I like the Leadmill. There are lots of bars so you're not queuing long for a drink, and there is the odd place you can sit down and chill and where people will leave you alone if you want to be left alone. It is easy enough to park around there. It is just a pretty cool place really.
As I wandered in after my hour long drive up the A1 from Nottingham, I found that the main room was only about a quarter full, which to be honest, was all I was expecting. Let's say that I wasn't expecting a busy night. As I made my way to the back where there is a set of tables and chairs raised up, I noticed there were two support bands on and after checking the time on my phone realised that I had not missed anything.
The first support act were a two piece consisting of a chap on guitar and a girl who interestingly enough not only played drums but stood up to do so. I decided to get some lighting checks done on the camera, and discovered that the security guys were the same as the last time I was here. I had a quick chat, as you do, and made my way back to the seats and got a swift lemonade on the way.
The second support were a band called Blak Can who were quite funky in an indie kind of way and, as I took a few pictures of them, it dawned on me that the crowd was quickly getting bigger, much bigger than I anticipated it would do. It seemed it was party night as there were a lot of large male bunnies wandering around, and everybody I could see was tucking into cans of Red Stripe like there was no tomorrow. By now it was also getting quite loud.
I made my way back again and started to get ready for the main act. After a few minutes. I looked up and across the floor of the main room,and it was just as if eight buses had pulled up outside and dropped their load at the door. The place was rammed! There were whole gangs of folk chanting football songs, and others roaring lyrics from selected Twang tracks. Already there were revellers standing on tables, dancing and frolicking and having a merry old time. The Leadmill had exploded from a subdued sparsely attended affair to being packed out like the contents of a sardine tin! The air was thick with the smell of both Red Stripe and the dry ice drifting over from the stage which by now was starting to disappear behind the throng.
Time to make a move, I thought. The path I had used not twenty minutes ago was now like a forest of heaving funsters, and I decided that if didn't go now I would never be able to get the pit before the main act started. As I shoved and squeezed my way to the front, there were fully grown adult blokes looking at me, smiling and hugging me. One of them picked me up in a big old bear hug, looked at the camera and lens I was packing and declared that he loved me right there and then in front of the stunned entourage he was with. There was that uncomfortable silence in our vicinity for a split second until I told the said big lad that I loved him too, and everybody was happy and laughing and I was on my way again.
I had only been in the pit long enough to glance at the front row in its madness when the security men raced past and out into the crowd that had now become a bit of a mêlée due to a punch up that had broken out about six rows in. I got down to business and set about making last adjustments, and it was then that I realised this was no ordinary gig. The entire front row and for what seemed like several rows into the throng were hammered. All were sporting the obligatory can of Red Stripe.
It was then that I realised also that all the security lads had vaulted the fence to sort the punch up out and had left me on my own. For a second it was like one of those movie scenes, the one that has the big bloke stood all on his own confronted by ane entire world of big lads, drunken big lads I might add, and the big lad shrinks to the size of Mini Me and starts to sweat proper full-on sweat! To my delight they reappeared from the blancmange thick mass and made their way into their positions, with the two chaps I knew either side of me now sandwiching me in!
A little perplexed, I stated that it was a bit rowdy and one of the security guys asked, "Have you not seen the Twang before here?". I replied that I hadn't, and he looked back at me in all seriousness and declared, "Well, the last gig they did here one of our lot ended up with six stitches in his head..."
The mass in front of us was now heaving, and there were minor skirmishes breaking out all over the place. It was hot too. Then the crowd burst into rapture as the Twang appeared from backstage. They were going mental! A sea of arms and heads all along the pit fence moved back and forward, and I honestly thought the barriers were going to break. The security guard glanced at me, smiled and shouted, "We'll do our best to protect you!"
Now as you might be aware, as a cameraman you get to shoot the first three songs and that's it. I thought deeply for a few seconds as I gathered myself and, with a wink at the first guard and a nod to the second, I raised my lens up in front of me and shouted in proper Rambo style, "Cover me boys, I'm going in!"
And so in I went right to the centre of the pit. I was being clamoured from behind with flailing arms and spittle and sweat as if in a I was in a scene from a zombies film. I turned to one of the maddening crowd, and raised my camera and clicked at him. And the next, and the next. To my surprise my plan was working. Instead of them eyeing me up as part of the main course, they were now smiling and giving me the thumbs up! The mood was getting better as I was now being pelted with plastic glasses instead of their contents!
Now facing the right way and looking direct at the stage, the music started andtThe Twang broke into song. This is the point where I have to apologise and to ask if there is anyone out there that can supply me with a set list. It would be much appreciated, because the first three tracks were a blur to be honest. I was busy clicking away, and by the time I'd vacated the pit, had a hug from not only the big lad from before, but each of his mates and got myself back to my vantage point I had missed six tracks. The Leadmill was jumping. I've not seen anything like this for a long, long time. I did however manage to witness them blasting out 'We're a Crowd', the brilliant 'Take This On', 'It Ain't You' and a great round of 'Paradise'.
Halfway through the security boys were out of the pit again due to another scuffle, and lead singer Phil Etheridge shouted out words to the effect of him not wanting any trouble at Twang gigs and wanting love instead.
The Twang are a real force on stage. They both move around the stage with ease and bring the crowd out of the crowd. They draw you in, and make you part of the band as if you were up there on stage with the rest of the group and your guitar. By now every member of the crowd was singing each word to each song, anthem after anthem.
As we came to the end of the set, the room was awash with Red Stripe and dancing figures, and people silhouetted surfing to the front only to be kicked out, and beer being sprayed as far as it could go, and arms raised skyward pointing in unison and voices chanting together. Ash Sheehan on drums showed off his stamina at the end of the set. For what seemed like a hour he clattered the shit out of his kit like a squirrel chasing the last peanut on earth!
As I made my way to the exits after through the quagmire of tins, plastic cups and plastic bottles and the four inches of well...I was hoping it was just beer, I caught sight of the security chap who shouted over, "You made it then?" I smiled and nodded. I dusted myself off and wiped away the shrapnel and made my way down Leadmill Road which now resembled a scene out of the riots. Now that is rock and roll!