A lifetime passed…

21 Aug

I’ve had the most peculiar week…

Most of you know just how lost I’ve felt this last year as my life has spiralled out of all control, plunged into various abysses and effectively reset itself. But I’ve been allowing myself some increasing confidence and hope as little by little I once more find myself and the things in life that truly give me pleasure.

By request... Me in my hat at Snow Patrol (faces obscured to protect the innocent)

By request… Me in my hat at Snow Patrol (faces obscured to protect the innocent)

For me pure pleasure isn’t found in sex, but in friendships, in music and in creativity. Giving of myself in whatever form of expression I can, and taking in the expression of others. Suddenly that all seems to have come together in the last week.

Unexpectedly I got offered a ticket for Snow Patrol’s gig in Belfast (their only concert of the year) last Thursday as part of the Tennants Vital concerts. I’ve been listening to them for years, but in spite of being local boys I’ve not had a chance to listen to them live before. Gary Lightbody would have been finishing his time at Campbell College when I was finding my way as a member of the junior school. (Jonny Quinn was also at Campbell, and band photographer Bradley Quinn).  I’ve always been interested in these little coincidental crossings, and Lightbody’s lyrics have resonated more than once. Admirer first, discoverer of a curious tenuous connection later (I’m bound to have passed him in the Victorian corridors of CCB back in the day).

For a change I didn’t go out armed with my camera – aside from anything else, there was promise of a lot of rain (I wore my fedora – best idea I’ve had in ages). It meant that for a change I was just able to switch off and enjoy the gig – and I did that in the company of several of the girls (by girls I mean women, obviously) from the charity I’m involved with.

Took a bit of time out on Friday night too to see another gig with a dear friend and between the two concerts I got word of a third happening on Sunday night that I couldn’t turn down.

Little Matador - IMG_8087b

Nathan Connolly at Little Matador’s debut gig
© 2013, Robert J.E. Simpson. All Rights Reserved.

Little Matador are the new band from Snow Patrol member Nathan Connolly, and they were playing their debut live performance at The Goat’s Toe in Bangor ahead of supporting Nine Inch Nails in Belfast today. The rest of the lineup consists of Gavin Fox, Paul Brennan, Troy Stewart and Dave Magee.

The sound is heavier than Snow Patol, more rock, a different sort of passionate with a dose of metal. The set was short – only about 45 minutes, but with an album already recorded and due for release in the new year, this is a group to watch out for.

The audience was as mixed as a Snow Patrol gig, and I’m in no doubt that a good many folk came along just to see the international music star. As a front man he holds his own, and judging by the comments I heard and read, he’s nay bad on the old eyes. This time I did bring my camera – no way was I going to miss a debut gig and not record it in some way. Out of courtesy I didn’t video any of the music. But there was something else at play… something my friends know about, but which I don’t talk about publicly.

I don’t wish to imply more into the encounter than there is, but personally I found it a terribly emotional few days, and one which brought me right back to my infancy. That’s a very strange position to be in when you’re in the presence of rock gods. You see, I was there not simply to rock out and record, but I was there to support some of my oldest friends, ones who admittedly I had lost touch with. Dave and his brother Herb (possibly best known to the wider public as members of Northern Irish band LaFaro) are probably the two people outside my own family that I have known the longest – we met in pre-school and served the next 8 years together before drifting off to different secondary schools. Only in this day and age of social networking have we been able to reconnect, which we did about 5 years ago. I popped along to Auntie Annie’s to see a one-off reunion of F.U.E.L. which was fab – Nathan wasn’t playing after going on to bigger and better things with Snow Patrol, but Herb and Dave were, as was Peter Comfort – folks I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade, but who I had much love for.

I can’t believe 5 years have passed since then – it must be a sign of ageing, that things you thought were only a few months ago turn out to be days and years in the past. We’ve all grown so much older now – ginger beards seem obligatory across the board – but we’re still the same. But watching the band on Sunday I was hit with pride and affection. Chatting after the gig just cemented that – I confess I was a little teary eyed which gabbing upstairs, and that wasn’t just the pints talking. A proximity both physically and mentally with important parts of my childhood… something I’d resigned myself to having lost years ago. Regardless of how we’ve changed, how far we drift apart, those first friendships are among the most important any of us will ever make in our lives.

Gary Lightbody in The Goats Toe

Gary Lightbody in The Goats Toe.
© 2013, Robert J.E. Simpson. All Rights Reserved.

Back in the bar Gary Lightbody could be spotted surrounded by adoring fans, and proved himself very approachable and likeable from my observations. Maybe its a Northern Irish thing – are we all so accommodating? Nathan was similarly swarmed and there were plenty of adoring fans, autographs and photos. I grabbed a quick chat – couldn’t tell you what Nathan recalls about me, but we were friends too once, and I only lost touch with him as a teenager. The boy done good…

Bizarrely I don’t see an unapproachable celebrity, I see a normal person who just happens to produce work that I can consume and appreciate. We were gabbing when a male fan came over and interrupted, a little squeeish (damn it man, I waited for a quiet moment!). I don’t think I’ve been too fanboyish when meeting folk for a few years now, and its impossible to do with someone you know/knew. I did make a comment about appreciating what it was like to be hounded and having an audience to please. There was a little scoffery between N and my gig partner at that – “No you don’t”… But actually, I do. There’s something odd about being a voice on the internet, or producing anything consistent, whether it be books, articles, videos or whatever else. You do pick up admirers. Some of them are here because they love what you say and what you do, others are possibly attracted by the illusion of authority or gravity that we project. I’m sure many of my fellow bloggers who read this can support the statement. I’ve had fan mail… (and I’m nobody) and stalkers… and that’s creepy!

That and working at various festivals and with actors, directors etc from the old school of British science fiction and horror, I’ve had plenty of time to witness first hand the demands made by the adoring public. Sure, not in the relentless scale rock stars must face it, but the comment wasn’t uninformed. Fandom is a funny place, but I’ll leave that for another day…

It was however a thrill to see my old friends excelling.

Little Matador - IMG_8014b

Little Matador at The Goat’s Toe (Dave Magee is on the left)
© 2013, Robert J.E. Simpson. All Rights Reserved

I did say that I felt that pure pleasure was in several things. Friendships have been of vital importance in recent months, and I’ve been blessed. But there are other creative things. The resonance of the music has fed into my own creative work. A couple of my photos from Sunday’s gig have been used by the band to help publicise their other gigs, at a time when I’ve been investing heavily in my photography and building up the portfolio. I’ve got a couple of sessions being plotted with another local band, alongside a couple of film projects. Then I got an invite a couple of nights ago to exhibit a piece of artwork in an exhibition in Belfast. Considering the piece was originally designed to get me back into drawing and painting, to be invited to exhibit has been a great boost of confidence, whether it gets sold by the gallery or not. There does seem to me to be something at work here, more substantial and important than has been given credit thus far. I’m juggling a lot of pies, but ultimately this is the most diversely creative I’ve been in years. And I’m loving it. The trick now, is riding that creativity into something lasting. Watch this space.

In a bizarre little twist, something I hadn’t realised… one of the girls I was at Thursday’s gig was another old primary school classmate. The face had seemed vaguely familiar, but I’d never caught her full name and so never made the connection… On my Facebook I have a photo from one of the local papers when I was in P3 at Belmont, and sure enough, there she is… and so is Herb, and Dave, and Nathan, and me. Its not fate, or irony, I don’t think… but it is a great cosmic something. If I hadn’t been at Thursday’s gig, I might not have heard about Sunday, and so not been…

In a year when I’ve felt lost more times that I care to remember, I felt like I’d come home. Should we never speak again (perish the thought), thanks for that guys. I think I might actually have had a perfect weekend.


PS: Follow Little Matador on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/LittleMatador
and Twitter here: https://twitter.com/LittleMatador

My album of photos from the gig is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avalard/sets/72157635135816486/


One Response to “A lifetime passed…”


  1. 1st Annual Review – 2013 | The Sherlock Holmes English-speaking Vernacular - January 2, 2014

    […] first time and reconnected with a couple of old friends at the Little Matador debut gig in Bangor. I rode a high from that week for quite some time afterwards. Wheels were put in motion that week that continue to gain momentum. […]

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