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Expecting to Cry or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bluetones’

October 1, 2011

“The Bluetones? Hmm the name rings a bell, what did they do?”

Well, I don’t/ didn’t get that reaction THAT often, but it does happen occasionally, more with people I work with than my friends. It got to a point I just gave up mentioning them to certain people whenever I was going to see them. Looking back over the last 16/ 17 years or however long it’s been I’m annoyed with myself for not getting into them properly much earlier. I quite liked their first album and their second, in fact some of the songs I really loved, but I sold my copy of Expecting to Fly in my first year of uni, back when I was living in halls in Tottenham in 1999. It was the only thing I could get any money for and I was skint, and hey I could always buy it again. I didn’t need to buy the second album because my flatmate had it (I WAS STILL SKINT OK?) and everyone back at home was into heavier stuff, so it was kind of hard to stay into them, without all the media streaming and players we take for granted today. Peer pressure is a terrible thing. Just ask the guy selling programmes at Reading when they played one year… “Come and get your programmes so you can find out what time to avoid the Bluetones!”

I hope he cries into his gin every night, still trying to be cool.

After uni I got a job in virgin and just overdosed on anything else I could briefly get into, leaving the Bluetones behind. I knew they were touring regularly and they played the Big Weekend at the Cardiff Festival one year, which was great, and I knew they were still occasionally releasing stuff but I didn’t have anyone to go and see them with until 8th February 2007, when they played the Barfly in Cardiff. Mark Morriss’ voice was still great but I’d forgotten what a charming and funny front man he was, and I left kicking myself for not seeing them for so long. From then on I tried to see them every time they played Cardiff (I may have missed one, but I don’t think I did) and every time was as enjoyable as the last. Then earlier this year came the news that this tour would be the last. WHAT? But, how will I get to photograph the Bluetones? How can I not hear these songs being played live again? Quite honestly, the thought of not hearing a New Athens (YES OFF THEIR BRILLIANT LAST ALBUM) live again is quite depressing.

The odd thing is, I’ve kind of become obsessed with the Bluetones, but I don’t own any of their albums except their last one and a bbc sessions one. (Well I do now because I went and bought them all today, but I didn’t own them until this afternoon).

Anyway they played Cardiff a few weeks ago and to be honest, it was a bit depressing. Depressing because it was the last time they’ll play in Cardiff, but more depressing because it was just lacking atmosphere. I don’t know what it is about crowds in Cardiff but it does seem to be a problem, and the Glee Club didn’t seem to help as a venue. I just don’t find it ideal for (those sort of) gigs. Also, maybe there weren’t enough “hits” in the set to get such a casual crowd going. All the factors added up to us leaving feeling a bit deflated, but spurred on to see them again.This could NOT be the last gig we saw them do. Actually by this point we already had tickets for the final show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire (I refuse to call it by the sponsor’s name, unlike the cardiff motorpoint arena which comically rolls off the tongue) and finally last night, the end was upon us.

The day started with Mel and I (Mel being the one who egged me on to going to see them again back in 2007 and someone who I have seen them with every time since) hopping on the National Express to London, got to the Proud Gallery in Camden to see a Beatles exhibition which was really good, then hopped off to the Little Black Gallery in Kensington. The exhibition featuring the work of Terry O’Neill is quite fantastic. Classy large black and white prints of superstars and ‘proper’ celebrities. Celebrities with character, and photos that are so captivating. The huge photo of Brigitte Bardot on the wall opposite the entrance simply has to be seen. It was also a treat to see a small amount of Bob Carlos Clarke’s work in there too. But that’s not what I’m writing this for, so…

We then went to Shepherd’s Bush to meet a few friends, then I went on in to pick up my photo pass and sea Married to the Sea. I’ve seen them with the Bluetones before and remembered that I liked them, and I remember thinking I was enjoying them while I was taking photos, but as soon as I got out I realised I couldn’t remember anything they did. That’s the problem with taking photos of bands, I get so into the visuals sometimes there may as well be deafening silence.

The next hour was a bit of a trauma. Being kicked out of the venue without my camera bag and having to go and find Mel and the girls back at the pub to get my ticket off them to get back in. It was fine, but I was getting a bit nervous about the last time I’d get to shoot the band. It’s the last time I’ll see them. What if I mess it up? What if I don’t get any decent photos? What if my friends are disappointed? I wanted photos for them and to share with other bluetones fans as much as myself. I finally found myself back in the pit, talking to some of the fans at the front. All such friendly people, probably dreading the end of the next two hours. That’s one of the many things I love about the Bluetones- the sense of community with the fans is like no other band I’ve loved- not that I’ve ever really been part of the blue army, but they’re the only band I’ve ever been into where I’ve become friends with people because of their love for one band.

So there we were, chatting away, then the came the Walker Brothers, and down went the lights. Here we go.

It was over all too quickly and I just didn’t feel like I got the photos I wanted, so I put my bag back with security and walked out of the stage door with one of the other photographers, a friend of Mark’s and a really nice guy. We got back in halfway through the sixth song, Cut Some Rug, due to being accosted by one of the touts for a game of “guess how old I am” outside (he was 49 if I remember correctly). Time to go and find my friends. The place was rammed and there was no way I could get to them, so as I stood at the bottom of the stairs the security guy told me to go round the corridor and speak to the security out the back so I could get back down the front where my friends were. Unfortunately the security guy I spoke to ended up being a total bone, not giving me any chance to speak or explain, so I spent the rest of the gig propping up the merchandise stall. I needed to buy a t-shirt for the trip home anyway. By the time A New Athens started I’d decided to get over it and go to the bar. The atmosphere was pretty electric- it’s been a long time since I’ve been to such a gig. You just don’t get it in Cardiff, though we also don’t have the lovely venues London has. When we do, they don’t seem to last long before someone puts in a complaint or some sort of big spanner gets thrown in the works. Such a shame.

The rest of the night was pretty much hit after hit (well, y’know, for fans of the Bluetones) interspersed with the charming witty between song banter Mark Morriss is so good at, and then before we knew it, it was all over. A jubilant night with a contradictory hint of sadness.

And a bulb of a security guard.

At the time of finishing this the band are only MINUTES (I don’t know how many) away from their last ever gig in Osaka, so for probably the last time, here is my parting gesture.

Here are some photos of the Bluetones.

So that’s it. The Bluetones are no more.
My world will be ever so slightly more miserable and my gig diary will be ever so slightly more empty without them. Good luck to them, and catch Mark Morriss on tour soon!

One Comment leave one →
  1. lilmissmosher permalink
    October 2, 2011 1:37 am

    Fabulous x

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