Paradise (A Story Of Shambolic Failure) Part 2 by Allen Miles

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The euphoria didn’t last long. But the enthusiasm did. And the enthusiasm overtook any form of common sense. We agreed to loads of terrible gigs, gigs that we shouldn’t have even contemplated doing. Our third live performance as a group was a Battle Of The Bands at Polar Bear down Spring Bank, and two of the billed four bands had pulled out, so it was us and Blind Frog Ernie, a mediocre post-grunge outfit who had been together years and were pretty tight, and were friends with the promoter, who was also the judge. Obviously we had absolutely no chance of winning but we really were shite that night, Danny buggered up the intro to Introvert and I forgot the words to Flaming Raymond, Leanne had a barney with the soundman because the mix was terrible and the crowd certainly thinned during our set. I was almost in tears when we came off. When you’re playing a show and you know that you’re on it that night, when you sound good, feel completely confident on stage, and the crowd are into it, there is no better feeling in the world. When you know that you’re performing terribly, everything is going wrong and you just want to pack up and go home, it is one of the most disheartening and humiliating experiences you can put yourself through. We didn’t play another gig for six weeks after the Polar Bear debacle.

sals 2005

One night much later into our lifespan we played at The Tap and Spile, with Frank’s Right Hand Trouser. Why the hell they decided to put bands on at Tap was totally beyond me. We went on in front of about forty regulars, of whom thirty-five would have been over sixty, out for a quiet pint of mild and a smoke of their pipes on a Sunday night. I’d made my eyes up and Andrew was in the midst of his “hat phase.” We tore through a ferocious set and when we came off half an hour later there were about three people left in the pub.

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A place we played far more times than we should have was a venue called The White Room. I have never been to such a place in my life, before or since. For those of you who have never played in a band before, when you first get going you’re expected to play what is known in the trade as “the toilet circuit,” which is basically shithole venues where you have to kick things to make them work and it would be commonplace for someone to be openly urinating against the wall outside. The most well-known toilet circuit venue in Hull is The Adelphi, which is a complete dump but is beloved by all due to its intimate atmosphere, excellent sound quality and the owner’s propensity for putting acts on that are outside any sort of “scene.” The White Room, on the other hand, was like the end of the world.

One day I'll tell my grandkids I played there. Yeah.

One day I’ll tell my grandkids I played there. Yeah.

It was about half a mile past Spiders down Cleveland Street in Hull, and there no other human dwellings for miles. No shops, no houses, no other pubs. The only place where people would congregate were the building sites dotted round and about, and the only people who would casually drink in The White Room, or The Full Measure as it used to be called, were the site-labourers who would pop in for a pint or two after their shifts. The owner was a six foot six Geordie lunatic who wore leather capes and had tried to set the place up as a warm-up venue for all the metal-heads who would go to Spiders on a Saturday night, and he would try and plug it as a music venue for the rest of the week. The problem was, The White Room was in no way, shape or form a music venue. There was an enormous load-bearing pillar directly in front of the middle of the stage for a start, which meant that 90% of the pub couldn’t actually see the acts, the drums had to be stuffed in a corner and there was very little room for the rest of the band, particularly if you were a five-piece, which at the time we were.

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The White Room’s one saving grace was Mark Chatterton, a genuinely nice guy who did the mixing, and although he was on a bit of a hiding to nothing, he managed to get a pretty good sound out of us whenever we played there. We ended up rehearsing at his rooms for all of our many comeback/last ever gigs and I always thoroughly enjoy his company. He couldn’t save the stigma I’ve since attached to that venue though. I remember so many utterly abject moments that made us come really close to packing it in, there at The White Room.

The first time we played there we were absolutely terrible, and I was so demoralised by our performance that I threw my first prima-donna tantrum and stamped off-stage before the end of the last song. That was only our second gig though, so it could be taken as a learning curve.

There was the time we played and my dad offered to drive me and Leigh down there with our equipment in his transit, and as we pulled up to the Musician’s Entrance, which was actually a fire-door with the bolt smashed off it, I wished I’d got a taxi instead. I remember the single lowest point of my entire showbiz career, one night there in front of about fifteen people. We finished a song, got a few claps and, in the lull I heard the following discourse from two blokes at the bar.

“You see the singer there?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s where the dartboard used to be.”

There was the show just before we did our first out of town gig, we were all really gee’d up for the occasion and we needed a good performance to set us up for it. We were going to try a couple of new songs and gauge the crowd’s reaction to see if they were worth chucking in the set for the Leeds gig. Sadly the “crowd,” as we went on stage, was from front-to-back, as follows.

Dave Stothard (The chef from mine and Andrew’s work)

Cousin Devvers

Luke Lowery (mate of mine from work)

What a waste of fucking time.

In closing, the last White Room story is possibly the most ridiculous. It was our fourth show, the first since our hiatus after the Polar Bear fiasco. We’d rehearsed hard and had two new songs written, and although there weren’t many people there I had invited some who had turned up. After soundcheck the owner, I can’t remember his name for the life of me, said to me:

“You’re getting paid tonight. Ten per cent of the bar.”

I was quite chuffed at this news and shot back over to my band mates to tell them. As of tonight we are professional musicians! I immediately seized my printed setlist from my bag and scrawled the now customary pretentious quote underneath it.

HATE AND REGRET
FLAMING RAYMOND
THE FALLACY
I CAN SEE A BOY
SPASTIC ROMANTIC
DEVVERS
INTROVERT

“When we are victorious I think we shall use gold for the purpose of building public lavatories.” – V.I.Lenin

When we came offstage after our best performance since our debut at Haworth, the massive Geordie handed me an envelope. Our first payment as professional musicians. I opened it.

Six quid.

Not six quid each, six quid.

One pound twenty each.

You can read part one of this article here.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

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Paradise (A Story Of Shambolic Failure) Part 1 by Allen Miles

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In many ways, it is dealing with one’s psychological problems in front of people. They say that everyone who gets on stage does so to confront, or suppress, some mental dichotomy. For my own part, I am a natural show-off but I have absolutely no confidence. I hate the way I look yet I spend most of my life posing. I can play the guitar to an adequate level but I don’t like to do it in front of people in case they think I’m shite. When we did our first gig on the 14th of September 2004 at The Haworth Arms in Hull, I told exactly no-one, because I didn’t want anyone to turn up. The line-up that would take the stage that night had been together for seven weeks. It was idiotic to do a reasonably big venue so early. I expected a few stragglers from work that Andy had told, and the crowd that the headlining acts would bring in. I was absolutely terrified even to get on stage in front of those people, even though it’s so much easier to perform in front of strangers. As it turned out Danny had told Jamie, Jamie told Cousin Devvers, and Cousin Devvers told everyone. Eventually about forty people that I knew were in the audience on top of the fifty or sixty already there. Petrifying.

I had been at work that day, washing pots, making lasagne and frying chips. Everyone knew we were doing a show, yet until a week or so earlier, no-one had given a toss. They had made their derogatory remarks and told us that we were deluding ourselves. Until this one new girl who looked like an alien supermodel with her cheekbones and eyes and personality managed to whip everyone into line and demanded that they march down to the Haworth. At about four o’clock that afternoon, they all man-handled me into the corner of the prep area with their questions. Are you nervous? What if you forget your words? What outfit are you wearing? Yeah, that really helped.

What outfit are you wearing? It hadn’t even crossed my mind. I got home from work at about six o’clock. I ran up to my room and pressed play on the video (I didn’t have a DVD player in 2004) in the hope that whatever was in there would distract me. It was the tour video of Suede’s Dog Man Star album. Anderson wore a fitted white shirt and tight black trousers. It looked pretty cool. I had the same in my wardrobe. I put them on. I’d been drinking heavily for the previous three or four months, so my hair was short, as it always is when I’m on a bender, as if on some sub-conscious level the neatness of the appearance would mask the excessive behaviour. I looked okay. It would do. I hadn’t eaten all day in an attempt to prevent any on-stage stomach problems and I’d drank nothing but coffee. I threw my guitar into its bag and wandered out into the drizzle to wait for my cab.

When I arrived at the Haworth the nerves really started to overwhelm me, especially when I saw so many people I knew filing through the doors from my vantage point at the top of the stairs. Shindig were headlining, it was their show and we practiced in their studio. I can’t remember who was on second, then there we were, at the bottom of the poster, no logo yet, just SAL PARADISE in bold capital letters. We did the soundcheck, which when it becomes part of the routine turns into the most boring experience anyone can go through. That night however, it was just something else that caused my heart-rate to fluctuate. We did a verse and chorus of Hate and Regret. It struck me that I could hear my voice coming back at me from the other end of the room. It was a decent P.A. I picked up my pint of Tetley’s, and wandered over to the emergency exit door, which was open. I stood on the fire escape and lit a cigarette. Then another. And another….

The stage fright had now become all-consuming and desperate. Only one experience in my life could equate to it and that was from when I was about eight years old. My father had taken me for my first swimming lesson and I was absolutely petrified of the water. I did not want to go in that swimming pool. I stood there practically wrestling with my dad at the side of the pool while the rest of the class and the instructor looked on, slack-jawed. Eventually he got me changed and took me home. I can’t swim to this day. And that night at the Haworth was the same. I did not want to go on that stage. I was stood on that fire escape shaking as I chain smoked. But why? This was not running across no-mans-land in the First World War. It was not the fire fighters running into the Twin Towers on 9/11. It was a 22 year old kid snarling a few punk songs at a crowd of about eighty people who, in two hours time, would be too pissed to remember whether we’d been any good or not anyway. I’d seen Phil Wilson do it God knows how many times. Matt Edible too. And they did it by themselves. Solo. Without the band to fall back on. My Dickie’s satchel was at my feet. I knelt down and pulled the setlist out that I’d so lovingly typed up the night before.

HATE AND REGRET
FLAMING RAYMOND
I CAN SEE A BOY
SPASTIC ROMANTIC
INTROVERT

And then, at the bottom of the page, I’d handwritten a quote, in that pretentious, wish I was in The Manic Street Preachers-way that I would do on every single setlist we ever had.

“I’m looking to open people’s eyes. I’ll fail, but in the process I’ll get self-satisfaction. And a minority, a strong minority, will listen.” Scott Walker

Your head is full of magic when you’re that age.

As I contemplated ringing the bar from my mobile to tell them in an Irish accent that I’d planted a bomb, Berry stuck his head round the fire door, drumsticks in hand.

“You ready?” he said. I suppose it was now or never.

I tried my best to swagger over to the stage, but it probably looked like I was walking to a bus stop. I looked at Andrew, who had already strapped his bass on. I looked into his eyes. It had been our idea. Just me and him, from the start. Leigh’s guitar was red. Danny’s was blue. Here we were. I closed my eyes, held the mic for dear life and counted 1-2-3-4. A screaming cacophony emanated from behind me and I didn’t open my eyes for the next twenty-five minutes. It seemed like thirty seconds.

We came offstage to good applause. Even some cheers from the work lot. I wasn’t shaking anymore. I bought a pint and a shot while the rhythm section had their first ever traditional after-show hug. We dropped our gear off at Danny’s brother’s house round the corner and walked to Piper to get lashed. We stood there, all five of us, euphoric after putting on our first ever show. It felt good.

Little did we know that it felt as good as it ever would.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 23 month-old daughter whose favourite band are The Ramones. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written by anyone ever. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx