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KNIFE CLUB - UK Tour Diary 2021
When Eliott and Dan approached myself (and the rest of KNIFE CLUB) to start a band, whilst at Wotsit Called Fest 2018, I don’t think anyone could have possibly predicted the journey ahead.
Four of us eventually had our first practise in Leeds during July 2019 and started to formulate plans. It was always going to be a logistical nightmare, with members in Manchester, Leeds, Hastings, Ipswich and Kings Lynn, but we somehow managed to write and record our debut album, ‘We Are Knife Club?’. We only had one practise with all six members of the band present. We were writing and practising in a socially distanced way - far before it was enforced on us.
Along the way we devised our ‘Who Are Knife Club?’ promotion, which was interesting to say the least. We also lined up way more gigs than I think any of us had ever intended.
Then, just as we revealed who we were and put the album on pre-order, the whole world changed. After all the build up, everything was cancelled. Whilst this was disappointing, it was totally out of our hands and there was obviously a far bigger picture to consider.
Fast forward a year...
At the start of 2021 we began to tentatively book some gigs. I’m not sure any of us really expected them to happen. As they got closer and closer, and we were able to mix again, we decided we better start practising, because we might ‘actually have to do this’.
Eventually, on 27 August 2021 we hit the stage for the first time.
GIG 1: The Steamboat, Ipswich (27/08/21) SOLD OUT
One of the good things about the geographic nightmare of the band is that we effectively have multiple hometown gigs. Our first gig was one of these. If you ask any DIY band who has played in Ipswich, they will be sure to tell you that it is one of the nicest scenes in the UK. This particular gig had sold out well in advance and was headlined by the legendary SNUFF. Ipswich local heroes RED FLAG 77 also graced a strong lineup and we had the difficult task of following the always fantastic, CASUAL NAUSEA (featuring our very own Zoë, who was also involved in promoting the gig). I think there were a lot of nerves, but also a lot of excitement that we’d finally get to play our songs to a crowd. We were joined by Mark Tanner, of HAEST fame, on bass. Dani was on paternity leave, so Mark had kindly said he’d play all of our 2021 gigs.
The wait for this first gig had been frustrating at times, but in some ways had done us some favours, as people actually knew the songs. The lovely Ipswich crowd was waiting for us to start and got involved in the pit and sang along throughout. All things considered, we were pretty tight and we really couldn’t have asked for anything more from a first gig, with an awesome crowd reaction, which meant so much. The other bands were great and it was just a fantastic evening in general. It was/is so awesome to have gigs back.
After the gig we had a great party, featuring plenty of Jaeger bombs and plenty of wondering why Ben Hannah (who recorded ‘We Are Knife Club’) thought that putting pickled eggs in his pints was a good idea. Then we headed back to Zoë and Shawn’s and Mark mistook a pile of plasterboard for a comfortable bed.
What a great start!
We woke up hungover and headed to Birmingham, with driving arrangements clearly following our bitter north vs south divide. The northern vehicle arrived first and we were surprised to see such a massive (but awesome) venue. This was a different type of gig for us compared to the previous night. Whilst there were several friendly faces, who we knew well already at the venue, we were anticipating a crowd that perhaps hadn’t heard our music before. We were third on an eight band bill. It was definitely one where we felt that we needed to impress a new audience. There was a decent crowd for our set, but the massive room meant it was a little bit spread out. It was certainly a new experience for me. KNIFE CLUB is the first time I’ve not played an instrument in a band. Ipswich had felt so natural as the crowd was so closely packed in, but for Birmingham I decided to avoid the stage completely and try to interact with the crowd as much as possible. I think they mostly enjoyed it. Overall, this was a well organised and fun packed day, with lots of cool bands. RISKEE AND THE RIDICULE were particularly impressive. It was also nice to be told we were “an exciting young band”. I assume it must have been ironic, because three of us are in our early forties now. I headed back to Manchester feeling pretty content with the start we’d made. It was just lovely to see people and bands again and be reminded of what a great scene we have.
GIG 3: Garlic Bread Club, Retro Bar, Manchester (17/09/21) SOLD OUT
Garlic Bread Club was actually supposed to be our debut gig, but the pandemic struck. This was the rearranged date, with close to the same lineup to the original. It was another bill with loads of amazing bands, including REDEEMON, SEWER CATS, BURNOUT, SLAP RASH and ARMS AND HEARTS. It was also another hometown gig, with myself and Big Hands based in Manchester. This had also sold out well in advance and it was incredible to see the packed crowd involved in the pit from pretty much the first song. Obviously, I am completely biased, but Manchester has an awesome scene and the crowd always makes you feel welcome. Garlic Bread Club has become a big part of that. We certainly couldn’t have asked for more from this gig. So much fun!
Afterwards, as is customary at Garlic Bread Club nights, the 90s dance kicked in shortly after the bands finished and we danced like idiots throughout the night. ‘King of Merch’, Chris Brown got too much of this on film for my liking…
Playing in Bristol for our mate Chris Fishlock, was high on my list of ‘gigs to do’ when we started this band. He puts on incredible gigs and Bristol is always a pleasure. This was a two stage spectacular, with too many great bands on the bill to even attempt a list. It was absolutely awesome to see some friends who I’d not seen in ages. I guess it’s always nice when you see someone from the scene who you’ve not hung out with for two years and it’s as if no time has passed; just laughing and joking immediately.
We played the smaller stage, which I was assured was a ‘sweat box’. It was very warm, but it was a cool little room with great sound. It was a pleasure to watch some great bands and see so many people over the moon to be back at gigs.
In terms of the band, I was certainly starting to feel more confident with it all and I think our live show was starting to take shape at this point.
GIG 5: Wotsit Called Fest, The Pig, Hastings (24/09/21) SOLD OUT
Next up we were in Hastings, which was another hometown gig, this time for Dan and Mark, who are both part of the collective who were promoting the festival. Hastings simply never disappoints. It’s a guaranteed ridiculous crowd and this event has become a ‘do-not-miss-it’ event for so many people in the DIY scene, with people travelling from all over the UK to be part of it. It was another sold out gig and another room full of people who were over the moon to be back at gigs. And Hastings certainly didn’t disappoint. The crowd reaction was pretty wild from the start. Zoë was now fully (mostly) onboard with joining me offstage, although the Hastings crowd ensured that we certainly didn’t spend the full set on the floor. This was one of those gigs where I walked away with a huge smile on my face. It was just so much fun. From a personal perspective, (most of) the nerves had gone and from a band perspective, we couldn’t expect much more from the crowd or the gig. It was a banger.
I even dusted the trusty old bass down to fill in for Germany’s wonderfully named CHRISTMAS on the Saturday. Dan and Mark also doubled up playing for HAEST and Eliott in NOSEBLEED. All in all, an awesome weekend.
GIG 6: Till The Fest, Amersham Arms, London (10/10/21)
Another stunning lineup, spread over three days and a few venues. A few of us were at our good friends (Kim and Marc’s) wedding on Saturday (more on Kim later), so we headed down on the Sunday. When we booked this gig we didn’t necessarily think it was likely to happen, so no-one had the Monday off work, meaning it was up there with our most ludicrous journeys, from the north and back on the same day (thanks Eliott), but it was so worth it. The event was brilliantly organised and we were able to catch a few bands. We were blown away by the amount of people who turned up to watch our set. You are never sure how a Sunday gig will go, especially when you clash with a top band at another venue, but when I made my way to the back of the room mid-set and took my sunglasses off, I realised the room was nearly full. Fun times, and well worth the rough day at work on the Monday.
I’d played in Stamford in my REVENGE OF... days and knew it was always a top night and that you would always be well looked after by an awesome collective. It’s always lovely to share a bill with good friends. Zoë was again on double set duty with CASUAL NAUSEA while the excellent FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS and BURNING FLAG also played. We were starting to see bands needing to pull out of gigs all over the UK at this point due to isolating. We survived a bit of a scare ourselves for this one, so we were happy and relieved to finally arrive. Eliott had a NOSEBLEED gig, so we attempted this one without him. He was missed, but I think we managed to pull it off. Another great night, with a busy and lively crowd and plenty of daiquiris. The club night that took place upstairs after the gig was also comedy gold.
GIG 8: Nice As Pie Race, Wharf Chambers, Leeds (13/11/21)
We’d expected Stamford to be our last gig of the year. Unfortunately a couple of bands had to pull out of Nice As Pie Race. As we were all attending anyway we were very happy to fill in. It was another sold out gig and this time a hometown gig for Eliott. We have been very lucky to have so many packed crowds in such early days of the band. Pie Race, or Nice As Pie are always raucous shows and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. You know it’s going to be a good gig when people are hanging off the ceiling within a couple of minutes of the start of your set. It was pretty wild, in the best possible way and a fantastic way to finish our first run of gigs.
So that was it, eight gigs down, none cancelled and all of a sudden KNIFE CLUB felt very real. It was great to finally play to a crowd. The main reason this band began was for a group of mates, who live miles apart geographically, to have a lot of fun and make a lot of noise.
If nothing else, we have achieved that…
Thanks to Andy and Shelley for documenting lots of this with videos and to Bev, Jimbob and Sara for all the photos. Thanks to Chris for doing our merch at a lot of these gigs and thanks to everyone who has let us crash at theirs, bought merch or watched us play, we appreciate it so much.
We have new songs ready to record, a release in for pressing (a very strange release) and a few gigs lined up, so hopefully 2022 will be a fun year for us. We also have a couple of new members. Mark Tanner is now officially with us full time (two bassists is cool, yeah?). And our good friend, Kim Morey is joining on keytar.
We are now an eight-piece. We are ridiculous. Long may that continue…