Reflecting Failure: Looking back at the first No Side Effects gig

Ade reflects on the happenings, stress and exhilaration of our first ever live performance

In the late evening on Friday 2nd November, Tom and I finally brought the sounds of No Side Effects into the live realm with our first ever 45 minute set to a friendly, welcoming audience at the Darkroom Espresso in Swindon. The day also marked the release of our debut album ‘Reinventing Failure’. It’s been a long journey.

The album plucks some emotional strings from the past 5 years. We’ve worked hard to create something that sounds good to us and had some really good laughs along the way.

So, around August this year, Tom convinced me that we should commit to a live date and that he had some contacts for a venue in Swindon. This, I was told, was a way to make sure we practiced together by applying a little pressure. This made sense as up to now, we’d not managed to find time for regular practice sessions to create a live set. Now, we’d have no choice but to meet up.

I’ve been reluctant to do anything live, unsure if I could overcome my fear of failing and letting everyone down. I did, however, have it down as a personal goal this year, despite my reservations. In the end, I agreed to a date and we proceeded to pencil in plenty of evenings to try to polish a performance. It was long hours of work, pushed by Tom’s drive to get it sounding right and tempered by my insecurities and doubt.

We set up all our gear in Tom’s Neon Meadow studio. I would drive up from Newbury and we’d practice in the evening and most of the following day. There was one occasion where I found it really difficult and tried to convince Tom to cancel.

The day of the gig finally arrived and we’d both booked the day off to practice and by 4pm, we decided to pack up, both generally happy with the progress but mainly because we just couldn’t practice anymore.

On the evening of the gig, we loaded up both our vehicles and drove the 30 minutes into Swindon town centre. We pulled up onto the double yellow lines outside the Darkroom Espresso coffee shop to unload the gear, at a surprisingly timely 6pm. I suffered further discussions as to why I had brought such a large, heavy keyboard.

We were welcomed by Charlie of Zero Gravity Tea Party and Will, the coffee shop owner and proceeded to set up and sound test, an activity which renders Tom unapproachable until it is finished. Our electronic smorgasbord sprawled its way across the room, a stereo jack lead at a time, leaving just enough space for Charlie’s seated grotto of candles and fairy lights.

It was the first time I met the local artists and musicians that Tom was familiar with and who made up the crowd. I was so focused on overcoming the anxiety of playing live and remembering my music that I completely overlooked that I would have to chat to a room of strangers.

I relaxed more when Charlie of Zero Gravity Tea Ceremony (ZGTC) started performing. The ambient acoustic waves interjected with intense energetic hypnotica, building on loops played from four tape decks and through a variety of ‘surfaces’. It was a great, confident and personal performance. At the end of the evening, it was suggested by Tom that Charlie’s ‘LoFi’ set provided a complimentary analogue yin to our harder, digital yang. In contrast to the ZGTC performance, we had lined up enough electronic equipment to open a PC World.

At around 9pm, I managed to stand when our time was beckoning. My knees wobbled and I had to engage my meditation practice. It’s always interesting how nerves and anxiety manifest themselves. I’ve been in many stressful situations but this was different. This was me at centre stage, performing, singing in public. Weird. Scary.

Photo by Simon Warner

The decision to open with Anti-trust was a good one. A chance to settle the nerves with a loose arrangement of sounds. The world shrinks to the instruments in front of me. We bring in the slowly building crescendos, electric guitar and the heartbeat bass-drum all collapse to an end in modulated fuzz and all falls to silence. We were encouraged by a generous reception. Tom gives a little banter as I search for the next rack of settings on the keyboard.

Photo by Swindon Sound and Light

This led, somewhat seamlessly, into In Your Brain Right Now, a complicated mix of samples, funk guitar, jazz keyboards and repeating bass and drums which, in rehearsals, provided us with plenty of blank moments. We were reticent to bring this track to the live performance as it has so many elements but it is now one of the most enjoyable to play. We worked through the 10 or so minutes of this song without major downfalls and again, finished to a little applause. (We had 2 rounds of applause, the first during one of the sound breaks within the song)

Photo by Swindon Sound and Light

The third song Outstare the Square is another mix of samples, vocal loops and repetitive bass combining the album version with an early mix which used a religious evangelist sample. This track had us in stitches when we first put it together and it was nice to hear some of the humour had transferred to the crowd, particularly when ‘… Obama plays golf’.

Photo by Swindon Sound and Light

The video clips posted by bergamasque show an introduction to the final track of our set called Dark Light. The ambient intro that we worked on for the first time on that day worked well before unleashing the relentless bass drum, soaring guitar and synths. A final descend into overdrive pedals and synth chaos brings the set to a close and a generous double round of applause.

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Three short video samples by bergamasque

The weeks of hard work paid off and the elation and relief afterwards was palpable. We had to settle and reflect for a few hours afterwards. I actually remembered the whole evening, this time my memories not being wiped by anxiety. It was a shaky start but on the other side of the evening, it felt good.

we both must say thank you, thank you and thank you for all the photos from Swindon Sound and Light which, to be honest, made us look far cooler than we are (speak for yourself {eds: Tom}) and the video clips from bergamasque which encapsulated a little of the performance and Charlie for his stellar ZGTC set, check out his music. We are also really grateful for those who came out to support us and for the Darkroom Espresso owner, Will, for allowing us to inflict our untested noise on some of his customers.

The coffee is really good here by the way.

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Anti-trust Live Rehearsal

No Side Effects rehearsing ‘Anti-trust’, the introductory track on their forthcoming album ‘Reinventing Failure’