News & Insights 19 May 2007

Danny is having an internal haemorrhage

Saturday 19 May, 2.30pm (WXPN Studios, Philadelphia PA):
We are in Studio 2 (A.K.A. “Paul” – the others studios are named John, George & Ringo) at the world-famous WXPN Studios in Philadelphia. WXPN is America’s most popular public radio station, with a nationwide audience of up to 5.2 million listeners. Next week they’re interviewing Paul McCartney himself in this very studio. Today, they’ve got The Lightyears. And we’re raring to go.

“So,” begins Matt Reilly, the show’s host, skimming through his papers, “you guys have turned down record deals with EMI, Virgin, Warner….. how come?”

This is not strictly true. In fact, it’s blatant misinformation. However, this is our first question on our first appearance in the American national media and I quickly conclude that “No, Matt. You’re wrong. Who on earth is your source?” is probably not the most diplomatic opening gambit. I answer the question with some general musings on our history as a band and direct the conversation deftly (if I may say so myself) towards the subject of Bon Jovi. We are currently in the heart of Bon Jovi Country and, since I spent a substantial chunk of my teens striving to be just like them, I decide it’s appropriate to pay the band homage today.

“We were inspired to write our first song by Bon Jovi’s Always, in fact. That and the wide-eyed expectation that writing songs would get us more girlfriends.”

We perform three tracks live on the show – EmilyGirl On The Radio and Gimme Some, the latter of which we sing a capella. Matt seems impressed, and does a stellar job of plugging our show tonight at Milkboy in Ardmore. 

WXPN is bloody fantastic. A great station with great DJs playing great tunes. We need more of this in the UK. I mean, the 24-hour Kanye West Festival on Radio 1 is fun and all, but they play such a wide mix of corking tracks here. I strongly recommend you tune in online at www.wxpn.org.

And… most importantly… the advertising has worked a treat. We turn up to Milkboy, tonight’s venue, and the place is heaving. A sell-out. The crowds up until now have been appreciative, but modest… but this – I mean, this is terrific. Standing room only! It’s thrilling enough when this happens in London, but to play to a capacity crowd three thousand miles from home is something else.  

Which is why the blood drains slowly from my veins when we get up on stage, strum the opening chords of the first song, and the sound is completely all over the place. Danny spent a couple of hours setting the sound-desk earlier, meticulously adjusting all the levels to achieve the perfect balance. Now, though, the vocals are barely audible, the guitar is bafflingly loud and the keyboards aren’t even in the mix. We all direct furtive glances at Dan. He seems to be poking randomly at the desk, looking utterly foxed, poor bugger. The mix sounds as if someone has come along, unplugged all the cables and then shoved them back into random inputs.

Eventually it becomes clear what’s happened. Someone has come along, unplugged all the cables and then shoved them back into random inputs. Danny is having an internal haemorrhage. Tony is papering over the cracks with a really quite inspired sermon on the subject of competitive sport, which is dangerous territory for a rookie to venture into in this part of the world but he seems to be pulling it off with aplomb. 

Eventually, after quite a painful period of improvisation (I’m not sure exactly how long it was but at I guess I’d say about four or five years), Danny manages to sort the problem and we’re on our way. And it turns into one of my favourite gigs of all time. Fantastic crowd, great venue, killer atmosphere. We end on Beautiful Band, with its extended, Pink Floyd-esque coda, George’s layered guitar loops fading slowly to silence. 

A night to remember, most definitely.

Chris Lightyear

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