the scene for an underground assassination, sawn off shot gun and a break-screeching getaway car.
Even more excitement crowded in on me when we got out into the street.
There they were; people, normal, healthy people, walking around, going for a drink, a date, then a meal or perhaps a row. All this in the semi-illuminated streets which spoke of turmoil but which, of course, only delivered normal people walking around.
I have walked these streets many times, both man and boy. There were times when I could have told you the history of each paving stone, every gradation and imperfection.
Almost everything I have done in my life I did for the first time in this place and yet now it seemed like the capital of a foreign land.
Its population was a constant threat. Will they bump into me and jolt my brain? Will they pick a fight not knowing the score? Will I cross a road without seeing that cyclist? Will the sky crash down around me?
Well, no. I am more street-wise than that, except for the sky thing, I can’t do much about acts of God.
I know perfectly well how to survive on the streets and I am not naturally nervous. Quite the opposite really – in less vulnerable days I have ventured into much more threatening places than this and relished the danger.
This was an adventure just the same. It was me against my brain.
I was not coming into town for a rendezvous with a crack dealer, I was not patrolling the back streets for furtive pleasures and I was not a lad with a bottle looking for trouble.
I was coming to see my friends Foxes!, (who spell their name with an exclamation mark); they were playing the first gig before their first national tour. A young indie rock band having the time of their lives.
With a single and then an album due to be released soon, a tour round England in an old van and enough energy to fuel a rocket, they are living the dream.
Tonight, they were playing in a cellar bar in the middle of town.
For me though,just coming here, down into a bar full of people, this was a big deal too. All those bottles, the dimmed lights and the human crush – they all come from a previous life, a noisier, less cautious time when I could go anywhere, do anything.
This was no moon landing – I was amongst friends, welcoming faces, fracture-conscious hugs and the even the bar was staffed with smiles.
A long glass of sparkling water, unnecessarily but kindly decorated with ice and lemon and crowned with a childhood straw, that was my allowance for the evening but I was, anyway, intoxicated enough.
It was a tables and chairs event and I found my place, right at the front with a comforting second empty chair by my side all night. Indie rock fans are the gentlest and friendliest of folk – a crowd here for the songs, dedicated to Foxes!, they have picked up on the band’s fundamental optimism but also on its musicality.
They are my friends, so I am biased, I have watched them since their very beginnings but, even so, it was a great event.
After weeks in the recording studio, they were unleashed with not only a burst of energetic enthusiasm but with the notes totally under their control – the only surprize for them was the euphoria of being out there in command of everything they played.
Adam, Kayla and Alan are joined for this tour by their, and my, old friend Matt who has been producing the album. If last night is anything to go by, that album will be the making of them. I wish them all the best with it and the rest of the tour.
Kayla is the main vocalist and managed to combine her perfectly produced and powerful voice with the coolest of drumming. It may be confidence or nerves but she looks as if she is living on another planet most of the time, as if all this music is happening whilst she is away. If she is somewhere else, then we were lucky to go there too.
Adam, irrepressibly enthusiastic all night, balanced her vocals and harmonies with an intimacy that reminds us that they are, oh so unfashionably, married and young. He played his fender stratocaster guitar in the grand manner but, in his own way, made light of it too, never showing off technique for the sake of it and not being frightened of reducing the dynamic to a gentle quietness which verges at times on that most difficult thing in music, silence. He would brighten up the darkest room with his energy and the sheer joy of his engagement in this, every boy’s wish.
Alan could play in any band. He has keyboard skills which could take him anywhere from a pub pianist to being an opera house repetiteur. He is, of course, neither of those things but he was always there, ears attuned to every nuance from the others, filling things out adventurously and rounding things off with aplomb.
Matt, as the newcomer but also as the man who has been putting their album together,seemed to know it all and he could play it all too, right through the gamut of instruments required in the indie canon.
All of them, actually, move around all the time, playing all the instruments, swapping, augmenting and, or so it seemed, just having fun.
I shouldn’t forget to mention that they are touring with a Californian girl band called The Hot Toddies – raw, ironic and humourous, these raunchy and earthy women, jet-lagged and making their British debut, proved that nothing could put them off their game and they were a whole lot of fun especially when they supplied various interpretations of their witty song Motor Scooters. I will never see those seemingly innocent vehicles the same again.
That van-load of bands, is going to have a helluva good time. I certainly hope so.
So the only thing that went wrong was that I forgot to bring the spare battery for my camera which inevitably died just as I sat down to record the event. Ouch, that was me kicking myself. A “moody” mobile phone shot will have to do instead.
If you want to see them more clearly and hear some of their music, here is their website:
I did well, had fun and nearly forgot my illness. It was only when a strange woman asked me to dance. Well she was a stranger in the night, not peculiar in any way, but the invitation, attempted pick-up even, reminded me that I had a fractured spine and a damaged brain. She came up to me just when I was so enjoying escaping from all of that.
I stayed where I was, perfectly happy, me and that empty chair.
Today, of course, I paid the price. It still amazes me how such a simple night out can drain away all of my strength but, at least, my enthusiasm is intact.
If I had my way though, I would be on that tour bus. Bon voyage Foxes!
Do you know how they came up with the name? In the 70s fox was American slang for a sexy young woman.
It was great Anatole,
The name was because Kayla is obsessed with rabbits.
The Exclamation mark is because the rabbits are shouting out a warning.
As a Wolf, of course, I identify with the furry predator!
Oh yes, the foxy lady….I don’t think they have thought of that.
The Hot Toddies were definitely Foxy though.
I was very excited that you were going out to see Foxes! last night. And glad you wrote about it.
I saw both bands at Alex’s house this evening: even though I didn’t see them play (I’m going to see them in Oxford on Thursday), I could feel and live their excitement! It’s a rock n roll tour!!
What times we live in!
Yay! Rock ‘n roll times indeed!
Cool you are going to the Oxford gig, Tom – we need to send one us to each lag of the tour.
Those great Northern cities hear them at last – fantastic! Next step Oakland, California.