In 2003 I discovered that my favourite band Rancid, my inspiration and one of the metre sticks which I would measure myself against, musically speaking, right to this day would be visiting Ireland for the first time EVER!
To say I was excited would be an understatement. They were playing the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on 22nd September 2003 and The Ulster Hall, Belfast the following night.
Being a bit of a dreamer I didn’t just want tickets to the show, and I sure-as-hell didn’t wanna settle for a chance meeting with my musical heroes by hanging around outside the venue for hours on end. No, I wanted more than that – like any ‘good dreamer’ I wanted MY band to open for Rancid when they came to play on MY home turf.
So I invested hours of research on the internet sending off dozens of enquiries until one day I got an email address for Rancid’s then manager.
His name was Dave Holmes and he seemed impressed with my tenaciousness in tracking him down. After a few emails flying back and forth he said he would pass our demo on to Rancid because they were personally picking the supports for these shows.
‘Holy c**p,’ I thought, “Rancid will actually listen to our music!” Now it didn’t matter whether they liked us or not – just to have Tim, Lars, Matt and Brett listen to our music was an honour in my book.
If you don’t like or even know Rancid then please put yourself in my shoes for a moment and imagine being able to make a personal connection with your favourite band or artist of all time. For you it might be Elvis, The Clash, Blink 182 or The Who. Who-ever – for me that band was Rancid.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, two or three weeks went by where I was emailing Dave eagerly awaiting word on who would support Rancid in Dublin.
Then one day while working my day job an email from Dave landed in my inbox confirming, as Tim Armstrong once sung, ‘Who Would’ve Thought That Dreams Come True!’
Rancid chose my band to open for them not just in Dublin but in Belfast too. I can’t tell you how proud, excited, scared and utterly blown away I was.
The build up to the shows was a super exciting time for us young punk rockers but as the gigs got closer and closer I began to s**t my pants about the thoughts of meeting Tim Armstrong – after all, he provided the soundtrack to most of my teenage years growing up.
22nd September arrived and I remember pulling up at the side door of the Olympia in our van packed to the roof with amps, guitars drum kit, band members and crew – when the back doors opened we literally tumbled out onto the road!
We had passed dozens of fans, fans just like us, all milling around at the front entrance trying to get a glimpse of their heroes. How lucky did I feel being ushered in the side door yet I remember thinking – ‘I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready to meet these guys yet – I don’t know what the f**k to say!’
But it was too late – as soon as I walked into the venue I literally came face to face with a living punk rock legend – Tim Armstrong himself, dressed in his trademark sleeveless denim jacket, tattered and worn black jeans and black beanie.
I froze as he looked me up and down, literally, and then reached out and shook my hand before introducing me to some chick who he explained was shooting video for them.
Stunned, I didn’t have much to say except to thank him for having us on the bill before I scurried off through the twisting maze and winding corridors to look for our dressing room so I could freak out.
The next two days were a Rancid fan’s dream come through. We had the best seats in the house for the Dublin and Belfast shows – on stage just behind the curtain right next to Lars. Afterwards we chatted for ages with Matt about Guinness, Dublin, The Transplants, playing Ireland and music in general.
Matt seemed taken back that we had all bought tickets to the Dublin show before we secured the support so that one way or another we were gonna be there – either on stage or in the crowd. He understood where we were coming from and recalled how he and Tim were massive fans of the LA band ‘X’ and how Rancid pleaded to support ‘X’ on their tour many years before. Matt explained that Rancid offered to play for free because they just wanted to support their heroes too.
We drafted in our friends to work as the ‘crew’ for both shows. They included Gareth as ‘guitar tech’ and Nick as ‘drum tech’. I remember myself and Gareth poking around on stage before the doors opened in Dublin, just taking it all in, when we spotting Tim’s battered Country Gentleman Gretsch sitting in a flight case. Gareth reached out with one finger and ran it across the strings to which we looked at each other, grinned and said, ‘cooooool!’
Skinhead Rob was doing roadie for Rancid on this tour. I remember we gave Matt a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey to say thanks for having us and he tried to recall the lyrics from the Transplants song ‘Tall Cans in the Air’.
None of us, including Matt, knew all the lyrics but just then Skinhead Rob walked past with some backline and Matt shouts, “Hey Rob what’s that line you sing about whiskey in ‘Tall Cans’?” to which Rob raps out the lyrics as he passes by and we all pull the biggest grin – ‘Somebody pinch me!’ I thought.
Perhaps my proudest moment came when Lars came up to us after our Belfast show and said he loved our song ‘The Jury’ before adding that our cover of The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’ was… and I quote, ‘The best damn cover I ever heard!’
As we rocked out during our sets in Dublin and Belfast playing for Rancid fans, fans like us, and afterwards watching our heroes take to the stage each night I remember thinking – ‘I’m a lucky b**tard!’
These are the memories you cherish forever, that you share with your family, friends, loved ones and are among the memories you take to your grave. This is what being in a band is all about.
Thanks for reading,