Wordpretzels, yet another music event to tell you about – I am a massive fan of The Wombats, despite being a man in my 50s. Both of my children, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny are also fans, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive my ticket as a Christmas gift from Master Johnny, which meant I would be with a group consisting of five 18 year old lads, a 22 year old woman – and me.
Our tickets were for the circle – having been to Bristol O2 Academy a few times, I wasn’t expecting to see terraced seating, but there it was. I had mixed feelings, the aged part of me appreciated the fact I could sit down and watch the entertainment without getting jostled, the youth inside wanted the excitement of jumping up and down to the music. Master Johnny suggested that they were all going to stand up as soon as The Wombats appeared.
In my cosy seat in the circle, I had time to observe the audience around me with an alarming realisation. They were all young people, which I am not. I desperately scanned the crowd for a glimpse of grey hair or a shiny bald pate. It took a couple of minutes before I had located a couple of other audience members who looked as if they were in my age bracket and relaxed. Soon I realised there were older people filling the seats surrounding me, which should have made me feel better, but no. I reassessed the situation. The majority of ‘older gig attendees’ were in fact playing the role of parent, accompanying their teenage children.
The first support band, Team Me, took to the stage, announcing they were Norwegian. I wondered if they may have connections with Tord from The Wombats, whose family come from Norway, or perhaps it was just coincidence. They gave a good performance, one that made me check out their videos on You Tube the following day. A six piece band (I wondered how you ever made money in a band with so many members), the mix was slightly distorted, which made me consider whether not quite so much care is taken over the support band’s overall sound.
Darlia had more problems with the sound system. The lead singer struggled to be heard during their opening song, but suddenly had the volume turned up to 11 when the engineer plugged something in. A three piece conventional guitar band following in the footsteps of The Arctic Monkeys and The Wombats. The band’s image seemed rather confused – imagine a lead guitarist who looks like Gaz Coombes from Supergrass, the drummer from an Oi band and a bassist who could fit neatly into The Clash. The songs were loud, rocky and enjoyed immensely by the seething mass in the stalls as they jumped and waved their arms, a boiling sea of youthful exuberance.
Then the main event as The Wombats took the stage. The plan to stand up was quickly discouraged by the vigilant stewards as ‘Murph’ said hello and launched into ‘Your Body is a Weapon’, one of the tracks from the new album Glitterbug. The songs we loved came thick and fast – Greek Tragedy, Head Space, the anthem that got me into The Wombats initially – Moving to New York. Murph suggested we all dance, ‘even those of you in the circle’. The kids looked at the stewards, then at me as I leapt to my feet. I could sense their shrug of relief as they decided if this conventional old boy was going to stand up, they sure could as well. The stewards waited patiently for the song to end before getting us all to sit down again.
The fantastic songs continued – Kill the Director, The English Summer, Party in a Forest, each one a challenge to stand up once more, irresistible when the opening bars of Techno Fan reverberated around the auditorium. What a tune. A nod to their origins with Little Miss Pipedream and Jump into The Fog, they left the stage to inevitable cheers, returning for an encore of Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves) and of course, Let’s Dance to Joy Division.
By this time, I was pogoing, hot, sweaty and happy. I was 18 all over again and The Wombats were brilliant. Driving home from Birmingham we listened to more Wombats, singing along to Schumacher the Champagne (they didn’t play this live). We all agreed that The Wombats made great music, their only fault being that it’s so good, you listen to it until you’re tired of it and have to stop for a few months before returning and enjoying all over again. That’s the great thing about a new Wombats album. Something else you can listen to again and again, songs growing on you, your favourite track changing, just like the old days when you’d listen to an album the whole way through rather than ‘stream tracks’. I never knew I was a Technold fan.