Gaz Coombes – Sub 89, Reading

Friday 14th June, 2019

I got back from Exeter and had four hours before I needed to leave again to get to Reading. I spent one and half of those asleep and about the same shouting at my laptop, willing it to work so that I could at least look at the photos I’d taken the night before. There were major delays on the rail line I would need so events seemed to be conspiring against me!

When these rescheduled gigs were announced I almost didn’t go for Reading. I’d been to the venue only once before, for a fairly awful Ride gig where the sound was terrible and the atmosphere flat. But I do love Gaz, and Reading is an easy train journey from Bristol and the trains run til late so I can get home so it was added to my gig itinerary.

My memories of this venue had proved kind, it was an awful place and I will not return to it. Sticky, dirty, no toilet roll or soap in the toilets, security that gave no fucks at all until it was time to turf people out and the worst gig atmosphere I’ve ever experienced. I heard rumours of a fight in the crowd and it wouldn’t surprise me if they turned out to be true. Friday night in Reading spoiling for a fight was the overall feeling. There were more blokes at this gig. Usually Gaz gigs are a good mix of couples, groups of women, even other solo women like me as well as men. Reading was full of pissed up blokes and I did not like it. Gaz had to implore people to “shut the fuck up!” from the stage, more than once, something he told me he has never had to do before.

That’s all the negatives out of the way. For reasons I can’t fathom, given all I’ve said above, this was a superb gig.

Chris Simmons’ support set was a lot louder, it needed to be to drown out the impolite crowd who didn’t give him the respect he deserved and the more I hear his music, the more I like it. Of course this was helped by being in the teeny tiny photo pit at the front where I stayed for the whole of his set. The stage and lighting rigs are both low, so getting any workable shots was really tricky, but I think I’ve managed it.

The incredibly lax security had one major upside. They didn’t kick me out of the pit until the encore so I got to sit and enjoy the gig with nothing at all between me and the stage. I was sat at Gaz’s feet admiring and marvelling at his talent. That might have been a bit weird for him (sorry!) but as a fan it was a such a thrill. A total treat. Sometimes I do pinch myself that I get to have this fantastic life of gigging and being around the musicians and artists I love. I’m a single Mum who works part time in the NHS. My day job is really dull, important, but boring. When I get to have flights of fancy like these few days it just means everything.

Gaz was on fire – that righteous anger he must have felt came out in the music and it sounded amazing. Even though he had to shush the crowd (gently at first) I was insulated from the worst of the noise and had the best seat in the house. For whatever reason the emotions hit me very hard at this gig. Tears began to fall in White Noise and other than the respite of Deep Pockets (when I was dancing like a banshee) kept falling until the end of The Oaks. As much as the sound was amped up, so were my emotions. Everything felt extra exciting and my senses stimulated to heightened levels. It is like having fire coursing through your veins, an energy that you cannot control or tame that makes me feel alive like nothing else on earth. It causes the tears to fall and my body to move. I wish I knew why some music and some gigs are so special like this, I wish they all were, but for the times they are I just hold on to the feeling for as long as I can.

Security finally asked me to leave the pit at the end of Gaz’s set, so I moved to be with Adam and the rest of the crew at the sound desk where I realised just how tasty the atmosphere had been. Those sections of the crowd didn’t deserve the encore, but Gaz is nothing if not a pro, so he gave them Walk the Walk and Caught By The Fuzz. The place went off like a firecracker at that point and I was damn glad to have the safety and security of being behind a barrier with the crew. Thank you for looking after me, lads. You deserve a lot of credit for making this gig sound so good, well done team.

I pocketed a set list and that with my photo pass and wristband will be treasured memories of this week. This could have been a disaster of a gig. If I had been in the crowd, rather than in the very privileged position of the pit I’m sure I’d be writing very different words. Ultimately, I was there for the music, the wonderful life affirming music that cuts so deeply into my soul that it makes all of it worthwhile. All the travel. All the late nights. All the lack of sleep. All of the being away from my boy. Music, always music. Gaz’s does things to my senses that I need. It shuts up all the chaos and noise of my head and forces me to be in the moment. Just me and those notes. When it works it is magic, pure magic and I love it.

I got home to bed at 2am, dreaming of Seven Walls. The second night of the adventure was memorable for lots of reasons. Bring on night three!

 

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