I can’t remember if I’ve shared this story before or not…but I think it deserves to be blogged.
After I graduated college in 2006, I spent 6 months living abroad in London. I loved it. I didn’t go out too often, as my friends and I worked in a shop in Covent Garden and thus didn’t have a lot of spending money for partying. However, one night in Winter 06/07 (can’t remember the exact month) we went to a basement club in Soho.
At this time in my life, I was still very uncomfortable in party situations (oh, how times have changed…), so I was more than happy to direct my attention to the indie act performing on stage. A girl with long, mousy brown hair sang with little accompaniment from a drummer (and maybe a guitar player—sorry it’s so hazy). What struck me was that I remember thinking, “she looks like any other hipster girl you’d see in Camden, but she’s got something different about her.” Her lyrics—what I could make out from the shitty sound system—were witty and equated love with violence. I tried to soak it all up, realizing that she was typical of the London scene. A young indie artist who probably wouldn’t make it, but she was getting up and trying to anyways. When her set ended she thanked the audience and said, “My name is Florence Welch and we’ve been Florence and the Machine”. I thought the band name was cool because it combined this old fashioned name most girls don’t have anymore with, um, “machine”. Kind of like quaint Victorianism meets robot futurism.
I’ll never forget what happened next. I rejoined my friends and one of them asked if she was still on stage. I said, “no”, and my friend exclaimed, “Thank God! She was shit!”. Everyone in the group concurred that Florence and the Machine sucked. I could see what they meant. It wasn’t typical club music. Her performance style was very rough, too. Still, I said, “I don’t know. I kind of liked it. I think she could be really good with the right production behind her.” I shrugged and let it go, feeling sorry for her.
After that, I soon forgot all about the girl with the unique band name until a year and a half later I found a song called “Kiss with a Fist” on an indie-rock playlist I downloaded online. I loved the song instantly, but felt like the riff and lyrics were somehow familiar. I looked up the band—whose name also sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it—on youtube and it immediately clicked. She was the girl I had seen in SoHo. And she had found the right producer. And her stuff was awesome.
I have a funny feeling that the same friend who wrote her off in the club is a fan now. I also have a funny feeling that should I recount this story to her, she’d disavow it ever happened. Still, I like knowing that it did. I like knowing that it’s possible to start at the bottom and make your way to the top. I like knowing that even if I bomb in a dingy basement bar somewhere there might be one quiet person who saw something small in me. I like knowing that there’s hope for all of us artists, because sometimes it all seems so futile.
Mainly, I like jamming in the subway to “Dog Days Are Over”.