Chapter Two: Gigging The Gates

Tonight it was our turn to play The Gates.  Titanium Rose were bottom of the bill, by which I mean that we were the first of the four bands to play, and the only one of the four bands who got dressed and made up in the toilets.  Not the nicest of places, The Gates toilets are comprised of two small, cold cubicles facing one another, in which the lock sometimes works, and sometimes – when it doesn’t – you have to shove a bag or your foot against the door.  There’s also a mirror with two hand basins either side of it.  We took turns in the cubicles, hopping about on the freezing tiled floor, getting into our stage gear whilst the audience queued up by the sinks, then once we were done, we joined the gaggle of keyed up, impatient audience girls by the mirror to do our make-up.  It was a bit of a squeeze, and we were constantly being interrupted as various doors opened and shut, letting girls in and out of cubicles or letting in blasts of Limp Bizkit (Katy calls them Limp Dickshit.)  Even so, it beat sharing the dressing room with the other bands, neither of whom were the sharing type.

  Fliss was the only one of us who seemed to be making an effort with her appearance tonight.  She wore a red sequinned mini dress, red patent D.M boots, and black stay ups.  She had also used red ribbons to fasten her bunches, and was wearing cherry red lipstick.  Flora wore a dirty denim skirt with an off the shoulder tie-dyed green and black t-shirt, and black D.M boots, and Katy wore her trademark black: black boots, black jeans, black cotton shirt, black eye shadow, black eyeliner.  I wore my usual drumming gear, i.e. jeans with a t-shirt and Doc Martens.

  My best friend, Nat, joined us at the mirror and checked her make-up, “Violet and your mum are both outside,” she remarked, casually, to me.

  “Really?” I brightened.  Mum had told me that she would try to come to our gig, but hadn’t promised anything.  It would be the first time she had seen us live.  Violet was another surprise, as we’d only met a few times.  Her band, The Girls From Mars, have been gigging around Manchester for at least two years now.  Fliss saw her at Ladyfest Glasgow and, in her usual clumsily spontaneous, yet ultimately friendly, manner, invited her to our gig tonight.  None of us had ever expected her to turn up though.

  Nat finished her examination of her reflection.  Deep blue eyes stared back at her from the mirror, framed by dark, thick lashes set against a heart shaped face, with high cheekbones.  A tiny blue star pierced her snub nose, and her light brown hair, which was streaked blonde, was hanging loose down her back.  I always think of Nat as being voluptuous, never fat.  I can imagine her as a sweater girl in the fifties, or a forces pin up in the forties, one of those halter-top and hot pant clad Marilyn’s, with film star glamour, the kind of woman who can break your heart with a glance.

  Not many people had arrived by the time I emerged from the toilets into the cool grimy gloom of The Gates, and I found Fliss chatting to Violet by the dimly lit bar as, next to them, Nat talked to my mother.  Violet complimented Fliss on her sparkly dress and, in the darkness, I saw Fliss blush as she coyly looked away. I could tell that she was pleased though.

  There is one word that you can use to sum up the Gates: Dark.  Another would be Empty, or empty for Titanium Rose.  I counted about fifteen people, most of whom were members of the other bands on the bill.  From the stage I could see all the way back to the cage at the back, and the sound person.  Between the ragged gaggle of people watching the stage and the soundperson there was nothing but black floor, black walls, and the occasional scraped and beer stained wooden table and stool. 

  The audience stood about two metres away from the stage throughout the twenty-minute set, mostly wearing the kind of expression that suggested that they were wondering if the City result had come in yet, or were trying to remember just where they had parked the car.  Although they seemed sceptical, I think that some of them had been won over by the time Flora began to play the opening chords to ‘Hathor’s Lament’.  It was a tough gig, but I think we did alright.  A few other people thought we’d done alright too, including mum.

  “That song at the end had a nice bass line,” she said as we stood by the bar later, watching people pour through the doors, ready to watch the other two bands on the bill.  “And I liked the second song…” there was a ‘but’ coming, I could tell.  My mum was a punk in the seventies: She’s very disappointed that I’m playing drums in a punk band in 2001.  She believes that it shows a lack of imagination.  “But I think you need to vary your listening habits a bit more, and Fliss needs a better microphone.”

    She was meant to be helping me to move my kit offstage, the headline band having decided upon seeing it that only their own drummers kit would do, but she had spotted an old acquaintance from her days at the Electric Circus by the bar, and they were in full flow by the time I got around to moving it.  It didn’t matter too much though: I had the car keys.

  The smallest drums and the cymbals had to be moved first, then the next smallest, right down to the big bass drum at the bottom.  I was just carrying this last piece of kit down the steps on the right hand side of the stage when I heard someone ask, “Need any help there?” I put the drum down next to the others and paused to catch my breath, “You look proper knackered.”

  “I’m fine,” I replied, “thank you.”  I turned around.

  He was tall and lanky, with blonde hair, which was wavy and tied back.  There was light stubble on his chin, which, when taken alongside his ripped jeans, t-shirt and plaid shirt, added to the overall air of scruffiness he had about him.  I turned my back on him, and once more picked up the bass drum.  He picked up one of the snares.  “No, really,” I repeated as we turned to face each other, “I can manage.”  I was taller than him and probably stronger too, but I didn’t have time to argue with him.  Instead, I turned my back on him once more and walked back past the stage.  It was pretty dark back there, and the light from the desk when I passed through the doors was of great relief.  As I began to climb the stairs, I could hear him behind me.  I paused in order to scan the posters on the staircase walls for any upcoming gigs of interest.  (Red Vinyl Fur are playing at The Gates in a couple of weeks, supporting Angelica, which should be good.)  He was catching up by then, so I moved onwards and upwards.

  My mother had parked her car in Back Piccadilly, the dark alleyway that runs alongside The Gates.  It took a few trips, but soon we had moved the whole kit, and I was ready to start loading it into the car.  “Thanks for the help,” I said as I unlocked the boot.

  “That’s alright,” he tucked a stray strand of hair behind his ear.  “Your band played well, Titanium Rose, wasn’t it?”

  “That’s right.”

  “Interesting name… where does it come from?”

  “Oh,” I smiled, “from Sigur-Rós, and that Sonic Youth song, ‘Titanium Exposé’.”

  He held out his hand, “I’m Fergus.”

  I shook it, “Maggie.”

  “I run a label,” he announced, “I wanted to talk to you, and the rest of the band, about maybe doing a record.”

  (Later)

I didn’t get time to write down everything for you when I got home because I was too tired, which is why I ended my entry so abruptly.  I wanted to lie awake in the darkness for a while and think about things, though, really I ought to have written everything down straightaway, for accuracies sake, still… I don’t feel as though I will ever have time to properly document my life, and maybe that’s just as well.  For now, I can only do my best with what little time I have.

  It was starting to rain as we loaded the drums into the car, and it was so dark in that little alley that I had to feel in order to see where I had put them.  Once we had finished, we headed back inside to discuss the possible single deal that Fergus was offering with the others.

  We worked our way through the crowd by the door to the side of the stage and onwards into the dressing room.  Here we found Fliss and Violet, in quiet conversation.

  “Where are the others?” I asked.

  “Don’t know,” replied Fliss, “Katy was getting a drink when I last saw her.”

  We closed the door behind us.

  The DJ was playing Marilyn Manson as we surveyed the by now much more crowded room for Flora and Katy.  We found them at the bar with Nat, and I quickly introduced Fergus to all of them.  Well, all of them aside from Nat: it turns out that she and Fergus already know each other.

  “Let’s talk in the dressing room,” I suggested, “whilst the other bands are out of the way,” Flora and Katy agreed.

  The Gates dressing room hadn’t improved any since I had stuck my head around the door earlier.  It’s the graffiti that puts me off; it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just the names of bands, but the walls are covered in pictures of genitalia and the kind of sexually explicit diagrams that I imagine even ‘More!’ would probably hesitate to use for ‘Position Of The Fortnight’.  The walls get re-painted periodically, but they only stay clean for a couple of nights usually.

  Fergus’ proposed deal was that he sign us up to do a single, and later (finances permitting) more singles, and an album.  In the course of any time spent recording, releasing, and promoting material released on his label, (which is called One Way Or Another) Titanium Rose and/or any of the individuals making up Titanium Rose, will be free to record, release, and promote material for other labels.  As well as other liberties, we are also allowed to arrange our own artwork and we even maintain copyright of the songs.  It sounded fine to me, and the others agreed.

  The meeting broke up soon after, and we joined the crowd outside to watch the remainder of the headline band’s set.  I wasn’t that impressed with them myself, but the crowd seemed to be really going for it, and the atmosphere was generally good.  Bodies slammed into each other as hair lashed the steamy, smoky air, and the band ground relentlessly on, but I stood away from it all.  Had we not been playing ourselves, I doubt very much that I would have paid to see this band.  It’s different somehow when you’re playing a gig with them though, you feel obliged to watch.

  Soon it was chucking out time and Fliss, Flora and Katy all left for home, leaving me with Fergus outside on the dark, damp, street.  The crowd from The Gates were streaming past us as he asked, “Can I give you a lift?”

  “No, it’s alright,” I replied, “I’m going home with my mum, she’s driving.”

  “Oh, right,” he made to leave.

  “Thank you.”

  He smiled, “Bye”

  “Bye”

  As I got into the car, mum asked, “Who was that?”

  “Oh, this bloke,” I replied vaguely, “he’s going to release our records for us.”

  She watched his retreating form for a few moments, “Not unattractive…” she murmured, rather wistfully.

  “Mum!”

  She shrugged defensively, “Just saying…”

  She told me as we drove along the still busy A6, through Stockport, to Hazel Grove, that she had enjoyed the gig.  “Your band anyway, I didn’t think much of the other two.”  She didn’t comment much beyond that, and I was too tired to pursue the subject upon arriving home, but it was enough.  It is probably very un-punk for your parents to like your band, but I don’t care.  I’m still pleased.

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