I won’t say I flew into Manchester instead of Heathrow in June just to see The Fall, but once I realised the opportunity existed — well, no way I was going to pass it up. Besides, I’d never visited Manchester and had the chance to meet up with a couple of friends, so it was all good. I should add that I don’t have the set list, I just swiped it from one of the guys on the forum.
Moho Live looked like any of a million subterranean venues, painted black and kept in the dark because if you saw what it looked like in the light you would be horrified. No ticket stub: it’s all digital now. The woman from Action Records was there with all the merch. I passed up on the chance to get the blue lyrics book (I’ll give in one of these days, but £30?!) but I got a t-shirt for Marko and some badges for us both.
There are so few female Fall fans that I never had to wait in line at the loo. Those who know me well will know how significant that fact is. When I met up with fellow female Fall fan Julie in Leicester (who friended me after reading my Spectator piece on the Fall) it was good to talk to another woman who has the madness.
The first band hit the stage in a squall of noise, pseudo-punks whose name I did not catch though I immediately regretted leaving my earplugs in the hotel room. A thrashing, assaultive barrage requiring only that they all play as loudly and as fast as possible. Yawn. I wandered around crowd-watching and texting Marko just to
make him envious share the excitement.
The second band intrigued even as they were starting up. Scumbag Philosopher (no, not a promising name, but oh well) drummer Anne Reekie had just a two piece kit, accentuated by fairy lights, including some hanging out of her pockets. I loved her playing. They started out with a “cut-rate” John Cooper Clark intro which got the audience going. Fun, odd stuff — check them out. I can see why MES chose them.
Of course the buzz only grew after that, especially once they unfurled the Fall backdrop: a guitar-playing cowboy. I fought my way up near the stage because I just had to do it, though I knew I wouldn’t last long. I kept close to a bunch of old geezers, clearly long time fans, who helped keep the obnoxious drunk young guys in check. Quiet menace in action: I was impressed with the polite but utterly unflinching threat when he turned to the stupid kid who’d been shoving people around him and laid a hand on his shoulder and said, “You’re going to stop that now.”
After what seemed like an impossibly long time, at last the band came out and it sounded like a jet had landed in the tiny club. Hometown crowd, eh? The space in front of the stage began to sway wildly and slam back and forth, erupting even further when MES came out — just a roar of delight. The old curmudgeon even looked pleased for a moment before hiding it behind a scowl, launching into the new song “Cosmos” with gusto. He looked good: much healthier than the first time I saw them.
I lasted the first two songs and then had to stagger out of the madness and find a new vantage point. Deafened, dripping with sweat but grinning because — well, just because. I took up a position on the exit stairs which put me on eye level with MES. I was thirty feet away instead of five but I could breathe — and more importantly — stand. It was fantastic. I won’t give the blow by blow (check the forums for that in abundance) but they were on: the band working, heads down, unsmiling except for Elena who was grinning and having a grand time. MES pottering around the stage adjusting this and that, keeping the band on their toes and sticking his tongue out at Elena and even occasionally addressing the crowd. “Funnel of Love” really seemed to get the crowd going (such a catchy rockabilly tune) and “Psychik Dance Hall” roared along. It was odd that the band came out on stage eventually for an encore but MES stayed back stage — odd, but not unprecedented. We all left deafened, dripping and vibrating from head to toe.
“That’s all you need to know about tonight,” a woman said in the toilets after the show, pointing to her mud-spattered, sandal-clad feet. Yep.