July 15 2012: HELLO, GOODBYE

The Sunday Herald, July 15 2015

Rachel Loxton, Catriona Stewart, Ken McNab, Stewart Paterson and Stewart Atwood

KEN McNAB (SINGER) THE last lingering note from T in the Park has faded, the lights are turned out on the T Break stage. I’ve finally stopped tormenting my family with loud nightly renditions of Johnny B Goode, Seven Nation Army and Daydream Believer.

screenshot-hello-goodbye

Deep down, though, I want to be on that stage one last time. Performing is addictive and I freely admit I’m hooked.

I think everyone in The sundayheraldband feels the same. After all, despite a mountain of odds stacked against us, after just 16 weeks learning to play and sing from scratch, we really did pull it off.

I think we would all say it’s been an amazing ride. When the day of reckoning finally arrived last Saturday, I knew we were ready. A new-found confidence had kicked in.

In the end, I just went for it and I loved it. Strangely, I wasn’t nervous … the only pressure I felt was not wanting to ruin it for the rest.

There are some fantastic memories of the day itself. The venue was just a sea of sludge. I’ve never seen so much mud in my life. Sunday Herald editor Richard Walker, our de facto manager, was comically stressed out to his eyeballs as he juggled with the logistics of free passes, band accreditation and ensuring our equipment was where it should be.

I’ll never forget him bellowing down the phone at me: “I’ve only asked you to do one thing!” Comedy gold.

The constant rain ensured the T Break tent was pretty much filled to capacity … and we had a magnificent crowd, helped in no small measure by Rachel Loxton’s madcap pals from Aberdeen. They were chanting her name even before we hit the stage And, honestly, I think we sounded good. Of course, it was all over too quickly. Twelve minutes of riding an adrenaline wave. Let me tell you, the other guys in the The sundayheraldband were simply fantastic.

We came a long way in a short time and had a lot of laughs.

To echo John Lennon’s breezy farewell at the end of Let It Be: “I’d like to say thanks on behalf of the band and myself and I hope we passed the audition.”

CATRIONA STEWART (KEYBOARDS) IT was a bit like when they put a lovely pony in with a racehorse to calm it down before an important event. Before our private warm-up gig at the Garage I was terrified. My brain couldn’t cope with the fear and so I shut down. Basic functions only: breathing, blinking, skulling a neat double gin.

It was awful until Janet, my oldest, dearest and daftest friend, arrived with some words of advice: “Remember that time in primary five when we had to play our recorders to the whole school and I tooted too soon? You held it together.” She was right, I had held it together, and I could hold it together this time, too. The Garage gig was amazing. For the two weeks before it felt like the keyboard was consuming my life. I had let down friends left, right and centre by cancelling long-planned events due to having practice: there was no time for anything except the bloody keyboard. I was growing to resent it. And then the gig happened and it was … fun. And a total turning point.

From being properly, thoroughly terrified about going on stage I became slightly excited at the prospect. I had been on stage, I had survived and I wanted to do it again.

The day of our T performance was full of hiccoughs. If it could go wrong, it would go wrong. The stress was building, it was bucketing with rain, a member of the crew shouted at me and I cried, there was no dressing room and I had mud everywhere. I was sure Beyonce’s T in the Park experience had not been like this. Yet still, I was excited.

Suddenly, it was stage time. Ken aced it. He had the crowd on board within minutes and they were kind. Very, very kind: people sang and danced and just went with it. What an absolute buzz it was to look out at a packed tent of people enjoying themselves at your behest. It was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

RACHEL LOXTON (BASS) IT’S summed up by the stage manager: “I’ve worked with famous bands that have been less trouble than you lot.” The day begins with the drive up from Glasgow, which was postponed due to lack of a keyboard stand.

Two of the band members plus a guest squeeze into the car of our roadie (ie the SundayHerald sports editor). There are just two of us in the back but we were seated next to a coffin … or a keyboard. It’s cartoonishly massive. Time for a beer. Unfortunately, it takes longer than anticipated to get to Balado and I realise I shouldn’t be drinking.

I end up trekking to the campsite to find a toilet when we arrive. I try to skip the queue by telling the boy in front I’m playing at the festival. It doesn’t work.

While waiting in the car park for the others we discover it’s a mud bath already. Eventually we find everyone, including our manager and editor, who gets us into the site … just two hours after arriving. When we arrive backstage at the T Break Stage it’s like something out of the film Almost Famous, with cool backstage staff and a band without a clue. Except obviously we had less talent.

Each band member goes into their own world as we prepare to perform.

Sound check is traumatising. When the technician asks me to play my bass all I can pluck is an open string.

But suddenly we’re on stage for real … and the audience is awesome. We play three songs and the crowd actually bounces and sings along. Ken is the perfect front man. It’s the best feeling in the world. As quickly as it starts it’s over, and we’re packing up and celebrating.

Was it all worth it? Absolutely. I’m still on a high a week later and the whole experience, from picking up the bass, meeting my mentors and getting to know the band, is one of the best I’ve ever had.

STEWART PATERSON (GUITAR) WE did it. One week later and I can still barely believe we managed to perform at T in the Park. The sight of the crowd bouncing, chanting and singing along to Seven Nation Army will be forever in my mind.

Wandering around the site in the afternoon, all I could think of was walking on to the stage, and nerves were getting ready to wreck everything.

To my surprise, as soon as I walked out and saw family and friends in the quite considerable crowd, I was calm.

From that moment on until the end of the third song, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had.

When we started out months ago, I knew as soon as the first article was published there was no turning back and we would be on stage at T in the Park come what may.

But I had no idea we would have learned as much as we did and be able to pull off a credible performance.

In some ways it seems like yesterday that we started the project … in others it seems much longer, given the amount of effort we put in.

There were times when I thought the task was too big, days when nothing went right and I feared it would be one almighty embarrassing public humiliation.

But perseverance and seeing my band-mates as committed as I was provided extra determination.

The first time I played through all three songs, and it wasn’t long ago, was hugely satisfying and I knew then it could be done.

The experience has taught me that you are never too old to learn a new skill … and I would encourage others to do it.

I had always wanted to be able to play an instrument, but didn’t have the faintest idea how to learn and didn’t know where to begin.

It took countless hours of practise on my own and many more with my tutor, Maria Leahy, rehearsing with the band and with Andrew Panton.

Without their expertise and the unstinting encouragement of those closest to me I simply couldn’t have done it. To those who helped me rock, I salute you.

STEWART ATTWOOD (DRUMS) WELL that’ll be it finished then … After 16 weeks of hardcore rehearsals and many a night practising in the spare room with my partner and my dog using pillows as ear plugs, The sundayheraldband did what we set out to do, play at T in the Park 2012, and by all accounts we didn’t do too bad a job. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Thinking back to when we had our first meeting at the newspaper offices in late 2011, I thought we were all mad … but we all had a determination to succeed.

for Ponty It wasn’t until the last month that everyone seemed to gel, and it was then that we started to believe in ourselves and each other. Instead of dreading playing at T in the Park, we started to look forward to it.

Our warm-up gig in Glasgow was our first taste of playing on stage in front of a crowd – with nowhere to hide. Work colleagues, friends and family filled the room and we rocked our little hearts out.

To say I enjoyed it would not do it justice – it was amazing. Now it’s over, I seem to have more time on my hands and plenty of quiet moments to think back over the 16 weeks.

What a blast it was: not too much blood, sweat and tears; great laughs, stories, and a sense of achievement for all.

If I was ever asked to form a band again, I’d know exactly who to call.

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