I watched as my mate’s sister’s boyfriend put the vial up his nostril and sniffed. His head went red from the neck up. “Bloody hell,” I thought, “Vicks is strong in London!”
We were on the tube, heading to a Dr Feelgood gig. I’d never seen anyone take poppers before. I was 16, and either a little too naive or a little too obsessed with cold remedies.
The Feelgoods were one of a handful of groups we saw over and over at The Town & Country Club (the other regulars being The Pogues, Stiff Little Fingers, and Voice Of The Beehive, which seemed like a perfect mix and match to us). It was a little time-bubble of gig-going, which left these bands forever linked in my head, along with the image of my giggling, cider-sloshed mates, and puce-faced Steve.
Later, there was an even bubblier era. In the early 90s, when I was a young reporter on a local newspaper, I went to loads of gigs at Northampton’s Roadmender, scarcely believing my luck at scoring free press tickets. The bubble bands from this time were Super Furry Animals, Chumbawamba, and The Blue Aeroplanes, and once, memorably, Radiohead. Listening to any of them now makes me think of driving home in my gutless little Fiesta, the stereo on full blast, formulating my review in my head, trying to remember the setlist, thinking how sitting taking shorthand notes at boring council meetings were worth it for nights like these.
My bubbles are less frequent and frenzied now. Older, arguably wiser, indisputably wider, Mr Drakeygirl and I grab our gig-going chances when we can, and have to prioritise. There are only a select few we try by hook or by crook to see: Eels, John Grant, and The Decemberists. These are the ones I’ll think of when reminiscing back to my current middle-aged spread bubble period. They’ll always be linked, and their music will always be connected with a feeling of escape, of the headrush of hightailing it away from groaning, grown-up responsibilities.
I wonder when will my next time-bubble be? And who will be the live bands filling it? I haven’t got a clue. And that’s how I like it.
So, who were/are/or will be your bubble bands?