Doors were set to open at half seven,
but we decided we'd be fashionably late and turn
up about eight. As you do. After finishing our
current pints, and nipping to the toilet, we set
off. There was a light drizzle, but all in all
I was pleased to find it wasn't as cold as I had
feared it would be. We dashed round the corner,
and there was the Octogan ahead of us, with reems
of people going in. The queue went off round the
corner. "For fuck's sake," I exclaimed, as we
trailed the line of fans. Saying that, it did
move with tremendous pace, and within about five
minutes, we were inside. First things first, merchandise.
Both myself and Jon bought tshirts, and put them
on over our existing clothes, then moved into
the main room where the first support band were
As you enter the main performance room, you join
the crown on the side, and are pretty much placed
right into the tenth row. It's not like your usual
venue where you'll be ploughed in at the back,
and have to battle to the front. Most of this
fight had been done for us. We knew northerners
are notorious for being tough, and us "southern
softies" might have a job getting anywhere in
this crowd, but we still sure as hell tried. I
grabbed Jon's wrist, and surged into the mass
of bodies. Working our way towards the centre
as well as forwards. Three girls, whose height
combined couldn't have been more than about twenty
centimetres, were stood about fifth row, and clearly
couldn't see anything. Always something that has
baffled me. Why go and see a live band, if you
cannot really actually see anything anyway. But
anyway, we stopped our surge just behind them.
The girl in front of me complained I was "breathing
down her neck." In all honesty, if you're going
to complain about such a frequent occurence at
a rock gig, then you're just a plan idiot. She
tried to make a tough remark; "if you're going
to do that, go around me." She didn't expect me
to respond, but I did, and pushed in front of
her. I don't think she was too pleased, but to
be fair she had basically just asked me to. Like
a catalepsy, we once again started our surge forward.
It's a little known fact, that getting to the
front of a crowd is not about strength, but tactics.
Like waiting for someone to stick their arms up
and cheer, and using that extra bit of space to
squeeze through. Or sticking your leg about two
foot further than your torso, and slowly using
it to pull the rest of you through those ahead
of you. After about ten minutes, we found ourselves
with only one person, and about two foot of space,
between us and the bands.
To my knowledge, I only thought there were one
support band, however there turned out to be two,
and this band had the talent of a small duck.
There was nothing remotely memorable about them.
The members chose to cover their mouths with bandanas,
for some unknown reason, and then play terrible
music. I think they were called Terminals or something,
but the fact remains that they weren't anything
special. Maybe it was just bad sound, as in all
honesty, the Octogan wasn't exactly a great venue.
The ceiling was very low, and with that kind of
amp power in such a small space, the sound was
pretty terrible, for all of the bands that played.
Perhaps further back, the sound got better, I
wouldn't know, I was in the thick of things, and
On came the second band, The Zico Chain. These
were the guys I thought were the only support
band. They were dressed as kangaroos. Actually,
I made that bit up. You could go as far as to
say I lied my face off. It seemed they had a bit
of crowd support, the guy in front of me was certainly
singing along to a couple of their tracks. Or
maybe he had just picked up the words, as every
song they played seemed identical to the one before.
They had more to offer than the Terminals, but
didn't seem to really have anything amazing. Their
songs consisted of some deep angry guitar sequences,
rumbling basslines, and tidy drums and vocals.
I'm sure a studio recording of the group would
be more entertaining than that performance. Such
a venue isn't really the place to pick up interest
in new bands, as I don't believe they have the
opportunity to exploit their full potential.
Once the Zico Chain had left the stage, the roadies
bundled on to set up the Alkaline Trio's stage.
As one blonde-haired guy taped down the setlists
to the stage, everyone in the front three rows
was up on tiptoes desperately trying to read it's
contents. It's hard when it's a few feet away,
upside-down, and slanted away from you, but most
of it was still decipherable. We'd worked out
the first few tracks, and the last two. This was
going to be a great set.
Finally, all the lights went down, and the cheering
began. An explosion of applause and screams, an
eruption of praise for the American three. Out
of the darkness, came a tune everybody knew, and
everybody loved. Private Eye. The crowd were jumping
all over, singing along, all singularly competing
for the attention of Matt Skiva, who had his left
boot planted on his mic stand, stamping a beat
furiously. Derek refused to look at the crowd,
and his vision was nearly always focused on something
to his left. Matt Skiva kept gaving out into the
crowd, making eye contact with a fan, pointing
at them, nodding and smiling. He was having a
whale of a time. Dan was keeping himself to himself,
and strolling between his mic stand and the drum
kit, as he did for all the gig. Matt was walking
all over the stage, and as for Derek, well, it's
hard to wander about with a drum kit. Saying that,
I'm sure it's achievable. Private Eye merged effortlessly
with Mercy Me, and the great music continued.
My Friend Peter was changed to My Friend Simon,
and dedicated to a friend of theirs. When this
track had finished, Matt approached the microphone.
"This next song is for anyone who bought an EP
called I Lied My Face Off."
Everyone cheered, whether they'd bought it or
not. Matt went and spoke with Dan and Derek, and
"Actually, it seems my reading skills aren't very
good. This is still for you guys who bought it,
if you want, but this song aint on there."
Cops. Great song.
Following this song, was Queen Of Pain, and Nolan
came onstage as a second guitarist. I noticed,
during the gig, that 90% of what he played, was
identical to that of Matt's. Did they really need
that extra 10%? Couldn't they have managed without
and remained the Trio throughout? As well as playing
the same as Matt, he was pretty much dressed the
same too. All in black. Shirt, tie, waistcoat,
trousers, shoes. But he was stood far back against
the speakers, and was practically camouflaged.
Matt looked amazing all in black, and really fitted
the frontman role, his left boot still pounding
the stage to the beat of the track. To his left,
Dan was kitted out like a french convict. Horizontal
black and white striped jumper, and black trousers.
And hiding away on the kit, Derek was in a black
suit and red tie, to match his shade of eye-shadow.
His sweeping quiff over his eye finished off his
image, which is that of a Good Charlotte member.
He didn't look very happy to be there, in all
The day before this gig, it was Matt's birthday.
He had taken one card on stage with him, and asked
for the person responsible.
"Is this really you? Really? Thank you. I will
keep this with me forever. Thank you. Turning
thirty was never so easy."
He placed it back on top of his speaker, and the
music started once again.
Crowdsurfing began. One of the worst things about
going to a gig, having a highly inconsiderate
bastard hurl themselves over the crowd, and boot
you in the back of the head. What is the point.
You go to see a band, not to climb on people.
A few people in the crowd were holding up a banner
saying "free the memphis three, prevent this tragedy"
referring to the guys on death row at the moment.
Matt read this, and spoke a bit about it. Prevent
This Tragedy wasn't on their setlist, but because
of this banner, they played it anyway. And good
on them. You have to have a certain amount of
respect for a band who can just randomly chop
and change their setlist. Not all bands have that
much flexibility, because they don't feel comfortable
playing all their songs live. After the track,
like the end of every other song, all the lights
went down except for the one shining up on their
skill backdrop, and applause erupted from the
More great songs followed. Maybe I'll Catch Fire,
Crawl, Deathbed, I was Prayin', Hell Yes, Cooking
Wine, Poison, You've Got So Far To Go, Warbrain,
We've Had Enough. The crowd were enjoying it,
and so was Matt. He'd strut around the stage and
grin at individuals, handing out picks and joking
with the crowd.
"Hey, I know you don't really care, but well,
I can sympathise with that."
They then played This Could Be Love, which in
my opinion was played brilliantly, and their best
song perhaps. It was another one that you could
be sure everybody knew, screaming along. And just
like the time previously I saw them, they didn't
miss the spot for crowd interruption, getting
us to follow "this could be love" with "love for
fire." As we all chanted back, Matt's face lit
up. This was their "last" track, and they walked
off. Everybody knows that when you go and see
a band, there's at least one encore. They were
clearly coming back, even if the demands for "TRIO,
TRIO, TRIO!" hadn't started. So "reluctantly,"
they came back, to the piano intro of Time To
Waste. This track was a close second to the one
before, and was played very well indeed.
"Last time we played in Sheffield it was, erm..."
Matt looks over to Dan, who shrugs, he doesn't
have a clue.
"I think it was a much smaller place, about five
or six hundred people, and a load of things got
Dan still has no idea, and turns to look at Derek.
"Anyway, this is our last song, thank you Sheffield."
Radio. Excellent. A great end to a fantastic gig.
More applause than you can shake a stick at. Everybody
moved out into the bar area and viscinity.
Myself and Jon stayed in the bar, got a drink
of water and waited for the crowd to disperse.
Randomly I strolled up to one of the other gig
attendees and shook his hand. He was wearing a
Ross Noble t-shirt. Couldn't really help myself.
I have exactly the same one.
When we left, we stood in the foyer of the University
student area, to keep out of the cold. There was
a man trying to clear the area.
Review by Thom