Tag Archives: Idlewild

The space between all things

I used to go to dozens of live music gigs a year — scores of them, in fact, if you go back far enough. In the last few years, I’ve seen very few. This is partly because [busy], partly because getting home again after a gig is a nightmare, even when said gig is in Sheffield itself, and partly, if I’m honest, because music no longer holds sway over my life as it once did; other obsessions have stolen its throne.

But I’m having a brief flurry of audio activity: Kate Tempest a week or so ago, Mark Lanegan in early December, and Idlewild last night.

Strange to be reminded by Roddy Woomble himself that they were touring the 100 Broken Windows album twenty years ago almost to the date. That was when I discovered them via (I think) the Evening Sessions show on Radio 1, which was the only affordable entertainment available to someone sleeping on sofa cushions in a friend’s tiny Brighton living room, trying unsuccessfully (despite working two jobs, and paying an almost gestural rent to said friend) to pin down sufficient income to get a toe-hold in that city. Brighton was already hideously expensive in 1999, and precarity was already a thing — though it mostly caught the already-poor, plus a few fucked-up refusenik drop-outs with substance abuse problems, into which latter category I fit very firmly at the time.

(I returned to Velcro City with my metaphorical tail between my legs in the early months of the new millennium, defeated by myself.)

So all the more strange to see them twenty years later, having just returned home to Sheffield from a week in Brighton. I was meant to be in Europe most of last week, as mentioned, but a combination of train cancellations and the onset of a vicious head-cold put paid to that; instead I stayed in bed for three days, finally recuperating the immune system overdraft I managed to run up since late June. Turns out momentum can only take you so far for so long… and you end up crashing eventually. That’s a lesson I probably should have internalised back in 1999… better late than never, eh?

Anyway, point being, it was a great show — a solid tour of the back catalogue, with fewer deep cuts than fan favourites, and a new line-up that sees a swing back from the more folky sounds on the late Noughties and early Teens to a thicker, rockier texture. It brought back many memories, bright and dark alike.

I’ll leave you with a personal favourite that didn’t make last night’s set list. The wordplay and narration was always a huge part of Idlewild’s appeal for me, and this song kinda sums that up.


I fucking hate autumn.

I hate winter worse, mind you — but I’ll save my bitching about winter for when winter arrives. Meanwhile, autumn is at the door right now, tapping away at the glass with its miserable raindrop fingers, the fucker. In its hands, a message: telling me I can look forward to another three or four months of the world getting colder and darker. Four long months until I’ll start to notice the days stretching brighter once more, the first hints of spring, of light, of warmth.

It’s worse this year because I’m at home again after a few weeks of travel, of spending time with loved ones and/or with friends and colleagues in civilised places where things actually happen, or of travelling between such locations. Also because I’m in the midst of a period of intensive work which is quite unparallelled in my personal experience beyond that of getting my thesis finalised — yes, it really has been that relentless — and I want nothing more than to spend a few days wandering aimlessly around a large, interesting city with clement weather, a functioning public transport system and lots of vaguely interesting things to look at, and to not have to think about any deadlines, nor to write anything other than for my own pleasure, or pay attention to any form of news whatsoever.

But instead, I’m back home. Home, where trying to go for my regular Sunday climbing session meant twenty minutes waiting in the rain at an unsheltered stop for a bus whose diversion was unannounced on the stop and online, only to miss my connecting bus in town by literally thirty seconds. Home, where returning again from town by train involved boarding rolling stock nearly as old as I am, reeking of damp and mold, and literally pissing water from the roof. Home, where I’m surrounded by people who can’t wait for You-Know-What to magically make everything better, seemingly blind to the fact that You-Know-What is the final triumphant arson of the scumbags who fucked this place so badly the first time around, and who will glady do so again if it keeps them on their back-hander gravy-train for another few years.

Home, where you have to run just as fast as you can merely to stay still. Home, where even the air seems tired of itself, and the eaves of the houses seem to shrug in resignation. Home.

I’m tired of this place. Mostly I’m just tired — tired of my current workload, and tired of three years of enervating contextual uncertainty.

Look, I’m doing OK — this is not a cry for help, and hell knows I’m far better off and able to weather the coming winter than many. By this time next week I’ll be back in Scandinavia, about to start the final ten-day run of this period of work-schedule overload. The week ahead is busy, but the work is all paid, and paid well. I have the tools I need, the tickets for my travel, and the money to keep myself fed and functional.

But I also have my dreams. And recently, they’re all dreams of being somewhere other than here. That “here” is specific, referring to this neglected former pit-village between Sheffield and Rotherham — but it’s also something more general and abstract. I have outgrown my old sense of place, and I need to find a new one, elsewhere.

And I need to do so before I find myself staring down yet another autumn and winter, stuck at the literal and figurative end of the line.

This isn’t home any more. I don’t belong here now.

This is the kind of town /
where everyone knows each other /
and everyone hates that they know each other /
and no one’s getting any younger.

From my bedroom window /
I was anyone /
every street I look upon /
could be a runway…

“Disconnected” by Idlewild