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Up From Below #7: The Dreaded Cricket Edition
The North's best newsletter loses its thread
In this week’s Up From Below, a gap in the gig schedule leads me to other activities. I’ll get back to talking about live music soon, but for now, you have to put up with me discussing everyone’s favourite hot topic: cricket.
July is pretty light on gigs up here in the North, but thankfully the Ashes has come around to fill a massive hole in my calendar. Cricket is something I didn’t expect to bring up in this newsletter, but needs must, and cricket is ace.
I’m a latecomer to it, having only vague memories of my brother in awe at the 2005 Ashes (I was 7). I was gradually getting into the game around five years ago and then really got hooked in after the insane finish of the 2019 World Cup on my 21st birthday and then, of course, that Stokes innings at Headingley, which I watched completely pissed in an Airbnb flat in Edinburgh.
Even non-cricket fans probably have some notion of what happened there. It’s an odd sport in that the majority of the British public balk it off as boring, and it is, quite often, and for a long time, but it’s all about patience. The payoff that comes after those periods of tedium is the biggest in all of sport for me.
The Ashes is taking place in England this Summer, which means a hard-fought five “Test” (five-day match where each team bats and bowls twice) series filled with endless mini-storylines that ultimately culminates in a load of grown men chucking balls about in a field to win the world’s tiniest trophy. It’s what sport should be about.
A lot of the players, watchers, and commentators of cricket still take it way too seriously, but part of the love of it for me is that the built-in downtime leads to a lot of completely inane chat, which can be a lot of fun. The commentary can be as much about what the analysts had for tea near the ground the night before as it is about what’s happening on the field.
One of the rising stars of the England team, batter Harry Brook (who happens to be from Keighley, the Northern cricketers are always the best. See also: Mark Wood), recently had this to say to the Wisden cricket magazine when asked how he felt about batting in the current Ashes series:
There’s such a tendency to take cricket, and sport in general, seriously, and yeah, I’m entirely guilty of basing my entire mood for the day on how England’s latest innings is going. If you’re more of a football person, I’d be very surprised if that doesn’t ring true about your chosen team’s latest result too. But if even the people on the field aren’t thinking much deeper than “see ball, hit ball”, then I think we’ve got it all wrong.
It occupies something in my life almost opposite to what I was discussing a couple of weeks ago, about how gigs take place in a short, pre-defined timescale that act like a shot in the arm to your day/week/month/year, but festivals are a slog. Cricket takes up time. The beauty with cricket of course, is that you don’t have to turn up somewhere and get covered in mud to appreciate it.
Over five days, you can tune in at 11am and watch a story develop, dipping in and out and running from the other room when you hear a big cheer or cry. It’s absorbing and boring, unique and repetitive, all in one, but at the end of the day, it is still just a game for kids.
In lieu of any decent live music options, myself and my aforementioned brother took ourselves to Headingley, where the magic so often happens for English cricket, to take in the first day of the Ashes test. My brother is also, mercifully, a non-drinker, so we sat in the alcohol free stand with the other dry-guys of the sport.
We took in a full day’s worth of sport, all fuelled by a couple of bottles of Pepsi Max and some Pringles I picked up in the corner shop before setting off to the ground. Sounds absolutely belting, doesn’t it?
Sarcasm aside, there’s just nothing like Test cricket to draw you in and completely switch your brain off from anything else, it’s almost meditative.
The hum of the crowd between balls, the cheers as runs or wickets get etched into scorebooks, it all acts as a soothing balm and a way to let your brain be consumed by something beyond your day-to-day, a lot like live music, and that’s why I thought it was relevant to fill your inboxes with chat about sport. Soz.
If you’ve never given it a go, England have just put the Ashes back in the balance by winning the third Test and taking it to 2-1 with two games to go, so now’s your chance.
The correct way to spell this band’s name is a complete mystery. Spotify has them down as 12 RODS, Google tells you 12 Rods, and then Wikipedia gives you even more: “12 Rods (also known by the stylistic variants 12RODS and Twelve Rods)”, making the name of the bloody band about as hard to pin down as their music itself. It’s alternative, rock, shoegazey, bedroom pop? Something like that.
Anyway, it’s their first project since a not-so “final” live album in 2004 after which they disbanded, following a decent run of albums throughout the 90s. Remember, Discovery Corner means it’s a new discovery for me, not for the world.
Something about this album just scratches an itch in my brain, somewhere in the Modest Mouse/Slowdive/The Dismemberment Plan areas.
Jack Ladder at Headrow House, Tuesday 11th July
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