Bar on O – Julia Nunes and Greg Holden at the Cluny, 27/7/09

11 Mar

(Disclaimer: This blog post was supposed to appear in June last year just after the above-mentioned concert at the Cluny. Unfortunately I pulled my usual trick when attempting to deliver work at a decent time – I wrote three versions of this post, refused to actually publish any of them, agonised over it for a week, forgot the whole thing, remembered it just after December, dismissed it as irrelevant and hoped like hell that I hadn’t promised anyone some tangible results. It turns out, to my shame (but not exactly to my surprise) that I had. Laura of laubrau’s blog was also in attendance at the Cluny that night, and we’d promised to have a blog-off. She reminded me of the idea, and also politely reminded me that she’d been waiting nigh on a year for the result, earlier tonight. Official apology: …Laura. Uhh. My bad. Do-over?

P.S. – This blog comes in two parts.)

So I went to see two of the best guitarists ever the other night. Now that we’ve got the gist out of the way, let me digress for a little bit.

A few months ago, I found out that multi-instrumentalist and Youtuber Julia Nunes was coming back to England. She’d done three shows in London about at the start of the year which I’d planned to attend, but this idea (like most of my ideas) was thwarted by Anorexic Wallet Syndrome, so I had to content myself with watching the resulting video blogs online. I assumed that I’d never get a chance to see her perform live unless I saved up some money and got myself down to das Kapital, since that’s clearly the only place she’d ever be interested in visiting – Newcastle, as every southerner will tell you, has two main problems in that it is

A – a long way from London and
B – a long way back to London

Of course, many Geordies will quote these as the two main advantages of the city, but there you are.  The point is that unless northern seperatists started redirecting flights from Heathrow to Tyneside in some strange attempt to inject unwilling tourism into the area, it’s unlikely that any American guitarists would willingly maroon themselves this far up the country.

You can imagine the dent my head made in the roof, then, when I found out that she’d be doing a mini-tour of England in June with another guitarist, Greg Holden, and that they’d be visiting Newcastle and the Cluny. For people who don’t know, the Cluny is a very well-kept secret hidden inside Newcastle’s city centre, and it’s renowned for showcasing some of the best small bands in the North East. I immediately bought a ticket and waited impatiently for the twenty-seventh of June and my chance to see two of Youtube’s besterest musicians at the world’s greatest small music venue. However, as Robbie Burns probably said, the best laid plans of blah blah blah often fuck themselves up (I think that’s the exact quote) and Sod’s Law clearly dictates that whatever can go wrong, will. My problems, as they always do, came in threes.

The first was hayfever. On the morning before the gig, I woke up to find what appeared to be a letter, handwritten on a tiny scrap of paper on my bedside table. Confused, I found a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers and managed to read the following:

Dear Jack,

I can’t work in these conditions any more. The pollen count was huge yesterday and today’s going to be even worse, and you were SMOKING last night, you bastard! Don’t you know what that does to your smell receptors? I’ve sent numerous complaints to the hindbrain, but he refuses to return my calls. You never seem to do anything about it, anyway, so I’m throwing in the towel – let’s see how well you cope without me around. Have a nice summer, you arrogant prick.

Sincerely, Your Nose

I finished reading the last sentence just in time for the first sneeze. I don’t know how many times I sneezed that day, but suffice it to say that the Roaring Forties haven’t experienced gales like the ones my nose blasted out that morning. At one point I felt like my head was going to cave in. I stumbled around like someone who’d been snorting sulphur for kicks. My nose streamed, my head throbbed, I couldn’t be bothered to do anything other than sit in a reclining chair and feel acutely sorry for myself. The worst part was that I’d never had hayfever before in my life, so I was enraged that it would show up just before a gig night. I crammed a handful of antihistamines down and prayed they would work in time for the show.

The morning after, I woke up to find that they had more or less kicked in. Kicked my fucking head in, that is. I felt a little bit woozy and strange, but I was confident that beer would drown that, so I leapt out of bed and started to prepare for t’gig. This was when the second problem materialised, namely that I didn’t actually know how the fuck to get to the Cluny.

My original plan was to get a bus into town and then get a taxi to wherever the Cluny was. All the taxi drivers in the city must know how to get there, right? But if the driver thought I didn’t know where I was going, he might pull that wonderful cabbie trick of taking me there the long way round; via Dusseldorf, for example. Still, there was nothing else I could do, and if I have one talent, it’s ignoring important issues, so I hopped in the shower and prepared myself for a night of gigitude.

The third and most horrifying problem presented itself when I got out of the shower and found, to my horror, that I had completely run out of deodorant. Now, I don’t produce a natural, eye-watering stench like some of my male mates do, but it’s basically the law to spray on some deodorant when you get out of the shower and I had not a sniff of it left. What’s more, small bands tend to perform in small rooms, and if there’s a large audience the room temperature will rise from comfortable to thermonuclear in no time at all. The united forces of dancing, drinking and heat combine to give your glands a thoroughly disgusting workout, and if you haven’t hosed yourself down with a can or three of FCUK Urban, you won’t be making any friends whatsoever. Unless they can’t smell. That’s not really likely, though.

It’s worth noting at this point that I was woozy because of the drugs, irritable because of the hayfever, and agitated because of the facts that suddenly stared me in the face – I had to leave the house in ten minutes otherwise I might miss the opening act and I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would take me to get there anyway and I didn’t have much cash to spend AND I was going to be the sweatiest bastard in Christendom by about half ten.

Then – just to top my Problem Sundae with a delicious Misfortune Maraschino and some hot headache sauce – the doorbell rang.


Fortunately, I scurried downstairs to discover that Serendipity was a-knockin’.

Actually it was my uncle, but let’s not get bogged down in semantics.

My uncle lives a few miles away from us, inside Newcastle proper, but he occasionally shows up when he’s in the area. Seeing as both my parents were out, I couldn’t very well say hello and bugger off back upstairs to finish getting ready, so I employed a useful mental trick – that is, completely ignoring the huge gaping problem that you have to deal with RIGHT NOW and doing something else – namely, having a cup of tea and a bit of banter.

We nattered away like old fishwives for about ten minutes on the usual subjects – our football team and how shit they are, booze, current events, our football team and how shit they are – when suddenly my mam came in.

“When are you going to the gig?”

I checked my watch, having lost track of the time.

“…thirty seconds.”

“Are you ready?”


I made my excuses, blazed up the stairs, brushed my teeth like a madman and probably dislodged a molar or two in the process, then leapt back down the stairs and was about to kick the front door down when my uncle said:

“By the way, d’you want a lift to the Cluny?”

Oh, thank Christ.

(End of part the first. I really will write the rest of it, though. No, seriously! Don’t look at me like that! Come back!)


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