We used to wait.

Last night I hung around the office under the pretence I had work to finish. In all likelihood I do have work to finish, but that wasn’t why I didn’t leave the office until 8pm. Don’t worry, I’ve not become one of those terrible city boys, top button and second chin meeting in a cacophony of stress, having no idea of what really matters in life. I am not one of them. I was at work until 8 because it is coming towards the end of the month and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I could hide out for three hours for free.
Why did I need to hide out for three hours?
Well obviously I was waiting for 9pm/9/9, the moment when all the enigmatic clues fell into place and the new Arcade Fire single and video were released.
Why did I need to queue up outside Rough Trade to buy a copy?
Well obviously it is because Arcade Fire are one of the few bands making music today that I care about.
When I first saw them at a very drunken Reading festival in 2007 it was like waking up (pun intended). People had described their live shows as being like a religious experience and I watched people who looked like they were possessed utterly lose their shit as they convulsed to songs from the at-the-time recently dropped Neon Bible.
I quickly became obsessed in the all or nothing way I conduct my life. It culminated with seeing them headline at Reading 2010 with my good friend James, travelling to Birmingham later the same year as James was living up there and tickets for their London show had sold out and then getting a tattoo of a lyric from My Body Is A Cage on my right arm.
My love has mostly been dormant since, by which I mean I just listen to the albums a couple of times a week, have The Suburbs on in my car every summer and look dreamily into the distance and dream of their return (not whilst driving – it’s dangerous).

That’s why I found myself in a queue of the hardcore outside the prestigious and regal Rough Trade East at half past eight last night, behind a German couple, who seemed perplexed when I asked them if they were at the back of the queue – that famous sense of humour etc.
For the last week I’ve spent a lot of time scanning through the clues the band have left online. Websites like justareflektor and thereflektors appeared from nowhere and we were all invited to be a part of it. It was the kind of chase you would expect from Arcade Fire, a collective never known for keeping things simple. There’s always intricate detail and themes and subtext. That’s why the diamonds spelling out the title inside of the chalked circle became a talking point as well as a hashtag.
To draw so much attention from a single is an incredible feat. There was a time when single releases were everything, when music was precious and limited. In many ways we are a lot better off. Everything is a lot more accessible. It can be streamed, it can be downloaded, it can be torrented and burnt and ripped and whatever else you crazy cats choose to do to limit the frequencies and qualities of the music you listen to. There was a time when we used to wait. There it is. That’s how it all ties together.
For Arcade Fire to have achieved this in 2013, that buzz and excitement about their incoming music is incredible.

The song itself, passed across to me on 12″ vinyl in the glossiest sleeve since Vince Noir’s mirrorball suit, is astounding. Coming in at just over the seven minute mark it is all you could want as a fan, and much more. It sticks to the Teflon coating of your brain and won’t be scrubbed clean. It has a different vibe and a different beat to what they have done before but it is undoubtably Arcade Fire. Draped in the imagery of the snippets and videos provided in the run up to its release it’s a triumph for the band… but what is that? Or more fittingly, who is that straining away on vocals in the last couple of minutes. Why it’s only David chuffing Bowie! on an Arcade Fire track. Well if that doesn’t just confirm what I thought I already knew. This album is going to be amazing.
By the time I got to the train station I was watching the Anton Corbjin-directed video, a black and white masterpiece with more confusing imagery, big papier mâché heads and Win Butler with raccoon face paint on. I don’t know why anyone would expect any different.

Needless to say I’ve preordered the album, and in doing so get the privilege of being offered tickets to their tour in advance of general sale. I’m excited. Arcade Fire are back.

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My first stand up.

For two days I had chest pains every time someone mentioned it to me, or asked how I was feeling. My legs would change from a solid to a liquid and I would need the support of a good sturdy surface. This was how my body chose to tell me I was heading for my first ever stand up performance.

I’m a bit of a show off at times, but under conditions. I can also be an introvert, I cross that line like a Morris dancer, often and off beat. I’ve wanted to try stand up for a long time because it is something I admire other people for doing, today even more so. That isn’t to say I want to do everything I admire others for doing, although I’ve tried chopping wood and tightrope walking and I’m shit at both.

Last night I performed ten minutes of stand up at The Alex in Southend as part of a new monthly open mic night hosted by Little Smash Presents. It was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life. It was also one of the most terrifying. I hate that hybrid but it draws me right in.

I spent yesterday afternoon in a pub, watching people watching football, and trying not to think about what I was going to have to do. I don’t even know what to compare it to. Maybe being in the queue for a rollercoaster? You’ve committed to it but you can see a sobbing nine-year-old avec mother pushing their way back through the crowd as the child realises this isn’t for him and has the benefit of being able to cry to get what they want still. I wanted to be that kid, to just backtrack through the crowd and run away, maybe have a go on the teacups. When I thought on it I realised I sort of crave that disgusting nausea, and the way my stomach curdles, it’s what lets me know I truly care about something.

I had faith in my material. Even when I was living it I believed it could one day be harnessed and shaped, like the ghost of Swayze over Moore’s dungaree-clad body, smoothing that pot up like a mighty clay cock. I knew it would make people laugh because life is funny, as long as you think of it in the correct terms. As ‘first world problems’ as my material is, it’s still a matter of tragedy + time = comedy. I observed and I reported.

Before the audience filed in I met the other acts, people working the circuit, people who have honed their craft and paid their dues and their own travel costs evidently.
They all had brilliant advice for me, told me to take my time, to move the mic stand out of my way, and to take a sip of drink when I was in need of a moment’s respite. I still felt like an observer though. When everyone started pouring into the room and taking seats I started to get really concerned. There was no getting out now. They had the overhead bars pulled down on me tight. We were starting our ascent.

Ross, Luke and Liam all completely blasted their way through, Ross as compere for his night and the others throwing in brilliant gags about knife crime in McDonalds ads and being turned down by prostitutes. Then I realised I had to go onstage. I was leaning against the side wall and didn’t feel I could leave it. I tried to will my limbs into action but I just remained slumped, my heart beating abnormally fast and my forehead, pits and hands sweating as though I were on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Ross announced my name and I walked onstage and the applause was so warm and receptive that I forgot every word I had ever known. I picked the microphone off the stand and swore, forgetting the important rule of moving it to the side in the process… and then I was off, or on, or in.
I got my first laugh where I had assumed it would be and believe I held my own from there.
It was so different to anything I had done before. A completely different temperament and atmosphere to drama or improv or gigs.
I had so many people there in support that I felt stronger for it. Once I got that first laugh I realised the whole thing wasn’t in my head, and that I could possibly be funny if I really put my mind to it. The performances in front of a mirror with a hairbrush over the course of a month had served me well.

As I returned the microphone to the stand and walked offstage I felt like I was going to collapse, but as a result of the fear and adrenaline coexisting in me. People shook my hand and hugged me but I was just in a daze. It’s just dawning on me now, the following morning, what happened and what I have done. It was amazing.

After the interval which followed my set there were four more performers; John, Sam, Sean and Chris. John, who I know from improv seemed so natural onstage, as though the whole thing were just something he had walked in on. His observations on the kind of people who do stand up were spot on.
When Sam got up I was as nervous and excited as I had been for my own set. Sam and I met through our friend Danny when he coaxed us into starting to attend an improv group. That’s why it was really good that we both made our first tentative steps into stand up at the same time. His routine was just what I expected; brilliant, dark and charmingly shambolic. I also really enjoyed Sean’s set, a comedian I had seen at the recent Southend Comedy Festival. The last act Chris Ashton knocked it out of the park. From across the room I could see my friends flailing about laughing and I can guarantee we will be poaching some of his puns for our everyday conversations.

It was such an incredible and terrifying thing to do but something I’m so glad I got to be a part of. I want to thank all of the other acts for their kind words and excellent performances, to Ross for having me, to Sam for stepping up to stand up alongside me, to Antony and Lucy for making such a ridiculous journey just to see me, and to each and every person who showed up, or text or tweeted me good luck. Mostly, thank you to my incredible girlfriend for loving me and believing in me and to my family for giving me such versatile material.
You’re all golden.

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Pre-show toilet freak out.

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Handful of set.

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Another ten mile hike.

I’m in the bath. Don’t worry, there’s no threat to Franny, my MacBook who famously lost her hard drive after being propped up in the bathroom so I could wallow and watch Homeland simultaneously. I’m on the iPhone, Lucille, which is virtually indestructible. So much so I’d be tempted to name her Scarlett, after Captain Scarlett.

I’m in the bath because I’m aching. I’m aching because I’ve just walked ten miles in three hours. My feet feel harder and lumpy and my rucksack related back sweat was something to be admired. It has just dawned on me that all of my training and channeling can’t prepare me for the fact that when I do head out into the Sahara desert (in just five weeks) I won’t be able to relax and bathe whilst instagramming stupid pictures of myself. I’m going to sit in my sweat, I’m going to live in it. This is different to stinking it up at a festival. This is next level Bear Grylls shit.
An I scared? Yes of course, I’d be concerned if I wasn’t but its good to know the time and money and effort has an end result and it is drawing very close indeed.

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