You should never meet your heroes. Unless they’re cheery Midland heroes with crazy hair, gleeful grins and a manner like they’re talking to a semi-regular acquaintance. The bouncers at the Cardiac, presumably sick of Carling and its pissy lagers, discouraged us from going in too early for a gig on Friday, and as we headed off to the Hobgoblin for a cheeky bitter or two we were hailed from just outside one of the numerous anonymous gateways to hell that line the front of the venue.
“You going to see Misty’s, then?” It was Grandmaster Gareth himself, and smiling at the joke of our inattentiveness he turned his spooky, big blue eyes on K. and me, and all I could do was grin and say “oh, man!” I did wish all assembled good luck too, and said we were rilly rilly looking forward tooshmrghblmblbl. Smokers’ Corner turned out to be Gareth plus trumpeter, drummer and keyboardist, and they were all far more chatty than you’d ever expect, outside some weird dream sequence. Which brings me neatly onto their music.
Misty’s Big Adventure and Their Place in the Solar Hi-Fi System is still one of the best albums I have ever heard: aural bliss, with weird off-kilter brass, layered orchestration, warmly delivered lyrics about SAD, biscuit tins, Barbara Woodhouse and killing your neighbours, and the complete coherence that comes from both witty, inventive songwriting and a band of people who are all musically and socially comfortable with each other.
That came across on stage too, with everyone clearly taking active part in what could otherwise be an ego trip for the grand master: an excursion through his own musical landscale with nobody else caring enough to shape it for themselves. Certainly Erotic Volvo was in his element, crowdsurfing like Kurt Cobain and then miming like Kate Bush. It was lovely, basically, is what I’m trying to say: Misty’s was my antidrug of choice for around an hour, as they tore through Fashion Parade and Smart Guys Wear Ties before lingering on one for those lovers out there, The Kids Are Radioactive.
Their previous album Funny Times had worried me a bit: an extended riff on The Story of Love (the most commercial song on the album before that), Funny Times was the album of a band that was running low on ideas, and Misty’s are if nothing else an ideas band. But I’m already warming to their new release Television’s People, with a downbeat, slightly claustrophobic and rollercoaster-nauseous turn into TV-land, with Gruff “SFA” Rhys guesting on vegetables and a Colin Zeal for the noughties at track five.
A confession, then: ten and a half months into my self-imposed CD abstinence, I bought not one but four CDs: two tour CDs, the new album and a Grandmaster Gareth solo project. But along with the fact that, as far as the bassist could tell me, I wouldn’t actually be able to download them from anywhere—not reason enough to buy them in itself, now that music is everywhere for free—there’s a more charitable motive behind the breaking of my promise to myself: Misty’s Big Adventure’s current tour is in big trouble, as their tour agent has vanished:
The promoter of the tour went AWOL 3 weeks ago and nobody has heard from him since. Perhaps some of you know his whereabouts – he’s called Chris Gee. Kick his shins if you see him.
In such dire financial straits, and with the Credit Crumble happening all around us, the only reason the Oxford gig went ahead at all was on the basis of pre-sales. So if you think you might be at all interested in seeing Misty’s in Leicester, Manchester, Birmingham, London or Bristol, then do consider buying tickets in advance for one of those remaining gigs. I can’t guarantee you’ll get to chat with Gareth, Lucy, Sam and Hannah outside beforehand, but if you’re going then my tip is to have some patter prepared. Take cue cards.