The Here & Now + Bucky (Cafe Kino, Bristol – 24/02/2012)

Bucky are a very special band to me, I’ve only known about them for a couple of years or so, but, such has been their impact on my life, I simply don’t know who I’d be today, if I hadn’t discovered them when I did. I think I maybe first heard of them a little earlier than that but it wasn’t until I first saw them live, in February of 2012, that I really took notice.

Aside from being my first Bucky gig, it was also the first gig I can remember going to that I really loved, a gig that made me believe in live music in a way that I never really had before and didn’t really think I was ever going to. I was 26 years old at the time, I guess that might seem a little odd to some people, who maybe look back on their teenage years as the time in their life when live music mattered most to them, but for me, whilst I did go to a few gigs as a teenager, I never really got the point of it all and I look back on those few gigs with little fondness.

I’ve always been passionate about music and I certainly wanted to enjoy going to gigs but my early gig going experiences had convinced me that it just wasn’t for me, I’ve never been all that comfortable around people, regardless of the situation, and being pushed, shoved and squashed by big sweaty men in an unnecessarily loud environment is something I found particularly distressing, and so, by my late teens, as this had largely been my experience of what gigs were all about, I had given up on them completely.

The last gig I can remember going to, prior to seeing The Here & Now and Bucky at Cafe Kino in February of 2012, was a Sonic Youth gig, ten years earlier in July of 2002, when I would have been 16 years old. That was actually a pretty good gig, I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable at that one, but I didn’t feel very engaged either.

This was another issue I had with live music as a teenager, it left me cold. Music for me is a deeply emotional thing, if it doesn’t make me feel something, good or bad, I don’t really see the point of it. Too many bands simply come out, play their songs with little feeling or imagination, barely acknowledging the people who’ve come out to see them, say goodnight and then go on to their next destination and do it all over again. If I’m going to make the effort to go out and mix with people, something I find very difficult at the best of times, then I want more than just a run of the mill rock show, and really, I’d have thought the bands themselves would want more too. Anyhow, I’m pleased to say that I did eventually discover that live music can be all of the things I want it to be, and I know exactly when I first made that discovery, it was the night I saw The Here & Now and Bucky at Cafe Kino in February of 2012.

Prior to this gig, I had never heard of The Here & Now and I wasn’t very familiar with the music of Bucky either but I was familiar with Bucky drummer Joff Winterhart, having read one of his comics and met him a couple of times, and I liked him a lot. It normally takes me a while to get comfortable with another human being but, with Joff, I felt comfortable from the moment we were introduced, I’d never met anyone so friendly and enthusiastic and just plain old nice. There’s a lyric in a song by The Middle Ones that goes, “I liked you straight away, who wouldn’t?”, I guess that sums up the way I feel looking back on my first encounter with Joff. And so, even though I’d only met him a couple of times, I felt confident that, with Joff there, I’d feel okay about going to this gig and being in a room full of mostly strangers, and that I might even enjoy myself.

If I remember correctly, Bucky were first on. I didn’t really know what to expect from Bucky and it’s kind of hard to put into words what I got from them. They are a duo, Simon Roberts plays guitar and sings, Joff plays drums and yelps. Their sound is quite simple and sparse, and yet, they somehow manage to make a hell of a lot of noise, not an aggressive, confrontational noise but more of a friendly, fun noise. They’re also, when they feel like it, quite capable of doing quiet and beautiful as well. For me though, the best thing about their songs is the lyrics, full of humour and nostalgia, they write about all the things nobody else would think, or perhaps even care, to write about, from dogs to swimming pools, charity shops to libraries. I was hearing a lot of these songs for the first time and that was a great thing but what really made it such a special experience was the way that I didn’t feel like I was just watching a couple of people play some songs but instead felt like I was part of a shared experience. I’d never seen a band engage with their audience, and each other, in this way before. Some gigs I’ve been to, it’s felt like the band would have played just the same whether I was there or not, and maybe Bucky would have played just the same whether I was there or not, but the important thing is that I didn’t feel like they would have. At a Bucky gig, it really does feel like everyone in the room matters and is valued, that it wouldn’t be the same without them. They are playful and spontaneous and they make people feel good. I’ve seen Bucky play a couple of times since and I’ve had a great time on each of those occasions but the first time will always be the one that means the most to me because it was the one I wasn’t expecting.

If Bucky took me by surprise that night, the same was also true of The Here & Now, who I knew even less about.

The Here & Now, fronted by Lisa Marr, best known for her ‘90s band Cub, are a Los Angeles based duo, although Lisa is originally from Canada. Somehow or another, I’d never heard of Cub until Joff told me about them a week before this gig. They’ve since become one of my all time favourite bands and it baffles me no end that they’re not better known. Lisa writes the most beautiful, uplifting songs and has a voice to die for, real dreamy but with a real depth too. I guess it was maybe a good thing I didn’t really know who she was, as, if I had, I’d have most likely been pretty nervous meeting her before the show but I wasn’t nervous at all and she was so nice. There’s a lesson here folks, and it’s this, meet your heroes before they become your heroes, that way you’ll be completely relaxed at the time and then later on, when you discover how great they are, you can cherish the memory of the time you met them and you didn’t embarrass yourself.

In The Here & Now, Lisa sings and plays ukulele and Paolo Davanzo plays drums/percussion, if I remember correctly, I think what he actually played on the night was a cardboard box. They played a few Cub songs for us, including My Chinchilla and New York City, not that I knew they were Cub songs at the time but I guess it shows how strong the songs are that I would, later on, when I finally heard the original Cub versions, recognise them right away. I loved their set every bit as much as Bucky’s. Although the two bands sounded very different they somehow complemented each other perfectly.

The whole night was, for me, one of those rare moments of finding myself at home in the world. It’s like there’s this place that exists somewhere inside of me that I see and hear little pieces of in songs and films and pictures and books and nature, it’s a safe place, a beautiful place, I guess it’s what I think home should be like but it’s not like any home I’ve ever known in the real world. I think this was maybe the first time I’d ever felt like I was actually in that place for real, I knew it wouldn’t last but it was still an amazing feeling. To be surrounded by people and not feel anxious, to feel at ease even, that is, for me, a rare thing indeed. I felt all of these things, and more, that night, and when Bucky and The Here & Now played together at the end, it was a perfect ending to a perfect night.

Thinking back to that night, just a little over two years on, I feel quite emotional. I’ve had some really wonderful live music experiences since then, and those feelings of being exactly where I want to be in the world, feeling safe, feeling like I belong, I’ve felt those feelings again too, but that night was the first time I’d ever really felt any of those things, the first time I’d known that I could feel any of those things, and so, it holds, and will always hold, a very special place in my heart.

Thinking back to that night, I also, inevitably, find myself thinking about Joff, about how none of it would have happened had he not been so nice to me the first time we met. It’s hard to imagine what my life would look like today had I never met Joff, had I not gone to that gig. So many of the bands and people that I know today, I know because of Joff and I can’t imagine my life without them. I can’t imagine my life without him.

I’m still the anxious boy that I was a couple of years ago and I still find most things in life very hard but at least I now know that there are good people out there, and that, whilst I might never feel completely at home in the world, every once in a while, I find my place and I’m okay.