Sam won a ticket to see Supergrass at South Facing Festival the 20th of August, but he couldn’t go because he had to attend a dinner party, lol. When he offered to chuck me the free ticket, I was keen.
After a warm up beer, I got a taxi to Crystal Palace Bowl. I’d not bothered to research what South Facing Festival actually was, and assumed Crystal Palace Bowl was a big cricket stadium of some sort. I was delighted, then, to find an outdoor festival: bass on the breeze, and the shimmers of distant guitars and mic squawks spiralling overhead.
Inside the arena I bought a couple of beers and sat on the grass to watch the bands. Cribs were already playing, booming out over the field. The Jarman brothers have aged well, and remain as lithe and likeable as ever. There’s something enormously endearing about their sunny Wakefield accents and fuck-it-all approach to harmonies.
I nodded along to Men’s Needs, then wandered down to the front for the last couple of tracks. I was happy just to be there. I don’t remember the last live gig I saw, and it was pleasant to be outside again, clutching a can before a stage.
Weirdly, it didn’t feel… weird. Throughout the pandemic, along with the rest of the nation, I’d dreamt of the euphoria of that very first gig and the sweet chaos of it all. Watching Cribs tumble around the stage, I tried to remind myself of how long it had been and how lucky I was, but to be honest it all felt so very natural that it was hard to remember there ever having been a pandemic.
Before their last couple of tracks Ryan Jarman gave a heartfelt speech to the crowd.
“I thought we’d never get the chance to do this again,” he said, to a lot of loving cheers.
In the interlude before Supergrass came on I wandered away and made a few friends at the back of the arena. While sitting on a bench, I watched a bearded, copper-haired man approach a picnic table full of people to ask if he could sit down for a second to rest his feet. They said no, blaming COVID. The bearded guy looked a little embarrassed, so I went over and told him he could sit with me instead.
We got talking: he was called Shane, from Ireland, and his girlfriend – she arrived after with beers – was called Harriet. We talked about music and our fave bands, and when Supergrass lit up the stage they grabbed me by my elbows and marched me into the crowd to dance with them at the front.
I’ve seen Supergrass live once before: at Old Trafford in 2007, supporting Amy Winehouse and the Arctic Monkeys. I didn’t know any of their music at the time, and didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to their set – I was 14 years old man, I just wanted to sing along to I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor at the top of my lungs.
I was surprised, then, when Supergrass knocked it out of the damn park. The crowd was appreciative and boisterous – particularly Shane and Harriet, who were swinging each other around and whooping and hollering to every track.
Since the gig I’ve listened to a few Supergrass tracks on Spotify, and they’re good, but live there was another level of oomph. The chords had more crunch, the vocals had more lift. My favourite part, naturally, was Pumping On Your Stereo, which they saved for the encore. Up until that point my dancing had been the classic none-committal sip ‘n’ way. At the end, loosened up a little by the booze and by the couple’s gleeful energy, I was thrilled to have a proper boogie, bopping around like a duck in choppy waters.
Dry ice, beams of light, wailing guitars, a mashed-in drum kit, cans underfoot and marijuana smoke on the breeze: what more could you ask for?