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When the Roses came to Warrington......

I'm sat In the Lounge Bar, Warrington. The barman has just told me he's been offered £50 plus a Heaton Park ticket, by a young lad, in exchange for his wristband.  A lot of people are having their first taste of being a ticket tout today and who can blame them? This is one of the strangest Wednesdays I've experienced.  It feels like I've entered a parallel universe, or dream state and at any moment I'm going to wake up.  Or worse, maybe I died this morning and this is the final party! You know, a bit like that series 'Lost'.  [have I spoiled it?]

 I receive a text message from Andy, managing editor of Mudkiss Fanzine, who asks 'how are your writing skills, apart from songs.  Fancy you or the missus writing a review for us tonight?' I have a theory that reviewing bands and being a musician shouldn't mix.  If you can go and critique someone's music, in public view, yet be a more musician yourself, what does that say?  It takes a balance, one that I've not discovered yet, but on this particular occasion I accept the role as Mudkiss Trojan Horse!  Normal rules don't apply today.  Why? Well The Stone Roses are coming to or hometown, Warrington, and no-one can quite believe it. This will act as more of a diary of our day, as I'm sure other people may have similar stories and can relate to it.  I'm not tunnel visioned or lovestruck when it comes to bands so I'll try and make this as honest account of my experience. 

Our adventure began much earlier today, around 1pm when I received an email from Phoenix brother Craig Harman.  He'd heard the rumour via someone, via someone who'd already been given a wristband due to inside knowledge.  Sat in my 7th floor office block, in the centre of Manchester doing my day job, I felt immediately ill at the thought of this! The thought that I was in Manchester the Roses may be in Warrington, what irony.  I phoned my missus Jo.  "ok... I've heard a rumour.  If its true, you need to leave work as soon as you can and get to the Parr Hall"  This wasn't possible... she, like me, was stuck.  She later told me she thought I was going to tell her to leave work because of 'one of your crazy conspiracy theories!' I laughed.  No, but one day I will. This phone conversation began a whole sequence of communication between myself, Jo, Craig, and our newly hired scout 'Lisa' who Jo had instructed to head to the Parr Hall and see what was going on.  She'd been in one of the local pubs so was perfectly placed to act as or eyes and ears on the ground.  We had formed the A-Team. 

Lisa returned with the news that something was definitely going on.  Security and barriers had appeared and after repeatedly questioning an anonymous person, she managed to discover these facts; it was 1 ticket per person, you needed a piece of merchandise, and it was a free gig.  The biggest clue? She spotted someone official with the words STONE ROSES on their security badge, who'd promptly covered it up when questioned.  Shit... This was really happening wasn't it?! I passed the news onto Craig.  He sounded depressed, he was also stuck... I went into Auto-Pilot and approached my boss.  'I need a favour...' before even asking she replied 'no you can't go home because its sunny!' [shit!] I told her exactly why I needed to leave and before I knew it, I was rushing out the door to Oxford Road train station to head back to Warrington.  Thank god she has musical taste. 

The time was now 2pm and I was back in Warrington, I met up with a newly released Jo and we headed to the Parr Hall.  We bumped into Ant & Liam from music production chaos unit 'China White', I knew that they knew, and they knew that I knew.  We joked 'here for the clone roses are you!?' all in all there was about 20/30 people 'hanging around' that also knew.  Liam had been there since 8am soaking up the sun, he'd known for some time but hadn't said a word to anyone.  The atmosphere was building and building, you could feel it growing in the air. Unsure whether the 'you need to bring two pieces of merchandise' rumour was true, we couldn't take any chances and headed straight to HMV.  We've both a stack of Stone Roses merchandise at home, but there was no time to fetch it! It was panic buying time for sure.  Arriving at HMV we soon discovered the Stone Roses CD collection had been completely sold out…. another sign.  We spotted some Stone Roses posters [positioned near the counter] and bought two each. 

The time was now just after 3pm.  We were both dying to get out of our work clothes as we sat outside the Palmyra bar with Liam, soaking up the immense sunshine and enjoying a cold pint of beer waiting to see what would happen next.  There were more people around now, but it still hadn't leaked, a check of twitter confirmed this - nothing, bar 1 tweet.  What happened next has to be the funniest part.  Sat enjoying my pint, I scanned over the posters we'd just bought.  They were all wrapped up and sealed but you could see on the barcode the word Stone Roses.  I looked closer, one appeared to be different.  I stared again in disbelief... "NOOO!!! ONE FUCKING DIRECTION!!!!!" Yep... Somehow those little pop tarts had infiltrated the poster box and contaminated the goods!! "SHIT!" I legged it back to HMV and burst through the door "what the hell are you trying to do to me?? Sort it!" every Stone Roses item they possessed was now on the counter ready to be sold.  I ran back with the exchanged poster...

The time is now 3:45pm and about 60 of us are queued up in the car park of the Pyramid Centre (ticket office for the parr hall) and more of our friends turn up.  Our queue place secured (how selfish!)  we'd started to let the cat out of the bag and informed the people we knew were dedicated fans about what was happening.  An official appears, announcing we are now going to be led into the car park and must follow strict instructions.  We are given a raffle ticket and a matching stamp on the back of our hands, separated into different lines and we await instruction... He then delivers a piece of news that nearly kills half of us.  "I have just been informed that it is ONLY official merchandise and NO POSTERS"  BOOM! A shockwave hits half the crowd.  Fuck.  I feel sick again... What happens next is a minor frenzy as people desperately rock back and forth like entrapped elephants caught in a spin.  Another official appears, not with the Parr Hall, and delivers the following announcement. 

I feel really sick now. The gig has just been officially announced to the world, detailing what is required to get in.  Of course we didn't hear it, we'd been here well before the rest of the world knew about it! We contemplate getting a taxi back home, contemplate mugging someone, anything! For reasons unknown I circle the crowd looking for answers, looking for a solution.  Out of the corner of my eye I spot Phoenix brother Craig who has managed to get here! I run up to him and his bag of treasured vinyl.  WE HAVE BEEN SAVED. Before we know it, we're heading into the venue to collect our wristbands.  TV cameras are filming us as we collect them, the atmosphere is joyous and the dream is becoming a reality.  We head out of the exit and bump straight into, brilliant, director Shane Meadows, with camera crew in tow, who is making a documentary about the Roses reunion.  Jo asks Shane Meadows if it's for the 'Shane Meadows documentary!' Shane Meadows confirms it is, without revealing his identity, and we chat about what this means to us, for Warrington, and many other questions I can't remember in the haze.  The Stone Roses were no longer a part of history for us to read about, we were now part of that story.  With our mission secured we now breathe... It was time to back home, get changed and ready so we can head straight back out to enjoy INSANE WEDNESDAY.  While getting changed we listen to 6music.  All the talk is about the gig announcement, Warrington, the Parr Hall and the Roses.  We laugh, christ this is amazing.

It's 6pm now and we're in the Lounge where I'd just been asked to do this review.  A limousine drives past with fans in hot pursuit trying to get a picture.  It pulls up outside and the door opens.  The woman who was celebrating her 60th birthday must have been delighted and surprised she had suddenly become famous!! Things were starting to get crazy.  We bump into a few familiar faces from Manchester in the lounge. Inder Goldfinger [percussionist of Ian Brown and China White] walks past.  We spot John Robb, with entourage, heading into the venue.  I spot Dermo from factory records band 'Northside' and we catch up.  It's great to see people we've not seen for a while and makes a change for them to be in Warrington and not Manchester.  We attempt to record some kind of video diary for you, but the atmosphere is becoming too electric to make anything even remotely coherent! It's time to head over to the venue.  We're interviewed by Q magazine and a few others en-route.  An NME photographer is told in no uncertain terms where to put his camera and did he even know this town existed before today? Off you go lad... back to school. We enter the Parr Hall and head straight to the bar, spotting more familiar faces.  Shit maybe I did die this morning?! It's all becoming a little bit freaky. 

The time is 9:20pm and we are stood in the crowd just in-front of the sound desk.  It's heaving and the atmosphere is of Carnival proportions.  No matter where you stand in the Parr Hall you have a great view, it's a cracking little venue.  We hear the chants of 'Liam! Liam!' and look above to our left to see Liam Gallagher wave and take to his seat in the balcony section.  This is a real buzz and reminds me of my youth.  I was 16 years old when I watched Oasis at Knebworth Park.  That was a big thing for me and restarted my passion for playing guitar and being in a band after my initial Jimi Hendrix induction at 12yrs old.  The legend of Noel and Liam watching the Stone Roses and coming away influenced to start a band is well known.  Now we were both here simply as fans ready to enjoy another slice of history.  Synchronicity is a wonderful thing. 

The time is 9:30pm and all of todays rushing backwards and forth, the stress and joy of securing the wristbands, and everything else in-between comes to fruition when for the first time in 22 years, The Stone Roses walk on stage to the loudest and most joyous roar I can ever recall.  This is it! Sometimes you don't accept you're going on holiday until you actually land.  Well 1100 of us just landed in the centre of the universe. We hear the driving bassline from Mani of 'I wanna be Adored' and every note, nuance, vocal and solo is sung by the crowd.  To some this might be annoying but this was, quite rightly, as Ian Brown later put it, 'living in the moment' and no time for complaining or even worse 'making rules at a Roses gig'.  Adored is absolutely electric and Ian's vocals are spot on.  I've seen him Solo a load of times, his voice sounds stronger.   Adored felt shorter than the album version, but that could simply be because the power of this gig and crowd were fucking up time and space and making time accelerate! It felt that way.  Next up is Mersey Paradise.  Being neither Liverpool nor Manchester, yet sharing borders with both it shouldn't, but does, feel particular relevant to tonight's crowd.  Predominantly a mixture of Warringtonians, Mancs and Scousers and everyone in-between, we all join as one voice and sing this storming rendition together. 

Next myself and Craig decide our mission is to get to the front of the stage, we inform Jo and the others we are with.  So we become those annoying people that try to get to the front of the stage during a gig.  Yeah that was us,  but not just us,  this is where things get a little hazy.  We pioneer a new technique of dancing, jumping and moving in diagonal lines, thus cutting through about 10 people at a time without them really noticing, while edging closer and closer to the front.  This is made much easier by the fact the floor is actually bouncing up and down, acting as a spring board, helping to propel us even further forward. In my mind we did this very quickly, but looking at the set list afterwards we must of bounced our way through Sally Cinnamon; Made of Stone, Sugar spun sister, Where angels play and finally to Shoot you down, when we finally ended up about 20 deep from the front, only to find half our friends had the same plan, as they almost magically, appeared next to us! I was too busy following Mr Browns orders to give you an individual review of each of the songs so I'll just sum them up with "they sounded great, strong, and as fresh as you'd want them to be.  One word often used to described these songs is 'timeless', that is absolutely correct. 

Now stood near the front we have a great view of the band on stage.  They look really happy, almost shellshocked at times, and it's great to see Ian and John Squire glancing and grinning back and forth at each other.  A heart warming moment in a sea of madness.  Next they launch into probably my favourite track, 'Tightrope'.  This is an unexpected surprise.  There's a vocal wobble right at the beginning that is pretty evident, accompanied by some some kind of bass sound or vibration that may have thrown Ian slightly.  It's not the easiest song to sing anyway due to the melody, but after the short blip it's back on track and I'm flying through the air amazed that I'm hearing this live! After the track finishes I pull out my phone to take some video, remembering I'm meant to be doing some kind of review.  My short video abruptly comes to a halt when a security guy leaps up from behind the barrier and shines a torch in my face! Fair enough I just want to dance. Putting my phone away it's then that I notice a text from Jo 'where are you?! I'm on my own' it seems in the craziness everyone else we knew who stayed near the sound desk had been dispersed by the waves of people.  I make my way to the side door so I can get back to her, only suffering a few stray punches in the face.  Thanks to the way the Parr Hall is built it has a corridor around the perimeter of the venue, so I'm easily able to get back to her in time for the classic 'Waterfall' to begin. 

Back at the sound desk the sound isn't a clear as near the front.  John Squires guitar hasn't been as loud or clear as I'd of wanted [being a predominantly a guitarist!] but now the luscious tone and riff of Waterfall is clear for all to hear and the familiar baggy dance is in full flow.  This brings back memories of being 15 years old and drinking on my local park listening to it on repeat,  a memory that hadn't surfaced until this moment.  This whole gig is a memory generation machine.  Next is She Bangs the Drums.  I watch as the crowd goes insane and just for a few minutes, everything becomes punk rock as we smash against each other in full vocal flow.  This sounds absolutely amazing as the full power of the Roses backline of Mani and Reni lock into the famous groove, while squire layers it with phased chords and Ian blasts out the vocals in his unique style.  There's a short break as we are thanked for coming by Ian.  We heard it was going to be a short set and were now 10 songs in.  It's gone at super speed and the end is approaching.  I wonder what they will end with it, it seems obvious but then again, the Roses have always done things their own way.  To my utter delight the slide guitar riff of 'love spreads' erupts from the front of the venue.  This song means a lot to me.  When I was 16 and still in school I heard this song for the first time on MTV [when they played music] On the release of 'Second Coming' I bunked off school and headed to Warrington town centre to buy the album [at Andy's Records I think] and I wasn't disappointed.  Second Coming is a vastly underrated album, one of my favourites full of tribal vibes and amazing colours.  As a musician I'm more influenced by blues and tribal vibes and hip hop beats.  I would suggest this album had a large part to play in this, more so than the debut.  Love Spreads sounds great, slightly different, more raw in places with a dirtier more rootsy edge.  We listen mesmerised trying to soak up everything that has happened as the song finishes with Ian adding a rap like vocal to the end of it.  I've no idea what the words are he's singing, but the melody works well.  I love the fact that he did it.  As the song finishes all four members approach the front of the stage and bow down to us, thank us for attending and disappear.   We wait a few minutes to see if they'll be an encore but it becomes clear early on there won't.  They'll be no resurrection tonight apart from the one we've already witnessed.  There doesn't need to be one.  The Stone Roses are back and any fears anyone had about the quality can now be put to bed.  This is no Cream at the Albert Hall reformation, where they return as a softer more delicate version of themselves.  This is tribal, jungle, psychedelic music laced with classic pop structure and integrity.  After the shit and troubles they went through, they deserve their resurrection.  I think to myself… we did it.  We assembled an A-Team and everyone of us managed to watch the gig.  "I love it when a plan comes together!"

We leave the venue to be confronted by media scrums everywhere; more interviews and a town reinvigorated with a sense that for one night, we were the centre of the musical universe.  We tell the cameras, maybe you'll pay attention to the towns musicians now? Innovate not Parasite? Probably not. We thank Ian Brown for returning to the town of your birth.  We thank Mani, Reni and John, Si Moran and everyone else involved in making this happen.  You created an Atmosphere that most of us have NEVER experienced before. 

We love the roses, and they made us feel loved. 

One Love x 

Review by Mike Bee
Video above by YouTube user RCVernon

The following video was put together by Tony Carroll. After we informed him, he  ran all the way from his house a few miles away [he was doing the decorating] to secure his ticket. Tony will be the first person to tell you "I grew up in the same street that Ian Brown was born in!" that is factually correct :)

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