One of Newcastle’s most beloved venues turns 10 on Wednesday and to celebrate they’re having a good old fashioned birthday party complete with cake, pass the parcel and more North East bands than you could shake a stick at. Ok, so I made the cake and games bit up, but either way it’s going to be a great night as we see Newcastle music scene veterans Little Comets grace the main stage as the headline act on a bill which also holds Hyde and Beast, Du Blonde and many more.
Music Editor Dominique Daly got the chance to chat with Rob from Little Comets ahead of the big birthday bash to talk all things 02 Academy and see what the venue means to the band.
Do you remember the first time you played the O2 as a band?
I think the first time we played would have been upstairs in the second room and it was a really big thing for us because we had played loads of littler rooms around Newcastle but that was like the first proper venue that we had really played. I think it was a Friday night, they used to put a club night on there and every week they’d have a local band on. So yeah, that was the first time.
Did it go well?
Well, at 12 O’clock on a Friday night it can be tough but I think sometimes it can go down well. I think if it’s got a bass drum people will dance to it but we have done gigs in the past at that time of night where the DJ kind of tries to blow you off stage before you go on by playing like the biggest songs from the last 5 years. But you just get on with it.
As a band you mean a lot to both Newcastle’s history and the O2 Newcastle’s history, so what does it mean for you to be headlining this 10 year anniversary show?
It’s lovely. I think we’ve done EP launches there before and we always tend to end our tours there. I think the first time we played the main room that was really special for us as well and it’s not just playing there we’ve watched lots of gigs there too. And the staff there always take really good care of us there as well; they’re just nice people and they’ve really helped us quite a bit over the years. So, when they asked us to play it was lovely because you think of all the bands that have played there over the years. But I think it says a lot about the venue that so many of the bands on there are bands from the North East. I think that’s really a positive thing that they can afford to say look, we’re just going to have a bill that’s entirely made up of North East Bands.
Have you got anything special planned for your birthday set? Is anyone planning to jump out of a cake or do some Marylyn Monroe style singing?
Well! Matt, our new keyboard player is a lift technician, so he might wire up something so that we can sort of rise up on to the stage, maybe with a birthday cake. But it depends if the budget stretches that far.
I feel like that would be worth the expense!
Oh yeah! And like obviously he would leave it in position so bands in the future could use it as well. It could become a feature of the Academy!
So how’s the new album been going down since its release in February?
Yeah we did a tour, and ended it with a Newcastle gig, we played quite a bit of it then. People seem to like it, they sing along. It’s hard because like, they’re not songs like the songs off the first album where people just go completely mad. We’ve changed quite a bit as a band so people don’t take them in the same way. So they don’t exactly have the raucous response that something like ‘Dancing Song’ gets but I think it’s nice for people who have come to watch us. They seem to be passionate people who seem to know the words to even the more obscure songs. So it’s quite nice that in one gig we have the emotions of people going crazy but then also people just listening quite intently. Either that or they’re just bored!
Do you miss the old days of guerilla gigs on the metro or in college cafes?
I think we still play a lot of smaller rooms, especially in other countries but I think when we started doing that and just like messaging people on Facebook saying like “can we come play at your house party?”, we learnt a lot. I mean when somebody is standing in front of you, you just have to find a way for your music to connect. I think that’s the challenge of playing live; it’s all about the moment. I think we learnt so much from that; we still have that approach even when we play larger venues, it’s still about trying to make the music connect with people so they remember things about the gig.
Over the years as well, from the gigs that have been our favourites there hasn’t been a correlation between the venue sizes and how much we enjoy a gig. It might be a glance that you get off someone in the audience or something might happen on stage. That’s where the magic comes from as opposed to the size of the crowd or venue. It’s quite hard to describe. I mean it’s nice to go and play the Academy, but not because of the size of the room. It has a lot of memories for us, because we’ve played sort of every venue in Newcastle and we don’t often look back but when we play on that stage we’re kind of forced to. Because we know the city so well and the music of the city so well and because we’ve played everywhere its always really retrospective when we are playing that venue. You have to think about the last six or seven years. So I think that’s what we tend to have, a more emotional connection to the venue or a place when we play.
What would your favourite non-Little Comets related memory of the O2 Academy Newcastle be? Any drunken fumbles in the cloak rooms?
I think my favourite memory of when we weren’t playing was when we played there with Catfish and the Bottlemen at the start of the year and I was watching their set from the side of the stage. We had seen them play the Cluny about 6 months earlier and I was amazed at how the authenticity of that performance was still the same in a really big venue as it was in a small venue. Seeing how people were really emotionally involved in their music, and how it had grown in the intervening period. But also how it had stayed the same, it hadn’t been corrupted or there weren’t any tricks; just the venue was bigger. Watching the people react, because like watching it from behind stage you can really see the audience. When we are on stage and the audience are there you don’t really take it in that much but watching someone else perform you see. Well, I think that was one of the nicest moments I’ve had in the Academy. Knowing the journey they’d been on as well to get to that point in their career.
That’s so nice.
Since it’s the big 10 for the Academy, we were wondering if you could buy the 02 Academy any present what it would be?
Sure we’re getting them a lift on to the stage already! I think if we smash up one of the dressing rooms and install all the gear then definitely that!
And finally, who from the bill are you excited to see play?
We’ve played loads of times with Tessera Skies, but they’ve been under different names. We know the lads really well and we haven’t seen them in years so it would be lovely to see them again.