Calls Landing Leeds Cockpit
7th Dec 2013
Continuing Ian Critchley’s travels through West Yorkshire. Don’t Panic – Actually, Panic.
I felt as if the anxiety had reached a peak. I’d awake mornings with such bad pins and needles in my gut I felt as if I was going to be sick. I woke up this morning with that feeling and I wanted to be sick, but I wasn’t and couldn’t bring myself to make it come by force. I wanted to dispel the anxiety from my gut but it had to be a natural occurrence otherwise it wouldn’t work. I knew that to clear my mind would be a much more difficult feat, but emptying the fear from my stomach would be a start so I lay in bed and hoped that I would vomit it all away.
If I didn’t drink today than I wouldn’t have drunk for a fortnight, the longest I’d gone without a drink since I’d started drinking hard, about age seventeen. And though it was difficult to handle the panic without, I knew it would be better in the long term, so was worth the struggle.
My first stop of the day was Hulme Garden Centre to watch Hanami. I didn’t know why the hell they were playing in a garden centre but I headed on foot from the packed streets of Manchester’s core. Navigating through the nooks and crannies of Hulme I found not the aggressive “gang” violence and culture often associated with the area but people shopping, spending time with their Grandkids, and being very polite when I asked for directions.
Hulme Garden Centre was the decaying ruins of the Woodstock era and I loved it for being that way. More a hippie commune than a conventional garden centre, Hanami’s playing there instantly made sense and I moved through the free love ethics, complete with “trash can” fire, of the place and absorbed it all as much as I could. I was very early so I looked through the various market stalls that sold flutes, stationary, and Xmas cards, all handmade, before buying a cup of tea for 50p and sitting down to read To Have and Have Not.
Hanami weren’t the first act, so I settled down on one of the many hay bales that were used as seats. I watched a man whose name I never got revive the old blues sounds of artists such as Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, and Muddy Waters. His eyes rolled into the back of his skull as if the music was affecting him so much it was causing him to fight off a seizure. Hanami then perched themselves on the hay bales and amazed the crowd of teen hipsters and aging hippies with their traditional folk sound, gypsy style, and jaw dropping harmonies. A girl, no older than seven, was so impressed she offered the duo a mince pie each.
I said my goodbyes, Hanami had another show near Delamere Forest later that evening which would be their third of the day, and headed towards the station and, boarding a sardine packed train bound for Leeds, I sat in a reserved seat. I figured that if the person wanted it they’d ask but I doubted they’d even be able to navigate their way through the people to reach it. I tried to drown out a drunken bozo who thought using ‘fuck’ before every word he blasted at volume, on a train filled with young kids, was appropriate with good music. The claustrophobic train journey was giving me the fear, but I had Lucero’s Women and Work playing and this notepad and, with the sun now having thrown in the towel for the day, I was sure I’d be fine.
I exited the train with the same dumb elation I always get when I feel I’ve achieved some kind of distance, only to have it smashed away when the realisation that Leeds, much like Manchester, was filled to the point of suffocation with shoppers at Xmas time. I still hadn’t eaten, and wanted to get away from the crowds, so I headed to the Morrison’s on the outskirts of the immediate centre and bought two 50p pizzas, which I ate cold, before heading to a cafe in the Grand Arcade to pass the time until the show.
I wanted a drink now more than any other time in the whole two weeks. The loud, drunk, crowds of Leeds unsettled me. I was tired, and I knew the booze would fuel me. I had time to kill and my mind was focussed on the idea that in less than an hour I’d be in a small room filled with the strangers, and that I’d be doing this sober. I knew that the drink would ease all my trepidation, but I was still determined to steer clear.
I asked the doorman where I went to buy a ticket. He said, “Have you got a fiver?” and when I handed him the note he stamped my hand and pulled me through. The price was £4 and I was sure he pocketed the cash, but I was willing to pay the extra to avoid a queue.
I headed up to ‘Room 3’ of the Cockpit, the only room I’d seen in the place that even slightly resembled anything to do with aeronautics, with its hangar-esque curved roof structure. The first act were Boundaries, with Keeper’s drummer filling in for their AWOL member, who sounded like a much more aggressive interpretation of the first Taking Back Sunday album (not Tell All Your Friends, the one before Adam Lazzara) musically, and this was accentuated by the gritty roars emanating from the voice hole of their vocalist.
Keeper played as great as ever, peppering their set with new songs as well as old. The issue with Keeper playing new songs is that their style has such a seemingly haphazard stop and start ethos that it becomes impossible to maintain your own rhythm with the music without some form of pre-knowledge. This resulted in some very jerky dancing from the crowd who eventually gave up on trying and turned this anger in on themselves, changing the small room from a venue into a bullfighting arena. They’d take turns charging each other and with each collision the circle would grow larger until everyone in the room was drawn into the chaos like some god-awful destructive force of gravity. So much so that even the members of the band were pulled in and by the end of the show, with the exception of the drummer, the entire band and their instruments were strewn across the floor in a tangled mess of musical pandemonium.
I folded after Keeper’s set and ordered a double Makers Mark, it was empty so I settled for Bullit. I paid the £6 and felt that this drink was less a breaking down but more a celebration of all I’d been through. I took solace in the fact that I could only afford the one, so there was no worry of things escalating, and saw no problem in enjoying one good drink. I sipped it slow and felt good. I sat in a corner and watched the entire clientele of the show go about without knowing who, or why, I was there. I was a ghost, dust in the shadows, a fly on the wall, and this gave me a great feeling. There was a beauty in being a stranger in a town, even if it was one I’d frequented a thousand times before. I knew no one except Keeper, and they were busy, so I could sit anonymous and enjoy the feel of the liquid dripping down my throat, erasing all my burdens and dissipating whatever anguish I had. I sat in a corner, sipped some more, and grinned like a moron as my mind and body eased.
Saving Time! were in many ways the same as all the run of the mill Pop Punk bands that have been hanging around since the turn of the millennium. The song topics were the typical “guy meets girl” bullshit but there was a lot of fun in that. The only problem was that in contrast of the other acts the pro-drunk buddy music seemed somewhat childish after such serious sounds. Which was a shame, because underneath the cliché was a clear influence from the more mature pop punkers of the past decade or so, with certain songs reflecting The Get Up Kids and The Ataris So Long Astoria days. The crowd had decreased slightly during their set, which left the bitter feeling that the band were merely playing for their friends, who were littering the stage front.
I left three songs into Calls Landing to catch the train but from what I heard they were a good band, and I was sad to leave. A kind of Pop-Punk come Hardcore outfit, similar to that of 7 Seconds and not “new” Pop Punk ala All Time Low etc., made all the more enjoyable by the use of intricate guitar parts and the gruff vocals blasted through the now filled room of adoring fans. I pushed my way through and headed out the door.
I sat down on the train and the entire carriage smelt of vomit. I regretted not drinking a little more, but was sure in the morning I’d be glad, and tried not to breathe much for the hour long journey.
All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.