i thought i'd drop you some thoughts of the mogwai gig that i was lucky to attend back in 1997. sadly all done through memory, i didn't write anything down at the time, but this being one of the gigs that springs to mind as "best i've ever seen" (i've been going to at least one show a month for the last 20 years), it's still pretty clear in my head!
this show cropped up on the 'stage' gig listings in amongst the the likes of the stereophonics/travis/hurricane #1. at the time the name didn't mean anything to me, but in the days preceding the gig, my then girlfriend mentioned it to me as she'd seen that they'd released a single on che records and she was really into that scene. i then read in the nme or melody maker that the "four had become five" and brendan o'hare had joined. i was a huge teenage fanclub fan, but thought they'd lost a large part of their live appeal when brendan left. despite admission being about a fiver and living all of 3 minutes walk from the venue we were undecided right up until the afternoon of the gig.
i was living in university halls at the time, and one of my neighbours (and great friend to this day) casually mentioned that he was gutted but he was too skint to go see his new favourite band that night. he described them as "a really lo-fi act with some scottish bloke talking over the top" and it kind of clicked in my head that this could be the band who'd released the record that i'd heard in my first weeks of uni on the radio about the mad weekend a group of mates had had out. the description intrigued the then girlfriend, who immediately borrowed tony's arab strap album and started playing it. she maybe got 2 songs in before declaring it a work of genius and all of sudden it seemed ridiculous to not go. a few phone calls were made and it turned out that there were about a dozen people we knew who were either thinking about going to the gig or just plain fancied a night out and some live music.
we got there pretty early in order to see the arab strap show and there were maybe 20-30 people there including us. arab strap played for i guess half hour/45 minutes and brendan o'hare kept getting onstage with them and wafting poppers about. none of their songs really stood out (it took me another couple of years to really get into them), but they played "the first big weekend" towards the end (maybe last). aidan gleefully told everyone that they were only going to play the song 6(?) more times and said "if you wanna get up and dance, get up and dance" which prompted a few people to do just that.
mogwai came on shortly afterwards, during which time the audience couldn't have swelled by more than a dozen or so. i doubt that there was more than 50 people there, and it could well have been significantly less than that. our group were sat down on the floor near the front of the stage, ill prepared for what we are about witness. the show was quite simply mesmerising. early in the show, a crashing section woke most of us from an almost trance like state, so hypnotic were the songs. i remember this one and summer (which was the stand out song for me) when 'young team' came out a few weeks later. the main set finished with mogwai fear satan, and when it was over there was almost silence - everyone was too busy trying to scrape their jaws off the floor. it really felt like the few relatively few people who had turned out all realised that they had just seen something truly special. we did all get it together enough to get the band back on for what stuart declared was the "first encore of the tour" after which it was all done and everyone piled out, kind of ashen-faced that it was over.
i've seen mogwai many times over the years since, but the way everything aligned that night and the sheer brilliance of the band mean that it has never been matched for me. i still occasionally see some of the others that went to the show, and the gig always crops up. there's a sense of pride that we were there for that one, as obviously the band went on to much bigger things (it was only a couple of years before they were headlining the other stage at glastonbury). the remark from stuart that it was the first encore of that tour makes me think that for that night a small corner of stoke was perfectly in tune with the band. 17 years and countless gigs later this was still stands out as one of the shows - certainly i've never been to anything that turned out to be so utterly memorable from such innocuous beginnings.