The London leg of the Star Shaped Festival in 2017 was an absolutely joyous experience. The line up was amazing and Sleeper’s return to a London stage for the first time in nineteen years almost took the roof off. In under an hour, My Life Story’s Jake Shillingford turned an almost full venue from casual indifference to a feeling of unity; Space’s Tommy Scott and The Bluetones’ Mark Morriss were on form with great humour. Yes, that was a day to be treasured forever.
The 2017 Star Shaped Festival events were special. In London, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham, the all-day events allowed Britpop lovers to come together in a wave of nostalgia, watching great bands and forging new friendships.
While the big draw for many was the four shows by the unexpectedly reformed Sleeper, The Bluetones were on great and funny form, Space showed everyone how great they are in the live setting – a band much deeper than a couple of overplayed singles – and My Life Story’s Jake Shillingford demonstrated a fantastic command of a crowd.
It’s a Saturday night nearing the end of March 2018. A crowd has gathered outside the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The night’s star turn is Jim Bob, one time of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, here to play an acoustic solo set to a sell out crowd. Figures stroll up and down in the cold. A typical Saturday night pre-gig scene, you might think… It’s the norm on these occasions to wander past those with flyers and not make eye contact, but tonight, something is different. A flame haired woman is dishing out glossy pieces of paper and yelling “SALAD IS BACK ON THE MENU!” in a way that’s impossible to merely shrug off.
During the first half of 2018, it has felt as if Real Gone has been a semi-permanent resident at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. We’ve seen fantastic gigs by The Wonder Stuff and Carter USM’s Jim Bob; an enjoyable and nostalgic performance from Skid Row; a solid offering from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and a woeful car-crash from 80s melodic rock legends Night Ranger. Tonight, it’s the turn of The Bluetones – a fantastic band with strong ties to the days of Britpop.
First, though, we’re at The Defector’s Weld for a pre-gig drink with other fans. The pub’s wooden floor and fishy aroma gives the place a more traditional feel than the more popular nearby Brewdog (a venue with overpriced beer, an inconvenient lack of tables and an offensively smelly barman). It’s the perfect place for a gathering and a wonderful hour is spent. A new friendship is formed and other acquaintances made; so good to put faces to familiar Twitter handles.
The band were due to reform for four shows in August only – appearing at the Star Shaped Festival – but from there, things snowballed. They subsequently sold out the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in December and then announced another tour for March 2018…again a sell out.