If you keep up with the GATRS, you know that hitting the road in the name of an amazing music experience is nothing new to us. You could call it one of our specialties, actually. The search for that excitement has blinded our judgement – something we’ve gladly (or shamefully perhaps?) acknowledged in the past.
Last fall, Arctic Monkeys were beginning their own road trip, this time in the name of AM. The album had been out approximately a month and they’d been doing the festival circuit, incorporating their most recent catalogue in between their old hits.
Fresh off a powerful 2-
weekend spot at ACL (which some of us were there for as well), they were scheduled to then trek east to the college town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the Varsity Theatre. It was a tiny venue on LSU’s beautiful campus, it was a sold out intimate gig despite the tropical storm threatening the area. They’d called the storm Karen and she’d been creeping through the gulf area, pounding parts of it for the past few days. It was a Saturday last year but October 5th was an important day in the history of this little site. That stormy day set the wheels into motion for our unique friendship. It’s the day we met.
It was early in the day and as mundane as it is to talk about the weather, it has to be said that it was an extraordinarily shitty day. It was raining on and off, even storming at some points. It then became disgustingly humid, as it can only happen in the south. Before the line had begun to form toward the back of the venue, a shy Jamie Cook saw me waving from afar, and waved back. Despite the discomfort of the day, I suddenly had a feeling this was going to be a good day. All of the nerves subsided. Bring on the gig.
Some fans were already camping out in line. That’s when I met Teri. I discovered she’d gotten in her car, with her husband Richard, and her buddy Christina and they drove the 10 hours from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Baton Rouge. I’d also make a 10-hour drive but from Orlando, Florida. Were we crazy? No. We immediately agreed this was a gig you did not, and could not, stay home for. To see Arctic Monkeys in a college bar that fit no more than 800 people is a rarity lately and if you were a massive fan, this was the place to be.
Teri and I bonded by over-analyzing Arctic Monkeys lyrics old and new. I’m still indebted to her because I arrived much later than she did and she let me stand with her in line. This is how friendship starts for music lovers.
Opposite from our side of the line, a group of ladies, some of whom were dressed in knee socks and AM gear, had also gathered. Just like Teri, they were some of the coolest ladies I’d ended up meeting in a line at a rock show. They were going to keep heading eastward and see the band at their Tennessee gigs. Amongst that group were Brandy and Mia who had also made their way to Baton Rouge from Florida. “How many people here are NOT from Louisiana,” I thought to myself.
Once the line got organized and we were slowly herded to the front of the venue for first dibs, we met more wonderful ladies and gents. We’d befriended another cool person named Naomi, thus, the GATRS were then born. We spent the entire queuing time discussing b-sides, covers, and everything else Arctic Monkeys related.
Then the guards came to tell us… It was time.
That night Arctic Monkeys opened with Do I Wanna Know?, “Duh,” you say.
And listen, we know this is super predictable now but at the time it was a big deal. For most of us, it was our first opportunity to hear the new songs live in a proper venue. It was to be my seventh Arctic Monkeys gig and I confidently stated this was the best they’d ever sounded.
During Arabella, which blew my mind that night probably more so than hearing any of the old songs, Alex Turner danced and gyrated his arms and hips whilst explaining to the crowd why this move was a crucial accompaniment to their new sound. “What the fuck is he talking about?” I said to Teri, who was standing in front of me. He moved his hips all night. If anything, I can say at least he gave it the old college try.
The band let the crowd sing through parts of I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, which must have left everyone along the barricade with goosebumps. Teri grabbed on tight to my arm during Cornerstone. And though whispers of “505 is next, just watch” were heard, the guys skipped it. But it was okay. We’d befriended each other. Our bond being this band and the music they’d been making and sharing.
The set ended with R U Mine? Which will probably never get old and will remain a certified mind blower as long as this band continues to play live.
As the gig ended, you got the feeling the band was en route to perfecting their live show for what was to come next – a domination of the alternative rock music scene in this country. After years of being quietly respected amongst music enjoyers, there was a scent in the air that told you the band was fully prepared to take their success to another level.
The gig ended with exchanges of phone numbers and the sighting of a non-fan getting arrested after she created an alcohol-fueled chaos behind us from inside the venue with her slurring and pushing us all over the place turns out she took it to the parking lot but was promptly thrown in the riot van.
By the time some of the ladies had made it to Tennessee along with the Monkeys, the band announced plans for a winter tour through the Midwest. More small venues – it could very well be the last of them, we thought. What to do? “See you there.”