As The Coral gear up for phase two of their resurgence, the band’s Nick Power shares a captivating extract from his tour diary, where a post-gig night in Birmingham descends into a kebab-house brawl.
It’s been quite the year for The Coral. After over half a decade away, save for the release of ‘lost’ album The Curse of Love, those on Merseyside and beyond had all but lost hope that the Wirral favourites’ full-fledged return was on the cards.
Late last year, however, came the news we’d all been waiting for; The Coral were back, properly back, with a new album, tour and headline set at Sound City in tow.
“We wouldn’t release anything if we didn’t think it wasn’t up to standard” the band’s Nick Power told Getintothis in an exclusive chat as the news broke. “We just wouldn’t do it. If you’ve got nothing to say then don’t say it because otherwise you’re clogging up the airwaves.”, and in the coming months the band duly delivered on all fronts.
The Coral‘s eighth LP proper, Distance Inbetween, served as a fine addition to an already astounding discography, while the band powered through a complete Sound City soundsystem collapse for a homecoming we called “a triumph, though not quite the one expected. But to simply get over the line, these five Liverpool lads should be hailed as heroes – tonight will be one reflected upon in years…”
Though it felt like the completion of unfinished business, a return from one of the city’s recent great’s to the forefront of a scene they helped to burgeon once more, the The Coral train continued to hurtle forward. With a new tour – which includes a second homecoming date at The Olympia – on the cards, and a slew of festival dates already under their newly-buckled belt, it’s all things go once more.
For an exclusive insight into life on the road for a band very much in the midst of a considerable second wind, the band’s Nick Power has gifted Getintothis an extract from his diaries that’s part fascinating insight into their resurgence, part Bacchanalian blur of Midlands madness, as a post-gig DJ set descends into drunken brawls, mistaken identity and the world’s most potent kebab…
Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke
‘Fear and Loathing in Brum’
We jackknife straight through Birmingham. Right across its belly. It’s four in the afternoon and we should have been at the festival site an hour ago.
From the motorway, we convulse through the city centre and continue for another couple of miles until the road narrows and becomes greener, studded with tall, weeping oak trees, and you realise you’re on something like a country estate, some anomaly of the city; a green oasis amid a sea of concrete. I never knew this place existed. It’s beautiful. There’s a lake with black swans gliding atop the water; trees shimmering with lights and bunting. It’s more like something from The Great Gatsby. A high society party on a Louisiana cotton plantation in the thirties, possibly.
Mosely Park is privately owned, part of a former estate called Mosely Hall. According to their own information, it was rebuilt in 1792 after the Birmingham riots and ‘the mob’ made a wreck of the place, burning the hall down completely. Today, nearby residents and trustees stage the event themselves. There is a certain pride about the place you don’t see at other festivals. You get the feeling that most exist to rinse as much money from people as is humanly possible.
We drink around a dining room table in a small tent backstage. We’re all feeling slightly seasick as the floor is on a gruesome slant. Scott Judge chips in, “Where the fuck are The Levellers when you need them?”
I’m staying in Birmingham on my own tonight. I’ve set up a DJ spot at a new club called The Night Owl, which specialises in Northern Soul, and the promoter has come to pick me up and take me to the club. We’ve come off stage and the dressing room is packed with people. It’s our last festival of the year and people are making a night of it. Even our tour manager Big John gave up driving duties for the night and is supping from tall bottles of lager. Phil Etheridge from The Twang is here with his wife, and Paul and Greg from Skeleton Key band The Cut Glass Kings.
The crowd dissipates eventually and Paul, Greg, me, and the promoter from The Night Owl jump a cab into town.
You know when when a night takes on a kind of live-wire edge? It has that inexplicable feeling. Like the whole thing could turn on the strike of a match.
The DJ spot is a blur of lights and distortions, and while the club is great, I’m not sure what tunes I’m playing by the end of the set, around two a.m. That’s how these things usually go- you’re pretty much on your own in a city you don’t live in and do you do what you have to do to survive- drink, take whatever to get you some Dutch courage.
We’re in a club called Snobs next, somehow, on a high street somewhere. It’s one of those places that has about four floors- a maze of roof terraces, rooms and staircases. It’s impossible to get out of.
I’m in hat, jacket and boots with a military bag containing all my music and overnight stuff, a sweaty mess on the dancefloor. The floor itself – everywhere – is seemingly covered in black ice and it’s impossible to stay upright for more than five seconds at a time. I turn to Greg and say, “It’s like an assault course in here”, to which he replies, “Worse. It’s like The Running Man!”
After an hour I decide on impulse to make a break for it without saying my goodbyes as I’m yet to check into my hotel and it’s near enough four o’clock. I make a sharp exit, navigating the labyrinth stairwell system on instinct alone.
I’m standing on the fourteenth floor of my hotel now, looking down on a huge roundabout that is hemmed by a row of bright kebab houses and takeaways.
I’m still pretty wired, so decide to head over there, have a smoke, maybe force something to eat. The lift seems to be stuck between floors so I take the stairs.
At the bright takeaway terrace, two beautiful fat black women are arguing with each other. One of them is halfway out of the door and wants the other to follow her outside for a remonstration. Both of them are enormous.
“Seeka, come. Come outside Seeka. Come. Talk to me Seeka.”
“My name’s not even Seeka, it’s Raelle.”
“You don’t even know my name.”
“Come talk to me.”
I duck into the adjacent kebab house to avoid what I think is about to happen. I order chicken doner and chips, for no real reason. I’m not even hungry.
The next thing that happens is a blur of bodies burst through the door like a wrecking ball. Bright colours and bracelets and hair beads. Huge arms flailing, throwing uppercuts and haymakers. The women are brawling. Ballsy, no-holds-barred street fighting. It’s an amazing sight. I’m glued to it, as is everybody in here. Most of them have vacated their seats and are observing from the back wall. The women don’t let up from one another. A whole table goes belly-up. They’re covered in blood, both of them, before they both bundle back outside.
I turn around to see my meal in front of me. The man behind the counter is completely unfazed. He’s laughing to himself. “Life’s too short, my friend.”
I nod and grab the polystyrene box of chips, dodge dark puddles of blood on the floor and make my way back across the roundabout to my hotel.
On my way up to the room, a man who looks exactly like Uri Geller sits on the stairs, picking at his bare left foot with a pair of tweezers.
Back on the double bed, I munch at the chips and doner meat, but the fucking salt and chilli sauce are so potent that my heart is racing, as if I’ve necked some new synthetic drug, like Nuke from Robocop ll. Eventually I nod off, but I think it’s getting into the early hours.
I wake up to see the outline of two fellas standing at the end of my bed. They whisper at first:
“Churchy wake up.”
“Is that Churchy?”
One of them pulls at the quilt and then shakes my feet. I open my eyes and spring forward as if waking from a nightmare.
“What the fuck!”
“Fuck, it’s not Churchy.”
They run out of the room, leaving the door slightly ajar, bright electric light from the corridor beaming onto the bed like a helicopter searchlight.
After locking the door behind them I sit up in bed for a time, wondering what just happened, all of it, the whole night.
And that’s how the festival season ended.
Birmingham, August 21, 2016