The boys' changing room was teaming with the stench of Lynx and Joop. It was the first and ultimately last gig of my terrible teenage band The Mariners, for the leaver’s ball of the class of '99. Outside a crowd of unrequited crushes and schoolyard bullies. Inside three pizza faced no marks with minimal musicianship were minutes away from treading the boards normally reserved for assembly and the odd harvest festival. The knock came and with a deafening silence, we were on.
The Mariners consisted of one year 11, a lanky year 10 and a six former who wore a parka– Sticks Gibson. During the first rehearsal it became quickly that I couldn’t play guitar or particularly sing, Finchy the lanky bass player was essentially a mute and Sticks Gibson would soon murder him if he didn’t stop playing that ‘Jazz shit’ (Jamiroquai). Finchy, or ‘that streak of piss’ as my father referred to him every time he knocked on our door, would explode in sweat anytime anyone might speak to him; I once saw him collapse into a pool of undiluted puberty when Debbie Sullivan asked him what the time was. I liked him though; he never interrupted me when I would go on (at some length) about how my writing had taken a political leaning, or that I was considering wearing a caftan.
Sticks Gibson was a couple of years older than us; he smoked Lambert & Butler and had the hormones to successfully cultivate side burns. The problem with Sticks was he wasn’t what you’d call smart, but entirely what you’d call a fucking lunatic. When I was falsetto voiced year 7, Sticks would religiously fill my bag with mud soaked leaves at lunchtime. Fortunately this was all forgotten now because I wanted to be Danny from Embrace and needed a drummer, while Sticks had actually just forgotten. The way I saw it we needed muscle and we needed someone to buy the orange Reefs. Sticks fitted both of these requirements perfectly.
Rehearsals would be in my garage, involve Finchy trying to explain G sharp through hand signal and me trying to manoeuvre my arched teenage poetry between the relentless thwack of Sticks Gibson. We had one original song, one I would practise nightly in front of the mirror with such conviction that I'd actually introduce it to the imagined audience, occasionally dedicating it to the two Samantha's on my wall - Janus and Mumba. The song I thought was a withering protest number on the false imprisonment of the Guildford Four, offering the switch blade salvo ‘The pigs knew they were innocent and so did we, their only crime was to be Irish and free’. After presenting it to a nonplussed band Finch inquired about putting some 'Slap’ on it and Sticks seemed happy because I’d used the words ‘pigs’.
"Evening everyone, thanks for coming out, we're The Mariners." It was 3:30 in the afternoon.
Looking down at the two song set list I had Finchy tape to the floor I could just about make out 'Wonderwall' and 'Seventeen'. Swallowing sandpaper I look at Finchy who by that point had turned aquatic. He was busy counting his shoes to avoid any contact with a glazier still audience. Halfway through the first verse of Wonderwall and the chorus was fast approaching, I reached for it and missed, missed by an absolute mile.
"This next ones called ‘Seventeen’, thanks again for coming out."
A tsunami in a fish bowl would have been less messy, I thought we'd stir them, whip them into a partisan mob that’d carry me out shoulder high like Che Guevara with peroxide curtains - they didn't. When the applause is overshadowed by a miscellaneous cough, you know that applause was muted.
Back in the changing room after the gig, Finchy by this point was 80% aqua and clear out of nowhere said: 'you can't sing and have the worst lyrics I've ever heard, and my goldfish had better rhythm you, Aron. Fuck this I'm going solo.’ With that my terrible teenage band was over, over before we even started.
Sticks is now an area manager for NatWest