Sunday, 28 March 2010

A Dodgy moment

The summer of 1996 was a good one. At the height of my interest in football, England hosted the European Championships, and the country was alive with the vibe of Cool Britannia. I seem to remember it was a particularly sunny summer and, despite a random ankle injury I had to hobble around with (I liked to compare my injury with that sustained by Jamie Redknapp in Euro 96) it was one of the happiest summers of my youth.

It was also quite a notable year for me in terms of my musical tastes, as this was the summer that I abandoned boyband pop in favour of indie rock, most notably in the form of Ash and Dodgy. Indeed, you could even argue that Dodgy's gloriously-titled 1996 album 'Free Peace Sweet' was what sparked my interest in puns.

In the decade and a half since that summer I've been to tons of Ash gigs. But I've only ever seen Dodgy play once, at Shepherd's Bush Empire a couple of years ago, and I was gutted that I had to miss them play the Avalon stage at last year's Glastonbury. 

So imagine my joy a few weeks ago when a lovely little e-mail landed in my inbox from the rather awesome website Songkick, telling me that Dodgy were playing at my LOCAL PUB at the end of the month! This nifty site allows you to 'track' bands you're interested in and alert you when they announce gigs, no matter how big or small. I don't know too much about how Songkick works - Illandancient will be able to tell you more - but I think it's updated by the fans and bands themselves, so you get to hear about gigs that wouldn't necessarily be flagged up on the bigger music websites.

I promptly purchased tickets, and last night I wandered down the road to relive the soundtrack to that magical summer. It turned out to be a more meaningful evening than I had envisaged. We arrived at about 8.30pm and the venue - Dirty South - was pretty buzzing. There were eight bands performing, and we had no idea what time Dodgy (or - more accurately - Nigel Clark and Andy Miller) would be playing. 

My friend and I were quite happy chatting and drinking the night away, but at 11pm I was starting to get a bit concerned that we'd somehow managed to miss Dodgy's set, and perhaps they'd already performed without playing any of their well-known hits. At 11.30pm we wandered over to the stage area and watched the VERY cool band Little Imp. They had a pretty big following and played a great rocky set, and I'd definitely like to see them again. Dodgy were up next. Weirdly the crowd thinned, and at one stage I was seriously concerned that it would just be the two of us watching them, but as they started playing 'In a Room' the area got a busier again.

The set was great - they played lots of old stuff, but with the absence of a drummer their songs took on a more melancholy tone. As they played the opening chords of one of my favourite Dodgy tracks - 'If You're Thinking Of Me' - and I looked around the room at the audience of 40 or so fans (all grinning ear-to-ear), it struck me that the summer of 1996 really was a lifetime ago. 

It was a strange moment for me - and I'm sure all the wine helped - but I suddenly realised that my youth is well and truly over, and for a split second I felt uncharacteristically overwhelmed. I know that may sound strange coming from a 28-year-old, as factually speaking my youth has probably been officially over for the best part of a decade, but so much has changed. There's now a complete lack of political optimism which - even as a 14-year-old - I was aware of in the run up to the 1997 election. Summers never seem so sunny anymore. And now Nigel and Andy from Dodgy are now just two chaps with guitars who are still happy to play a set in Lewisham at 1am (which became 2am what with the clocks going forward) on a Saturday night. And although I'm very glad they did, it did made me sad that it isn't 1996 anymore.

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