She Drew The GunNear Normal @ Future Yard 19/9/20
We’re all counting how many months since the last gig we went to. Seven, eight months is a common refrain, worn as a medal of war or endurance. The bedroom, kitchen, front room Insta shows of late Spring from singers in their slippers served well for the moment, and the later ones broadcast from the very venues where we’re used to having our feet firmly planted on the ground were, and are, strangely comforting. Watching Working Men’s Club in the basement of Manchester’s YES from my house kicked muscle memory into action, the familiar and distinct smells of the room filling my own nostrils.
But no, it’s not the same, is it? Treading water. Waiting for the real thing. The first one back in the saddle was never going to be average, no matter what. At Future Yard’s inaugural event, the stage is to be christened by local heroes SHE DREW THE GUN. What sweet irony indeed that the first venue on Merseyside to open its doors and offer indoor shows to be in Birkenhead.
The Wirral peninsula’s live music offerings are typically a blanket of covers bands and tribute acts so, not to over egg the pudding, this day from dawn onwards feels revolutionary and unreal. I’m actually going to a gig and it’s in Birkenvegas, but the big emotional jolt is that a reduced-capacity, 60-strong audience suddenly seems an awful lot of people. It feels pertinent to touch base with She Drew The Gun’s Louisa Roach in the morning to see if her feelings about tonight chime with mine. They do, as it turns out.
“It will be a lot less full than a normal gig, but it will still be the most people I’ve been in a room with since lockdown happened. And certainly the most people I’ve had a shared experience with for all this time,” she said. “Even coming to the venue and seeing the crew all working on getting the venue ready, and setting my gear up on stage, you don’t realise how much you miss those things.”
That notion of community and shared experience is apparent once evening comes and the doors are open and warm smiles welcome us in at staggered times, safety first. Everything is new and shiny. The toilets smell of fresh paint. Social media replaces chat at the bar, and proves to be surprisingly effective. Ordering drinks through the app gets them brought to individual pods within an inspirational two minutes. Maybe all our settings have been readjusted to fit our phones. Maybe we’re all robots now. Either way, it works.
She Drew The Gun enter the stage promptly as promised, to the most grateful and well behaved audience in the history of the world. Roach straps on her guitar and launches into the ever uncompromising Resister. Is the Revolution Of Mind album really only two years ago? So much has happened since then. It’s not until Something For The Pain that the realisation finally hits: this is happening, we’re standing in a room with living, breathing people around us, artist on stage, and we’re here for good times. It’s breaking the seal, popping the cork, hips swaying all around – firmly inside designated pods, of course. It might be just me, but have She Drew The Gun become way more danceable than I remember? We’re not meant to dance, forbidden fruit, but surely a little shuffle from foot to foot can do no harm?
Arm Yourself has always been a call to arms of rebellion, yet tonight it’s a celebration instead (“So we dance dance dance dance…”) and even as I’m thinking this I realise what I’m doing is pulling out Louisa’s words, phrases and applying them to now, me, this very minute. That’s a tribute to her wordsmithery in part, but a need at this end to cement this experience.
The Independent Venue Week poem from earlier in the year doesn’t need reading tonight, the audience is living its narrative already; but when Roach recites it, it’s a confirmation and underscore of what’s happening. The references to Birkenhead and “all in your hometown you don’t have to go far” raises a chuckle, tied in with thoughts of the hundreds of times Wirralians have struggled home from Liverpool on the wild west chaos that is the night bus after a late finish gig. No one leaves here tonight thinking they’ll never worry about losing their shirt bagging a taxi home from town ever again, but it sure as hell feels like a start.