Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Be Your Own Pet

Way back in February 2005, I went to see The Donnas play at the Astoria. I turned up early, knowing from past experience that there would be a meet and greet for the first 25 fans in the queue. While at the meet and greet I noticed a young lady with a BBC bag and a microphone trying her best to blend in with the wallpaper, so I went over and had a chat with her. It turned out that she was producing a program about women in rock music for the Steve Lamacq show, and would I be able to contribute a few words on the subject?

Boy, would I ever! Anyway, as luck would have it they ignored the five minutes of enthusing about Shirley Manson, Karen O et al and used the one out of context line that made me sound like a pervert, but still. This radio show went out on April 4th, when I was on holiday, so I used the Listen Again feature to rip the stream and keep the show permanently. Listening to it you had the usual stuff from the Donnas, Shirley Manson, Justine Fleischmann, Charlotte Cooper...and at the end, it mentioned the "next wave" of female musicians, including Jemina Pearl of Be Your Own Pet, and they played a snippet of Damn Damn Leash. "Gosh," I thought, "this lot are good. Can I find any mp3s through various illegal file sharing services?".

No, was the answer. I was forced to spend £5 on the two CDs and one 7 inch single available on their online store. When it arrived it included a note from Jonas and Jamin saying that I was their new favourite person for buying the BYOP stuff, and also included sweets. Any band that gives me sweets with their music (barring this one, of course) I'll instantly love! I found out that they were due to play over here at the Purple Turtle and immediately bought tickets, failing to realise that I'd be at Glastonbury that day. By this time they'd also released the Fire Department EP, which I also purchased (and gained some friends on the then-new Subways board by sharing it around). The first chance I'd get to see them live would be at Glastonbury festival itself, where they were playing on the Friday. For those with short memories, Glastonbury 2005 had a run of several days of scorching hot weather, so consequently when it bucketed down on the Thursday night/Friday morning the water didn't soak into the ground, it just ran off it. Having to dodge mud and lakes in a pair of boots that were as watertight as a sponge, and paying £4 for a butterscotch crêpe that was a total ripoff meant I wasn't in the best of moods. The vocals were really hard to hear and at the time, I just wanted a nice warm meal (which incidently I had straight after, one of the nicest curries I've ever eaten) so I didn't come away with a high opinion of them. I was willing to give them another try though.

That chance came a few months later, on Hallowe'en. I was in Oxford to see them supporting the Kills, with Becky (who was not stabbed with knifes after class) which was a much more enjoyable experience. As the Yanks really go big for Hallowe'en the band were dressed up, which meant I was right down the front for Jemina in a nurses outfit. They looked like they were having fun, bounding around the stage like me after too many cups of tea, and I was glad I gave them a second chance. I hung around after to meet them, and managed to kiss Jemina (which I think might've annoyed the young lady I was with - shit happens).

Over the Christmas period the first album leaked, and was repeatedly played by all those in my circle of friends (which, quite funnily, have completely changed apart from one person) despite the proper release being put back until March. They announced two London dates at the beginning of February - one at Bush Hall, the other at Camden Barfly - and of course I went to both. At the Bush Hall gig there was nobody selling merchandise, and being drunk, I decided that Cal and I would do it. I still don't know my reasoning behind it even now (being drunk, probably) and it's incredibly cringeworthy to think about it. Bush Hall is quite a nice, posh venue and the solitary bouncer was woefully underprepared for the fun that by now was happening at every BYOP show. I decided to get on the act, got on stage and took my first stage dive, over five rows of moshing people into a large gap. It didn't hurt that much, surprisingly (being drunk, probably). The next night at the Barfly was more restrained, possibly due to a lack of space, so we decided to make our own stage invasion anyway. A photo of Marie dancing on stage with Jemina at this gig found its way into an American fashion magazine - such is life. This pair of gigs was mostly to promote the single Lets Get Sandy, which is notable for the 30 second iTunes sample being more than half the song.

They came back over in April, after the album's launch, and played a gig in a bowling alley. It's still the most surreal place I've seen a gig (including that church in Amsterdam) and as the stage was 6 inches high us poor sods at the front (who clearly hadn't learnt that BYOP gigs get fucking mental) ended up with bruised shins, and then sitting on the stage. A little under two weeks later they were back in London, playing a bigger gig at ULU. This was the first BYOP gig that I came away feeling less than impressed, probably due to a large amount of the crowd being beered up and clearly only there because they thought Jemina was hot. A large amount of them had only got into the band with the release of Adventure a few weeks previously. (Yeah, I sound like a snob.) Still, the new song "Chicken Wings" left a lot of people thinking that the second album would sound good. Even though it didn't appear anywhere on it.

The next time they played anywhere near me was at the Reading Festival, that August. They played on the Saturday, around mid afternoon (between the hours of lunch and football) and it turned out that it was the last of the classic lineup, as the drummer left after the Leeds gig the following day. Jemina shocked everyone by wearing a dress, and Chicken Wings got another airing. By this time the band had released an EP which was basically two album tracks plus the Fire Department EP - the video for Bicycle, Bicycle was worth the rerelease.

And then they disappeared for two years. Well, spent their time in America, touring with the Artic Monkeys (what the hell?) to try and crack the States, and then spending time writing their second album. This promptly leaked onto the internet (minus the opening track, Super Soaked) and so when they came over to play an instore gig the day after release to promote it, a fair few people knew the songs. A nice mix of old and new stuff, including a blistering version of Adventure, and an indication of things to come with a lack of setlist. The crowd were deathly quiet between songs, blatently eavesdropping on the band's conversation, which meant that when someone's phone went off and started playing "Bare Necessities" everybody found it funny. The band were happy to chat and discuss tattooes afterwards at the signing, all was good.

And then came April Fool's Day. A gig at the Scala, again populated by an obnoxious crowd (including the obligatory drunk fat guy) and a long day which left everyone tired and not up for a gig. It didn't help that there was little crowd interaction (mostly Jemina telling arseholes to fuck off) but it left a few people with a sour taste in the mouth, and no real desire to see them again. I was planning on seeing them at Reading anyway, given that they were between Blood Red Shoes and The Duke Spirit on the same stage and I'm lazy, but my illness put paid to that.

Then they announced that they were splitting, and suddenly the gig at Dingwalls became a tad more important. After spending my birthday money in Forbidden Planet and having a lovely burger in the Wetherspoons at Victoria, it was off up to Camden to the gig. As nobody really knew what time the doors opened we ambled our way up to the venue, and camped outside in the courtyard with quite a few other people who had to be scene to be believed. Waiting around inside I stood with my back against a barrier, with Katy and Sian leaning against it on the other side on the level above. The Hot Melts were alright, and I bumped into James again (I swear he's been at more of my gigs this year than not) before scaring Ollie from my board with a bear hug. Unfortunately we were lacking the required number of boardies to play catch with him (we'll wait til Christmas) so I hugged him instead. The set was 60-40 split in favour of the newer stuff, which I personally was disappointed with as I have a lot of fond memories of the older stuff, but shit happens. Ten minutes in (after they'd finished the sixth song) I decided that this would be my last chance to experience how mental a BYOP gig is, so left my stuff with the girls and elbowed my way down the front, eventually ending up sitting on the stage as my shinbones were in real danger of serious damage. The band finished up with Bicycle, Bicycle (which I was pleased about as I got to do the whole "have fun, be safe with it" bit one last time) and Supersoaked, at which point I decided I was tired of having sweaty men rubbing themselves on me and headed back out to the girls. I was knackered, bruised and soaked with sweat, but ever so glad I went one last time.

So, at the stroke of 10 the band finished. They didn't come back out for an encore, that was it. My last abiding memories of them involved Jemina landing on me and me getting a mouthfull of her peroxide hair. I'm glad I went, it was a much better send off than the Scala gig. I'll just have to wait til she comes back touring her solo album!

Be Your Own Pet gigs
24/06/2005 - Glastonbury, Somerset
31/10/2005 - Zodiac, Oxford
01/02/2006 - Bush Hall, London
02/02/2006 - Barfly, London
08/04/2006 - Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, London
21/04/2006 - ULU, London
26/08/2006 - Reading Festival, Reading
18/03/2008 - Banquet Records, Kingston
01/04/2008 - The Scala, London
26/08/2008 - Dingwalls, London

Thanks, guys, for a fun few years.

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