The Brixton Academy Syndrome.

The early nineties was a great time for gigs, groups seemed to tour regularly and on top of album promoting tours there always seemed to be a benefit gig to go to. They quite often threw up some great line-ups. One such example occurred on November the 29th at Brixton Academy, a benefit for the Terrence Higgins Trust. It was one of those you didn’t want to miss, for a reasonable ticket price you could see the New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Stereo MCs, Billy Bragg, That Petrol Emotion and the headliner, James. Some of my favourite groups all together for the night. And Stereo MCs.

So naturally two tickets were purchased and Pete and I headed to South London for the evening. As is traditional we had a beer or two before taking up our positions downstairs. The gig itself was as good as we had expected with the New FADs (do people still call them this?) opening the evening. I’ve got some of their singles that they released during 1990, I’m guessing it was this gig that pointed me in their direction.

Up next, the Stereo MCs. I think at one point the lead singer stuck his mic out to towards the crowd and gave a ‘Hello London!’. This was met with virtual silence. Awkward.

It was around this time that Pete and I both thought it was a good time to pop out and go to the toilets. Now as far as I’m aware you have a choice toilet wise, there are some right at the front by the side of the stage and then some in the foyer at the rear of the venue. This was the easier option so off we headed.

For a venue that holds around five thousand people I always thought that the toilet provision was bit poor. Unsurprisingly, as we pushed open the double doors, there was a long queue snaking out from the small door leading to the gents. Now I appreciative this won’t garner much sympathy from female readers who, from what I can observe, seem to have to queue for toilets all the time. For us blokes it isn’t usually an issue. The only thing we normally have to worry about is avoiding getting piss on our shoes. Something I guess women don’t have to concern themselves with. Anyway, we joined the queue and slowly shuffled along the sticky carpet at regular intervals. After what seemed to be an age we eventually got close to the door, the unmistakable smell of a gig venue toilet wafted out the door.

We squeezed into the doorway, the toilets themselves are the opposite of Dr Who’s Tardis. They’re a lot smaller than you think they’re going to be. There was no room to move with blokes trying to squeeze past to get out as you tried to squeeze in looking to locate that elusive space in front of a urinal.

Eventually we both got back outside into the relative fresh air and headed back into the auditorium. As we took up our positions we both said “I couldn’t go” at the same time. I’m not sure why, as we were both bursting for a piss. Probably something to do with being squeezed up against loads of other people, who knows? Anyway, since then not being able to go for a piss in a public toilet has been known as the ‘Brixton Academy Syndrome’.

The Stereo MCs eventually finished their set and on came Billy Bragg. I think it was just him and his guitar which to be honest is my favourite Bragg set-up. Following Billy came That Petrol Emotion, a group who always put on a great show. I’d imagine it was a strong set, especially as they’d released the rather good ‘Chemicrazy’ earlier in the year.

I was really looking forward to seeing the headliners, James. I wouldn’t have called myself a fan back then. I knew of them and they were on my radar having purchased ‘Village Fire’ and ‘One Man Clapping’ but unlike most groups that I got into I hadn’t felt the urge to purchase everything they’d released. Seeing them live made me realise that maybe I should have done. They were a revelation. Their set, and subsequent ones I’ve been lucky enough to see, are akin to some religious experience. Apart from possibly R.E.M I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group with such a positive, joyous vibe. I can’t track down a set-list but I do know I left the venue converted and made a mental note to get down to HMV sharpish.

Next up, 1991 including The Wedding Present at Wembley Arena. Yes really.

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