– SOUND CONTROL, MANCHESTER –
My boss insists that I need to go and see a band called The Chameleons (I have to admit I have never heard of them) as part of my essential musical education. A reformed 80’sManchesterband. I am surprised that when we arrive at Sound Control at around 9pm a tout buys a spare ticket from us (face value £12) for £10. This is a sign that they are very popular, right? ‘Well they are really good – this is what I have been telling you’ informs the boss. It’s a sell-out and Sound Control is packed out.
A gig companion muses about the capacity and whether they need to lower it to accommodate the particular kind of clientele that this type of gig might attract; without wanting to be rude, a lot of larger-sized, middle-aged men. I start to think about this again when after an intro track the band appear on stage and their first song initiates a jumping pit. I say ‘jumping pit’ as ‘mosh pit’ seems a bit strong as a description here at this point. The floor is definitely bouncing and I hope that calculations have been made which do take into consideration what happens if you get a large group of fairly large men jumping in unison, otherwise we may find the floor will give way to a quick route to the bar underneath.
The gig reminds me a bit of another reformed band gig (Cable) that I went to recently: the band are middle-aged, as are the majority of the fans but the fans can barely contain their excitement from the first sighting of the band and need no encouragement getting into it; often singing along. These bands have a faithful following, despite being disbanded. It’s almost like the fans have been waiting, hoping every day that the band might some day reform.
The music sounds pretty 80’s and ‘of that era’ to my, perhaps untrained, ears. The voice is what you might describe as ‘classic’. In parts it reminds me a bit of some of the music from a favourite childhood film of mine ‘Pretty in Pink’ – that 80’s drum style, the synths… I don’t think that the Chameleons have written any new material but I am surprised to see a laptop on stage, which doesn’t seem to quite fit the 80’s vibe. Although it has that distinctive 80’s rock sound it is somehow really loud. During pre-drinks my boss and his good friend Ged recalled with fondness that it was at a Chameleons gig that they first met when they were 16. It was rammed again and my boss somehow got pushed into a bass bin which resulted in temporary deafness and actual blood from the ears. Their 16 year old selves, of course, thought this was hilarious. I spy people wearing ear plugs; very sensible.
The most striking thing about this gig I think is the atmosphere and the great sense of excitement. It’s almost like being a teenager at a teenage gig again. I’m actually pretty shocked at how ‘hardcore’ the gig is. There is aggressive kissing of the front man when he comes to the crowd (to which he finally protests); very impressive crowd surfing by said front man (when’s the last time I saw crowd surfing?! Ace!); topless people; people on other people’s shoulders; smoking-inside people; bloodied people (although gladly not from the ears – not that I see anyway). And I wouldn’t say that this music is particularly ‘heavy’ either. It’s thoroughly enjoyable to see a band have this effect on a group of people and to see people enjoying music so much. I’m even glad that I was persuaded to use the cloakroom (which I usually begrudge) as there’s no place to stash a coat in the crowded room and it’s absolutely boiling. People are dripping with sweat. When collecting my coat at the end I encounter a particularly sweaty and smiling man arriving at the queue, with some pints of water, handing the water to a particularly sweaty and smiling woman and then offering me some. So nice! (It’s quite a queue to get out the place/to the bar/do anything).
During de-brief drinks, Ged voices his opinion on the matter: this music is from an era when lyrics really meant something and people had something to sing about; nowadays music is crap. I try to protest… but to little avail. My boss describes the band as on the verge of being the next U2 but they were just too dour and Mancunian. A pretty good description; I’d go with that!