Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Hot Leg, Newcastle

It is now two minutes to three on Monday, 9th March (end of final draft - five minutes past two on Wednesday, 25th March) and I get the feeling this gig log is going to be hard. So I’ll just get straight on with the damn thing before I go off to work early and do the time I lost last Friday.

OK, so I woke up to Chickens and felt my usual nervous butterflies. However, I am getting used to them now, so I got up in pretty good time and got ready. I’d planned my clothes, of course, to save time later – I wore coloured/grey stripy socks, matching black (slightly slutty, but I’d liked the bra) underwear, my Criminal Damage jeans with the stars, my Trooper shirt and eventually my AC/DC denim jacket. I hadn’t planned on that, but it was too warm for a bigger one and too cold for none at all. I had £50.02 in cash in one of the little button-up pockets so that I didn’t forget to bring money that night.

Amy and I listened to Stone Gods for a bit, as Hot Leg had been in my alarm clock. Until, of course, we decided that that was silly, and I brought Red Light Fever downstairs. We listened to it about two and a half times before she, and I, set off to school. Nana told us to have a nice night – Cocktails had been on Scuzz the night before and we’d told her we were going to see the band who were playing it. She told me I had to ‘scream and shout’. Good advice indeed!

I put on my boxing boots and set off. It was a fresh, sunny day – proper spring weather – when I started walking to school, making sure I had a bit of a listen to hot Leg on the way. But it was weird. I met Beth and Grace as usual, then we walked on to Laura’s and nothing felt different. I did talk a bit about the show to remind them I was going, though that was about it.

The excitement built a bit when Steph arrived at Laura’s. This would be the first show I went to with friends, and not just family (although, of course, Amy was going too).

I ticked off my last day of the Hot Leg countdown in my academic diary in form. Grace told me how many days it was until John Barrowman – she’s extremely excited.

First lesson was French. We talked a bit about football and French footballers before we very briefly started on music. Mrs Kiernan set us some vocab, and when I got out my diary to write it in Laura saw what was written there.

“Oh, is Hot Leg tonight?” she asked me. Or something like that, anyway. Of course, I responded in the affirmative.

Next came Media, the lesson I share with Steph. We got a bit of a chance to talk gig excitement, but most of the lesson was taken up with watching the last part of the last episode of Life on Mars. Even though the ending sort of breaks the golden rule of English: ‘Never end by saying “I woke up and it was all a dream”’, I still thought it was pretty clever. I want to watch more of it now. I especially like the cool 70s soundtrack!

At break, we went to meet everyone else. I’d seen Ellan briefly earlier, but only to wave stupidly at. Her, Steph and I had a bit of a hyper discussion. We sorted the details of what would be happening later, i.e. Dad would pick them up at around six-ish. I told them to bring as little stuff as possible, and a jacket they could easily wrap around their waists. Of course, we’d be standing – my first time! I’d been to Richmond Live where I stood, but outside. But it was going to be Ellan and Steph’s first Academy gig altogether – and their first real gig that they were both actually counting (Ellan had seen Busted, and Steph Christina Aguilera. I think they were both pretty embarrassed…)

During break, Tom asked me if I’d help him with the underskirt of the wedding dress he was making. Steph and I had a free next, so we both went to meet him at the Textiles room. On the way there I passed Matt, who asked me if I could make it to his gig. Even though I still wasn’t sure, I felt so rock ‘n’ roll! (Note – his gig was last Saturday (14th March) and I didn’t go. I had nobody to go with!)

Helping Tom involved holding a huge circle of netting for about half an hour while he pinned it. I would never have the patience. He is amazing. However, Steph and I did get rather bored. I took a few pictures of Tom and his work, then we listened to some tunes on my phone. The latter died down quickly, though, because Tom and I hardly have the same taste.

The dummy he was working on was insanely skinny. This led to a big thing about proper measurements, and we all ended up measuring ourselves. Tom and Steph have the same sized waist. Mine is the widest. Wow.

Eventually, we left him to get on with his dress alone, and we went to Becky’s where she was watching Torchwood with Beth and ChloĆ«. Bleurgh – Torchwood. I’d brought my mp3 player and my speakers in case I got chance to force Hot Leg upon everyone, but no such luck. Torchwood continued on into lunchtime. Grace and Becky even tried to name all of the episodes without looking. Losers.

I always have two frees on Fridays due to a clash in my timetable. I spent the second free on a computer upstairs in the Resource Centre. I listened to quite a lot of Samson while I did some Ethics work (comparing Jeremy Bentham with John Stuart Mill) and English work (a speech opposing reality TV).

I actually had English last. It wasn’t a coursework lesson, though. In fact, it was just a daft, and extremely easy, one. Sarah and I had to make a poster about demonstrative pronouns. These are pronouns such as ‘this’ or ‘those’ which determine something already known by the speaker and listener(s). Erm. Yeah. I did tell Sarah about the gig, briefly. And she told me to have a good time as we left.

So that was college. Off to do an hour and a half of work!

I arrived just after half three (so, in the signing-in book, half three) and got straight on with my jobs (I usually eat, go to the toilet, do whatever, to kill time). It’s incredible what a bit of pressure can do. I managed to finish everything, except for a couple of sets of desks, that I would usually do in two hours and a half. I left before Ralph even arrived. So it surprised me when he drove up behind me on Helmsley Way to ask what I had and hadn’t done! He sounded as surprised as I had been when I said I’d managed to do almost everything.

Finally, home time. The excitement was really starting to build up. I ran to my room and stuck my phone on charge to give it a bit of extra juice, then changed into my black and purple Raven vest top.

Amy and I ate tea together; chicken, chips and beans. Quick, easy food that I really enjoyed as I hadn’t had it for absolutely ages. However, I couldn’t finish it. Damn nervous butterflies! I’m so stupid. I always get them, even though there’s nothing to be nervous about. I’m not the one performing!

Dad was all dressed up smart because while we were at the show he and Charlotte were going to find somewhere nice to eat. I did a last quick freshen up – this involved wetting my hair and blow drying it as big and curly as it would go, brushing my teeth, applying deodorant and covering myself in Anna Sui’s Dolly Girl Bonjour L’Amour perfume. I love perfume. It smells good.

At about five to six I put on my Iron Maiden Vans and we set off, tickets in hand. Well – as soon as I got in the car, I put them in one of the side pockets. I brought my water bottle again, but I had an extra one as Dad had brought another one each for me and Amy. I got drinking straight away – I didn’t want to risk being dehydrated! The last thing I wanted to do was get in there and pass out.

First, we picked Charlotte up. Dad went in the house to get her while Amy and I waited, slightly impatiently. She wasn’t long, though, and we drove the two long minutes to Ellan’s house, where she was watching for us out of her window. She had her hair down and she was wearing her leather jacket, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen her so excited. I noticed she was wearing perfume, something I wouldn’t have expected of her, but decided not to mention it in case I was wrong.

We set off back to our side of town so we could grab Steph and get going. On the way there, Charlotte and Ellan said hi and got a bit better acquainted, as they’d never met before.

Because I couldn’t stop smelling perfume, I eventually asked Ellan what it was when we were almost at Steph’s. I think she said it was Fantasy by Britney Spears. I’m no Britney fan, but her perfumes are gorgeous.

I had to run into Steph’s house to get her. She was still in the bathroom – according to her mum, she’d been debating what to wear all night. So I yelled down the hall: “It’s not a beauty pageant!” She emerged in the end, and we went back to the car. She, like me, had a very noticeable camera-shaped bulge in one of her pockets, but I told her not to worry about it.

Back in the car, Amy had found a tin of beans that Dad had forgotten to bring inside for tea a couple of days ago. These beans provided a running joke for the whole journey.

We were well and truly on our way! Whoop! No denying the excitement now. As soon as we hit the main road, Amy made Charlotte put Red Light Fever on. We didn’t turn it up to eleven, though, because we were all talking so much. About really random, daft stuff – strange things that had happened at the Hugh Cornwell show Dad and Charlotte had seen the night before, like Dad standing up at the end when hardly anyone else would. Charlotte also told us about her niece’s ‘Hacca Macca’ (High School Musical) obsession. A lot of the time, Steph and Ellan couldn’t stop laughing, which was a nice way to break the ice.

Because Red Light Fever is quite a short album, we played it through once and a bit. I think we arrived in Newcastle at about twenty past seven. It was obviously dark, and we could see the lights of the city.

Dad was a bit wary of parking in the college car park – there was someone in there, and he looked quite official. We decided against it in the end, just in case we weren’t meant to park there. Instead, Charlotte showed Dad the side road where she parked for Kylie, and we went down there.

It was quite chilly outside. I temporarily forgot that my sister was in the back, and had to go and let her out. Once I had done this, we set off walking. It really was cold, adding to my amounting nerves. Why do I always get nervous? It gets kind of annoying!

We talked Hot Leg all the way there – of course. It was only around a ten minute walk, but it felt way longer. I was so cold and excited that I just wanted to arrive.

And arrive we did! To a quiet, empty road. I’d been expecting quite a long queue, or at least a few people waiting around outside, but there were only security dudes. The reason for this will become obvious in a minute, but back then, I couldn’t figure it out.

After a few words of warning, Dad and Charlotte let us go. We went to the dude outside, who directed us to the dude in the foyer, who took our tickets (he actually ripped off the rippy bits this time!) and directed us upstairs. I guess I didn’t really realise what he meant just then – I was more psyched that we’d successfully sneaked Amy into a gig – but as we went up the stairs, it all started to add up. The lack of people, the going up – we weren’t going to the Academy. We were going to Academy 2.

When I did realise, my excitement just about doubled. I’d never been in there before, but I knew it was considerably smaller, meaning a much more intimate show. What an awesome added bonus.

The t-shirt stall was just outside the final staircase up to the stage. Because we’d arrived about half an hour after doors, The Crave were already on, and we could hear them really clearly. I desperately wanted to go in. However, Amy and Steph both went to the toilet, so we had to wait. Ellan and I examined the shirts, deciding which ones we were going to get. I wanted one with the tour dates on it, but the only one of these had long sleeves. Plus, I noticed a misprint – instead of ‘March 4th’ it said ‘March 4nd’. Which was quiet cool, but that’s the kind of thing that would really start to annoy me after a while.

When Amy and Steph emerged, we all bought t-shirts so we could be sure we’d get the ones we wanted, and we’d avoid any rush after the show. I wanted a black one with the Hot Leg logo in orange, but they were sold out in my size, so I got a similar one with the logo as a white outline. Amy and Steph both got the yellow shirt with an orange logo, and Ellan got the grey one with the band carved into Mount Rushmore.

Finally, time to go in! One last flight of stairs and that was it. We were met by the venue and it was awesome. It was basically a club, with the stage at the other end. There was a bar on one side and a small balcony with a few stools on the other. I did a bit of research later and found out the capacity of the place is four hundred. Sure beats the two thousand we’d expected. No matter where we were, the sound and view were both really good … except for tall people! Honestly, why are rockers so tall? I thought I was until I went there. The majority of people towered above me.

The Crave were in full flow. Steph, I think, took a liking to them immediately – two of them had dreadlocks. However, I didn’t want to settle for a view from the back, so we began the quest to move forward, sneaking into whatever gaps we could. It wasn’t easy with four of us, especially through all the tall people, but eventually, thanks to Steph’s brainwave of following a rather large woman with beer, we arrived as far forward as we were ever going to get – the second row. We’d never get on the barrier, but we’d still done pretty well. And just in time to catch the end of the last song! Steph, the smallest of us, remarked that at least she saw them a bit.

When The Crave left the stage, we took a look at our surroundings. Steph was wedged between the people on the barrier and a little staircase, with Ellan next to her, and Amy and I were right at the foot of the stairs. Awkward positioning, awesome view. Totally worth it. I took my jacket off and tied it round my waist, then stuffed my new shirt up my top, out the way. You’d think it would be really hot in there with all those people, but the air conditioning was immense.

The music playing was annoying. It didn’t sound rocky in any way, shape or form, and I didn’t know any of it so I couldn’t sing along happily. It did make me want Hot Leg to come on even more, though.

A few dudes came on to do various sound checky bits and pieces, provoking rowdy chants of “Hot Leg! Hot Leg!” from us every now and then. This went on for a few songs.

Then, this one song came on that was considerably louder than the rest. I still didn’t know it but, like the Rolling Stones guy in Twickenham, I could feel it in my ribs. Surely, they had to be on soon.

Indeed they did. At the end of the song, the lights went down, and we all started yelling. That was it! I’d been counting down the days since mid-January and it was finally here.

The band came on. From the right-hand side as we were looking at them; all of them had their quirks, but Justin Hawkins! Wow. I could hardly believe that we were seeing him so close up. He was wearing black and green zebra striped trousers and a black jacket over a blue vest. His Hot Leg hair is well better than his old hair – shorter and bleached blonde. It suits his face more. He still looks ugly, but not as ugly. He was wearing tons of dark eye make-up, too. And black nail varnish.

They launched straight into Ashamed. I had expected them to open with Chickens, because it’s the first one on the album, but I didn’t mind because I love both songs equally. I got out my camera and took loads of pictures and a video. This was my first show with a working, non-phone camera so I went slightly insane.

The song was good, despite the lack of Beverlei Brown who features on the album. That’s probably a good thing, though – her voice kinds of drives me crazy. And Justin is perfectly capable of hitting immensely high notes by himself. It was amazing. He clearly has no balls. Maybe.

I think Justin said something here, but nothing major, otherwise I would’ve remembered it. The next song was introduced (and, apparently, played for us): I’ve Met Jesus. I guess they were playing it near the start to get it out the way, as it’s one of the ones that everyone knows really well, and would sort the posers from the real fans!

During this song, someone threw a beer on-stage. At the end, Justin addressed him: “Whoever threw that beer, you’ve ruined his best shirt now!” (The stuff went all over the drum kit and the drummer). He then proceeded to call the guy the ‘c word’. I managed to video this, and it’s up on YouTube. Just search something like ‘Hot Leg I’ve Met Jesus live Newcastle’ and it’ll come up.

Right, this is where it gets difficult, because try as I might I can neither remember nor find the set list. So instead, the next load of stuff will just be whatever I’m thinking about, probably in no particular order. Set-wise, all I can remember is that they played the album, plus other songs from the next album, apparently. See, I told you it was going to be hard!

They played a few songs that we knew all together first. Actually, I think it was the best part of Red Light Fever, almost all of it, before they started with new album stuff. It went something like Prima Donna, Whichever Way You Wanna Give It, Gay in the 80s, Trojan Guitar, Chickens, You Can’t Hurt Me Any More, ballady type songs including Kissing in the Wind, some other songs, Cocktails, and the encore, which was made entirely of new album stuff. I thought that was a shame – I mean, it was interesting to hear what might be coming from the band, but you couldn’t really get involved like you could with the others.

Justin dedicated a few of the songs to various people, too. One guy at the other side of the crowd yelled “I love you!” loud enough for pretty much everyone to hear and Justin said “I love you too – who are you?” To which the guy gave his name, and he repeated “I love you too, tell you what, this one’s for you,” and they played another new song.

There were two women right behind us who got a song dedicated in this way as well. They were stood on the stairs – one of the official women had moved them off earlier but they’d sneaked their way back on again. They were so annoying … clearly more Justin Hawkins’ groupies than Hot Leg fans, always shrieking and yelling annoying things. At one point Justin talked about the end of the ‘erection section’ (a little bit of the concert dedicated to ballads) and they were shouting “eROCKtion!” He said “What?” And they did it again, to which he replied, “Oh, erocktion¸ I see what you’ve done, you’ve taken the vowel and changed it …” I managed to get this on video, too, and because they were behind me Justin’s looking right in my direction, “You’re two big Leg fans over there, tell you what, this one’s for you!” The women whooped irritatingly as the band started up their song.

The final dedicated song was to a seven-year-old boy whose birthday it was. Justin got us all singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, and said what he’d most like for his birthday was to see us all jumping up and down to the next song. We obliged happily. In my case it wasn’t easy, because whenever I jumped up I smacked my knee into the banister, but it was still fun. We could feel the floor moving beneath our feet.

One of the new songs had a bit of audience participation in it. The words? Woah … huh! Justin sang them to us, and we sang them back. Only it turned out we were supposed to sing with him, not after him. We only caught on after he explained it to us, and even then loads of people continued to do it wrong. On purpose, I think, after a while. It went on for absolutely ages. It was funny, though.

Costumeness next! During the main set, Justin took his jacket off, leaving him in the blue vest. It’s loads like one Amy has, actually. For the encore, he got changed into a white football strip, exposing most of his tattoos. The shorts were extremely short! He kept putting his leg up on the monitors or the barrier, to much stroking. I didn’t get to touch him, unfortunately. There were opportunities aplenty, but I was often inches away due to the stupid barrier people. He stripped his shirt off, too, revealing an arm tattoo continuing onto his chest, and one on his stomach that carried on below his shorts. I kind of wanted to see what it was, but I didn’t want to see what else was under there …

I took tons of pictures and quite a few videos. Our view enabled awesome pictures, especially when the band members came right up to us. Justin did this a couple of times on my videos, which was lucky. Even though I have some really incredible photos, they still don’t do justice to the position we had. Almost everything about it was amazing, better than any show I’d ever been to.

I think that’s everything about the show that I can remember right now. Which sucks, but I can’t do anything about that. All I can say is it was a brilliant concert. The only thing I could fault about the show itself was the fact that they played tons of new stuff. It’s not as good when you can’t get properly involved. Oh well. I thoroughly enjoyed myself anyway. The closeness, the fun-ness, the music … it was all fantastic. I think Justin actually talked to my sister and me when we made mosh hands at him. I love intimate gigs!

It’s always a bummer when the band go off for real after the encore and the lights come on. We had a shouty discussion over the ringing in our ears and the music – it seemed everyone else had loved it too, which was good. I know Steph really likes stuff like this, but you can hardly tell because she’s pretty quiet and doesn’t get hugely involved. It was nice to see she’d had a good time, as had Amy and Ellan.

And now to get four hundred people down one little staircase … always fun. We hung around at the back of the crowd for a bit, not overly keen on the prospect of being crushed. Then the people hanging around (including us) got yelled at to move, when we couldn’t, because the exit was basically a giant scrum. Eventually, though, we got through, and arrived back down at the t-shirt stall, where we decided to buy some more stuff. Ellan and Steph had both really liked The Crave, so they bought their album. I’d thought they were all right, but a bit soft for my taste, so I didn’t bother. I did buy Hot Leg’s I’ve Met Jesus single on vinyl, because it was signed and £2. Also, I love LPs and EPs. Steph, however, is in love with them. She bought the single and Red Light Fever on red vinyl.

Slowly, we moved along. The Crave were standing and signing their album. We tried to get Steph to go up to them but she wouldn’t, so I approached one of the dreadlock guys and said “Excuse me, my friends are losers and won’t come and see you themselves, will you please sign their albums?” Before I’d finished my sentence they went up – I don’t know if they were saving themselves, or me, from embarrassment. Probably me…

Steph and Ellan’s albums found their way around the band. Steph told me later that Ellan had said to her “You don’t look very excited,” and she’d replied “I’m inwardly excited,” and one of the guys had said “Cool.” She was really pleased.

One of the yellow official guys told Amy and me to get moving if we weren’t doing anything, so we told him we were waiting for our friends, and when they were finished, we went downstairs and outside. The last ones out! Dad and Charlotte were waiting for us at the other side of the road. We crossed over to them and launched into excited chatter about the concert. This continued all the way to the car – every single detail, all the highlights, everything. Charlotte said she’d seen a bloke with a drumstick come out, and she bet that we’d almost got it. Sure enough, we had been this close – I’d felt it against my hand, but another bloke behind me had caught it. Unlucky.

As soon as we hit the road I drank some more water, and realised just how tired I was. Talking became much more of an effort. Instead, I listened – Dad and Charlotte had eaten at an Italian restaurant and their service had been unusually fast. Later on down the road, Charlotte told us (in great detail) about the time when Jessie had done a two tone turd when she was looking after her. I think Ellan was mildly revolted – Steph was laughing her head off.

Just when I was getting warm and comfortable, we pulled off the main road and started our way back to Steph’s house. I gave everyone their tickets.

At Steph’s I had to get out to let her out. It was awful – I was so warm and tired that the cold air was a shock to my system. I couldn’t wait to get back in.

After we’d said goodbye to Steph it was on to Ellan’s house. We dropped her off, watched her into the house, then went to Charlotte’s. Dad took her inside while Amy and I waited in the car for a couple of minutes. I was dreading the cold air again.

Eventually, though, we had to face it. We pulled up home, I got all my stuff together and got out. It was freezing, my lips were dry and sore, my mouth was thirsty, my head was fuzzy, my ears were ringing and I was shattered. But these were all signs of a fantastic night.

I was so proud of my pictures that I put my memory card in the digital photo frame to have a look at for a bit; tired as I was, I didn’t want to let the day slip away. Not just yet. I had a drink, ate a biscuit, and sat up with Amy for a few minutes. We’d got in on the stroke of midnight so there was no more Friday Rock Show to listen to.

When I gave in to tiredness, we both went upstairs to bed, where my ears really started to ring. I laid my shirt out for the next morning, changed into my pyjamas, and got into bed. All I could hear was ringing. I don’t know how you spell the noise that makes.

Before I could actually go to sleep, though, I had to write in my diary:

‘Hot Leg were immense¸ I kind of hadn’t registered that on the ticket it said ‘Academy 2’ so I was expecting to see them at the main stage. We had better luck – Academy 2 is basically a club. I was this close to touching Justin Hawkins on several occasions! I would’ve been able to if it wasn’t for those complete losers on the barrier who barely moved throughout. Poos. It was a good show though, we managed to push our way to the second row which wasn’t bad at all. It was a pretty normal day, so I’ll continue with more Hot Leg-ness. We got Amy in no problem so I relaxed a bit then. Only complaints I have are 1. annoying crowd and 2. too much ‘next album’ stuff!’

Finally – sleep! I was very happy though.

I needed loads of sleep. I only got about eight hours, probably just under, where I’d been hoping for about ten because on the Saturday night I was going to the cinema to see Slumdog Millionaire, then sleeping at Beth’s, for her birthday party. Naturally I wore my Hot Leg shirt. I printed out some of my best pictures, put them in my album, and brought them with me. Steph, Ellan and I were in Hot Leg mode all night. It was awesome. And the legacy continued – I blew up my two favourite pictures of Justin in Boots on the Sunday, then printed off copies for all four of us. On the Tuesday, Ellan, Steph and I all wore our shirts to college.

Big things do come in small packages. Hot Leg’s show was more than proof.


- I don’t think I mentioned that Justin came in the crowd. Well, he did – and I discovered my camera had no space left on the memory card. I therefore ended up with two rubbish pictures on my phone.

- I rang Rich during I’ve Met Jesus. He was very jealous I got to go.

- As you might have guessed from the diary entry, the tickets did say Academy 2, so not noticing was my own fault.

- At Beth’s house, Steph told me that on the back of The Crave’s album, they thanked Bruce Dickinson.

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