Travis is one of those bands I’ve never been sure whether I should admit I love. Some people seem to think Fran and co are at odds with most of my other tastes (though some of them just make no sense at all), but the fact is that Travis came first. As one of the first bands I really got into, I couldn’t not finally see them live once they were in my neck of the woods. Literally. As part of the Forestry Commision Tour, Westonbirt in Gloucestershire was visited; a beautiful part of the world and a fantastic venue for a good slice of indie.
The mood was incredibly relaxed, the clientele spanning generations, the oldest of which had to sit further back if they had camping chairs, or just wanted to protect the kids’ ears. We, the huddled masses, parked ourselves near the wood chippings that revealed the blessed golden circle, and waited happily in the sun, eating Jaffa Cakes (just after buying my ‘Selfish Jean’ t-shirt, too. Look up the video, you’ll understand).
We were expecting a band called Juno Falls, but either the solitary man that turned up called himself Juno Falls, or the others had failed to turn up, we couldn’t be sure, seeing as he introduced himself as “Miles from Juno Falls”. A lovely boy, he was thoroughly chuffed to be there, and had a marvellous voice, but his songs consisted mainly of anguished wails, which ruined it somewhat. If he does have a band the rest of the time, I think the overall sound would be better.
The Hours were something utterly different. Friendly and energetic, they had people swarming towards the wood chippings, very much interested in their heavy indie with a wonderfully dramatic hint of piano. The singer was particularly appreciative of our support, and we of their music. They seemed to enjoy getting us revved up for Travis, and left the stage far too late telling us we were in for a treat. Well, we knew that…
Having heard sound checking run-throughs in the car park (difficult to muffle in an arboretum), we felt like we’d had a taster already, and were hungry for more. A bizarre array of music was played over the stereo while a rather huge flock of roadies cleared things up, and people started to pack close. We hit that ace moment when a song stops half way, and after ten seconds doesn’t come back… When you know that the band are coming. The Rocky theme tune blared, and we waited. And waited. I could hear cheering from behind, but why… Oh, THAT’S why. Four little Scottish men in brightly coloured satin boxing gowns shuffling their way through the crowd, high fiving everyone around them… An ingenious entrance, I must say, though being near the front I didn’t see them until the last minute.
Glowing, the band bounced up on the stage (Fran wearing my ‘Art, Music, Jaffa Cakes’ t-shirt, and Dougie wearing a waistcoat, making me become very fond of him), and launched into the magnificent newest single ‘Selfish Jean’, getting an excitable crowd jumping right from the start. People refuse to believe me now, but they are one of THE most energetic, fun, friendly and lively bands I have ever seen. Yes, I know they’re a veteran indie band, but it has been known to happen.
They played a delicious mix of their oldest hits, several from the new album (the best so far, an exceptional record), and chatted to us whenever possible, getting us involved – something that will always get a band in my good books. A little gentle abuse went on too, as Fran got us to pressure their stand-in pianist when he did his tinkly solo by shouting his name – Claus – over and over again. Then we had to do it to Neil, after he broke his titanium drum peddle! There was an incredible atmosphere there, feeling like all several thousand of us had been invited to a private party. And Travis were wonderful hosts.
A particularly fabulous moment was the band huddling together at the front of the stage, busking to ‘Flowers In The Window’, encouraging us as always to sing along. Andy had calmed somewhat by that point, having spent most of the gig having a serious private rocking-out session. Dougie was the opposite, calm and exuding pure cool. Neil soldiered on in the background, gaining some extra respect from me – you need to see a band live to appreciate the drumming fully. Fran was just such a happy little pixie, you couldn’t help but want to take him home and coddle him.
They gave a hint towards what their next single might be – something from the new album called ‘Battleships’ – though almost all of the songs on that could potentially be singles. Only that, ‘Closer’, and ‘My Eyes’ were played from ‘The Boy With No Name’, along with ‘Selfish Jean’. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they didn’t only try to flog their new record, but gave us what they knew we’d want. ‘All I Want To Do Is Rock’ was eagerly received; a song from the very first and not very well-known album, something heavy and drawn-out, un-Travis but much loved.
As night fell, lights washed over us, a glorious band played, and it just couldn’t have been a better evening. They loved us, and we loved them, it was pure equal give-and-take. One of the very best gigs I’ve ever been to, I would recommend seeing that modest little groups of Scots to anyone and everyone.