The LaFontaines -The Old England, Bristol

Sunday 6th October, 2019

A Sunday night. What would be the sixth gig of the week. I was exhausted. I did not want to go out. The venue was changed two hours before the gig was due to start. To a location much harder for me to get to. But. The LaFontaines are my mate’s favourite band and it was her birthday treat from me to go. I put on my big girls pants, necked some painkillers and caught two buses.

It has been ages since I’ve seen Claire and we had a proper good catch up, missing the support band as we were chatting.

The venue is a pub down a side street between Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road and the live room is teeny, with the toilets just off the side back of the stage, which is only about 10cm high. All I knew about La Fontaines was what Claire had told me, which was to expect loud and rap. Not really things I like to be honest, but other than heavy metal and boy bands I’ve not ruled anything in or out on my musical journeying.

We wiggled ourselves towards the front and I took a deep breath. The drummer and guitarist took to the stage. The front man stood chatting with us in the crowd before joining the rest of the band to begin the performance. For that is what it was. Handsome and charismatic he wasn’t going to be happy until everyone was bouncing, waving, smiling and singing along. I’ve no idea what he was rapping about, the combination of heavy Glaswegian accent and sheer volume put pay to that, but the energy, verve and swagger with which he delivered was enough to win me over almost immediately.

After only about 10 minutes I felt my right knee go. It was soon joined by my left. Arthritic joints and a bouncy gig are not a great combination! Especially when you are right at the front, inches away from the band. Despite this I was having a really good time, an awful lot of fun and was smiling broadly. Being in such an intimate space with strangers, with an engaging front man determined to ensure you had a good time, reminded me of all the small, sweaty venues in which I’ve seen bands I love in the past. The passion of hardcore fans who knew every word and trick and wanted nothing more than to mosh like their lives depended on it was infectious. I joined in as best I could until the encore when I retreated to the back and the respite of a chair.

I had been promised loud and my ears were indeed assaulted by bass drum, excellent guitar shredding and Scottish rap. What more could you want on a dreary autumn evening? Sweat was pouring off the walls by the end. These sort of gigs are the lifeblood of the live industry, not in terms of the money they make (almost none I would have thought), but in the way they allow bands and fans to communicate with each other in such an intimate way. Bands learn their trade in pub back rooms and music lovers discover music in tiny venues, where ticket prices are low enough to afford risk. So many small venues have been lost, especially in the regions, that energy and fun get lost with them.

So long may pub back rooms continue to put on exciting bands. Long may La Fontaines play in or near Bristol for Claire’s birthday. See you down the front next year?

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