April 2001. I head into the city after work in the print factory to meet my Mates in a pub near Center Point. Andy, Milky, Me and Double Steve have tickets to see Less Than Jake at The Astoria. They’re on the last of a three night stick in the best venue in London. On the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross you can pop off a train from almost anywhere in England, just walk a couple of minutes to the doors of this old 1920’s built theater. Once a warehouse for Tate & Lyle. In the last half decade it’s been a ballroom, then a cinema. Ever since the 1970’s it’s been a gig venue. No, it’s been THE gig venue. The one where the size is just right. Too small to be corporate and charge double for what you pay in the pubs outside for bad beer only now it’s served in plastic. Too big to fill if you’re not a hot property right frikkin’ now. It’s the launch pad to greatness. Bigger than the Marquee Or the Electric but smaller than the Hammy O or the arenas. The Who sang about it in Long Live Rock. Halestorm too. In the second summer of love The Trip took place there every week. The popular G-A-Y Club used to start after whatever band had just played on a Saturday night. Chad Channing’s tracks on Nirvana’s Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah were recorded here. So were the Live At The Astoria albums by Radiohead, The Cranberries, Arctic Monkeys, Tangerine Dream, Twisted Sister, Dio, Jamiroquai, Steve Vai and yes, Less than Jake. I could do a theme week of shows I was at that got released as live albums, Easily. I’m not going to.
I loved the new LTJ album in 2001. Borders & Boundaries is a brilliant record. Massively underrated in the quality of it’s song writing, it’s pathos and in the fact it’s a ska band. People love to rag on ska bands. I’d argue B&B is a five star classic. Better than Hello Rockview and Losing Streak. It opens with Magnetic North. The hyper drumming and brass punctuation are a slip n’ slide into an upbeat number about self loathing and frustration.
“Well there’s been borders and there’ll been boundaries and there’s been times misdirection found me”
Rock Music in 2001 was in a strange place. 4th wave grunge had morphed into nu-metal and the trousers had got quite frankly ridiculous. I know Limp Bizkit are living through a reappraisal right now thanks to a Nu-Dad-Metal look and a Lollapalooza slot, but I shan’t be swayed. Bilge. Utter bilge.
“There’s been walls build and there’s been worse days”
Dig under the surface of that scene a little past the Linkin Park and the Slipknot big names and you get your Mudvayne’s and a deep Puddle Of Mudd. Ewww. 2001 Week is going to look for the diamonds in the rough. 20 years of excavation from the era that was Landfill Indie to the left and Drowning Pool to the right.
“Everyone here hates everyone here for doing the same thing that they do”
That night at the Astoria nobody there hated anybody there. It was a triumphant show. The big scene that the outside world would have imagined the crowd angry and stomping and thrashing their wallets on chains into the air. It was one of the most fun atmosphere’s I’ve ever seen at a show. Up there with the times I’ve seen Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Red Hot Chili Peppers and James Brown. 2001. A Space Idiocy was a killer tour.
20 years is a mighty long time and yet it is but a mere moment. The Man put a compulsory purchase on the Astoria building in 2008. They pulled it down in 2009. To put in a train link nobody asked for overground. It’s still just a hole in the ground over a decade later. Cultural vandalism. Pure and simple. And evil.
I do so miss those Astoria Nights. Long live rock.