Don’t Panic, Actually Panic: part two – Bradford

Don’t Panic: Actually, Panic Part Two – Bradford

Don’t Panic – Ian Critchley goes off piste in West Yorkshire so you don’t have to. Do not try this at home.

I sunk into the bath and tried to steam the anxiety away. I always felt the pains of panic the day after a long journey, but this isn’t usually such a huge deal as I can spend the day lounging around. Today I was not allowed such a grace. Last night I’d been in Derby, and today I was heading to Bradford to watch Leeds noise-makers, Keeper. The prospect of another day battling the familiar fear of constant anxiety wasn’t a happy one but this band was worth it. And what was Bradford anyway? I could piss the distance to Bradford.

I tried to sleep through the train ride and, even though I didn’t actually hit R.E.M., the hiding behind the comfort of my eyelids, tied with the music of Mariachi El Bronx, both rested and invigorated me.

The local Metal Heads of Bradford are a helpful bunch. When the first I asked didn’t know exactly where the 1 in 12 Club was, he took me around the small public garden the scene frequented and found me a knowledgeable guide. I noted the directions but ignored them for the time being. I wanted to see the Media Museum before heading down.

I cleared the entire museum in less than thirty minutes, the influx of weekend families making it impossible to stop and smell the televised roses, and headed back out into the winter air.

There’s little to do in Bradford on a regular day, aside from the museum, but today was the switching on of the cities Xmas lights. I bought a couple of beers and walked around Centenary Square, where all the action was. Tucking my beer out of sight into my denim jacket everytime the police walked by, and being eyed by two young girls who worked in Millets, made me feel like James Dean and the negativity and anxiety was overwhelmed by a sense of almost arrogant bravado. I felt as if I owned the city, after only a few hours on its soil.

Bradford used to be a big factory town, but it seemed as if in recent years it had been overrun by the mob. It was impossible to walk down a street without passing at least three casinos, and every newsagent and off license seemed filled with people buying a multitude of scratch cards and lottery tickets. Gambling was what Bradford was about now. But I didn’t mind the place. The streets were filled with much history, the buildings old and not replaced with the wholly glass monstrosities seen in many other UK centres. This, along with the icy chill in the atmosphere, gave the whole city a great feel of the romantic.

Whilst waiting for the fireworks I was approached by a man, who began to quiz me,

“What is the purpose of a mobile phone?”

“…to contact people?”

“Right! Now what is the purpose of a car?”

“…to get you from A to B?”

“Right! Now what is the purpose of human life?”

“Oh, fuck that!”

He laughed and we spoke politely about his religious beliefs. He told me that God created suffering as a test, and that if everything was perfect in this life, there’d be nothing to look forward to in the next. I liked the idea, even if I didn’t believe it one bit. Soon the fireworks erupted into a cacophony of light and sound, making it impossible to hear each other, so we shook hands and the man vanished into the crowd.

The 1 in 12 Club looked like an abandoned warehouse, tucked down a seedy alley, which only added to the D.I.Y./Anarchistic ideology that was posted on its walls in the form of pro-anarcho posters. I bought a pint from the bar, which was reasonably priced at £2.50, and spoke with the members of Keeper. They invited me to join them while they went for food. I took my drink with me, again hiding it when two policemen entered the McDonalds.

“Have you ordered, Ian?” asked the vocalist, Courtney.

“Oh, no. I don’t really eat.”

We headed back and laughed along the way. They were a great band and very nice people.

The opening band was The Good Son. Although the lack of bass and drums made the overall sound feel somewhat lacking in impact, the two clean electric guitars worked quite well. It was clear that the duo had great musical chemistry and I was reminded of the darker moments of Brand New’s Déjà Entendu throughout their set.

Second was a suit attired, one man rendition of everything that made the early recordings of Bruce Springsteen so popular. Or, at least, it was at first. As the set progressed, and additional musicians were added, the sound transformed into a more “pop math rock” style, akin to that of Minus The Bear.

I bought a round at the bar and handed pints out to whoever had congregated stage side.

“Ian, I don’t mean to be rude,” Courtney started, “but this lager is rank.”

“It’s fine. I’ll drink it and get you a cider.”

Keeper played with so much intensity and raw aggression the walls began to bleed. As each member exploded in a flurry of frantic movements, the audience, whether they liked it or not, were blown away by a gargantuan sound that was as chaotic as it was technical.

 

By the end of Keeper I was drunk. Alcohol on an empty stomach can defeat even the most seasoned pro and my recollection of headliners Allusondrugs is hazy at best. When I sobered up I was already at the train station, boarding the train home and helping two girls carry their drunk friend onboard. One of the girls slept on the journey and I talked leisurely to the only conscious member of the trio. I opened my bag and found I’d bought a four pack of Budweiser on my way to the venue.

“Would you like a beer? I’d offer one to your friends but I think they’ve had enough.”

She accepted and invited me back to their flat. We walked together, myself and the two girls, while their drunk friend staggered in front.

 

He seemed to have sobered up slightly once we were indoors and the four of us drank, played guitars together, and spoke about music. The drunk mentioned The Stone Roses and was offended when I said I wasn’t a fan.

“How can you be from Manchester and not like the Roses?”

“I just don’t. Plus, I really don’t care for Ian Brown.”

He carried on and, even though I didn’t see why being from the same place should make me an automatic fan, I didn’t want to discuss it.

“Do you mind if I get a beer?”

I tried a few cupboards in the kitchen before I found the low height fridge tucked behind the door. I took a can and then headed back. The girls had gone and there was only the drunk left.

“I think you should leave now. You’ve been going through our cupboards and trying to rob us.”

I explained myself and refused to leave. I had no way of going home until the morning. Why had they become so paranoid? I remembered one of the girls asking me on the walk up if I wanted to put to for a gram of coke but as far as I knew it did the exact opposite of inducing paranoia, it had never made me feel that way when I used to take it, so perhaps they’d been messed up on something else before we met.

We argued for some time and soon he realised it had been a mistake, and I wasn’t trying to rob them.

The girls returned and we all apologised for the whole thing. By the end everyone was pretty worn by it all, and the happy atmosphere and been killed, so we slept soon after.

I awoke in the morning with one of the worst hangovers. Panic shot instantly up my spine, latching onto my brain and boring deep into my hypothalamus. I maintained a game face as I said goodbye to the drunk. He’d slept in the front room also, probably in case I was in fact a thief, and I left him there half asleep as I tried to navigate the labyrinth of corridors and stairways out of the building.

Daylight stung deep into my retinas and I searched my bag for a pair of sunglasses. With no idea of where I was, or recollection of how I’d got here, I stumbled around the streets, much to the disdain of the locals, until I found an information board stating the place was called Sowerby Bridge. I felt trying to find the station again in this state was futile, instead I rang my brother and asked to be rescued. I tried to sleep off the hangover on a bench, using my bag as a pillow, until he arrived.

~

Keeper are on Facebook and BandCamp. Allusondrugs are on Facebook and SoundCloud.

All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.

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