Words & Pictures by: Magda WrzeszczMore Photos

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Support: You Slut! | website

Koko | April 15, 2016

We always knew this was going to be emotional, but in no way was I prepared for that evening. When Maybeshewill announced they’re embarking on their last tour as a band, I genuinely did not see that coming. Sure, I didn’t love the last album (which caused me some pretty heavy anxiety), but I hoped it was a step in new direction, like we’ve seen with many bands before. But soon the reality started to sink in and photographic evidence of the packed rooms during final shows started to flood in. If it was physically possible, I’d be at all of them, New York especially (sorry I couldn’t contribute to the crowdfunder, I was broke at the time – you smashed it anyway). I was left with Koko and to be honest – I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

I was nervous all day. It was a Friday night and if you know Koko, you know they have a club night on Fridays which makes all the gigs start unreasonably early. I was so eager to get out of work, I left the building in apocalyptic rain, just to realise I left my camera backpack open… When I got to Mornington Crescent to catch up with some of the Echoes and Dust family, the queue to get into Koko was absolutely insane. We decided to wait it out with a pint which cost us half of You Slut!’s performance. However I manically ran into the pit, feeling like an impostor because there was no one to show my photo pass to.

I was really happy You Slut! were brought back to life for this tour because I sure missed them like hell. Last time I saw them was years ago, at The Horatia in Holloway – whatever happened to that venue? They provided the perfect opener to Maybeshewill and got all of us positively energised, with their ‘greatest hits’ from Critical Meat and Medium Bastard, including ‘Cut And Shut By You Slut!’, ‘1s, 2ns’, ‘Magnifierer’, ‘Shellsock’ and finishing with ‘Roofio Shoots, Roofio Scores’. They were brilliant and on form and I wish this wasn’t their farewell tour as well because that evening, as much as myself and the whole crowd loved them, they were overshadowed.

DSC_8113A mere 20 minutes after You Slut! left the stage, for the last time the intro to Lil Wayne’s ‘She Will’ started to play and we all collectively lost our shits. Soon John, Jamie, Jim, Robin and Matt emerged and kick started ‘Opening’ followed by ‘Take This To Heart’ and “Red Paper Lanterns’, coincidentally the opening tracks to I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone, still a fucking masterpiece of a beautifully flowing record.

The first three songs were a blur – I was hidden behind the lens of my camera, cursing the back lighting like I’ve done many times before and trying to get a good shot of Jamie’s air kick for once – because I knew that if I failed, I’d be out of chances. After the first three songs all photographers bar the Robot Needs Home film crew were kicked out of the pit and off I went, in a complete haze. When I was still just behind barriers, John asked from the stage ‘Was anyone at the Barfly show?’ and apart from me yelling ‘YEAH!!!” I didn’t hear that many other voices. ‘Co-Conspirators’ was dedicated to us and all of a sudden it all started to flood back. I remember that gig. It was taken over by a drunken Swedish guy, who made it his mission to start a mosh pit and crowd surf. He was so persistent, he started to get on everyone’s nerves. Eventually Jamie made his evening by stage diving with him. I remember that gig because I was also rushing in from work, also with a camera, just to discover soon after arriving that I left the battery charging at home.

DSC_8218I started to make my way through the crowds of Koko and thinking to myself that I remember how back in the day I’d pretty much recognise half of the people in the room at a Maybeshewill gig. Now I was trying to make my way through almost 1,500 people, all as in love with the band as I was. I was desperate to take more photos. I tried to ask the security if I could come back in for the last song – because it was going to be THE last song – but it turned out to be a very much of a ‘computer says no’ evening. I couldn’t get onto the balcony because I had a red wristband when a green one was needed. All the time my already emotional self was raging: ‘but… but I HAVE TO do this, I AM their biggest fan’ – until I looked around me and it hit me how selfish that was. There were now so many of us, I had no claim. For the third time I braced the stairs to the upper circle, tripping over people and thinking to myself that those stairs alone deserve more attention from security than another photographer on the balcony because they’re a health and safety disaster waiting to happen. I ended up anxious and on a verge of meltdown, locked in the highest toilet in the building, when I could hear the dialogue from ‘The Rules Of Attraction’ announcing the beginning of my favourite Maybeshewill song ‘…In Another Life, When We Were Both Cats’. I dragged my sorry ass downstairs, tried another balcony, failed, went upstairs and finally sat down cross-legged against a barrier of one of the higher balconies, following a suggestion of the Koko’s house photographer. Us, gig photographers – we’re a good bunch.

The balcony is where the magic happened. I had the perfect view of both the stage, as well as the crowd. EVERYONE was there. I knew of so many friends dotted around the venue, I saw a few familiar faces. And I could see the crowd at the front going wild. It was the first time in a long time I saw people moshing at a Maybeshewill gig. There were crowd-surfers. There were the band’s families up in the balconies, rocking out. It was fucking spectacular. The set list skimmed over a few of Fair Youth tracks, which always used to sound slightly weaker to me, but not that night. That night every note was packed with so much energy, the atmosphere was electric.

DSC_8300Through ‘Critical Distance’ and ‘ To The Skies From A Hillside’, we approached ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ and it was meant to be the last song. That’s when Howard Beale lost it, the crowd lost it and I broke down. In post rock (or however you prefer to categorise this music) we don’t often get a chance to sing along to show how much we love a track. That’s why it’s become a thing to sing along to the riffs. ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ however turned into a 1,500 people strong quote-a-longa and when Howard Beale wanted us to get mad – we got mad. We got up, stuck our heads out and yelled ‘We are mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore!’ Among all of that I just kept thinking: ‘They can’t finish without ‘He Films The Clouds’ (a meltdown well documented on twitter)! This can’t be it, I’m not ready.’ By that point I had streams running down my cheeks and steaming up the viewfinder.

Maybeshewill quickly returned for the encore and we got treated to a beautiful throwback that was ‘Seraphim & Cherubim’, inevitably followed by ‘He Films The Clouds Pt. 2’. As I was by that stage a wreck of a human being (let it be publicly known that this is my tattoo song, as in: I got the verse tattooed on me some years ago, like the ultimate fangirl that I am), I’ll let my friend Jonny’s words speak for themselves: “My throat is sore from shouting love. They closed with this [‘He Films The Clouds] (the choral bit at the end was sung by EVERYONE at top voice) and the band’s entire families were in the boxes around the theatre. Grey haired parents and uncles and aunts crying with beautiful pride at their kin. Us shouting the words and looking up. Tears man. Fucking tears. And then big guitars and so much jumping. And then the lone piano to close. A gig for those of us with large hearts.” Because we all had to empty the venue due to the club night about to start, I was forced to get my shit together and head to The Black Heart for the after party, which I’m not even sure actually happened. All I remember was crowds of people heading towards the venue, ultimately blending in with the huge crowd already there. It was chaos. I didn’t see anyone other than Dave, who was in charge of filming the gig. I gave up on trying to say goodbye. I thought to myself – it’s better that way. Someone in one of the movies I love said once that they hated goodbyes and I happily adapted that because I probably wouldn’t be able to hold it together anyway.

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Therefore let me take this opportunity to say: thank you, Maybeshewill. You probably have no idea how much I actually owe to you. The show at The Fighting Cocks in Kingston happened to be the first ever gig I brought my spanking new DSLR to. I still have some pretty damn shit gig photos to prove it. That’s how my journey with gig photography began. I finally had the camera, I had my favourite band and I was determined to turn up to all your gigs with the lens firmly pointed at your faces. Thanks for your patience with me, guys. It took me a good few years to actually learn what to do with it, but it it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. It might sound corny, but your show at The Lexington (the one with Codes In The Clouds and &U&I) was a life changing moment – it was the first gig I ever went to on my own, simply following a principle that if I always had to rely on other people to see my favourite bands with, I’ll never go and see any music. That was the time when twitter was exploding and I started to actually make friends with all the bands I was listening to. And damn right I was too shy to come and say hi, but at least I felt I belonged. If it wasn’t for that, I’d never have come across Echoes and Dust and write my first review – it happened to be I Was Here For A Moment…. It’s because of you that I now have a musical family ten times bigger that the biological one and opportunities to grow my photography all over the country.

It’s because of that first push to go to gigs simply because I love the music I now have been to so many of them, I find it hard to count. But I know exactly how many Maybeshewill gigs I’ve seen and the magic number is 18. I have them all written down on a scrap piece of paper ripped out of my Moleskine diary from a few years ago. There was The Wilmington Arms, now turned into a gastro-pub. There was The Garage – twice. There was Scala, also twice, and another one at The Lexington, with Her Name Is Calla. Borderline was the weirdest one, I couldn’t click with the venue. At Heaven I remember overhearing some girl saying to another in the toilet that Maybeshewill were her favourite band and I felt like the secret was out. That was the moment you stopped being the support band and started to headline. Then there were 3 years of smashing it at ArcTanGent and the infamous cut-off-gate. There was the memorable dunk! where I’m truly sorry I decided to drunkenly become best friends with Robin during the last night, when the festival turned into a weird 90s disco, despite Dylan’s best efforts to stop me. I feel like the 18 times I’ve seen you mark certain coming of age. As you go your own ways, I’m no longer the shy fangirl I used to be. I’m a writer, a photographer and – if you have me – a friend for life.

And with that we are apart, though certainly not through my choice.

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