On Sunday I went to Manchester University Student’s Union to see Throwing Muses. The gig was supposed to be upstairs in the Academy 2, but had been shunted downstairs to Club Academy in the basement to make way for the Mela for Eid upstairs.
I can imagine Club Academy, as a venue, not being that much bigger than the kind of venues the Muses played when they first started out in the US in the mid eighties as it was small and sweaty. The crowd looked as though they were made up almost entirely of people who have been following the band since the eighties.
The stage was really low down so I couldn’t see Kristen Hersh at all throughout, which made for rather an un-engaging experience. I did however have a perfect view of the sound desk, a pretty good view of the bar, and spent a large chunk of the bands set watching a woman with a particularly magnificent rose tattoo and red bob, who was stood about a metre in front of me holding onto a barrier, undulating wildly and a various speeds throughout.
The band, and Hersh, seemed to take a little while to get going, meaning ‘Bright Yellow Gun’, which was about the fourth song or so in, sounded a little sluggish. Hersh seemed to be struggling with her vocals too, I think she had a cold as she sounded husky and a bit tired when she was speaking to the crowd. At times her vocals sounded unnervingly like early Courtney Love.
‘Hate My Way’ was about the sixth song in, and the band seemed to take off from there, with Hersh still sounding hoarse but both she and the band seemingly more relaxed. There were moments when it all really seemed to come together and it was possible to discern what made the band such a hypnotically powerful proposition, and Hersh such a compelling frontwoman, bu there was also the odd moment that was bewilderingly unlistenable as well.
The bands first encore commenced with Hersh performing a stripped down subtle and controlled rendition of early favourit ‘Fish’, and the band rejoined her for about four more songs. They were called back for a second encore afterwards, a blissfully slow and langorous song I wish I knew the title to. Hersh seemed weary as she said a final goodnight, and I was personally relieved that she wasn’t pushed into a third encore. She seemed to have had enough by then.
I couldn’t find any of my friends so after hanging around for 15-20 minutes outside waiting for them to emerge, I headed down Oxford Road. The crowds from the Muses gig were merging with revellers from the Mela for Eid upstairs, and the more spontaneous Eid celebrations outside. Lots of cars were blasting desi and the Asian men (and it was all men so far as I could see) were in boisterous mood.
The further I got down Oxford Road the less Eid revellers I saw. By the time I was passing the Thirsty Scholar by Oxford Road train station the desi had been replaced by the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger once again moaning that he was ‘Borrrn in a crossfire hurricaaannne’. I picked up a 192 by Piccadilly train station and the desi and Rolling Stones were replaced by the deafening mouth organ howl and stomping feet of a scratch blues ensemble on the top deck, who sounded particularly carried away. I have to confess, I’ve seen and heard some seriously weird things on the 192 but this is the first time I’ve experienced a live gig on it, drunken karaoke not withstanding.
Longsight was oddly quiet for Eid, possibly because the gig had finished fairly early, what with it being a Sunday. I arrived home in perfect stillness and quiet.