The Charlatans

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Tuesday, 24 March, 2015

Taipei, Taiwan

When I lived in South Korea, I both welcomed and enjoyed the music offered by the radio. I even went as far as to download a few tunes and attended a concert – I can safely say that I never quite embraced the scene to the extent of learning a pop star’s dance routine though.

That may seem like an odd comment to some, but replicating a boyband’s shape-shifting moves is a major part of bonding amongst many adults in Korea – I’d often see thirty people in a club shaking their hips and swaying their arms completely in sync. To be fair to them, eleven-year-old British girls go through the same phase.

The sound of Taiwan has sadly never maintained my interested to an equal extent. The fact that the most popular song here is about a ‘little apple’ possibly plays a major part in my developed apathy towards local music – on an unrelated matter, that knowledge speaks volumes for my progress in Chinese class – but, yeah, not exactly the lyrical depth of say, Bob Dylan, is it?

Therefore, I went in the completely opposite direction and saw a band from Manchester. I revisited my youth – well actually, they were big somewhere between my youth and my parent’s youth, if I’m going to be totally truthful – and saw 90s indie band, The Charlatans.

Before getting to the performance itself, let’s discuss Taiwanese efficiency. They don’t waste time when it comes to a gig here – I was naive enough to believe that I could fit in a toilet break between sets, more fool me. The second I unzipped my fly I could already hear the cheers of the audience, meaning one of two things: either, a bands just entered the stage or I’m unwillingly partaking in the world’s most perverted hidden camera show.

In fact, this unfamiliar readiness almost made us miss the gig entirely. With doors opening as early as six, we decided to nip away and get a quick takeaway kebab. When we came back around forty minutes later the headline band were moments away from taking the stage – I can only assume that the support acts did half a song each. Good job we didn’t get a sit down meal, we would have only caught the encore! Imagine explaining that to your pals:

“So, how good were The Charlatans then?”
“No idea, we made the idiotic decision to eat soup at a steady pace.”

We were, however, morphed into a couple of Fred Perry poster boys in the brief moment we had between entering the door and watching the headline act. The gig was sponsored by the sportswear brand, resulting in the door staff placing a sweatband around our wrists when we arrived. A tennis wristband didn’t really suit the occasion, to be quite honest, but I was short of a place to put it, other than on my wrist – so yeah, I watched a gig looking like that one kid with the parents who took the school sports day that little bit too seriously.

We were also given a book, I don’t know much about that though. I put it on the floor and some bloke swiped it from under my feet before I had any time to read it, I may have gone after him if I in any way cared. I probably should have still chased him, in all truthfulness, and explained that I’d appreciate it if he would be so kind as to nab my sweatband too. The odd thing being that he was presumably already given his own book. I reckon his life highlight was when they were selling some yogurts at the supermarket on a two for the price of one special.

So, the performance. The band were really, really good – very slick and fun with a solid, up-tempo setlist – just generally a really entertaining watch. They also wrapped things up way before nine, allowing us time to get across to the pub for the Liverpool/Man U game – a lower calibre of football talent to what I’ve become accustomed to, but for some odd reason they don’t seem to show the Leeds games often in Taiwan.

The friend I went with, John, is a bit of a music buff and will often share his opinion on some new artist you don’t know yet. The type of guy to go watch this uncharted indie band called ‘Arctic Monkeys’ down at the King’s Arms on a rainy Monday night for two quid. You, however, skipped the gig because their name sounded too stupid – ironically finding yourself paying fifty quid to see them on their arena tour six months later. Yes, he’s that friend.

So, as well as The Charlatans, he also dragged me along to see St.Vincent earlier in the year – that performance was astounding – therefore, John’s track record of picking out decent live music remains intact, at least for now.

That gig came with stories too – our other friend got incredibly drunk, somehow got into St. Vincent’s dressing room and ended up back at the bar with one of the band’s bottles of champagne. Annoyingly, I’d literally only just bought a pint, so I was slightly less enthused than I would have been if this Robin Hood act occurred, say, three minutes earlier.

He was autograph hunting when security informed him that St. Vincent had, in fact, already left – he wasn’t having any of that nonsense though. He carefully picked out his moment, sneaked passed them when they weren’t looking and stumbled his way into the band’s dressing room – come to think about it, I wonder if he’s buds with the book thief?

As it turned out, the security guards were actually a rather honest bunch. Kal wasn’t willing to let his hard work go to waste though, copping some unwanted, left behind St. Vincent champagne as a consolation prize. Not a bad result, if you ask me. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was the last time I cared to seek out a signature and he would later go on to break my heart. Give me the bubbly any day of the week.

In other news, I am going back to South Korea for a long weekend at the beginning of next month. I expect that trip to mostly consist of getting drunk and eating good kimchi – I’m a little bit worried that it might take me a bit of time to switch back to the Korean party lifestyle though. I mean, I’m now doing exercise on Sunday mornings – I’m a changed man. The only sport I participated in while in SoKo was beer pong.

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