Sunday, 1 January 2017

The First Dayglo Fishermen Performance

It's 25 years since Dayglo Fishermen first performed live.

On 21st December 1991, during a typically frigid evening in the far north of England, five of the band's members: Peter Fothergill , Richard Burton, David Fothergill, Eamonn Maddock and Sean Wills, came together at an ancient venue in Hexham, Northumberland, to perform their music for the first time.

The teaser promotion image for the gig from the cassette inlay of the band's 'Fresh Gin' album

Formed in the spring of the previous year, the band had already released three albums,and we're working on their fourth. Such a prolific spate of composition was the result of the ferociously creative energy that encompassed the band at that time. But the moment had arrived for Dayglo Fishermen to emerge from the studio and unleash their unique talents upon a live audience.

The promotional material for the band's first Moot Hall gig - left: teaser poster, right: main poster

The chosen venue was Hexham's Moot Hall. At more that 600 years old, the medieval tower was the gatehouse to the town's old gaol. It was a perfect contrast to the band’s very modern and unique electronic music.

The building's Lockhart Room on the second floor, where many centuries before the local bailiff had entertained guests, was the largest room available. With its thick stone walls and the heavy old wooden ceiling high above, the room provided the space, acoustics, and also the intimacy, that the band craved for its first performance.

The Moot Hall, Hexham - the imposing venue for Dayglo Fishermen's first ever live performance

The audience were mainly local inhabitants, along with a few curious media representatives. All were there to see one of the most original bands in a generation, a welcome departure from the usual school band rock that had saturated the local music scene.

The concert opened with something very unusual: 'Fly's Eyes', a remarkably odd instrumental track from the band's equally odd third album, 'Fresh Gin'. Somehow the music manages to create feelings of calmness, paranoia, tension, and even mild panic, and almost all at the same time. A quite astonishing way to begin a concert.

And then Dayglo Fishermen's first ever song, 'Fish', began. It's the first of seven tracks from the band's debut album, 'Drenched' that are played that evening, and at that moment in time their best known. Most bands would have left such a song for the encore. Starting with their most famous track was yet another example of the band's quirkiness, and perhaps a subconscious refusal to conform. With new synth and guitar lines, the live version differed quite significantly from the studio version, but retained the core drums and bass that fans would have wanted.

Dayglo Fishermen performing 'Fish'. Left to right: Eamonn, David and Peter

Next came 'Snatch', a sample-saturated dance track that raised energy levels even higher at the historic venue. Taken from the band's second album, 'Strange Plaice', the track pumped out its rhythm relentlessly, with live vocals appearing in the choruses for the first time that evening. The song ended in a very mellow manner, where the chatter of dolphins echoed in and out of a wash of soothing live synth tones, enhanced by the venue's natural ambience.

'Blue Container' kicked in almost immediately after. The track, Dayglo Fishermen's brilliantly executed piano house masterpiece, featured new guitars, piano and vocals, and kept the audience moving until its final notes. It was the last dance track for a while as the more synth-loaded music took a break.

The track, 'Get On', came next. The backing is simple drums and bass, giving the guitars prominence for the first time that evening. The samples of the verse on the studio version are replaced by live vocals, which gave the song new depth.

Peter, Sean and Richard fill the Lockhart Room with a dense texture of guitars and synths 

Another mainly drums and bass song followed. 'Free Roky Erickson' began with its cheesy off-beat organ riff, but without the band's now legendary psychedelic echoing voices (the band surely now wish they had left them in). With the organ enhancing the mid tempo rhythm, Peter and David sang the song as a duet - to date their only live vocal performance with the band. Looking back it was a special moment indeed.

'T.E.S.' followed. Standing for 'Token Ethnic Song', the easy reggae-style rhythm track and guitars perfectly complemented the tribal singing and animal noise samples that echoed around the venue. For some reason most of the band abandoned the stage leaving Richard to carry the song largely on his own, which he managed with ease.

Richard was the lead vocalist during the gig, and on many of the studio albums that followed

The dance tracks return. 'Words and Pictures', another track from the 'Drenched' album, raised the energy levels as it pounded out its heavy synth rhythm. The studio version is largely instrumental, with its choruses filled with a John Candy monologue from the film 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'. The live version replaced the sample with a vocal performed by Richard - a wise decision.

'Alien Wave', another sample-filled dance track, came next. It's short, but kept the audience entertained, and probably confused, with the seemingly meaningless string of voice extracts. The track, one of the band's most popular early works, went on to have two new versions recorded for the 'Keep to the Path' and 'Animate' albums, both of which were released in 1993 (during the band's most prolific recording era).

Up next  was 'Drenched', an unusual choice for live performance, but it worked well. It's the title track of Dayglo Fishermen's first album, and largely instrumental. The studio version features a digital voice generated by a Commodore Amiga computer, quite a revolutionary idea at the time. The live version omitted it, which was a shame, but the new funky guitar riff lifted the track sufficiently to make it a worthy addition to the set.

Incredible concentration...

And then the strange and hypnotic 'Funky Toaster' was performed. It was yet another unusual choice for a live set, but also a clever one as it fitted in well with the band's image at the time. The audience were clearly amazed. The studio version once again included the Amiga computer voice, this time cleverly manipulated to give the impression it's in a drug-induced haze.

In a completely unexpected move, the band then performed the Queen song 'We Will Rock You' - a tribute to Freddy Mercury who had passed away less than a month before. As Peter performed the drums live on his keyboard, and with Richard on guitar, two guest artists sang the song to what must have been a very awe-struck crowd. It was compelling to watch.

Performing 'We Will Rock You' (during rehearsal)

'Keep to the Path', another pounding synth dance track, was the gig's penultimate track. Layered with hard guitar riffs the track resonated power throughout the venue. Yet again, the Amiga computer voice present on the studio version was omitted. It would have been good to have included at least the final line which is spoken in a mildly creepy Geordie accent.

And then the finale, 'Mondrian', began. Building quickly, the song became a wall of guitars and drums, punctuated with light pipe organs. The whole band lined up on stage, which visually reinforced the 'wall of sound' effect. It was a truly great ending to what had been an outstanding and memorable performance. Unfortunately the live version was not recorded and so will forever exist only in the memories of the band and the select audience.

The final song, 'Mondrian' - a wall of musicians unleash a wall of sound

That first live performance by Dayglo Fishermen was a groundbreaking event in the history of entertainment in Hexham. Its infectious energy and enthusiasm, its eccentricity and originality, and its divergence from normality, certainly affected the lives of all who attended. It was a unique evening, and something like it will never be seen again.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the concert a live album has been created with the memorable title 'Live at the Moot Hall 21 Dec 1991'. This is the first time the recording of the performance has been released. You can download it now from the official Dayglo Fishermen website.

Cover image for the commemorative 25th anniverary album of the first Dayglo Fishermen live performance 

The band returned to the Moot Hall two years (and an incredible six albums) later for one more performance at the venue.  By then the band had transformed into something different, and something a little more structured. Only Richard and Peter were in the band at that time, and they were joined on stage by the eminent Scottish artist and trumpet player J. Lorne Inglis. Sean Wills also joined the band on stage with his vintage synthesiser (Sean had left the band after the 'Magic Organ' album in 1992 and became a regular guest artist until he finally rejoined the band in 2011 to work on the 'Midnight Souls Still Remain' album).

Dayglo Fishermen have recently performed live once again in 2016, very nearly quarter of a century later. And the band still includes three members who performed at that very first gig.

If or when they'll play again is unknown, even to the band. Such forward planning is not really their thing. There'll be at least one new studio album before then.

After that, who knows?

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