I’ve been inside the famous Brixton Academy for less than three minutes before I meet Nick and Statto, legends (in their own ways), of the Britpop Revival Show on Phonic FM. Nick, of course, is the host of the show…spinning Britpop classic after Britpop classic every week while Statto is the Raymond Babbitt-esque Twitter star who has a dangerous level of statistical information about each, and seemingly every, track played. They are both as delightful as one could hope.
I have a near religious experience when I meet Nish…she is so kind, sweet, funny and lovely that I find myself feeling kinder, sweeter and lovelier as a consequence. Then she tells me that she supports Spurs and shows me her tattoo to prove it and I decide to support them too…because I want to be more like her. She’s great…really, really great.
Stood in front of me is a girl in a fabulous retro Adidas training top. She’s got a look of the Wener about her. Do you know what I mean? Genuinely 90’s looking. She is dancing with gay abandon, singing every line of every song from band and DJ’s alike and I find myself thinking…she gets it. We just wanna be free…to have a good time. I introduce myself and discover that she is from Falkirk…just along the road from my home in Edinburgh. Small world. She’s nice. Friendly. Fun.
Then I am introduced to Dave. Dave has a beard and he’s a little bit drunk. But a little bit drunk in the best way. He’s funny and friendly. He makes me feel like I’m his best mate despite the fact we’ve been talking for less than 47 seconds. He regales me with tales of…well, all sorts. I’m laughing out loud. Not in a “lol” way…but actually laughing. I want him to be my mate so that he can make me laugh more often.
Out in the foyer as I try to catch my breath I meet Britpop Memories and the lovely Mrs Britpop Memories and Best Mate Britpop Memories. We greet each other with hugs and start talking as if we have known each other since we were kids. We haven’t known each other since we were kids. We don’t know each other at all. Not really. Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we seem to have a connection. We talk about the bands and the songs and the people and the feelings and…blah, blah, blah. I wish they all lived ’round the corner so we could have dinner together and have our kids play in the garden.
As I look around the venue I see people who must have been at other gigs and festivals between 1992 and 1998 that I attended. We may have stood next to one another. Maybe we chatted at the bar. Maybe we eyed each other suspiciously because we were jealous of each others clothes. Maybe we flirted…unlikely. Maybe.
There are Oasis boys.
Middle aged people.
Blokes with great hair and no hair.
Girls with even better hair than the blokes with great hair.
Friends, girlfriends, husbands and wives who have been dragged along.
Folks who have got all dressed up for the occasion.
People on their own.
Nothing in common.
But there lies the truth of the matter.
Here is the great secret of the Star Shaped festival…
Because the people behind the scenes genuinely love the music, adore the era and care about the legacy of those days they take great care over every aspect of these occasions. They don’t book a load of bands then sit back and count the cash. They pick the bands…they talk to people, they negotiate, they beg, they plead, they explain why it matters that they accept the invitation. They move mountains to take the festival to places where people who don’t live in London can experience it too.
Because they are motivated by something other than their bank accounts.
They do it because they love it the way that we love it.
Just look at the bands I have seen at Star Shaped this year and last year…
My Life Story.
The Real People.
My Drug Hell.
Ocean Colour Scene.
I’ve probably forgotten at least one other band…but that still leaves 14 bands over three dates at less than a tenner per band. Think about this for a second, it would cost you nearly £40 to go and see Ocean Colour Scene on their tour this winter…in a bigger venue and where you wouldn’t be able to reach out and touch the hem of Craddock’s immaculately tailored trousers.
It is £25 to catch The Bluetones on their current tour.
Sleeper are playing to sell out crowds for similar prices.
Some of those acts you actually wouldn’t see anywhere else and haven’t seen anywhere else since the last century.
It is that quality and that care that means that attending one of these events is about something bigger and more ethereal than just going to a gig.
It is, to go all sixties on your ass, an experience.
When the crowd tonight were roaring along to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” it became a spiritual experience. People were bound together…sometimes literally. Arms around shoulders, strangers staring into each others eyes and singing to one another, couples embracing, people on their own suddenly part of a group, tears of joy streaking faces, hearts swelling and pulses racing.
This is what the sneering, too cool for school, historical revisionists of certain mainstream media outlets don’t get.
They see Britpop and they see something they hate…they hate it because it connects people, it was a movement that brought people together. It wasn’t elitist…there was no barrier to being a part of it.
Britpop was for the people…all the people.
So many people.
From the North to the South.
From housing estates to country house.
Boys and girls.
Girls and boys.
Common people and uncommon people.
The wild ones.
People who felt alright and people who felt of their life that it was a low.
Fathers, rulers, kings, computers.
Kids like me…then.
People like you…now.
We are not trapped in the past or stuck in a rut.
I meet people tonight who talk to me about hip-hop, a girl sends me a link to an R ‘n’ B playlist she has made on Spotify, there is love for the likes of the Slow Readers Club from another chap I talk to…tonight isn’t nostalgia; it’s about remembering and it’s about love and it’s about friends both old and new and it’s about a good time.
The best time.
I don’t speak to anyone who is trapped in the past.
Not a single person.
Walking up the streets of Brixton people are singing and laughing and drunkenly dancing.
I stand in a shop doorway and just watch for a little while.
I look at the smiling faces.
I listen to the happy voices.
When I step out into the street again I can feel it…that tidal wave of joy that once swept me off of my feet and placed me onto the shores of a brave new world was back, maybe not a tidal wave now but a wave nonetheless, lapping at my feet, reminding me of another time. But it isn’t the past I’m thinking of as I take my seat on the underground…it’s the future. New music. Live dates. Club nights. New friends. Old mates. Moving on. Moving forward.
If you were here and you saw My Drug Hell you would have thought…”How did I miss this?” and you would have gone home and rectified your ignorance!
If you were here and heard The Real People smash it up when they played “Smash it Up” you would have felt electricity run down your spine.
If you were here for The Supernaturals you would have cursed the fickle finger of fame for flicking them aside for so many years and then you would have embraced the fact that they are back.
If you were here for My Life Story you would have dropped to your knees and thanked the Gods above for creating Jake Shillingford out of stardust, Stardust (the film), magic and unicorns.
If you were here for Echobelly you would have had your faith in the power of music to speak directly to the deepest parts of your soul restored after years of hearing Coldplay and Ed Sheeran on the radio.
If you were here for Black Grape you would have needed the assistance of medical staff to not only help you pick your jaw off the floor but reconnect it to the rest of your astonished face.
If you were here for Ocean Colour Scene you would have been convinced that the rapture was about to begin because after them their really didn’t seem like anything else worth living for and a one way trip to Heaven was all that you wanted.
The thing is though, Star Shaped gave you a day trip to Heaven at the Brixton Academy…there were choirs of Britpop angels, songs of praise, Gods and legends and everywhere you looked there were other people just like you; faithful, true believers.