7 July 2010

day 362- * FESTIVAL STORIES * 2 - Drugstore x Radiohead
I have in the past avoided talking about Radiohead like the plague. I've never felt Drugstore needed to, but also because we have hung out and collaborated with a number of cool artists, from Wayne Coyne to Stuart Staples, all equally interesting.
This is a tale of confidence and vulnerability, for all artists, big and small, cannot help but carry a good deal of both in their luggage.
The year was 1997 - Radiohead had just released OK Computer, and were firmly established as the most exciting band on the galaxy; They were headlining Glastonbury on Saturday, Drugstore also playing the same day, at the NME tent, as it was then called, if I'm not mistaken.
We had just done a long European tour together and a friendly connection had been established.
Glastonbury 1997 was to become known as the 'Year of the Mud' - there were torrential rains and the whole site had turned into a gigantic mud-bath.
During the day, as we were vibing-up, Radiohead turned-up at our backstage area, and we spent the afternoon chatting, joking around, in the way that bands that have toured together often do.
Thom took me to the side and told me how terrified they were about headlining that evening. His argument was ridiculous:
'We're dreading it. It's gonna be terrible, people won't like us, there's tons of people here who hate us, we haven't got any special light-show effects, just our standard tour lights - It's gonna be a nightmare.'
Hello? I argued back: 'You're kidding me right? People are gonna go crazy, they're gonna love you guys to bits. It's gonna be amazing. Light effects?! You don't bloody need'em! You've got the BEST TUNES! The best SONGS! People are gonna be singing along to everything - it's gonna be amazing!'
The conversation went on for awhile, and the rest of the band joined in. All under the mistaken impression that their headlining set was going to be a disaster.
It's hard to imagine that with albums like The Bends and OK Computer under their belts, as adored and respected as it's possible to be, that they would be in any doubt that they were set to deliver one thing, and one thing only: greatness.
Just before we went on to do our gig, I told them to watch our set closely, as we had prepared a special surprise for them.
Our gig went down really well, probably one of our best Festival performances ever. The tent was packed and there was a great party atmosphere.
Phil and Ed were watching from the crowd - and the rest, Thom, Colin and co, from the side of the stage.
Towards the end of the set, I turned to the crowd and shouted:
'There's a great band playing Glastonbury! A Great band!'
The crowd thought I was talking about Drugstore, and shouted back: 'Yay! Drugstore!'
But I said: 'No, no, no, you're all wrong. Drugstore are not great, we are COOL, the great band is gonna be headlining the main stage later on, they're called Radiohead, and this is one of their songs.'
We hit our version of 'Black Star', which I have absolutely no problem whatsoever in asserting that it was considerably prettier than theirs. We've gotten rid of the over-blown stadium guitar riff, stripped it to the bone, and turned it into a duet-argument between two disconnected urban lovers, and in doing so, the true beauty of the song was revealed. It had a lovely plaintive cello melody, reminiscent of Schubert's Arpeggione, that echoed the impossibility and sadness of all of our modern-relationships, it was beautiful, and hopeless.
The crowd loved it.
We finished the set and Thom and Colin ran up to us totally overwhelmed. Big hugs all around, big 'thank you, we needed that' and so forth. Then, Ed and Phil came up from the crowd, and if I tell you Phil was crying - I mean, really crying, totally overcome with emotion.
It was an incredible moment, when two bands, in completely different paths, with completely different levels of success, had met in common ground, and right there revealed that all our expectations, hopes, dreams and anxieties are pretty much the same.
We never got to see their gig, if I remember correctly, we left straight away, in a sleeper-bus heading for the next stop.
We now know that they played a stunning set, regarded by many as one of Glastonbury's most memorable performances.
We knew they would, and probably, deep in their hearts, so did they, but as with every artist, regardless of how great we believe, know or think we are, every now and again, we all need a little hug.
Next week: Drugstore x The Levellers, in an ugly tale of a drunken Monteiro smashing everything up. Unmissable.


adeibiza said...

i was at that [your] gig

a lovely story :)

cant wait for the levellers

isabel monteiro said...

We had booked a Mariachi for the show - record company car driving mexican guy all the way up to Somerset - due to the bad weather, they were running really late.
This is absolutely true: the Mariachi turned-up at the stage, running, just as we were about to hit the solo he was supposed to play in 'Say Hello', not a second earlier or later. shockingly brilliant. x

dianafsc said...

thanks for sharing that, Isabel!

once insecure, always insecure - even when they were at their best: that's radiohead, that's Thom Yorke...

Drugstore version of Black Star is one of the most beautiful cover versions of all time! do you remember playing that live on Brasil 2000 FM when you came down here for a show? I own a promo cd from the station with that version on: absolutely amazing!