3 min read

uw_nyc : 1999

21 April 1999, Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City. I think it was the hangover that changed my life.
People crossing street in front of waiting cars.

21 April 1999, Hammerstein Ballroom, New York.

I don't remember this being a mid-week gig. But apparently it was.

This is unique, as it's the only full recording of what was on the screens during a show on that 1999 tour, with the audio come straight of the mixing desk, the FOH feed. So the audio is pretty decent. It also makes the crowd shots strangely isolating - because the crowd is muted, as there's no audio from the camera.  The source recording is VHS only, so it's grainy and SD.

I don't think any of this footage made it to Everything, Everything the concert DVD that the band released in 2001 or 02. I mixed the art mix for that dvd - that story I wrote about previously.

For me this is also, in a sort of cool, sort of awkward way, a really clunky visual mix, because it's the first UW gig that I mixed. There's some odd breaks with just black, which are basically points where I had no idea what I was doing and was just frantically staring at the monitors and madly jamming random VHS tapes into the players. I had no show notes or playlist to work from.

And it was like that every show, I just started with a tape, never the same one, and free-jammed my way through. At a few gigs I would even lean out of the operating area and ask a punter randomly - "Hey, pick a tape - it will be on screen first" - that sort of thing would never happen now.

In a way, this is the start of that visual look that went on to be used on the rest of the 1999 gigs and then captured on EE. Neither Kedge or Graham, the directors who had made most of the visuals would ever mix like this. And that was OK I think.

Rick, Karl or Darren never gave me any instructions on what they wanted, other than some chats about the setup of the projectors. So the mix each night of the visuals was totally up to me. And was simply a free jam.

Writing this from over 20 years away, I'm struck by how simple and yet incredible that statement is.

Jump back 10 days to Monday the 12th of April, I was waking up in my new digs in Brighton.

At the time I was between work jobs, having finished with UW in late March. I think I went to Cheltenham to stay for a week with a friend, but overstayed my welcome. So I had headed to Brighton with my backpack, because a mate had said he had a flat I might be interested in renting. I had no intention of not taking it - 90 quid a week for a 1 bedroom studio space on the third floor - with a view of the sea. Brilliant.

My mate met me at the train station, realised he didn't need to convince me of anything, that I was just going to take it, and said, "Right then, we might as well head to the pub and get a pint."

That pint turned into a top night out in Brighton, of which my abiding memory is a friendly bloke handing me a hamburger at 4am in the morning, as I sat outside a club buzzing gently. I remember thinking,"This is a really cool town - I think I'll like it here.

I was safe home about 5am, because my mate had written the address on my arm in Sharpie.

I was woken up by a call from Rick at about 11am.

"Alright Kongy, we're going to the US next week. We want you to come with us and mix New York and LA. There's about 10 days in between, where we're doing gigs, but we won't be taking video. So we can either fly you to LA, where we'll put you in a hotel and you can hang out there, or we can fly you back to London, then back to LA. We'll need you to get equipment sorted for New York and LA as well. Can you do that? Oh yeah, they're just installing an Avid suite up at tomato on Lexington, so if you're interested, there's a few days of free training up there this week. Are you keen?"

Me. 25 years old.

Everything I owned in the world in a backpack on the floor next to me.

Waking up in a flat I'd not yet spent 24 hours in.

12,000 miles from home.

The combined total of my video touring experience being 3 weeks with the Lighthouse Family in November of 1998, and 3 weeks with UW.

I think it was the hangover that changed my life.

I mean if I'd been sober, or had had any capacity to rationally process what Rick had just said, in relation to my personal situation, I would have never said what I said next.

"Uh sure mate, sounds good to me"

"Right then, why don't you come up to Romford on Wednesday and we'll catch-up, we'll show you the studio, have a cup of tea and check out the tapes."

A week later I was getting off a plane in New York.

Feature image by Sandy Ching on Unsplash

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