La vie rurale

I have to say I’m loving it more and more here. I feel like the city girl in me has exhaled and let go of all the city tensions. Will I ever yearn for the city? Probably. Just last night, I was looking at bands who are on tour (including the most marvellous Life of Agony with the diminutive Keith Caputo, my crush-du-jour) and pining for Manchester’s Academy. Gutted that I’ll miss 36 Crazyfists and Life of Agony. They’re coming to France, but as Steve rightly pointed out, they are going to Paris, which might as well be the moon. It’s not really acceptable to travel 300 km just to see a band. Having said that, I usually forget about most gigs as soon as I’ve been. I remember bits and pieces. Some are ‘must-sees’ – like Oasis at Maine Road in 1996 when they were the height of Manchester-Cool, and the Stone Roses at Spike Island.

My top ten gigs *maybe kind of chronologically*:

1. The Sugarcubes, with iconic Icelandic crazy-woman Bjork at Manchester University Student’s Union. I was 13. I went with Helen, now head of daytime programming at ITV. Uber-cool.

2. Donington 1988, 1990 and 1991… I don’t remember the line-ups. I don’t remember who played, I just remember lots of fun. Donny 1991, we started off in a dodgy reclaimed ambulance which got us 25 miles, then the RAC and the AA the rest of the way. 1990 – Carl Sharrocks, me, Henny and Danny in Henny’s old Honda. C’était fantastique! That was the weekend where I realised how much I loved Henny. He’s a superstar of a guy, as are Danny and Carl. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Mr Henthorn. He was the love of my teenage life and I still have a huge affection for him, which he knows. That series of festivals was as much about the people as the music.

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers at Manchester International II 1987. About 500  people, Fight like a Brave and Higher Ground. The seminal gig, not only for the ‘sox on cox’ part of the tour! It was also one of the gigs I went to at the International II on Plymouth Grove, a grotty, grungey fantastic venue. They got polished and shiny after this – but in 1987 they were still raw and amazing.

4. Guns N’Roses at the International II. Amazing. It was just after Appetite for Destruction, still the only album worth listening to, before they got all ‘Stadium’ – and it was immense.

5. Megadeth at the Apollo, (I think!!) Dave Mustaine does anger like nobody else. He was almost spitting with anger.

6. Stone Roses, Spike Island 1988. The one and only Manchester band, oozing Manchester nonchalance. Sally Cinnamon and I am the Resurrection – it was super-cool in June, sunny, the beginning of the acid and ecstasy scene, the height of the Madchester movement.

7. Oasis – Maine Road 1996. The beginning of ‘stadium’ rock, which had been limited to a few festivals and things like Live Aid. This was their seminal Manchester gig in their home stadium, at the Kippax. That reminds me… I saw the Stones and Bowie here, both with Mr Henthorn. Bowie rocked. I wish I was old enough to have seen him from the beginning, but this was a concert when none of my friends thought he was cool – kind of Absolute Beginners stage – and yet I had a vestigial remnant of Hunky Dory lodged in my soul.

8. The Guillemots – fantastic band. Absolutely amazing live. I loved the first album when it came out, and when they toured, it was even more fantastic.

9. Kings of Leon. They rock. They just rock. We might have been 100 miles away in that notoriously terrible MEN Arena, but it was well worth it. Just to hear Caleb ‘whoo-hooo-hooing’

10. Hed (PE) who rocked. I love Moho. It has kind of taken over from the International II. If your feet don’t stick to the floor, how are you supposed to stay standing??!

So I have to get used to the fact we won’t see most of our favourite bands over here, but that’s kind of okay. I fancy some big French or German festival.

It’s a small price to pay, though, when you are surrounded by lovely people. I had a good chat with the secretaire at the Mairie on Thursday. She is absolutely lovely. She asked me to speak a little Japanese to her as she’d never heard it before. Just like the kids in school are curious about Jake, I think the local residents feel the same about it!

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