“Is this…a love hotel?” Pete, The Wedding Present’s affable American soundman, spent years touring with country legend Merle Haggard, and is thus a man of the world, and as we place the band’s rider on top of the plastic wipe-clean mattress he immediately and correctly identifies his surroundings. Many things have taken place in this room, things that would amaze and appall, but it’s the first time it’s ever served as the dressing room for a UK indie band. Welcome to Thailand guys & gals.
You may wonder why I’m carrying guitars and spring rolls into the Weddoes’ dressing room on a Thursday afternoon – the answer is a friend of mine is organising their first ever Thailand gig, and I’ve been roped in to DJ and, it transpires when I arrive at the venue, moonlight as a roadie as well. But when you’ve been a huge fan of a band for the last 30 years, carrying their gear – and stealing their food – is both an honour and a privilege.
Tonight is the last night of the band’s Asian tour, but any demob-happy atmosphere is somewhat dampened by technical issues that stretch their soundcheck to well over two hours. Knobs are twiddled, cables plugged and unplugged, and even laconic bassist Terry de Castro, an indie veteran with the likes of Animals That Swim and Goya Dress, gets to the end of her tether. “This is taking so damn long” she complains, before earning a place in my heart by saying “I hear you’re from Coventry – I love it there!.” This is the first time anyone has said anything positive about my home town in my presence, and, coupled with the fact that she’s the only one of the band who likes a few bevvies before going on stage (and manages to lose all her credit cards between soundcheck and gig) it makes her my new favourite member of The Wedding Present.
People – mostly balding, middle-aged male people in various band t-shirts – have flown in from all over Thailand, as well as Singapore, Vietnam and even the UK to be here, and as the Weddoes take the stage, the sense of love in the room is palpable, despite continuing technical woes. Opener ‘Corduroy’ fizzles out halfway through and the gig pauses for 5 minutes, and then David Gedge’s vocals on ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’ disappear completely, with the audience filling in for him. But once the gremlins are banished, the gig truly takes off and we get a mix of greatest hits: a sparky ‘Brassneck’, a ferocious ‘Lovenest’, an anthemic ‘Give My Love to Kevin’; a couple of songs, ‘Two Bridges’ and ‘Bear’ from the superb 2016 Going Going Gone album; and a few surprises, including their cover of Orange Juice’s ‘Felicity’, early single ‘Once More’, and Hit Parade favourite ‘The Queen of Outer Space’. Gedge’s breakneck speed guitar playing continues to defy the laws of physics, and his band are as tight as the proverbial gnat’s chuff.
The last five songs of the set are about as thrilling a 25-odd minutes of live music you could ever wish to experience. ‘A Million Miles’ has me wiping a tear from my jaded old eye, remembering a time when it meant the world to me. ‘Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?’ and ‘My Favourite Dress’ instigate mass singalongs. ‘Kennedy’ causes utter carnage as bald heads, dodgy knees and grey beards form the first moshpit most of us have experienced in a very long time (“We did the Reading Festival a couple of years ago” Terry tells me before the gig. “It wasn’t really our crowd but then I spotted a bunch of bald guys jumping around and thought aahhhh, there they are”). And the final, epic ‘Take Me’ lasts at least 8 minutes and is still approximately 30 minutes too short. Mind you, had it been any longer some of us may not have made it out alive. “YOU’RE A GENIUS! A FUCKING GENIUS!” screams the bloke next to me as Gedge takes off his guitar for the last time, and he’s not far wrong.
I was supposed to interview Gedge for this article but the soundcheck delays made that impossible. I do manage a drink & a chat with him after the show, but sadly don’t recall a lot of it. He tells me that the album of which he’s most proud is the band’s latest, Going Going Gone; I ask him if, back in the 80s, he ever thought he’d still be doing this 30 years later, and he amusingly replies “Not really, but then again it’s not really a surprise, because what else would I be doing? I’m hardly going to go off and become an accountant.” I tell him about the almost unhealthy obsession I had with Seamonsters in my youth, and he says “A lot of people are obsessed with that record. For obvious reasons.” And we marvel at how polite the support band, Bangkok shoegaze heroes Hariguem Zaboy, are, and David looks utterly baffled when I explain that they’re giving up gigging for the next two months whilst the guitarist becomes a monk.
I wake up this morning with a throbbing head and aching knees, but you’re never too old for nights like this, right up close to one of the greatest ever UK guitar bands in a tiny venue with a crowd of fellow obsessives. The Boy Gedge (as John Peel used to call him) may be pushing 60, but he’s in the form of his life. “I don’t know why it took us 33 years to get here” he tells us from the stage. “So see you in 2051”. I’ll be there.
Pics by Tim Russell. See more here.