[sic] Magazine

THE WEDDING PRESENT – Tunbridge Wells Forum

“Are they still going?” is a question I am asked frequently, when I dredge up the name of a band I’m seeing that have been making records for a while.

Which is kind of like asking someone who’s forty, somewhat befuddled, “Are you still working?”

Of course, bands don’t do this for free – albeit sometimes it might feel like it. And, since The Wedding Present, like more than a few bands I’ve seen, have a history attached to them. The idea being that if you’re still doing this, playing live, and making a racket at 45 you’re in some way a failure, is bullshit. Nobody says about U2 “Are they still going?”.

More likely, they say “Bono’s a prat.”

Me, I’m glad bands are still going. It means they aren’t working in some office somewhere. They’re making art and music, even if it is not that often. I’d rather see Mike Scott behind a guitar than a desk any day of the week. Even if I never hear the song, the song is being sung, and that song will bring more to humanity than any report.

Tonight, a warm Wednesday in Kent, The Wedding Present play yet another show on their seemingly never-ending tale, one that has seen 36 singles, 22 albums, 19 live cassettes, about 1,891 different T-shirts, and more gigs than God herself. It’s not a comeback, because The Wedding Present never really went away, as such, and there’s no new product, album, or anything else to plug, just an anniversary of the classic “Bizarro” album and a bunch of unrecorded new stuff.

Normally, you wouldn’t get The Weddoes play a venue quite this small, or this warm: but they’re breaking in a new drummer – as the usual one is on holiday – in preparation for a big festival show somewhere in Germany. As is their want, the whole of “Bizarro” gets an airing: but not before there’s a handful of new songs, and a clutch of oldies.


Opening with “Queen of Outer Space”, the band open a box of seems like an infinite, perfect riffarama. There simply aren’t any bad David Gedge songs – each one is a perfectly formed drama of love, life, and the world in-between; of the new stuff, “Wake Up Screaming” is perhaps the first great song to mention an iPhone.

But, as with any Wedding Present / Cinerama song, there is both pathos and poignancy: the ending of “You’re Dead” being one of the most affecting things I have seen; over a slow, 3 minute acoustic coda, there’s a pre-recorded segment; every time John Peel ever said the phrase “The Wedding Present”, all and each one compiled endlessly over each other, the man’s voice intoning those three words what feels like 60 or 70 times. And, slowly, it brings the non-Bizarro section to a close, as a dead mans voice says – “And, the first track from ‘Bizarro’, Brassneck…” as Gedge and Graeme and Terry and Alex The New Drummer unleash a hailstorm of guitars, drums, and Gedge’s as ever, astutely brilliant words.


Yes. It’s “Brassneck”. A room in Tunbridge Wells turns from people with babysitters and jobs into The Windsor Old Trout, February 1992: people shouting, yelling, jumping up and down and singing and dancing and finally living – “hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly.”

Unlike many, somewhat redundant, nostalgic playing-a-whole-album-in-full, tonight, here, now, “Bizarro”, in the flesh is stunning to experience. Especially the climatic, stunning, 11 minute “Take Me!” that, just when you think it’s over, starts again and finally, eventually, explodes in a delicious squall of feedback. Nothing tastes as good as a string of effects pedals set to max.

Being once, the world’s largest public toilet now turned into an old-fashioned sweating room, The Forum sees 250 people jump up and down. It’s also the first time I think I have ever seen a guitar sweat with condensation before anyone has actually played it. Sweat flies off everyone – even the walls.


And what a sound. It is just a guitar. But what a veritable arsenal of effects, including one labelled “DAVID’S SPARE POWER PEDAL”, that sound, at the flick of a switch like some immensely therapeutic, Guitar Scream Therapy.

And everything feels better. It is just a bunch of people, paid employees, performing mostly old songs, and everyone seemingly having a whale of a time. People dance and sing and drink and talk, and suddenly it’s curfew in a British town. And if you really must be honest, you might as well be short: The Wedding Present are a band lead by a fabulous songwriter and a sound that makes life a little better. If music were a drug, songs like this would be Prozac – making the world better, one riff at a time.

For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word