It was a beautiful day.
The sun was shining.
For the more daring boys…shorts.
Well, to me that was daring.
I wouldn’t dare.
This is the summer of 1997 and this is the V festival in Leeds.
Four weeks earlier I had turned twenty-four, I had finished with university and I had a job.
I was in a relationship.
A real one.
I was, in fact, engaged.
We don’t need to dwell.
We had driven to Leeds in my Vauxhall Combo van…all those years studying sociology and politics, striving for a Diploma in Social Work and I was delivering fizzy brown water in a white van. Time well spent I think we can all agree.
Sometimes we would sleep in the back of that van.
The van was called Brian.
I was one of those people.
Be kind to me, I was a work in progress.
I don’t name inanimate objects now.
I don’t have a pair of shoes called Chlamydia or anything.
I hadn’t ever gone to a festival before.
I didn’t like the idea.
I was here because Gene were playing…and The Bluetones…and The Longpigs…and Echobelly.
I had watched Stereophonics, The Supernaturals and Hurricane #1.
I had gone for a walk during Veruca Salt.
I had no room in my life, or in my heart, for Veruca Salt…they were a bit too grunge friendly. I think that was probably a mistake. I’ve grown to accept them…even like them in the years since. The culture wars of the nineties were no place for half-heartedness, you were either on one side or the other. It was a bit like Brexit. But more unpleasant.
Then Geneva took the stage.
I have no idea what the first song was.
I have no idea what any of the songs were.
I know that they played almost all of the songs I would come to love in the weeks and months after this but, right then, I didn’t know anything.
That’s not true.
I did know something.
The moment Andrew Montgomery opened his mouth I felt sure that there was something sublime in the world. Something beautiful. Something better. Something better than me. Something worth my time. Something that could help me. Something that could make things better.
I heard the truth of how he was singing.
It wouldn’t have mattered what he was singing.
You need to understand something here, I wasn’t a real person in 1997. It is possible that I have never been a real person. I was sad and a little bit broken on the inside then. I am sad a little bit broken on the inside now. There was no reason for that. There is no reason for that. It is still true.
I have just come back from the cinema where, in the dark, I cried from the moment the lights went down…not constantly but infrequently, yet regularly, throughout the film. Sad little tears filling sadder little eyes then wending their way down my sad little cheeks.
For no reason.
It was the same when Andrew Montgomery started singing on that sunny afternoon.
Tears welling in my eyes.
Tears born of relief.
Amongst all the ugliness of my own emotions I had something beautiful to cling to.
“Let us be happy while we’re still young”
Other people heard him sing that line from “Tranquilizer” in Leeds but I heard a prayer. No, that’s not accurate; I felt a prayer forming inside my heart. Pleading to a God that I was beginning to doubt to let me be happy…whatever happiness was. Whatever happiness is. I don’t know.
I do know.
I’ve experienced it.
I’ve felt it.
Sunlight bathed the golden glow.
That was probably the moment when I fell for Geneva.
Heard in a field in Leeds.
Twenty-two years ago.
I heard it again just a few months ago when Andrew Montgomery took the stage at Star Shaped in Glasgow. I felt the same things as I had then. I could even feel the sun of that summers day despite being in the beginnings of a miserable Scottish winter. I heard that line again and then I felt those things again.
Heard the voice.
Felt the prayer form.
“Cast me adrift on a dream”
We’re not in Leeds anymore Toto.
I am in my bedsit in Johnstone.
A bedroom with stacks of NME and Melody Maker littering the floor.
On the walls, centrefolds from “Loaded” because I thought that was what it meant to be a man.
“Cast me adrift on a dream”
“Take me away from this place”
That was what I wanted.
A yearning to be somewhere, anywhere, else.
A burning to be someone, anyone, else.
I wanted a dream.
Not the dream that I was having.
An awful repetitive, recurring, nightmare where a single shiny pin was in my mouth and each time I tried to remove, retrieve, it…it multiplied, over and over again, until my mouth was filled with pins.
Take it away Mr Freud.
Not just songs.
Hymns for the living dead.
“Don’t be too harsh, life is too much.”
It’s easy to judge.
Easier still to laugh.
It takes guts to be gentle and kind.
For some life really is, at least in moments, too much.
We don’t need to cheer up.
We don’t need to pick ourselves up.
Who knows what we need.
Wings that are temporary…we can take flight but the crash is inevitable.
“On a day like today, nothing gets better, come what may…I could just disappear, into the blue.”
“Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?” the doctor asked me the other day as I sat weeping in her room trying to explain where I was.
“No. But sometimes…I would like to disappear.”
Then “Into the Blue” started playing in my head.
Or in my heart.
“I’ve watched you turning into something, something I could do without…”
That is the greatest fear.
That people will see you for who you really are…warts and all.
They will watch as you reveal the truth…
Then they will realise the could do without.
These are universal feelings.
These are ever present emotions.
The grotesque of the everyday.
The loneliness that lies around the corner.
Geneva captured all of that.
Geneva captured all of this.
The this and the that of the human bean.
Then they gave it back to us.
Let us feel it.
Suddenly we could feel something else.
We are not alone.
Hope for the hopeless.
A prayer answered.
Faith, in something, restored.
From a field in Leeds to a room in Johnstone.
From that relationship to the real thing.
Beauty in poetry.
Poetry from pain.
Heart and soul.