In March 2004 my band and I were asked to play support to Mark Gardener at the last show on his Australian tour. Mark is best known for the major role he played in the English quartet Ride, who were a phenomenal band in the early nineties.
I was really excited to playing with him because I had been a Ride fan since I was a teenager. In my final years at school and beyond, they were a major influence on me musically. I say they were an influence, but it was more on my drumming. At the time drums were my life, and I still believe to this day that Loz from Ride is one of the greatest drummers to ever sit behind a kit. But Ride were one of those bands in the truest sense…four mates from school who each played a vital role in what they did. They had it all. They were sonic but had melodies, they played fast as anyone but then would then get all moody on you, and I guess most importantly they wrote killer songs.
My first experience with Ride was at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney on June 22 1991. Ratcat (who I adored) were headlining an all-ages show and it turned out to be one of those special nights that literally inspired thousands of Sydney kids to play music for all the right reasons. The main support was Ride, who at the time were popular within the indie scene. The main audience though on this night were youngsters like myself there to see Ratcat and hadn’t heard too much about these four young Oxford lads. Being so young though, you were excited to see new music and at the very least more optimistic about what you were about to witness. Ride came on and were so amazing. They were, and still are, one of the loudest acts I have seen. I recognised ‘Like A Daydream’ and ‘Vapour Trail’ which were both JJJ hits at the time. They had strobe lights and it was just one of those great moments as a young music fan. I would liken it to seeing Sonic Youth in the early days or My Bloody Valentine or even to an extent someone like Dinosaur Jr. One of those fairly unique acts just doing what they do with minimal fuss. After that show I became a fan, bought the album and EP’s, the t-shirts. ‘Vapour Trail’ became my favourite song ever and still is today.
Being the music fan I was at that age, I listened to them all time at school on my walkman. I have always believed that in every year of school, all around the world, there is between one and ten music obsessed kids who either go on to play music or somehow keep it as an important part of their lives and I was certainly one of those kids. We had a few in our year actually. One became of my best friends.
In 1992 I wasn’t much older, and Ride toured in their own right promoting the ‘Going Blank Again’ album. This was a time in my life I will never forget, you know…becoming a young man and all that… I mean, I was growing up and noticing the world around me. I ended up going to see them at the Phoenician Club on Saturday July 18th. My friend from school Leah accompanied me, or I accompanied her maybe, and we went with some mates of mine at the time. Leah would become one of my best friends, a fellow music obsessive that I mentioned above. Three of us out of four were totally underage but at the time, The Phoenician Club was known as a place you could get into. (Sadly, it would close years later because of the death of an underage girl taking acid and dying). I remember every moment of this night and am not going to get into the logistics of it all. I will say it was a LONG night; I think we got inside the venue around 8pm and they came on at 12am or so, which for Sydney is pretty late. It was also one of my first club shows. I think the supports, much to my mates’ laughter, was Glide and Ripe. Think about it… Ride, Ripe and Glide. What a tongue twister!
The time in between the bands was really long too, like maybe an hour between each? Ride played an unforgettable show, definitely in my top ten of all time. To this day, I meet people who were there and relate to how awesome Ride sounded on the night. Again, they had a great light show and were incredibly loud. This time around though, I knew most of the songs and just had the time of my life. A friend of a friend scored the setlist at the time, which I still have a copy of. I think we got home around 4am that night. Not bad for a bunch of underage kids.
A couple of years later Ride released ‘Carnival of Light’ which was honestly, a little disappointing. It still had great songs, but the band had mellowed musically quite dramatically. I know all bands do, but perhaps Ride did one or two albums too early? As a fan though, I accepted the work as a nice change and still got some mileage out of the album. They never toured here again and rumours of their demise were stopping to appear. They released a final album titled ‘Tarantula’ which I listened to twice I think. If you want the goss on this era of the band and their fallings out then log onto their site. They are very open about this period of time. For us, as fans…we never saw it coming. Still, they had released some timeless music and from my experience at least, played some brilliant shows.
From that period of music in England (1990-1995) there were thousands of new bands that would apparently go on to change the face of music. And of course not many of them did. But for me, Ride would certainly be one them that did. Mark Gardener and Andy Bell went on to do both band and solo material. Loz ended up in a band with one of them too. Steve hasn’t done too much to my knowledge.
A little while ago my friend Aaron put on a harbour cruise featuring Mogwai and Arab Strap. Oasis were in town and they came along for the show. Andy Bell was in Oasis playing bass of all things and to my excitement was on the cruise. I had the chance to meet him but just froze…and that isn’t exactly like me when it comes to meeting those I admire. But aside from saying “You wrote my favourite song of all time” I couldn’t think of anything else. So I just stood there, happy to be in his presence. He is very tall.
So we got to support Mark Gardener at the Gaelic Club recently and it was such a great night. I am happy to say we played one of our best shows ever. I had a really enjoyable experience playing. Mark was great. He does what he does so well. Just the 12 string and a fellow acoustic guitarist, and his voice is so strong these days. He still has many many fans and plays both old and new material. You get the feeling someday, Ride will get together again. Even if its just the four of them somewhere jamming for the fun of it. Mark even played Andy Bell songs, and on this night Simon Day of Ratcat played guitar on ‘Vapour Trail’. I felt like I had come full circle, and I was part of the show that night. I was all grown up. And as grown up as I am, I still couldn’t talk to Mark at soundcheck or elsewhere. I think its because I was so young when I loved those guys, part of me still feels that way today. I did however, have the nerve to offer Mark my guitar when he broke a string. He played many hits on MY guitar.