“I’d Forgotten How To Live (in praise of Feeder)”

12 minute read

It was My Perfect Day.

On the 31st of May 2008 I boarded a boat in the Bristol harbour. But it wasn’t just any boat, it was the Thekla; a 500 capacity music venue that’s been moored at the harbour walls since 1984.

Outside it was a beautifully warm Saturday evening in early summer, but on the inside it was like stepping into an oven. The venue was tiny, intimate, and as I rushed to claim my place at the very front, hanging tightly onto the barriers, it soon filled with 499 other die-hard fans.

As the lights went down and the sweating mass began to cheer, Feeder took to the stage, playing within touching distance of the devoted crowd.

When the set began with Feeling a Moment, my mind slipped back to one of my own moments that I’d experienced earlier that afternoon.

Upon arriving in Bristol and having checked into the YHA, I’d taken a walk around the harbour to familiarise myself with the location of the Thekla. But as I approached the venue and stood back in admiration, a familiar figure stepped from one of the doors and approached the bus stationed opposite.

It was Grant Nicholas.

With one part of me feeling somewhat star-struck and the other part of me not wanting to bother a man that was clearly very busy with sound-check, I decided to approach him anyway. He kindly stopped so that I could have my photo taken with him and I kept my hello as brief as possible, but before heading back onto the boat he pointed at my t-shirt and made a playful comment and laughed.

It was a Muse t-shirt.

Grant – We’re Feeder, not Muse. Understand me? F-E-E-D-E-R! Geez!

Now I know that most fans would usually turn up at a Feeder gig wearing a Feeder t-shirt, but I have one little rule that I stand by when it comes to wearing band t-shirts, and that’s that I never wear the t-shirt of the band that I’m about to see.

And there are two reasons for this.

One, I don’t need to wear a t-shirt to show that I’m a fan of the band I’m about to see because I’m already showing that I am one just by being at the gig.

And two, I can imagine it must feel a little bit weird to some musicians if they meet a fan and see a picture of their own face on the t-shirt of the person stood opposite them. You know, a little bit like when Alan Partridge met his number one fan.

Jed Maxwell – “So we’re friends then?”

Therefore I always try to play it cool by wearing a t-shirt of a different band altogether, and in this instance, it just happened to be Muse; my other favourite band.

And so as I stood at the front of the crowd, wearing this same t-shirt while hanging onto the barriers for dear life with one hand while singing (badly) and pointing at the band with the other, I wondered if Grant might recognise me.

From the front row of the Thekla, Bristol – 2008

Following a stunning set that finished with the blistering Lost and Found, Grant Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose waved to the crowd and stepped triumphantly from the stage. But before Grant disappeared out of sight altogether, he suddenly stopped.

As the crowd and I continued to cheer, Grant turned around and came walking back onto the stage and towards the barriers. With a smile on his face, he leaned over and stretched his hand out towards me, gesturing for me to give him mine.

I obliged, and as his hand met mine, I felt a tiny object being pressed into my palm. Grant winked at me and then smiled, and then he returned to the stage, waved to the crowd once more, and made his exit.

I was stunned by what had just happened, and as I slowly opened my hand I was suddenly lost for words.

He had given me his guitar pick.

“What did you do to deserve that?” Asked the girl stood next to me. “Why did he give that to you?”

I turned and looked her in the eyes.

“I have absolutely no idea.”

Bristol’s set list, taped to the stage

After a two song encore of High and Just A Day closed the show in spectacular fashion, I made my way back outside, still speechless and sweating.

It was a beautiful evening on the Bristol harbour, and the fans continued to mill around outside. I sat on the harbour wall to cool down, and as I turned to my right I suddenly realised I was sat next to Feeder’s (then) drummer, Mark Richardson.

We spoke briefly and he signed a sticker that I had with me, and then I chose to leave him in peace and began walking back through the crowd. But the next thing I knew I was face to face with Taka Hirose, now dressed in black and sporting a beige beanie.

“You were at the front.” He said. “I saw you singing.”

Taka signed my gig ticket and I thanked him for his time and congratulated him on a fantastic gig. But just then, as I turned to leave, I bumped into Grant Nicholas.

I couldn’t believe it.

He looked exhausted from the gig but was still smiling and made time for the fans. And I was surprised at just how easy it felt meeting the band. Grant and Taka were both incredibly down to earth guys and instantly put you at ease, but I knew my time was limited before Grant would disappear onto the tour bus, and so I just said exactly what was on my mind.

“I just wanted to thank you for what you did inside; the guitar pick.” I smiled, self-consciously. “And I, erm…I just wanted you to know that you’ve really made my day.”

Grant smiled in appreciation, signed my gig ticket and shook my hand once more, and then he turned around, boarded the bus, and he was gone.

As the tour bus pulled away and Feeder disappeared out of Bristol, I slowly walked back to the YHA, asking myself whether this day had really happened or if it had just been a dream. Because it’s just like the lyrics from my favourite Feeder song:

But sometimes you feel it, you know how it is

You wake up in the morning, and everything fits

I’m still hoping tomorrow feels like this

My Perfect Day

How often does a night come together like that? When do you ever just casually bump into your heroes? And how many days in your life have you felt like every single moment fell into place perfectly, like the day had existed solely for you?

In the weeks and months that followed, I saw Feeder play a number of other gigs at different sized venues throughout the country; but nothing ever came close to equalling that magical night in Bristol; a night that had reinforced the feeling of what it means to be truly alive.

And throughout the years that followed, my life continued in the same way that it had for the several years that had come before; living a life that pushed boundaries and which took me outside of my comfort zones.

Mine was a life that was full of travel and adventure, with risks and rewards. There had been love and heartbreak, and the highs and lows which both bring. It was a life that had been lived with passion and excitement, chasing moments that make your heart swell so intensely that you feel it could explode right there in your chest.

And I’d lived my life with the self-made promise that it would always be this way.

So what the fuck happened to that guy?

When did it all go so fucking wrong?

Have you ever reached a point in life where you looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise yourself anymore?

Maybe it was a life choice that somehow took you down a different path. Maybe it was going from being a carefree single to a devoted and married parent. Maybe it was a wrong relationship choice, a change of career, or moving someplace new. Or maybe you bought into other people’s ideals and started living the life that other people wanted you to live.

Maybe at some point you forgot about what made you, you.

I know I did.

As I sit here today I still cannot remember the exact point at which it all changed, and maybe that’s because it wasn’t a sudden change, but rather a gradual reshaping, like the steady erosion of rock that has been battered by the weather.

Maybe it was because at some point my priorities had to change for a little while, but that little while became a long while. And maybe when I’d decided to put a few things on hold, just temporarily; being on hold became the forgotten, and the temporary became the permanent.

Maybe it was when after suffering month upon month of sustained stress; the stress led to a near breakdown, and the near breakdown led to depression. And maybe it was when depression felt like somebody had picked up a remote control and pressed ‘stop’ on my life.

Whatever it was, it had led me to the same conclusion that so many of us have come to at some point.

I felt like I had no idea who I was anymore.

Although this story may have appeared to take a sad turn, the opposite couldn’t be truer. Because to face difficult times in life is to be human, and to be human means you’re going to suffer. None of us can escape that.

But the positive thing about realising your life has hit such a horribly low point is that you’re now aware of it. And when you’re aware of something, you can take action.

You can make a choice.

The real sadness lies with the people who don’t ever realise that something has gone wrong. Or worse still, when a person sees that something has broken in their life, yet they make no attempts to fix it.

There should never be any sense of shame or embarrassment to admitting to having reached a low point in your life, and there should never be any sense of shame or embarrassment to admitting you need help.

But it is also not a time to dwell. And it is most definitely not a time to seek sympathy. There is a huge difference between seeking help and seeking attention.

We often hear that the people we should be most concerned about are the quiet ones, the people who don’t say anything; and I’ve found that to be true.

It makes me cringe to think of anybody feeling sorry for me, and that’s why I’ve chosen to write this article now that I’m on the other side and thriving again. I did my work behind closed doors, I only confided in a select few people, and I’ve never written a single word about it until now.

Yet I’m only writing this with the intention of wanting to provide comfort and assurance to anybody that should ever find themselves in a similar position. And if you ever feel as though life cannot go on in the way that it has been, then it doesn’t have to.

Life is not a solid and fixed object, but a fluid and flexible one. You have every right to mould and reshape your life into whatever you need it to be.

All the answers and all of the strength that you need are right there inside you.

Your life belongs to you.

You’re the one in charge.

Take action, hold the reigns of your life, and be free

But before I move onto the final part of this article, let’s think of all this by using a happy image, and let’s think of Christmas.

Unravelling your life is like getting the Christmas lights out of storage, ready to decorate your tree. As you empty the box, the mass of wire and bulbs sit in one huge bundled and confused mess. For the longest time you try to pull it all apart, moving the wires in one direction and then the other. But the mess remains, and your frustration builds.

But even though it may take a while, with a little patience you will eventually find the starting point of the wire, and when you’ve found the starting point, you can gradually begin to unravel it.

Before you know it you have a Christmas tree, full of bright and beautiful lights, and it’s at that point that you can step back and feel pride in what you’ve achieved. You can see the real beauty of the tree.

You can see the real beauty of your life.

On Wednesday 20th November 2019, Feeder came to play at my favourite and most local venue; Rock City in Nottingham.

For the past couple of years I’d not attended many gigs, and like with the many things I’d let slip from my life, my passion for music was one of them.

I’d rebuilt my life on strong and honest foundations and I was in a good place, yet there was something that was still missing. It was as though I was a new version of myself, but that I still didn’t feel like myself.

And I think that’s because no matter where our lives take us and whatever we may experience, the key elements that make us who we are never really go away. We’re ever-changing beings who grow and adapt, but at our very core we remain the same.

Live music, or rather, the connection through live music is one of the many things that makes me, me. And this is just one of the many things that I’d lost touch with. I needed to get that back.

I needed to get many things back.

When Feeder took to the stage at Rock City, it was the polar opposite to the Thekla at Bristol, eleven years previous.

I was eleven years older and sporting new scars, and Grant and Taka were eleven years older too. Even Grant’s long hair and freshly shaven face had been replaced with a short crop and beard.

When Feeling a Moment was being played early on in the set, I felt nothing like I did at the start of that iconic night in Bristol. And the guy that was once hanging onto the barriers and fighting against crowds at the front of a venue was now leaning against the wall at the back, avoiding everybody.

What had happened to me? Why couldn’t I get into it?

Something about Feeder also felt a little off and it was almost as though they were just going through the motions. The atmosphere in the venue wasn’t what I expected it would be at all, but then again, I wasn’t doing anything to help lift spirits.

About half a dozen songs into the set, Grant said something that seemed almost metaphorical, and my ears pricked.

“Tonight is about new music. It’s not about the past.”

And now I moved from the wall and stood up straight, feeling more alert. Yet I was still feeling somewhat downbeat, and so were Feeder.

Something was still missing.

Yet something was about to happen.

One of the reasons why Feeder have come to be so important to me is because they’re so human and because they feel accessible. Taka is ever-present as a solid and reliable, almost stoic figure. And Grant is a man that speaks his mind and shows you what’s in his heart.

Together, they make you feel as though it’s okay to show your emotions, but that you have the inner strength to deal with whatever life throws at you.

Strength and vulnerability combined.

I once saw Grant Nicholas play a show at the Social in Nottingham where he played all his own solo material, yet there were a handful of fans that threatened to ruin the evening, shouting for Feeder songs to be played throughout. The night was not in any way about Feeder and a frustrated Grant had had to remind the crowd of this.

When there’s something to be said, he says it.

And at Rock City this proved to be no different.

It wasn’t until half way into the set that everything changed.

I was still at the back, and I was still feeling downbeat, but in another moment of pure honesty from Grant, he addressed the crowd. And it was a moment that proved decisive.

With a few heartfelt words and a sincere expression of urgency on his face, Grant pleaded to the crowd to give themselves to the gig.

“As a band this is what we need. We need you to be with us. This is what it’s all about…connection through music. We need to feel that connection with you.”

Grant had told us exactly what he needed, and he’d reminded me of exactly what I needed too.

I needed to feel connection.

Without even realising it, I began moving my way through the crowd, taking myself from the back of the venue to being within a few feet of the stage. Whether it was the response of the crowd or my own change of attitude, the atmosphere seemed to be lifting, and for the next few songs I was nodding my head and singing along.

“Okay this is for the old school in the crowd.” Grant said, before tearing into Insomnia.

Those opening chords were literally music to my ears, and it was as though I could feel life beginning to flow back into my veins.

By the time Grant introduced High by sharing a nostalgic anecdote of their travels in America that accompanied this song during the 90’s, I was sharing smiles with the equally elated fans around me, and we sang along to the chorus with all our hearts.

But it was the two final songs of the main set, Seven Days in the Sun and Buck Rogers that really brought me back to life. For the first time in years I found myself bouncing and moving with the surge of the crowd, the momentum of which swept me right up to the front barrier.

Eleven years after that epic night in Bristol, I was hanging onto the barriers once again, with the two song encore of Blue Sky Blue and Just A Day providing the perfect mixture of comfort in sound, and catharsis through music.

Back where I belong

Just A Day has always been a fan favourite to close the show, providing a positive outlet for the energy of the fans. But it was Blue Sky Blue that proved to be the most poignant song of all for me.

It’s not an old classic and it’s not a song to bounce to, but it’s a brand new song which proves Feeder’s music to be as relevant and as necessary as it ever has been.

For any music fan that’s ever cried their heart out in front of their speakers and clung desperately to the empathetic lyrics of their favourite musicians, Blue Sky Blue is one of those much needed songs.

The lyrics that provide assurance, reminding us that the answers we need can be found within ourselves.

Maybe we’ve been looking for answers

That we already know

There are lyrics that give us the courage to make changes in our lives, to leave behind that which hurts us, and to follow our hearts to a place where we can be free.

You may decide to leave

Follow dreams of hope

Breathe in better air

Not fumes that make you choke

And then there are the lyrics that reminded me of what Feeder have always meant to me. Because sometimes I feel it’s possible to feel a sense of friendship from people that we don’t actually know, and it made me realise that Feeder have always been there throughout key stages of my life.

Their music has been at parties and on road trips, and at times of celebration. It’s been there following heartbreaks, the loss of loved ones, and deep moments of reflection. It accompanied me the first time I travelled alone, laying on beaches and taking the night train. And it’s back with me again now, at this time of rediscovery.

I’m right here beside you, your shadow

I’ll catch you if you fall

Moments of glory together

Life’s highs and lows

When the gig came to a close, the rest of the band exited the stage and left just Grant and Taka to enjoy the cheers of the crowd. The curfew had already been reached and I knew that there were no more songs to come, yet they both seemed unwilling to leave.

Instead they just stood at the edge of the stage with their arms around each other, smiling, drinking in the moment.

I’d love to say I took this picture, but I was too busy enjoying the moment to take any photos – this has been borrowed from Instagram

The end of the gig had seemed unrecognisable from the start, and I could see that Grant Nicholas was a sincerely happy man. His plea to the crowd had worked and it was clear that the gig had given him the sense of connection that he’d needed.

And it was during this moment that realisation hit me, and I finally worked out why Grant had approached me that night in Bristol.

“What did you do to deserve that? Why did he give that to you?”

Bristol had been a night when nothing else in the world had mattered to me other than being there, in the moment. And it was a night when I’d given every ounce of my energy to the band and had sang with all my heart.

I’d given Feeder everything that I had.

And Grant had noticed that, just as Taka did too.

“You were at the front. I saw you singing.”

Grant had approached me because I’d given Feeder everything that they wanted from their fans, and I’d given it to them without having to be asked for it. What I’d given them was connection, and by giving me his guitar pick he’d given connection too. He was showing his appreciation.

To this very day I still have Grant Nicholas’s guitar pick, and I keep it as a symbol, as a reminder, for how we should try to interact with each other and with the world.

The guitar pick from Bristol – did I forget to mention that I also got the setlist?

In the weeks that followed that night at Rock City, life hasn’t been the same. It’s not an exaggeration and it’s with complete honesty that I can tell you that my life has moved forwards, almost unrecognisably. Without doubt, it was the jump start that I’d needed, the kick in the ass that I deserved.

Since then I’ve arranged a number of trips, both in this country and abroad, and I’m also planning my next big adventure to a far-flung place on the globe. It’s time to dust off that backpack and get some more stamps in my passport.

I’ve also arranged a couple of bizarre and random adventures that will eventually find their way onto this website, because my passion for writing has returned along with my passion for life.

And not only have I booked tickets to see a number of different bands around the country, but I will also be seeing Feeder again at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge this April (edit – after initially being rescheduled for October, the gig was later cancelled due to COVID-19).

I’ve now entered a new chapter of my life, and although I have no idea where my journey will take me, I know that I am on the right path and no longer wandering lost.

I have no doubt that Feeder’s music will continue to be there, just as they always have been, offering the fans a place of comfort where we can face up to our pain and accept the cruelties of life, before lifting us back up, strengthening our characters, and sending us back out into the world, feeling refreshed, resilient, and ready for whatever may come next.

For anybody out there that is unfamiliar with Feeder, please let me introduce you to them; and sit back, hit the video link below, and allow Blue Sky Blue into your lives.

Thank you Grant. Thank you Taka.

And Jon Lee – you will always be with us.

Did this article resonate with you and do you know of anybody that could benefit from reading it? If so then please do feel free to share this article wherever you can.

Do you have any thoughts or opinions on anything you’ve just read? Do you have any experiences to draw upon, either good or bad, that others could learn from? Are you a Feeder fan? Do you have a favourite song or album? And do you have any special memories from having seen Feeder live? Do you have any thoughts about connection through music? Has music ever helped you through a particularly challenging time in your life? And what does music mean to you? Please feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll begin a conversation.

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