I can’t tell you what’s going on with the date on that pass.

But this was February 3rd, 2001.

Someone’s girlfriend knew someone who worked for a promoter, and we had passes.

We even had a table.

We get there early, because someone’s said we need to watch this new band called The Strokes, who are on early.

We’re not there early enough to see Peaches, but we get to the balcony where the tiny VIP tables are, and the only one that’s got no one sitting at it is held for guests of NME (it was one of their awards shows).

But we see the Strokes.

Fucking hell do we see the Strokes.

I’ve never heard them, don’t even know what to expect.

But it’s truly phenomenal.

It’s a rush.

They look amazing.

They have attitude.

It sounds amazing.

This is what a rock and roll band should be.

I’m converted on the spot.

Soon I’m one of many slightly too old guys in London rocking the Converse, suit jacket and t-shirt look. (It’s still my ‘smart’ office look when a leather jacket won’t cut it).

Rocket from the Crypt and Trail of the Dead seem like dinosaurs in comparison.

High: it’s all one big rush hanging off the balcony and watching the crowd go mental.

Drinking: with joy

Thinking: big respect to the NME team who never come to claim their table – they’re obviously too busy getting into it downstairs.




So I love Neil Young.

Have done since I first bought a Buffalo Springfield best of at 16, and then followed that with Decade.

And then the rest.

But being a fan can be painful sometimes.

Part of the Neil Young myth is the Tonight’s the Night tour in 1973.

A tequila-soaked Neil comes on to a crowd expecting some mellow Harvesting, only to hear a set of songs that sound nothing like the hits, and none of which they’ve ever heard before.

And I think all of us have heard those tapes and said, “Man, I’d have loved to have been there.”

But it’s not so funny to show up to a very pricey show 20 years later only for Neil to play all of the Greendale album.

To a seated audience.

If you get up to use the bathroom you’re not allowed back till the break for polite applause.

Only in the encore does Neil play some of the hits.

It was so frustrating. Not the evening with the school-friend and fellow fan that I’d wanted.

The whole thing is up on YouTube.

See if you can stand it.

High: finally hearing the opening chords of Lotta Love, one hour and 45 minutes into the show.

Drinking: go to the bar and get back in? You’d be lucky.

Thinking: maybe history will be kind to this tour. But who’s played Greendale in the last 15 years or so? Not me.

Jay Farrar


 So, since being diagnosed as autistic I can see my thing about music as what’s called a “special interest.”

I think the gigs were too. Other than drinking after work (where my special interest was the office) there wasn’t much else.

As long as people didn’t stand too close to me for too long and the music hit my pleasure centres, the gigs gave me what I needed to be among people.

Familiarity in the same venues and routines:

  • Where significant conversation during the show itself is almost impossible. (I said “yeah” and I nodded a lot. Some of my more successful small talk)
  • Where conversation before and after can be largely fixed on music
  • Where alcohol (and for many years, before the smoking ban) drugs were part of the ritual

In ’99-2000, starting from a thing with ‘alt country’ I discovered Uncle Tupelo.

I came to them late but became quite obsessive.

This was the era of Napster.

I still have folders of live tracks and rarities.

I was giving copies of Anodyne and Still Feel Gone to people as birthday presents.

Obviously, I transferred this love to Wilco.

Not so much to Jay Farrar’s band, Son Volt.

They had a song with a great title (Caryatid Easy), but for me that was honestly it.

So when the guy who’d helped to get me into this, the old bass player from my band, flagged that Jay was playing the Borderline I went with a weird attitude.

I basically went drunk.

I remember it being loud, I remember being towards the front of the venue.

I remember a lot of guys with very little hair getting very irate if anyone made a noise during any of the songs.

I’m not even sure what he would have been playing.

Son Volt was done, and the first solo stuff hadn’t come out.

But hey, I saw Jay Farrar solo in a small London club in 2000.

And at least for me it wasn’t ruined by some drunk guy slopping about and mumbling to his friend between songs.

High: really, none.

Drinking: oh yes.

Thinking: weird vibe.



I was sober. But still going out.

It was a difficult time, but it was easier to be in company than going mad at home smoking weed and taking valium to sleep.

I was going out a lot.

I went to this show with my Wedding Present friend.

I remember them opening with Interstate 5 even though I don’t think it was out yet.

I remember a great Blue Eyes and a brilliant Brassneck.

They were heavier and/or moodier than the Weddoes.

High: Blue Eyes.

Drinking: Lime and soda.

Thinking: I can do this.

Bloc Party


That ticket says Comp for “Complimentary.”

This was a private show for a London radio station.

I knew some people who worked there, so I got a free ticket.

It feels like there was a lot of this at the time. I was on guest lists and it just became an accepted thing.

And there was free booze. (That ticket says Jamesons. For Whiskey).

I know it would have been magnificent, but this free party at this venue starts to blend into all the others.

At one of them I was introduced to a girl I tried to have a thing with for a while.

Someone was trying to match-make.

She’s still a friend. The night we met, she poured a drink over my head.

If that was this night it would probably have been welcome. That summer of 2005 was a strange time in London

The whole 7/7 bombings thing was bad for those of us who still commuted up to King’s Cross, and even if you started taking a train into Euston and walking up to avoid the tube you still saw the posters for the missing; for months afterwards.

It wasn’t a good time for any of us. So yeah, light relief, a band I loved, and drinking like the end of the world.

High: very

Drinking: for free

Thinking: I’m on the scene, but I’m getting jittery.



I don’t think I ever actually bought a copy of Metal Hammer, but I used to stand and read it in WH Smith’s.

I’d done the same with home computer magazines six years earlier.

Then, it was all about tips for games. The Hobbit. Valhalla.

Now it was all about picking up mythology from the written word.

We all knew Aerosmith from Run DMC’s Walk This Way (I have a 7” single of this – given to me around this time by a school friend), but I’d taken it a bit further.

In the revision period leading up to my GCSEs I’d bought both the 1980 Greatest Hits and the 1978 Live Bootleg double album.

Toys and Rocks followed in short order

I loved them both.

Still do.

And then of course there’d been Permanent Vacation.

I never owned it on vinyl, but Rag Doll, Dude and Angel were often on the radio rock shows. Dude was even on TV.

I had a tape of it, with Whitesnake’s Saints and Sinners on the flip.

I remember a lunchtime by the river with a friend’s stereo and Permanent Vacation. Smoking cigarettes.

The days out of school to smoke dope started coming about a year later.

Aerosmith will always sound like summer to me.

And then there was the release of Pump.

I bought it from the local record shop on the day of release.


It wasn’t what I’d expected.

Some great songs, but Dulcimer Stomp? Hoodoo Medicine Man?

I still think FINE is a great song. And I honestly enjoyed Elevator. Jamie’s Got a Gun once made me cry.

On the inner sleeve of the record it says that F.I.N.E stands for “Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.”

Obviously, it refers to the girl(s) in the song.

But it wasn’t obvious to me.

I thought it was something to aspire to. “One day” I thought, “one day…”

Metal Hammer was worked up about the 1989 tour dates.

Because apparently the band hadn’t toured outside America since the late 70s.

They hadn’t played the UK since Reading in 1977.

Everyone was excited.

Steve and Joe had come onstage at the end of Bon Jovi’s Milton Keynes bowl show earlier that year to play Walk This Way and announce their return.

It was one of the most exciting things I’d seen in my life.

And now Metal Hammer had published a list of all the songs they wanted Aerosmith to play for their UK dates.

It was a list of every song they had ever recorded.

In order.

Obviously we went.

The support band was the Quireboys.

In those pre-internet days I had no idea that their whole “look at us we’re boozy, it’s a bar on stage and we have piano” schtick was basically stolen from the Faces.

I remember Spike, the singer, working the crowd.

“Who wants to come to a party?


“A really good party!”




It’s nearly 30 years later and I’ve still never knowingly been to what you could call a sex party.

At 16 I’d maybe awkwardly kissed three or four girls. All while drunk, though maybe not as drunk as them.

When they finally came on, Aerosmith weren’t the band from Live Bootleg.

But they came on to Rats in the Cellar which was thrilling, and both Sweet Emotion and Walk This Way were played.

I walked home from the station to my parents late, the main road was empty.

I walked in the road. Ears ringing.

I felt FINE.

High: Sweet Emotion

Drinking: Someone may have tried to get a pint. And they may have managed to get served. It wasn’t me.

Thinking: what *exactly* goes on at a sex party anyway? 

Setlist on

radiohead bush


It was clearly ridiculous that Radiohead were playing Shepherd’s Bush.

They were just launching Hail to the Thief, and the album had leaked a bit before this.

The tickets were literally like gold dust, and I couldn’t believe I was offered one for free from a friend.

They worked in publishing and someone was doing something with someone in the band or something like that.

And then two of my other friends managed to buy tickets on the grey market for 100 each.

It was the first time I knew people who’d bought tickets like this.

So the downside was sitting on Level 3.

It may be a really small venue, but when you’re that high up and you can’t stand it takes something from the experience.

I remember looking down and watching Johnny work the pedals.

I remember a crowd sing-a-long to Karma police.

I remember being disappointed that it was such a short set and so much of it had very little guitar.

I think this is the first time I saw them and there wasn’t My Iron Lung.

But when they brought it to a close with the OK Computer material they proved it yet again.

You can see the whole thing here – though that’s not how it looked to me.

High: Paranoid Android

Drinking: Barely. No one wanted to move.

Thinking: I’m actually glad I didn’t pay £100 for this.

Image  —  Posted: April 28, 2017 in 2003, Radiohead, Shepherd's Bush Empire