It couldn’t have been more Irish if you tried. Caked in Irish memorabilia (shamrocks, Irish road signs and the obligatory Liverpool FC flag) the Corrib Rest sounded less like a gig venue, more like a highly dangerous sexual manoeuvre. Nevertheless, I braved the trip to Queens Park (‘Q’ in the gig alphabet) with classic boarders Chris ‘Phat C’ Dart and Gareth ‘G-Funk’ Gates (his real surname isn’t Gates but I can’t for the life of me remember what it is) and entered this endearing cave of Irish. We were halfway through the Panama Kings set and got to hear the hit songs ‘The One that sounds a bit like the Pixies’ and ‘The One that sounds a bit like Ash’ followed by ‘This One is definitely an Ash B-Side no?’ all the while sinking Guinness to get us in the mood for the main event. Eyes darting around the room I didn’t see many familiar faces but that might be down to the fact it’s not 2003 anymore and the next generation has moved in to claim Ash as their own.
Suddenly the boys entered stage left and murmurs turned to raucous cheers and wolf whistles and iphone waving as Tim and co. launched into a multitude of hits. From the perspective of about 10 rows back, Tim was lost under the heads of bobbing girls and old guys with hats on. Rick was a blur of wood and cymbals, while standing aloft, towering above everyone was Mark, trying unsuccessfully to prevent his swinging bass from hitting anything onstage. What this small venue tour has taught the band if anything, is to utilise the space you have onstage. From ‘Shining Light’ to ‘A Life Less Ordinary’, the crowd were enchanted from the start, lifting the performance from a night out in a pub, to a genuine glorious culmination of band doing exactly what they want to do.
There must be an incredible satisfaction being able to release your own music on your own label, away from the interference from record company execs who lost their passion for music when the evil internet came and turned their hobbies into hard work. I’ve heard stories for years of bands who have tried to do this with little success and if you aren’t called ‘Radiohead’ then word of mouth marketing is not really going to cut it. What Ash are doing with their 26 singles in a year project, is to pour a little whiskey in the Industry’s coffee pot and wake people up to the fact that band’s can actually go it alone and to great affect. The response to the new songs played tonight, ‘Return of White Rabbit’ (IndieDiscoTastic) – ‘True Love 1980’ (Absolutely Classic Ash) – ‘Arcadia’ (Potentially my favourite of the new songs so far) and ‘Joy Kicks Darkness’ (Not quite sure about this one but everyone else seems to like it!) was incredible. How do people know all the words already? Arcadia only just came out! That’s the power of good songwriting. It makes you feel like you already know the song before you’ve even heard it.
It’s at this point when a rumour circulates the room that I had not heard before. I’m not one for rumours so I thought I’d ask Tav and was told “I can neither confirm nor deny that” so if you know what rumour I’m talking about, make of that what you will. Anyway, ‘SpaceShot’ was met with a tap on my shoulder from Phat C, “Oh this is the new one I like…” and I concurred as did most of the crowd who were being worked into a frenzy by the gradual build up of this hit-packed setlist.
As the band left the stage they must have been contemplating whether the next gig at Rotherham would live up to Queens Park as the stunned crowd was left like residents of Racoon City, blissfully post-coital and spent. While at the bar post-gig, an Irish man stood next to me and gave the barmaid his order, even though I’d been standing there a clear few minutes before him. My anger was amplified by him uttering the immortal words’ You snooze you lose’. I of course, being a pacifist at heart and a Jackie Chan fan, wondered how I would first stab him in the eye with an umbrella and make him roll out of the venue on a boat made of bottles and chairs. He must have realised danger was imminent so he grabbed my arm and did a piano playing motion in it like some kind of supernatural fugue. Somehow this worked and I realise he may have been one of the ‘little people’. I made note to follow him to his pot of gold but got sidetracked by the semi-pretty barmaid returning with my Cobra.
Standing at the nightbus stop I overheard a group of girls chirping about how “…hot Tim looked tonight” *swoon* followed by the immortal line “Don’t you think that new Ash song sounds like the Panama Kings?”. I popped my earphones in, turned the volume to full blast and listened to ‘Tango in The Night’ for the next hour to exorcise those demons.
Good Luck for the rest of the Alphabet lads!