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  • Conor Houston

My "Public Meltdown"

Updated: May 8, 2018


I recently performed a set at Café Totem, Sheffield, as part of Record Store Day. I was booked the play in the upstairs bar, as there was a rock gig in the downstairs venue. Two of my favourite Sheffield bands, Bear Chest and Black Mamba Fever were coincidentally playing there. The rudest of music, yet the loveliest of people.


I knew how it was going to go before even I arrived, so mentally prepared myself for doing something a bit mad (I wasn't sure what). People stand in this upstairs bar to socialise before going down to watch the gig, so my musical presence would be neither needed nor wanted.


After an introduction from the organiser, a chap called Marc who runs a record shop, I opened by reading a list of things which I "hate about vinyl", along with negative critiques of Record Store Day I had found online. I then went into some songs. As predicted, 80% of the room talked amongst themselves, which they of course had every right to do, this being an area to get away from music and all. Eventually, the sound of chatter became so loud that I couldn't even hear myself singing.


This was the perfect time to go off-piste. Perhaps I'd even do something memorable (oh, the possibilities!). I sang quieter and quieter, until I'd stopped completely. After an uncomfortable pause, my "performance" began, and it attracted far more attention than any songs possibly could have. Chatter resumed once people acclimatised, though to a much lesser degree, and there was even a moment the entire room was stunned into silence. I finished by exiting the venue and was met with cheers and laughter, which I heard from down the road.


Some people already knew that I'd been trying unconventional stuff, and a couple of people asked me beforehand if I'd be doing my "comedy" at this gig. Myself and my partner discussed this afterwards, and decided that these things shouldn't be described comedy, as they seem to be provoking all kinds of reactions, not necessarily laughter. It's often just confusion. Get in.


This may just be me, but I personally feel this kind of performance is far more subversive and rebellious than screaming about how shit you think Theresa May is over the top of a Fender Telecaster. That said, I don't know what other people's aims are, and I don't particularly like to compete. What I do know, is that I'd reached a dead-end with my own stuff, but this is the most fun I've had with it in ages. I'm a Rejuvenated Man™.


Oliver Manning actually filmed the final few minutes. I didn't ask him to, but I'm glad he did: https://youtu.be/bRBH14iyfUE


© 2020 Conor Houston

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