Night #1 - Good The Bad And The Argyle and Maniacal Laughter.
This was gonna be an interesting show as far as I was concerned and came away blown away. Firstly, GBA hasn’t been one of my fave albums and wasn’t sure how it would come across live. Secondly ML is one of my fave Souls albums and couldn’t wait to see it. Thirdly, this show was in the smaller Islington Bar Academy venue, a far superior gig venue than the crappy downstairs main Academy, and also the smallest show i’ve ever seen the Souls do. As the show kicked in, the band were using a “Rocky/Boxing” type theme for introducing each of the albums, including the Rocky music, cheesy boxing announcer man, and a “ring girl” parading the album thats due to be played – this instance being a cute tattooed alterno-model. Once the band hit the stage and kicked into “I Like Your Mom”, i realised how great this set was gonna be. As i said, GBA isn’t an album i’m terribly familiar with, but they totally killed it. I guess its because most of these songs haven’t been played live for years (with the exception of Joe Lies).
When the set was over, i was left gobsmacked – i never expected this album to come across so brilliantly.
Highlights: Fist bumping Bryan in the first song, Inspection Station (a song i never expected them to play), and a particularly crushing Old School.
Once GBA was over, the band disappeared for 5 mins while the announcer and ring girl started again for Maniacal Laughter – then they were back out. I’d been looking forward to seeing these songs as ML is my second fave Souls album, and was gutted i’d never seen them play this set for the ML anniversary shows a few years back. Theres not much more to add really – once the gig was over (both albums in less than an hour), i was totally blown away and was happy to have seen the guys play such a mad set of rare songs.
Night #2 – Self Titled and Hopeless Romantic
After a quick chat with Kate (manager) and Pete (guitarist), it was off to the pub and was looking forward to Night #2, which unfortunately was in the bigger downstairs venue.
Highlights: Freaks, Nerds And Romantics, Lamar Vannoy and No Rules
Onto the shittier main Academy venue, and it was obvious from the outset someone had ballsed up. Obviously the 2nd night had sold out for upstairs – but they’d only sold a few more extra tickets, and the gig was quite sparsely populated, which was a shame. Self Titled is a bit of a peculiar album – apart from the first few tracks, its full of quite a lot of filler (band admitted!) tracks, and i was intrigued to see how it would come off. I didn’t expect the band to completely bludgeon the record into submission to get onto Hopeless Romantic!The first few tracks ruled, but by the time they hit The Toilet Song things were flagging. A couple of songs were then dropped, and they were gone after 20 minutes, after a breakneck Shark Attack. As much as the opening of the show was ace, i definitely felt this was the worst session of the 4 gigs i saw – but it was kind of expected.
Highlights: Cracked, Kate Is Great, Say Anything, East Coast Fuck You
Another 5 minute break, and Hopeless Romantic was driving everyone nuts. This was more like it, and they put everything into this set. HR was the first album i got by the guys, so this was always gonna be a bit of a special set, and they pretty much delivered on all counts. A mega version of Bullying The Jukebox made me wonder why they didn’t play this live a lot more often (i’ve never seen them do it before), and Night On Earth was a cracking mid set anthem. Some lucky girl got dragged up to sing on Wish Me Well (we’d met her in the pub earlier and it was her first Souls show). She did a great job, but for the remainder of the set, all you could hear was her screaming hysterically. I guess you couldn’t blame her! Added bonus was the attendance of my mate Jackie, one of my gig going buddies, and a fellow Souls fan who’d done some other multi date trips with me a few years ago. She was gonna be joining me for the Vienna dates, so i was pleased she got a taste of the show in London before we headed out the following week.
Highlights: Bullying The Jukebox, Fight To Live, Kid, Hopeless Romantic
Night #3 – How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Anchors Aweigh
Off to Vienna! After a relatively easy flight and a straightforward negotiation of Viennas subway system (easiest train system ever!), we’d checked into the hotel and were ready for beers – food – gig (in that order). After we had a massive beer in some nice little Vienna beer hall, it was off to The Arena – a place that surprised and impressed us from the off. Seems the Vienna Arena was some kind of squat – its more like a compound that contains 3 venues, an outside pub, an outside stage and accommodation for the staff/bands. It was an incredible place. So the Rocky music kicks in and the next thing, i realise the ring girl for Vienna is the legendary Lamar Vannoy, an old Souls cohort from their early days. It was cool to see him pop up after all these gigs, even though he looked a little uncomfortable onstage (or maybe he was just stoned?). The band then arrive, set off with That Song, and its like its 2001 all over again. Me and Jackie are down the front, shouting the words to every song, while the politest mosh pit kicks off behind us. They play some songs i’d totally forgotten about, and play some songs they NEVER play. The set was amazing, and its obvious to see why this night was the most popular back in London (even though they have just a good other records).
Highlights: Streetlight Serenade, The Something Special, an epic Gone
Anchors Aweigh blasts along next. Its not one of my favourite albums, but am enjoying it all the same, especially with Jackie shouting in my face. Makes the whole thing more interactive. The sets a good one, but unfortunately they don't do The Day I Turned My Back On You, which is my fave song off the album. I've never heard them play this live.
Highlights: a very kicking, full band version of Nightrain, I Get Lost, Kids N Heroes
The show ended and me and Jackie headed out into the courtyard. Theres a film being shown on the main outside stage about a band called The Gits, so we watch that for a bit while we finish our beers. Then we bump into Pete, who tells us to head over to the outside bar as everyone will be hanging out after the show.
We're offered food and beer, and even though we try to leave the band to it, they won’t let us leave.
This didn’t happen. We got backstage and met up with Bryan and Pete. Immediately, Jackie was reminded she WAS doing ring girl for the night, and i WAS doing the mental bits on The Mental Bits. Apparently everyone was into the idea. This was a shock and both of us immediately felt sick AND nervous.
I expected a round of quick and polite “hellos” with everyone (even though i’ve had some mad nights with the band in the past), but this didn’t happen. Within the hour we were sitting at the Souls table, chewing the fat and downing the beers with Pete, Bryan, Lamar, Brian Downey (another old school Souls cohort), DJ the roadie, and Michael (McDermott, drummer). A fun night was had by all, and by the time me and Jackie had staggered off (at about 2am), she’d been signed up to do ring girl duties for the following night, and i’d been roped in to do ranting/shouting on “The Mental Bits” from the last album. Lamar seemed pleased to NOT have to do the ring girl thing the following night – he admitted to us that it meant he got to watch the show instead of being involved in it. Bryan had also said he’d sort us backstage passes and to come back early tomorrow so we could all hang out. This was a surprise to us, and due to
the amount of booze and weed consumed by various people, was something we weren’t sure was gonna happen. Not that we minded. Me and Jackie were happy to be at the shows, and we’d just had a great night with the band - we aren't the kind of people you'd class as "liggers", and hanging out backstage and stalking band members isn't something we do. Surely things can’t get any better?
Night #4 – The Gold Record and Ghosts On The Boardwalk
Hangovers sorted, me and Jack headed out for a day of sightseeing, to see as much of Vienna as we could in one afternoon. We saw a palace gardens, some mad shops at the Museum Quarter, and lots of tube trains. Then we decided we should prob get to the gig, a little earlier than we did the night before. Surprise of the day was the Bryan HAD facebooked me, and said to get our passes from the door. We were very excited! We turned up and immediately bumped into Lamar and Downey from the previous night. Had a chat about our respective sightseeing, then the guys told us we should find the band, as they were looking for us. Yeah right, we thought. We picked up our passes with no issues and headed into the venue, grabbed a beer and then wondered what was best to do. I saw Kate wander off in the direction of the coaches so i suggested to Jack that we go backstage quickly to see whats what and show our faces, and then get out of the way of the band and leave them to it.
We're offered food and beer, and even though we try to leave the band to it, they won’t let us leave.
Its quite bizarre watching the band get ready, stretching and doing pre gig excercises while chatting away. We were definitely seeing something people don’t normally see. Then its showtime and we are dragged to the side of the stage. WTF???
Me and Jackie are called over with the rest of the band, Lamar, and Lukas, the other “guest” of the night (sax on The Pizza Song) and his girlfriend, into the band pre-gig huddle. MADNESS!!! I then run down the front of the gig with my camera to watch Jackie do ring girl, which she pulls off with the biggest grin i've ever seen. Shes a natural, haha!
Once The Gold Song kicks off, Jacks back down the front with me, and once again, we’re shouting our heads off for the entire show. The Gold Record is my favourite Souls album, and it was so great to see them play the whole thing live, even though some of these songs are mainstays of the regular Souls set. We nearly lose our shit when they play the incredibly upbeat Better Things (a Kinks cover) – it
was what we needed after all the shit going down in the UK at the start of the week. This is definitely up there as one of the sets of the 4 nights.
Highlights: the band huddle, Jackie the ring girl, So Jersey, Better Things, For All The Unheard.
After the show, we run backstage and hang back, letting the band do their thing. Jackie persuades Lamar that he should join her for ring girl on the last set, and DJ explains the deal with The Mental Bits – what mike i’ll be using and when to go on stage. Before the next set kicks off, Bryan and Pete suggest we watch the show from the side of the stage. This was an amazing treat, and something that prob won’t be repeated.
I’ve heard people in London left before this set – those people are MUGS as far as I’m concerned, as they totally nailed this set. Some of the tracks on the last album are among their best, esp tracks like Gasoline and Dubs Says True.
And as much as i wanted to watch Ghosts On The Boardwalk from the audience, it was a cool way to end the Souls final set. And it also sounded better onstage, randomly enough.
Jackie and Lamar do their thing, and get a massive cheer, then the guys go out and tear Vienna a new one.These are the newest songs they’ve got and they don’t hold back. They refrain from doing the slow songs off the album (which is a shame as Like The Sun is one of my faves) and hammer along playing the rest of the album.
Track 7 pitches up and its time for me for me to do my bit. I saunter onto the stage behind Pete, and start my ranting. Greg looks round and laughs as i
shout my best “Play THE BLOODY SONG”, totally in the right place and in time. Yeah, i play in a band too, i know what i’m doing. The song kicks off, and i feel less self conscious as things go on. People seem to be enjoying it. Pete and Bryan keep laughing everytime i shout something. The “Scenery” line gets a cheer. People are taking photos. Then its over and i saunter off, while Bryan shouts a massive “thank you”. That was totally bizarre, and an honour to be onstage with my favourite band.
This is the first show that the band do an encore – and its a cracker. I feel sorry for anyone that missed this. They do Punks in Vegas, No Security and Bryans Lament from the split EP. They do Hybrid Moments by the Misfits. And end with a massive version of Hot Water Musics Wayfarer, where everyone in the building joined in with the woahs in the chorus. It was deafening. Gig ends, and the first person to collar me before they’ve even hit backstage is Greg, who thanks me for doing my stuff. Its the most Gregs ever said to me at this point!
Highlights: The whole encore, Dubs Says True, Gasoline, Badass, Ghosts On The Boardwalk, being onstage with my fave band.
Things just get more insane though. Me and Jackie are stunned at this point and head off to the outside bar for a quiet drink. Next thing, Lamar has dragged us off to the afterparty in the smaller venue, where all the band are hanging out chatting to the fans. Lamar ends up chatting with me and Jackie, as he “speaks to those assholes
(the band/crew/etc) all the time”, then starts to DJ. His ipod only has hardcore Dancehall Reggae on it, which he plays for the entire night. An impromptu dance party kicks off, punks and band alike zumba-ing along with each other. Me and Jackie finally catch a break and get to chat to Greg and his wife Shanti, who turn out to be the nicest people ever. It was amazing finally getting to speak to Greg properly – and i think this was mainly thanks to his wife!
Everything gets vague the more alcohol gets drunk. Jackie is dancing with Lamar and Michael. I can’t believe my eyes, its hysterical. Everyones having such a brilliant time. By the time we leave, the crowds thinned out. We say goodbye to those we can find, then catch up with Bryan sitting quietly outside the small bar. He’s chucking around sentances with words like “friends” and “family” and “always welcome in my house” in them, and i can’t believe what i’m hearing.
When we say goodbye, it appears i’ve managed to organise a trip to New Jersey for a tattooing from the bassist. Again – utter madness.
Me and Jackie get back to the hotel, jump around excitedly for a couple of minutes, then eventually pass out around 3am. Next day is just a total daze with what we did the night before – a daze that’s still going on nearly a week later.
Lamar said to me that life can be pretty amazing sometimes. This weekend was one of those weekends. We never expected anything like these last two days to happen (we just expected two gigs and a quick chat with the band, in a nice city), and it’ll be something i won’t forget in a hurry.
What a start to my mega holiday....