Archive for March, 2015

Rolling With It

“Are you looking for a ticket mate?” Well, of course I was. Now then, if, as Samuel Johnson asserts, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then flogging event tickets for a dirty great mark-up on the black market must come a very close second. Mind you, they didn’t have Seatwave and Viagogo back in the good doctor’s day. Had they have done, I dare say he would rethink his famous pronouncement.

I’m stood outside the Ancienne Belgique, the centrally located venue for the latest leg of Noel Gallagher’s tour on a chilly Sunday evening in Brussels. In this city noted for its fabulous beers, I am drinking in the last chance saloon. Swallowing my pride, and draining my metaphorical glass of the last bittersweet drops of common-sense, I nod in hesitant resignation.

“€100 alright mate?” Well, frankly, it’s a bally outrage, but, I’ve got no choice. It gets worse. A cursory glance at the ticket reveals I have just bought a freebie ticket. The penny drops, the seller’s voice is pure Burnage. 

“You know Noel then?”

“Yeah, he’s an old mate. He looks after me.”

Clearly. Everybody’s on the make.

“So, you’ve not paid for this then?”

“Ha ha! No, Noel’s a good lad, always looking after his mates.”

I laugh at the perverse nature of this transaction. Then I swore at the bloke. Which, I reckon, I was fully entitled to do at this juncture.

  

 

 Once inside the venue’s foyer, you can’t move for boozed, up coiffured types in Fred Perry shirts, skinny jeans and mock-Manchester accents. It’s like being in the away end at a football match. Stepping into the hall itself, there’s a capacity crowd in jammed into this intimate little venue. It’s standing room only and it is absolutely magical. “Manchester La La La” is interspersed with “Bedfordshire La La La”. A bemused local joins in with the Bedfordshire chants, he doesn’t understand but he looks happy to be part of it all. The place is rocking before our hero makes it to the stage.

 

Classic Oasis standards Champagne SuperNova and Digsy’s Dinner are served to the masses who lap them up. Recent hits are lustily roared back by the crowd, who, although lacking in lyrical know-how make up for it through pure gusto. The concert ends with Masterplan. I take the time to make some sense of what I have been privileged to be part of this evening. He’s still got it.

  

“€100 alright mate?” All things considered, it is an absolute steal.

Advertisements

Picky Brugge 

I’d backed the wrong horse once again. There, grim, grey skies stretching for as far as the eye could see, that dank, damp, hoodie-infiltrating cold which I assumed dear old Blighty had the naming rights to, prevalent. The Sunday streets full of hum drum folk in a hum drum town going nowhere in the rain. Hustle and bustle in Brussels.
Here, sun. And silence. Glorious sun. Glorious silence. Save for the soft pounding of my Sambas on these beautiful cobbled streets and the many labyrinths that stretch around this atmospheric city. I lap it up, the soul stirs & the morning head finally shakes itself free of the previous night’s sour Six Nations supping.
Bruges is quite something.

I’m smitten instantly. Canals, cathedrals, courtyards. And a pervading sense of peace. It is, in short, just what I need.

Sunday lunch is a liquid lunch as I discover a terrific little bar in the Bruges backstreets. Cutting short another alcoholic afternoon, I reemerge to find the streets busying nicely in shades of black and blue. It’s the Belgian FA Cup final and the locals are descending on Bruges in their thousands. The town square has been given over to a makeshift fan park as those supporters not fortunate to get tickets for the Anderlecht v FC Bruges game swell the bars. 
Meanwhile, a local band digs into the local band song book and starts to whip the crowd up. There’s a good three hours until kick off and the Bruges fans are tucking into the local firewater with gusto. Regardless of the cup final result, they will be dancing in the streets of Bruges tonight.
Sadly though, I must exit this party early. Just as I take my leave, the band’s lead guitarist rips into an elongated riff on an old Steppenwolff tune. For all I know, he may still be going. I have to get back to Brussels and a gig that I haven’t got a ticket or, a hope, for.

Chasing Yesterday

My name is Henry Wisson. And I am a fuckwit. 

There. There’s no easy way of saying these things, but, if you’ll forgive me the first-up f-bomb, that was something, I feel, that desperately needed saying. This morning at half past four in the morning I found myself and my bag packed for Brussels on a deserted platform station in mid-Bedfordshire with nothing but the pre-dawn chorus and the gentle hum of the motorway for company. Plus the cold, enveloping gloom of an early spring day. And the cold, enveloping gloom of a desolation I know only too well.

“I say, he’s being a bit harsh there, what? I mean, Brussels? There are worse places to spend the weekend.”

Dear reader, I’d imagine those kind of thoughts, or something to that effect are going through your head right about now. If you’ll allow me some Ian Brown indulgence here; Let me put you in the picture, let me show you what I mean.

In this gargantuan year for English rugby I should be heading for the heart of the action on this, the climax of an eventful Six Nations tournament in an eventful year for English rugby. I held those self-same tickets in my own hands. I should be picnicking with the car park picnickers of South West London, I should be revelling with the revellers, singing loud, swinging low and roaring on Chris Robshaw and the boys in the cathedral of rugby alongside my precious family, valued friends and all those boozy acquaintances I am yet to meet in an action-packed end to England’s first dress-rehearsal for the World Cup. 

I should be there, but I’m not. You see, owing to a monumental error of judgement, I am instead plunging through the early morning pain into Central Europe. The pleasant chitter-chatter of birdsong has been replaced by the odious self-important small talk of gap-year fashion student types liberally spraying the quiet carriage with the banal and the boastful. Out of my brain on the train, I am heading across the channel in the vain hope of catching one of my heroes, Noel Gallagher, in concert in the Belgian capital on Sunday night. At the expense of a brought and paid for ticket at Twickers.

Sadly, I forgot to check this most salient of points as I hurriedly booked the Eurostar fare and the two nights worth of accommodation for Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March 2015. Sorry, the non-refundable Eurostar fare and the two nights worth of accommodation for Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March.

And, ah yes, once again dear reader, you are absolutely correct. I don’t have a ticket for the aforementioned gig. 

In my defence, I can say only this… I’m not sure how it has happened, but, to this day, music plays a huge part in my life. I cannot strum a chord, read a bar, or sing a note yet, I revere the likes of Paul Weller and Morrissey, Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley with something bordering on the fanatical. I am, just about, a child of the seventies. I missed most of my musical heroes in their prime, so, for me, a Noel Gallagher gig represents a wonderful opportunity to live out my addiction. It’s something to tell the nephews; “Yeah, these old buggers you’re watching on YouTube right now, I was there when they were at their peak.” Because, twenty years ago, Noel Gallagher and Oasis did just that. They and their Britpop peers ruled the world. Judge me as you will, friend, but, I am still captivated by their spell.

Although, having said that… It’s England. Versus France. At Twickenham.

A ticket any rugby fan, any England rugby fan, would give their high-teeth for. And I’m seemingly half a world away from it all.

Because of my incredible imbecility, my sensational stupidity, my breathtaking buffoonery, I am en route to the most remarkable of unremarkable places on the wildest of wild goose chases. And, to boot, I have forgone the magic of an unforgettable day out with my brothers, cousins, uncles and chums at the home of rugby too. Sometimes, I ache from just how much of an idiot I am.

They say acceptance is the first step.

My name is Henry Wisson. And I am a fuckwit.

  Brussels. Enough said.