Crazy little thing called life

It has been a while since my last blog (previously on MySpace) and after such an eventful few months, it seems a perfect time to sit back, take stock and reflect on things. Some of this is covered in other blog posts elsewhere.

At the back end of last year, I was approached by Paul Gooding, one of my oldest friends about at an all-dayer that he wanted to put on. It involved putting on 7 or 8 bands, including reforming an old band of ours called Dawnraiser for a one-off performance. The date was in aid of the BRI neo-natal clinic / post birth care unit after they did such a good job with his own son Cameron. Anyway, we picked our line-up for the band and early this year, we set about rehearsing for the gig which was to take place on Easter Sunday – 12th April, 2009 – our first in 12 years. The date was booked and billed as “Moshing 4 Medicine”. Venue – The Mannville Arms.

Because of various commitments, the rehearsals were few and far between and at times “interesting” because this particular line-up had not played together before. Paul, Ian and myself had played in (what we’d call) the “classic” 1996 line-up of the band, Dave had sung for the very first line-up back in ’93 and Stevie who jumped in on drums had not played for Dawnraiser before. There were various reasons that this line-up had been settled on. We had pretty much all either been friends for years or played with each other in different bands at different times so we were none of us strangers to each other. It was a good trip down memory lane playing some of that old material again after such a long time. I don’t really get off on playing metal all that much anymore but for a one-off, it was fun. However, I can’t see a repeat performance happening any time soon.

The day went down well with a lot of old faces there from way back when as well as some newer ones. Paul and Dave played a slot with their new project “Suckerpunch” – a kind of stripped down version of their band “Old School Enemy”. Stevie and I played the debut performance for our new band “Suicide by Cop”. Then there were also sets from Wild Trash, State Of Error, Open Fire, Dawnraiser and Brand New Analogues. It was an action packed bill with something for everybody spread over a good 5 or 6 hours. The event raised £266 for the cause, which considering it was free entry (as are all the events at The Mannville Arms) was very good indeed. It was the first time Paul had organised anything like this and he did a great job.

In February, I received some very sad news about a very dear friend of mine, who was a local legend on the Bradford scene. His name was William Stanley Simpson, known to pretty much everybody as Stan and he went 74 years old last September. Stan used to turn up to loads of gigs and dance like crazy to bands of all types. He would out-party people a third of his age on many an occasion. Anyway, Stan unfortunately got diagnosed with cancer in February and after an initial spell in St. Luke’s Hospital, he was transferred to charity-funded Manorlands Hospice, where he was well looked after by the nurses there. He was eventually transferred to a privately funded nursing home, closer to where his family lived but Manorlands looked after Stan when he was at his lowest ebb, when he was coming to terms with his illness and at his most disorientated. Manorlands have a special place in my heart because they looked after my grandfather in his final days and they were brilliant with my family when the time finally came. So, the idea for Stanfest came about, which was an opportunity to raise some much needed money for a very worthy charity as well as celebrate the life of a local legend. I spoke to Stan about the idea and he was thrilled about it. I sat down with him and discussed which bands I had in mind because I wanted to book all of the ones which he liked best from over the years. We decided on a list and I set about asking people and I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of support I received. People banded together to help in whatever way they could, bands reformed after not having played together for a long time, the word spread like wild-fire in very little time at all. I could tell that the idea was turning out to be popular. The day was booked for Sunday 3rd May – another bank holiday.

Stan was still very much with us when a lot of the planning was going on and he even had the posters up in his room at the home. As his body started to get weaker, each time we visited, he kept apologising for probably not being able to make it to the “Fest” (as he called it) for long, if at all. By a strange and profoundly poignant co-incidence, he sadly passed away on the morning of the day of the “Fest” – something none of us were expecting, especially since the date had been booked over 8 weeks previous.

The day was a roaring success – a legendary day for a legendary man. We booked ourselves down again (Suicide by Cop) for the opening slot, Vaira reformed as a three piece especially for the occasion (they had not played with this line-up for quite some time). Wild Trash finished off the first half of the day and I got up and performed Stan’s eponymous song with them as their closing number. After an hour’s interval to give people a chance to relax, have a drink, go for some food etc. Conquest Of Steel took to the stage. They were one of Stan’s fave bands back in the Empress days. It was their first time in the Mannville and actually their first time back in Bradford for quite some time. Next up were The Negatives – a band whose gigs Stan always turned up to if they were playing locally. Let ‘Em Burn were up next. They were supposed to be headlining but had to swap because the guitarist John’s wife had just gone into labour with their twin boys. Much respect to John for still playing the set and we would have understood if he had pulled the gig. Finally, was a band that Stan requested personally and one who had not played together for 2 and a half years – Nirvana tribute band Cobain. They treated us to an hour’s set. The fest in total was about 10 hours long, with Nigel Hunter compering the entire event and various people doing spots of DJing in-between the acts. The Polish Club around the corner served as a second venue for the day with a more relaxed atmosphere, which was very welcome at times when we needed to get away from the chaos of The Mannville. DJ Big Pete Evans played for a good few hours there. We managed to raise a staggering £607 through the donation bucket and that is before we count up the totals in the collection boxes, which are still scattered along the bars of both venues at the time of writing. A worthy mention has to go to The Exchange pub bar-staff, who had a whip-round and made a generous contribution. You may have read elsewhere the issues that I have personally had with the manager of the place in the build-up to Stanfest, which I will not dwell on but suffice to say that not all people who work down there should be tarred with the same brush so to speak. It was very much a day of togetherness and all petty differences were quite rightly cast aside by all.

So, between the Dawnraiser reunion and Moshing 4 Medicine, Stan, Stanfest, general Mannville events management, organising a Battle of the Bands competition, getting the new band together and having a bit of a stressful time at work (day job) to boot, the first half of 2009 was a crazy time and Stanfest was kind of the natural ending to all of that. I found myself just crashing and burning on the two days following feeling tired, emotional, shell-shocked and also relieved. Stan’s funeral, which is planned for this coming Monday, will be kind of the full stop to it all. After the chaos of Stanfest, I imagine it will be a much more solemn occasion as we pay our final respects.

Countless numbers of people have suggested that Stanfest becomes an annual event. The jury is kind of still out on that one for me. I was only planning on doing that one special day and wouldn’t want to dilute the experience by trying to repeat it. That said, it was a poignant day due to his passing that very morning and I know everybody would want to keep Stan’s memory alive. He was an inspiration to us all. Also, any event which raises money for a well worthy charity is worth doing as many times as possible. Whatever happens, I am not going to actively think about it yet as the last one has only just finished and people are still coming down from the first one.

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