News & Insights 18 September 2012

Our Top Three Worst Gigs… named and shamed.

Killers frontman Brandon Flowers recently commented in an interview that his band had a ‘chip on their shoulder’ when they were starting out, adding that he didn’t miss their days of playing small venues to tiny crowds.
To be honest, the news that a rockstar prefers stadium gigs in front of screaming fans over playing to no-one in the fetid back-room of a pub in ____ isn’t overly surprising – but in a funny kind of way it’s always nice to hear a global super-power like The Killers admitting that, even for them, there was a period of grinding, thankless drudgery where, at least at first, nobody really appeared to like them very much.
If I was ever invited onto a reverse version of Desert Island Discs and asked to list The Lightyears’ Three Worst Gigs Of All Time, I think I could answer pretty quickly. In reverse order…
STARBUCKS COFFEE HOUSE, NEW YORK (2007)
3) I should start by saying that I actually quite enjoyed this gig, but Tony hated it SO much that there was enough resentment hanging around to seriously bump up the average. In the lead-up to a weekend of gigs in Philadelphia which would turn out to be some of our best ever, we were asked to perform a short acoustic set in a student-heavy branch of Starbucks somewhere in Manhattan (the exact location eludes me). When we got there, there was one microphone between three of us and, crowded around the mic stand _____, we were steadfastly ignored for the entire thing . We won an INDY Award the next day – which softened the blow a little – but to this day Tony still twitches if you offer him a Vanilla Chai Latte.
PLAN B, BRIXTON (2005)
2) Plan B is cool. I mean really, really cool. In fact, it’s a hip-hop venue, not a sensitive-melodic-pop venue – so quite what we were doing there, I really couldn’t say. There were three people in the audience, and they were all our girlfriends (and to be honest I think even they were stretched by this one). We were supporting a really good band called Lucky Voice (still together apparently), but didn’t exactly ingratiate ourselves with them when, in an attempt to eject some much-needed energy into the room, I leapt enthusiastically from a speaker towards my keyboard, thwacked my head against a pipe on the ceiling and fell backwards into a stack of their very expensive guitars. This hurt on so many levels.
CLUB COWBOY, BRIXTON (2004)
1) The astute amongst you will have noticed a theme here – Brixton is not a friend to The Lightyears. Our first warning should have been the name ‘Club Cowboy’, which looking back on it rather implies a gay club night with masochistic overtones. The worst thing about this gig was the crowd, who were small in number but big in hostility. When we kicked into a cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’ about halfway through, a skin-headed ___ in the corner started sporadically shouting the word ‘gay’ at us at gradually increasing volume. As the gig unfolded it became clear that they really only had the one point to make, but they were dreadfully persistent. By the end I was so pissed off that, on the final note of the gig, I crashed down onto the end of my piano and inadvertently sent it cartwheeling off the stage. It was a spectacular moment, and as a result my piano bore a crescent moon-shaped scar for the rest of its life (right up until it burned to a cinder in our house fire), serving as a constant reminder of why _________.
Now… in the interests of balance, I’m tempted to follow this with a list of the best gigs we’ve ever done – but on reflection I think that might feel a bit self-aggrandising, and in any case I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet.
Although I will say that all the gigs where I’ve blown my own trumpet have been BRILLIANT.

The LYs in New York. Sure, we LOOK like we're having fun... but inside we're crying.Killers frontman Brandon Flowers recently commented in an interview that his band had a ‘chip on their shoulder’ when they were starting out, adding that he didn’t miss their days of playing in small venues to tiny crowds.

While the news that a rockstar prefers stadium gigs in front of screaming fans over playing to no-one in the fetid back-room of a pub in Hatch End isn’t overly surprising, in a funny kind of way it’s always nice to hear a global super-power like The Killers admitting that, even for them, there was a period of grinding, thankless drudgery when, at least at first, nobody really appeared to like them very much.

If I was ever invited onto a reverse version of Desert Island Discs and asked to list The Lightyears’ Three Worst Gigs Of All Time, I think I could answer pretty quickly…

STARBUCKS COFFEE HOUSE, NEW YORK (2007)
3) I should start by saying that I actually quite enjoyed this gig, but Tony hated it SO much that there was enough resentment hanging around to seriously bump up the average. In the lead-up to a weekend of gigs in Philadelphia which would turn out to be some of our best ever, we were asked to perform a short acoustic set in a student-heavy branch of Starbucks somewhere in Manhattan (the precise location eludes me). When we got there there was one microphone between three of us and, crowded awkwardly around the single mic stand, we struggled for forty-five minutes to entertain the glued-to-their-laptops crowd of stand-offish coffee drinkers – but were steadfastly ignored. We won an INDY Award the next day (something which, ironically, we found out by telephone whilst in a Starbucks) and this softened the blow a little, but to this day Tony still twitches if you offer him a Chai Tea Latte.

PLAN B, BRIXTON (2005)
2) Plan B is cool. I mean really, really cool. Indeed it’s a hip-hop venue – not a sensitive-melodic-pop venue – so quite what we were doing there I really couldn’t say. There were three people in the audience and they were all our girlfriends, and to be honest I think even they were stretched by this one. We were supporting a really great band called Lucky Soul (still together apparently), but didn’t exactly ingratiate ourselves with them when, in an attempt to eject some much-needed energy into the room, I leapt enthusiastically from a speaker towards my keyboard, thwacked my head against a pipe on the ceiling and fell backwards into a stack of their very expensive guitars. This hurt on so many levels.

CLUB COWBOY, BRIXTON (2004)
1) The astute amongst you will have noticed a theme here – Brixton is not a friend to The Lightyears. Our first warning should have been the name, which looking back on it rather implies a masochistic underground club night. The worst thing about this gig was the crowd, who were small in number but big in hostility. When we kicked into a cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect‘ about halfway through, a thicket of skin-headed neanderthals gulping lager and slowly ruining society in the corner started sporadically shouting the word ‘gay’ at us, at a steadily-increasing volume. As the gig unfolded it became clear that they really only had the one point to make (it was the one about us being gay), and they were dreadfully persistent about it. Now I’m a pretty tolerant guy, but by the close of our set I was so pissed off that, on the final note of the gig, I crashed down onto the end of my piano and inadvertently sent it cartwheeling off the stage. After smashing dramatically onto the dancefloor (thankfully not decapitating anyone in the process), it bore a crescent moon-shaped scar for the rest of its life, right up until it burned to a cinder in our house fire.

Now… in the interests of balance, I’m tempted to follow this with a list of the best gigs we’ve ever done – but on reflection I think that might feel a bit self-aggrandising, and in any case I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet.

Although I will say that the gigs where I’ve blown my own trumpet have all been BRILLIANT.

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