The Catenary Wires + Milky Wimpshake
Gullivers NQ
109 Oldham St, Manchester
Friday 19th July 2019

A lot of people in their 40s and 50s tell me they’d love to still be going to gigs but feel that they are too old.

An old neighbour of mine had the right idea.  A few years ago, when she found out I was putting on a night at The Zanzibar with local Punk and Indie bands she insisted on coming along.  I was a bit concerned that a woman in her 70s who’d never been into punk or alternative probably wouldn’t enjoy it, but she determined to come, her reasoning being that she wouldn’t be able to go to gigs once she was dead.  And yeah, on the night she wasn’t too keen on the headliners who cited The Fall as their main influence, but she quite enjoyed the other bands and one (who sounded quite 60s) she loved and went to see again.

The point is, there are a million and one excuses, some of them quite legitimate, that she could have made not to go along that night, but she took a chance, and had a great night, certainly much better than staying in watching strangers having dinner parties, selling their houses or baking cakes on the telly!

Without pushing the “age is just a number” cliche too much, after photographing Lee “Scratch” Perry’s gig in Liverpool last year on the Tuesday, I followed him on Twitter.  That weekend, back in Switzerland, he spent the Saturday at a drugs expo and the Sunday at a Sex Expo surrounded by models.  He was 82.  At 50 I mowed the lawn and went to Aldi that weekend 🙂 Not that I’d swap places with him, but it just goes to show that age shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to do the things you want to do.

I’ve been looking forward to last night’s gig since it was announced.  I saw Tallulah Gosh in Edinburgh in the late 80s, and between one thing and another, Rob and Amelia’s later bands Heavenly, The Pooh Sticks, Marine Research and Tender Trap slipped beneath my radar.

When I saw they had a new band – The Catenary Wires, and listened to their superb wistful boy/girl duets I knew I had to get myself along to see them.

But it has to be said, yesterday morning I wasn’t as excited about going as I should have been.  We’re off on a family holiday soon which means I’ve been working until 10pm every night to try and get projects completed before we go.  It was pouring down with rain all day in Liverpool (just as well it never rains in Manchester 😉 )

Most of the people I know who go to gigs and might have been interested were at Blue Dot or other gigs, and when I want to take photos at a small venue without a pit I tend to arrive for doors opening to make sure I can get near the front.

So, traveling to Manchester on public transport in the rain, standing about on my own for a few hours before the band comes on, not having a drink (if a gig gets busy and I need to go to the toilet, could lose space at the front) when I just wanted to sleep, oh and did I mention my hayfever has been particularly bad this week?  On paper at least, it maybe didn’t sound too tempting.

But then I think about the people from my year at school who’ve sadly passed away recently and realise how lucky I am to still be here, so best not waste the opportunity.  I’ve also been to enough gigs to know how transformative they can be, you head along thinking to yourself “I should have just had an early night” and leave walking on air, buzzing, glad to be alive, and last night was no exception!

It was my first time at Gullivers NQ, indeed when people talked about Gullivers I always thought they meant the kids theme park in Warrington until fairly recently when I was at their sister venue, The Castle Hotel across the road.  I got there about 7pm, had a quick cider and headed upstairs for 7.30 when the doors were due to open, but things were running late and the support were still sound-checking.

I always get a bit nervous around famous people, last year I got a message from Claudia Brucken of Propaganda asking if she could share my photos on twitter, I had to go into the other room and go “I’m not worthy” 3 times before composing myself enough to reply “Yes of course, no problem”, if she’d asked me in real life I’d have probably had to run away 😉

But Rob Pursey just started talking to me like we were old friends, and totally put me at my ease.

Rob and Amelia left to get something to eat, and the promoter asked me to wait downstairs, I didn’t want to risk another drink so was sat on my own for a bit, but then I saw a guy with a Tallulah Gosh bag.  I’ve always had social anxieties, but I said something to him like “So you’ve been a fan for a while then?” and we had a good natter like we’d known each other for years.

In one of these bizarre “small world” moments, a lady heard my accent and said “Oh, are you Scottish too, I’m from Edinburgh”, we discovered that we are not only both from Edinburgh, but the same part of Edinburgh, indeed practically the same street – we hadn’t recognised each other initially, but realised we were both in the same year at school.  It’s not like she was into Tallulah Gosh back in the day, which would explain the bizarre coincidence of being at the same gig, she got into them more recently through her partner who is a huge fan.

Even without the bizarre coincidence, it was a very sociable, friendly crowd, with a lot of people like myself there on their own.  A but like being at a dinner party but not boring!

First on stage were Milky Wimpshake – who’ve been on the go since 1993 and seem to be very well established on the DIY scene as several people I know, have seen them, but somehow they’ve managed to evade my radar until they were announced as support.

Listening to them online I was really keen to see them.  I must admit I was a little disappointed that the female vocalist wasn’t there (not sure if she’s no longer in the band or just couldn’t make it last night) so no boy-girl harmonies, but still they put on an awesome set, and they are certainly a band I’ll go and see again, especially as my missus really wants to see them.

Indeed, when I saw Laura Gibson earlier in the year, she was so good, and had come all the way from the USA to play to a room of 80 people that I wanted to support her somehow.  I knew if I bought a t-shirt I’d probably rarely wear it as I don’t tend to wear band t-shirts, and if I bought a CD it would sit in the cupboard with all my other CDs since Sonos/Spotify is so much more convenient if I’m going to listen to something digitally, so I decided to buy her album on Vinyl – my vinyl deck is in the loft as we have a 5 year old child, but I’ve got in the habit of buying Vinyl at gigs I enjoy as they look great, and we’ll have a great time listening to them once the wee man is old enough to be trusted not to scratch (in a non-DJ way!)

I bought the Catenary Wires vinyl obviously, and Amelia and Rob were good enough to sign it for me, and I was tempted to buy one of Milky Wimpshake’s albums which was only £10, but I wanted to make sure I had enough cash for a taxi to get home from Lime St, so I’ll make a point of buying it next time!

Speaking to the guy next to me, I found out that Milky Wimpshake’s front man Pete Dale was involved in Slampt records who put out Kenickie’s first single.

The Catenary Wires started off as a 2 piece of Rob and Amelia, but recently expanded to a 5 piece band.  They sound superb on their recordings, but live, they took it to another level.

Rob and Amelia’s chemistry on-stage and off is unmistakable, and all the more remarkable when you consider they’ve been in bands together for over 30 years off and on as well as life partners.  Some bands get very acrimonious after a few years together, but then they seem like very genuine, nice down-to-earth people, with a mutual love of making music.

The band sounded superb, and little touches like Amelia’s Harmonium added to the feeling that this was a very special night indeed.

Despite some of the subject matter being quite dark (finishing the set with “Dream Town” for example, a song about divorce) it was a joyous uplifting set, which you couldn’t help but leave with a smile on your face, feeling the world, despite everything that is going on right now in global politics, is after all a good place to be.  And you’re never too old for that!