It’s a kind of weird choice to write about a band hyped with a debut album called “We’ll live and die in these towns”, these towns being: Coventry, somewhere in the British Midlands!
It’s weird because coming from Rome and having left such a pretentious city fantasizing about a rootless life around the world, I am not in the position to understand what should be exciting of living a whole life in the same ordinary, unsophisticated place.
Life is far more complicate than reveries. In fact moving from Rome 6 years ago didn’t bring me much further than Cambridge, UK. Just 80 miles east from Coventry. Odd, isn’t it?
I saw The Enemy for the first time supporting the Manic Street Preachers when they came back at the London Astoria. Never heard of them, I was not impressed. Three teenagers too young to play such a legendary venue opening for such an eagerly expected return of the popular Welsh band to the place where they played the very last time as a quartet, in 1994, before Richey vanishing. The thirtysomething manics fanbase wasn’t putting much attention to these kids.
The second time I met the Enemy I was accidentally zapping TV channels. Some summer festival highlights. They left me quite impressed, a sheer steady performance, 3 minutes of pure liveliness.
In the meanwhile Nicky Wire, the Manics bassist and one of the few intelligent minds in the music-biz, was praising them. NME was claiming the next big thing (I know, that happens weekly) and the album was topping the charts.
I could have missed something at the Astoria and I promised myself to give them another chance.
The occasion arrived when the umpteenth NME “Rock’n’Roll and something else tour” (I guess this time was Riot) touched Cambridge.
The Enemy are headlining. This time it’s a smaller venue, it’s their tour with their teens. No doubt, a better feel.
The loud set opened with “Away from here” the best song of their debut and closed, less than one hour later, with last single and second catchy tune “You’re not alone”. In the middle all the other songs of their undeveloped repertoire which, I must admit, are not as captivating.
This lousy mp3 age inevitably delivers a couple of singles to download whilst albums are loaded with ineffective fillers.
From the pit, the Enemy look like a new millennium, smaller version of Paul Weller’s Jam. Not only because of the clear influences that fit their music 100% into Brit-mod-pop-rock followers, they are also look-alikes. Bass player mimics Manics’ Nicky both walking randomly on the stage and singing the verses far from the microphone, luckily he does not dress up.
Youngsters identifies with them. Crowd goes wild to any metallic sharp chords coming out of the singer’s telecaster, many surfcrowd in attempt to reach their idols on stage, everyone is singing choruses and precious and forbidden pints -“No ID? No drink!”- are thrown in the air. It’s hormones fuelled youth, nothing new really.
New was instead my attention to the lyrics. I was captivated by some lines of “We’ll live and die in these towns” which my yet imperfect English didn’t entirely grasp. I surfed the net to check it out. I discovered one of the most perfect pictures of “Working class – England 2007” put in verses.
The Enemy are not just a bunch of neglected teenagers. I now understand Nicky Wire esteem. This is the mod-rock version of Martin Parr pictures, this is the mod-rock soundtrack of Ken Loach cinema.
This is quintessence of modern-day nihilism, capitalism wasting its own products in front of a TV, revolution prevented by take-away curries…this is their song:
“We’ll live and die in these towns”
“You spend your time in smokey rooms
where haggled old women with cheap perfume say
“it never happens for people like us, you know”
well nothing ever happened on it’s own,
and well, the toilets smell of desperation
the streets all echo of aggregation,
and you wonder why you can’t get no sleep
when you’ve got nothing to do,
and you’ve had nothing to eat.
your life’s slipping
and sliding right out of view
and there’s absolutely nothing
that you can do, well”
“Dirty dishes from a TV meal
that went cold from the wind
through a smashed up window.
You can’t go out if anybody calls ya
cos you can’t have a bath
when there’s no hot water,
and your friends are out
on the town again,
and you ask yourself if it will ever end
and it’s all too much for your head to take
just a matter of time before you break, well”
Concert Photography is not only a question of how to take good pictures in those brief 10 minutes of “3 songs no flash” policy. It’s also about how to bring those pictures back home safe.
When you are standing on a pit just before an energetic act is starting, when few thousands of bouncy teenagers get excited behind you with a half-full pint in hand to get rid of, when the lights go down, it is important you know what is unquestionably happening. Unfortunately they aren’t anymore flowers or bras, nowadays pints are the favourite homage sent to the bands when they enter the stage. Artists usually don’t welcome it, but that is not the point. The point is that you will be there exactly in that moment and, be surprised, your cameras don’t drink beer!
You will not avoid the bubbly, sticky shower, so your goal, beyond shooting, is saving your stuff.
Get all you need with you, put all the unnecessary in your bag, put the bag well buried under the stage, on a side. Stand in the pit, always back to the crowd even while walking. Don’t turn, that is the moment beer arrives! Don’t keep a camera on your side while using another; your body is the only barrier between you and the beer throwing base, use it. Security guys are busy catching the flying surfcrowders you are only a hindrance to them and they don’t have time to help you. Don’t even ask for help. Enjoy and good luck!