Blog Post: On The Rails, On My Feet.

How to lose hope and find it again in ten days

Long post coming up; some hints of arrogance, a lot of gratitude. It’s been a hell of a week.

We got the gutting news last weekend that Oli broke his wrist. Awful news for a drummer with a big show coming up in a week.

For a split second, I had that stupid male instinct to just be mad, or angry. I didn’t want to cancel the opportunity to play with two bands that I absolutely love. Fortunately; that split-second instinct rapidly manifested into a combination of compassion for my friend that is hurt (and probably beating himself up mentally about this happening at such an inopportune time) and a bull-headed determination to get something together to get Hands Up to this show.

We fired out some messages; supportive messages to Oli, getting his approval to find a dep.

Our first choice was Aaron Doolan. My friend for years, and a safe hand. He thankfully agreed and we were in with a shout of saving our slot on this show.

On Wednesday I started coughing. And coughing, and coughing. It was absolutely rubbish. My voice started fading out. Now it was starting to look like I might not be able to make it. Chugging Covonia (not recommended…it made me sick), water, hot blackcurrant, a fair ol’ cocktail of painkillers for those big coughs that make it feel like your head is being run over. I’m a malingerer; I don’t do well with ill.

We practiced on Thursday and Saturday; vocal-free for me, and lots of ducking out for fresh air, but a good morale boost as I got to use my new guitar and Doolan absolutely smashed it. We are back in the game!

On Friday night I noticed that it’s Ben’s birthday on Tuesday and we have a show with two of his favourite bands on Monday; something needs to happen, right? I’d made up a big batch of brownies the night before (I asked my best friend for an idiot-proof recipe. Et voila; Jim Brownies. Must be properly idiot-proof). On the day of the show; Rob and I spent a big chunk of time chasing around the other bands like a bunch of nerdy autograph hunters getting them to sign a card. Oli’s injury became an asset as he could bring all of this out before our last song in the set. Perfect!

I loved our set! It was chaotic and scruffy; we have really become a well-oiled machine in Hands Up and sometimes it’s nice to throw a cat among the pigeons, like my voice breaking in the backing vocals to Pick N Mix or not being familiar with my new guitar enough to not fudge my fingers in the lead line of “Nice To Me”, or Ben getting choked up when Oli bought out the brownies.

Rob was perfect.

photo by Alex Newby.

The reason for me writing this is to express my gratitude to Aaron. We would like to acknowledge that Doolan put himself into a place of incredible vulnerability and exposure. He learned nine original, complex songs in someone else’s style in eight days with two practices, and performing those in front of a large crowd takes immeasurable courage. Of course there were mistakes, we knew there would be and they didn’t matter; what mattered is that this amazing human faced off his own anxiety, nerves and illness to get our little band on that stage, on that bill with bands that we loved.

I adore PKEW PKEW PKEW and Spanish Love Songs. I’ve played their records more than any others in the last year and I’m still staggered that they’re on the same bill; never mind that we’re on that same bill, that shit just blows my mind. Goodbye Blue Monday were such a lovely group of people and their set was brilliant. All of these bands could not have been more amazing as people; from lending us gear, being enthusiastic about signing Ben’s card, our set, and most importantly; they couldn’t praise Doolan any higher.

I loved this show. We loved this show. We could not be more grateful to the other bands, our Hands Up community and most importantly; Aaron Doolan; the absolute legend.

By Jim, aged 33.

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