A Touching Display (Lewis)
I don’t like Steve Lamacq’s 6 Music drivetime slot much. As a purveyor of unfussed radio spiel, and particularly as an interviewer, he’s well ahead of much of the 6 pack. But then this is the station that saw fit to shunt Gideon Coe’s genial, mildly eccentric music-loving uncle for a shouty Hoxton donkey. Don’t think I’m down on Blue 6: if you’d told me in 2000 that we’d soon have a national radio station like it I’d have made the odd donkey noise myself, so I’m not completely ungrateful to Auntie, but still the waste of potential can at times (usually around 10am) be exasperating. Lamacq’s commitment to new music is unquestionable. But half his show is filled with unmissed nineties also-rans. Perhaps I should learn to live and let live. There are many gridlocked parkways out there. At least one of them must host a lonely geezer approaching 30 in his Mondeo who is so happy to hear Stripper Vicar by Mansun he simply breaks down in tears. So long as I don’t have to meet him.
Yer Lamacqtual, then: decent presenter with erratic taste – he’s played Smokers, for fuck’s sake – and all round good egg. The story I am considering finally getting around to telling illustrates the latter attribute nicely. There’s a longstanding ‘indie night’ we have in Sheffield called Offbeat that is tweecore incarnate: adults dressed as children gawking arhythmically around the tiny dancefloor to the likes of Helen Love and the Field Mice (also the Fall and At the Drive-In, to be fair). It’s ace, Offbeat. Until recently it was held in a broom cupboard abutting the main bar of the student union. It still is, but the broom cupboard has been enlarged and given a new sound system, robbing the night of some its ramshackle charm. The old sound system was so insistent that you shouldn’t miss any of the upper mids it could reduce a mother of five to tears. You’d have to take the occasional break or you’d be going home with a necklace of dried blood. But your break would be taken on the periphery of a Friday night at Bar One. Jesus. Returning to the prison of sound felt even more like getting out of a cold shower than leaving it did.
So – for the love of God get on with it – there I was at Offbeat, and it was a few days after Peel had died, and Lamacq (who’d been playing elsewhere in the university that night) was there. At midnight, the MC announced that there would be a minute’s silence for the man who, more than any other, had made both Offbeat and 6 Music possible. Lamacq, bless his good heart, had bought little plastic shot glasses of whisky to pass around, like communion wine for an obscure sect whose sacred text is – I dunno – Boredom (should say Teenage Kicks here, but never liked it that much. It’s good. It’s OK). So we stood or sat there in silence, holding our whiskies and contemplating the irreparable loss that seemed to touch each of us personally, and then we drank. And it was important and right and beautiful that we performed that little ritual together then. Next time Lammo blights three minutes of my last hour at work with Echobelly or the Prodigy, I’ll remember that moment and raise my mug of cold tea to him.