My name with a plus one (Ana date 7) is on the door at Bedford Esquires. The girl on the door clumps a rubber stamp on the back of my hand. I wait for her to say ‘Ah so the prodigal son returns‘ referring to my battle of the bands performance with high school band – Phoney, at this very venue. But of course she doesn’t, and if she did, it would have been weird because it was 20 years ago.
I catch the support acts, a kid armed with an acoustic guitar takes to the stage wearing a check shirt, shoulder length hair swept to one side.
“Hi I’m Ash Adams, I’m 22, I’ve come from Oxford to sing some songs for you today.”
He’s not one for ad-libs, and sings songs about heart ache. I turn to Annie and say,
‘Some girl has done a job on this guy.’
I wrote in my notes ‘Sonically resembles a homogenous bastard child of Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins‘. I’m not entirely sure that works as a sentence, in fact of course it doesn’t, but I’ve been looking to crowbar the word homogenous into a conversation for about 4 days now. I shouldn’t really like this guy but his first song is probably the best thing I’ve heard in 3 years. I guess the facsimile would be liking coleslaw when hating, onions, cabbage, carrots and mayonnaise.
Missing Andy take to the stage gone 10 and thrash out a near flawless set. During Scum a fight kicks off on the dance floor. Alex (lead) finishes the song then addresses it.
‘You guys wanna fuck around you go down the street to the next nearest piss-house, you ain’t doing that in here. We don’t bring it here, you don’t bring it.’
It’s met with a rapturous applause and the set carries on. I’m not entirely sure on the topography of Bedford boozers but if you are looking for a good fight in Bedford Alex is quite right, I once got smacked outside Winkles on Lurke St just down the road. By my own brother actually. In his defence he was trying to punch someone else, but the point is, there are plenty places to throw down in Bedford.
I have missed watching live bands this good. I have missed the guys, the traveling, the drinking, the camaraderie. Being this close made me feel like I was back in the band again. I’m almost tempted to help the guys load the gear in the van, but return to my senses and steal two bottles of water from their fridge instead.
I thank the bouncer on the way out who eyes me curiously.
“So the prodigal son returns.’ The bouncer says.
“What?” I say stunned. The bouncer strikes a match from his stubble and lights a tiparillo.
“It’s you isn’t it? You’re the keyboard player from Phoney. You came here 20 years ago and played in a battle of the bands competition. You lost in the final and missed out on your big break because the voting was rigged. I was on the door that night, you were the best damn band that’s ever stepped foot in this joint, I’ll always remember Phoney.”
He disappears into the shadows under a halo of cigar smoke, the word Phoney echoes like its climbing an elevator shaft.