15. Easyworld – The Cavern, Exeter – 8/5/2002

Previously on Sweating with Strangers: I begin my Wildhearts obsession, and their gig in Bristol takes the crown.

Continuing our spring 2002 Easyworld/Wildhearts odyssey, it’s time to get back to Eastbourne’s favourite indie-pop-rockers – no, not Toploader.

This is a gig about which I remember very little, except that I was certain it had happened, and happened on this exact date. I was sure I had been to see Easyworld at The Cavern on the night Arsenal played Manchester United at Old Trafford, but I couldn’t find any record of it. Fortunately the nice people at The Cavern were able to confirm it for me – score one for my weird ability to remember dates and gigs!

Since I’d last seen Easyworld, I’d been hoovering up everything I could about the band. I’d bought their debut mini-album, Better Ways to Self Distruct, which had been released the year before, and I was following every move in the build up to their first full length release – This Is Where I Stand – which was due in June.

The new album was to feature re-recordings of five of the seven tracks from Better Ways.., but I wasn’t too disappointed as although the songs were great, the mini-album’s production wasn’t, and the tracks deserved better.

One thing was abundantly clear when listening to the band though: David Ford could write a f**king chorus! In fact, you could say there was a fairly simple formula to many of their tracks, which was something along the lines of: big intro, quiet verse, pause, massive chorus, repeat, big middle eight, huge chorus outro.

But I don’t mean that in a detrimental sense. Easyworld weren’t trying to recreate the musical wheel, but they had a formula that worked, and while it formed the core of their first proper album, every song – whether live or on record – was delivered with such venom and energy that they were never repetitive.

At this time, being an Easyworld fan was a big deal for me. It was great to be a fan of a young, exciting band that hadn’t reached their potential yet. And it was a nice change to be able to say “have you heard of Easyworld? No? Well you will!”, rather than my normal responses of “well try watching VH1 classic sometime” or “well you’d hate them anyway”. I was utterly convinced this band were going to be stadium-tour huge.

In recent years though, I’ve had a tricky relationship with the band. I’m such a big David Ford fan these days, and his solo music is so far removed from what he did in Easyworld, that it’s tricky to tie the two together. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but having read his brilliant book – I Choose This – it’s clear that he doesn’t think very fondly of those Easyworld songs, and I fear this had coloured my memories somewhat.

It’s always tricky when an artist you love disowns their own work, sometimes even their very recent output. With major bands I often think the record/promote/tour cycle lends itself to them becoming resentful of a record. It’s like they spend ages creating something, and are then told “get out there and tell people it’s the best thing you’ve ever done, and then tour for two years playing more songs from it than probably should be in the set”. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I think spending so much time and energy pretending you like an album more than you do probably makes you like it much less than you did to start with.

The end result is often that bands speak of needing to do something different with their next record, as if the process resulted in that disappointing album that we, the fans, probably still absolutely love. But when they actively denounce an album or era, or declare they aren’t playing songs from that time live again, it can affect you in one of two ways.

I remember Kelly Jones individually slating each Stereophonics album before the release of Pull the Pin, and my response was “well, you’re wrong”, and I simply revisited some of those albums to confirm just how much I loved them. I’ve never quite had the same relationship with a new Stereophonics record since.

With Easyworld though, it was the other way around. When reading Ford’s issues with his early indie days, I found myself thinking “yeah David, there were some strange moments” and “yes Dave, you did use falsetto and scream far too regularly”, and I stopped listening to those records. When one of the main selling points for a band was the singer’s impassioned delivery, knowing that he doesn’t rate the songs highly is always going to affect your appreciation of them.

For Ford, a major part of the problem with his Easyworld days was the guiding hand of the record company, and the sense that these songs weren’t necessarily ever truly his. He even addressed this directly in a later Easyworld b-side – “Straight to Video” – where those massive choruses I loved so much are reduced to the banal request of a studio exec. I can fully appreciate this, but the feeling that not only does he not like the songs now, but potentially he never really did, definitely affected my enjoyment of those Easyworld records.

But you know what? It shouldn’t have. Listening back to Easyworld when writing about the first time I saw them, I was quickly taken back to the excitement I felt in 2002. The power is still there. The passion is still there. Most of all, the joy is still there! These are songs that make me want to scream along in my car. Sure, some of them follow a similar pattern, but what does that matter when that pattern is so well executed, and they all feature extraordinary chorusses and crunching distorted guitars, with Ford belting them out with the fire of a young angry man on the edge.

So what does it matter if their creator no longer cares for them? That might be true of many of my favourite songs and albums. Francis Rossi once described Status Quo’s peak era output as “a few moments of brilliance and 60-70% shit”! He’s obviously wrong, of course, but the point is, I should be able to separate the songwiter and the song, and Ford’s current style is so different from his Easyworld days, that it shouldn’t be a problem to enjoy both without either taking away from the other.

So that’s my new year’s resolution: to try to listen to music outside of any context, and to remember that if you like it – for whatever reason – then you like it, and I really, really, really like Easyworld. I’ve barely stopped listening to This Is Where I Stand for the last week, so that’s a start.

What about the gig, you cry! Well a great benefit of finally being a big fan of an upcoming band was that they seemed to chuck a tour together at the drop of a hat: or one for each single they released, or so it seemed. Also, the gigs tended to cost about four quid, which was highly beneficial!

This particular show was part of a tour promoting ‘Bleach’, one of the singles from This Is Where I Stand, and one of the rerecorded Better Ways.. tracksIt had also been renamed from ‘U Make Me Want to Drink Bleach’, which I can only imagine hadn’t sat well with the band.

The gig was at The Cavern, in the centre of Exeter, which was both awesome and another massive diversion from my previous venue experiences.

A brilliantly simple little place, underground in two man-made caverns: one hosting the bar, and one holding a small stage and crowd area about the size of a decent lounge. It’s fair to say that if 2015 me had lived in East Devon I would’ve been there two or three times a week, but in my uni days it was enough to visit when bands I’d heard of were in town, and to be grateful they were playing The Cavern, and not the Lemon Grove.

On the right night, The Cavern could be a sweaty mess of bodies, or it could be a brilliant place to observe a band extremely close up. This was one of the second type of nights, with Easyworld still building their fan-base and most people present seemingly there to get a further look at them, rather than to rock out to the noise.

Not that it affected the band’s performance, as I have never known David Ford give anything short of 100% commitment to any song or show. But it was definitely a show that made me excited to see them again once more people had woken up to their greatness, rather than a raucous affair.

Being a helpful fan – as well as a CD collection completist – I bought a copy of the new single, which I Choose This tells me the band had almost certainly purchased themselves from HMV earlier that day, in order to boost their chart hopes! Guttingly though, I didn’t purchase one of the This is Where I Stand t-shirts, about which someone recently reminded me. I always thought they were a piece of genius, and am seriously tempted to recreate one and order it online. What do you think?

Unfortunately, I can’t remember much about what was or wasn’t played. Perhaps a kind fan might be able to fill that in in the comments below. More vivid, but useless, memories from the night include heading to a nearby pub after the show to find that Arsenal had won the league, and Liverpool had beaten Blackburn 4-3, which made me very happy indeed. And, finally, sitting at a bus stop waiitng to return home to Exmouth, my high-school friend Adrian stumbled passed me in a state of ill-repair, stopping only to barely acknowledge the randomness of the meeting, and to show me his new tattoo. Seconds later he was off in to the night.

It’s funny the nonsense that sticks in your mind.

That’s everything I have for this one. Let me know your thoughts below, and come back next time to bake in the summer heat with a Canadian rock god.

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