I belong in the city, with it’s frantic serenity, with its casual, creativedestructive collisions of personality, with the buzz of traffic and conversation pulsing like the heart-beat of a predator in the moments before it ensnares it’s prey. My current home – the countryside, the market towns with their picturesque emptiness – is a bolt-hole, a temporary refuge from living, a pause, a comma in the decades long sentence that is living.
Of course it’s not as simple as that but it’s what I tell myself – what I choose to believe – as I tumble into the glorious anonymity of the crowd, alone but part of something bigger.
This is not a journey into the unknown but a retreading of oft-walked paths. As such, to maintain some interest, I eschew responsibility and place myself at the mercy of my friends.
We emerge in the epicenter of hipsterness: East London and it’s crashing waves of contradiction saturating my mind. This is a place where everyone and everything seems to value the act of being seen more highly than the act itself. It is art as a lifestyle accessory. It’s also the home of everything new and vibrant. A place where creativity is valued above prosperity. The currency here is ideas.
Our destination is a pre-fabricated metal shed, taller than it is wide so that, despite the relatively sparse crowd, it brims at the edges with considered modernity and crisp cleanliness. It lacks the grimy layer of experience, the spilt beer and stale sweat of old gig venues. It’s the sort of place where you can happily charge £5 for a tiny can of organically produced craft lager. At least it smells better, I guess.
The support act are both close and far away. As if they are making music on another plane, unseen and untouched by human experience. They are a mournful, forgettable dirge of a band. There is nothing bad about them – all the bits are in the correct place – but nothing good either. It’s music made with the head because the heart doesn’t give a damn. I attempt to keep my nervous conversation at a polite volume.
Time shuffles by half-heartedly, the act of impatient waiting clawing back the seconds, forcing us to live every bored moment. It’s worth it. The Invisible are a different proposition. They carry a quiet assurance, a tangible belief in what they do. Their dark, fractured funk is crafted with love and for 90 minutes their unstated urgency courses and rises like restless air before a thunderstorm. They are damn, damn good and bigger things await them:
Their new album, Patience, is fresh off the presses and can be purchased from Ninja Tunes.
The next few days are a haze of afternoon drinking and blistered feet. I like to walk, to feel the cool pavement through paper thin soles, a warm, fluffy cloud of alcohol numbing me to the milling crowd of fellow tourists. When it becomes too much I slope off to hidden corners of culture: the basement of the British Museum with it’s Throne of Weapons, created from all the guns handed in during the amnesty after the Mozambique civil war; John Heartfield’s amazing montage art decrying the rise of fascism in the 30’s that adorns the top floor of the Tate Modern; and Nabakov’s Alphabet, a homage to the beautiful world of the synthesiac, which is currently part of the Welcome Trust’s exhibition on consciousness:
The FA Cup careens by in the background, a helter-skelter jumble of aerodynamic cotton and sweary chanting, as I make my way eastward once again, though this time to a proper shambles, a venue where your trainers stick to the floor and the walls drip darkened attitude. We’re hit to catch some bands on the cheap. A random, low-cost, low-rent night of whisky chasers and quick thrills. Big Joanie catch my ear with their lo-fi chic and thumping delivery, making this track my favourite cover of the year so far:
You should check out their entire EP, available now on bandcamp.
I arise half-strung and hungover and head for a ridiculously opulent lunch somewhere in central London (one of those events where every course comes with a specific wine) because I enjoy a big ending (and a twist) and also because my friend Helen is one of the finest raconteurs known to mankind and she specialises in this kind of absurd midday magnificence. I eat too much and talk too much and, almost broken, barely make my train home, back to the blissful nothingness of rural Lincolnshire.
I can’t finish this without giving my thanks to Katie – for the culture – and Emma – for the gigs. They are two of the finest people possible. Without them you’d have spent the last 10 minutes reading about my exciting adventures in Witcher 3. Perhaps that’s for another day.
The Invisible are one of a number of great bands featuring in the latest Skewed Quiff, available free twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for the discerning – and mildly disturbed – musical ear: