Me and the wind: Storm Eunice and not seeing EXTC - The Haymarket, Basingstoke, 18th February 2022
Tribute bands are a strange phenomenon. Some go to painstaking detail to look and sound EXACTLY like the original band, including stage sets, costumes, light shows - The Australian Pink Floyd and Re-Genesis are pretty much carbon copies of the bands they love and honour.
Some take themselves very seriously - The Still Ills spilt up ten years to the day The Smiths split up (I was at that gig at the ICA, it was marvellous). Stillmarillion's singer is so good he has sung with Marillion at their weekend convention gigs and has toured with their guitarist Steve Rothery's band - he is AMAZING!
Some try very hard...possibly too hard and it's funny (unintentionally so) - seeing Keep The Faith, the George Michael tribute act, at the Venue in New Cross in the mid-90s was great fun, but also hilarious as the (very good) singer switched from mid-80s bouffant hair to George's stubble and close crop mid-90s Killer period. It was fun, but they took themselves very seriously. Hard to do when you are singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go...
Some go for very clever names - Are We Them? (R.E.M), Sgt Pepper's Only Darts Club Band (The Beatles), Iron Maidens (the all female Iron Maiden) and my favourites, the wonderful Joanne Joanne (the all female Duran Duran).
EXTC have gone full on Ronseal - their name does exactly what it says on the tin. They are an XTC tribute act, which includes XTC's ex-drummer, Terry Chambers - you can see what they did with the name. They haven't gone for the outfits or trying to look like the band - it's Terry plus three guys who may look nothing like the band, but love the music.
Terry left XTC in 1983, when their genius songwriter Andy Partridge pulled the plug on playing live (due to chronic stage fright). Terry headed off to Australia with his family. 33 years later he returned to the UK, and met up with XTC's other brilliant songwriter, Colin Moulding. They decided to put together a band and play a few shows and recorded some tracks as TC&I.
But it was all short-lived, and by 2018, Colin felt he had done what he needed to do and put a few ghosts to rest. Terry, however, wasn't done and got together with TC&I's guitarist Steve Tilling and decided they would continue. Along with bass player Matt Hughes and guitarist Steve Hampton they now tour, playing a full set of XTC hits. They don't stick to songs that Terry played on, but also cover later more psychedelic pop classics.
My friend Saffron lives in Basingstoke (aka Amazingstoke) and if I was to pick a band that ticks all her boxes, XTC is that band. We are excited. But whilst I have been making plans for Saffron, Storm Eunice has other ideas.
The wind howls, trees wobble alarmingly, and taking down my gazebo on the morning of the gig was akin to starring in the opening section of The Wizard Of Oz (there's no place like Blackheath...).
We decide to bail on the gig - it’s a tough call, but it’s wild outside, trains are being rightly cancelled left, right and centre. Having risked a hurricane when I was 19 to see The House of Love (see previous blog), I am 51 now and a tad more sensible. Pandemic and the elements are determined to reduce my gig going. Boo!
So we don’t get to see this marvellous band. I make do with watching YouTube videos of EXTC. playing live and listening to Oranges & Lemons and Nonsuch, both marvellous records, full of clever pop psychedelia and brilliant songs like The Mayor Of Simpleton, The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead and The Disappointed. And I listen to the aptly titled Me And The Wind from Mummer....
We will see them again, plus Saffron and I have Lloyd Cole in April (rearranged due to the pandemic for the 5th time - we will finally get to see a gig together again! Unless....?