“This is a very, very, very old song” says JC introducing Standing Where It All Began, and in the terms of tonight’s crowd I am a very, very, very old man.
Martha could have been made for me. Their soft, oddly comforting Durham accents are the same as my nan's, they share my dad's politics and my mum's level headedness. I first heard the name on the lips of Ace Bushy Striptease, a localish and rather wonderful noise pop band who struggled to describe just how wonderful they were. I had crush on them after the first play of their EP (self released on Discount Horse records) and by the time I found out that 1978, Smiling Politely and Gretna Green were about poet/activist Audre Lorde and the 1915 Quintinshill rail disaster, respectively, it was a full blown love affair. I started to notice Martha stickers on guitars and flight cases. Every band seemed to adore them. Not just because their music is incredible but because they are genuinely warm, funny, unassuming people. It wasn't long before they were my favourites too.
Gorilla in Manchester is big, and cavernous and it's possible to keep you’re coat on and not be cold. Not quite as big as Heaven in London, a 1200 capacity venue Martha filled the night before, but certainly big enough. For someone who once witnessed Martha entertain 20 citizens of Leamington Spa in a matinee show, it's nothing short of a thrill so them in such a lofty position. Bloody hell, they deserve it.
After wonderfully entertaining sets from Wormboys (a winning mix of Throwing Muses and early PJ Harvey. Halt That Rattle is song worthy of your attention) and Orchards (a No Doubt-esque troupe of good vibes that I confidently predict will be flooring them on the main stage at Indietracks very soon) Martha slink on stage to a heroes welcome. And really it's the crowd that make tonight so special.
Tonight is a celebration of the misfit and the marginalised. Beside me someone wearing a full beard, full make up, flashing plastic animal horns and a massive smile is having the best time ever. Two girls at the end of the crush barrier kissing. All around me people leap around smiling and singing the words as if their life depended it on it. I've not seen a bands audience so dedicated to fun since the Flaming Lips in the late 90's. It's an occasion this. A jubilee of what makes us unique and what we have in common. To a generation, Martha are their Smiths or Manics. A band to love and believe in. If you go on Insta you'll see an array of tattoo's in Martha's honour. They mean it. And what's warming is they treat following Martha like following a local football team away, anyone is invited and the bigger the following the better.
Not so long ago people at pop shows felt very woke and weirdly worthy in welcoming LGBT amongst their numbers but tonight all that is ,wonderfully, turned on it's head and I feel oddly proud that this middle aged dad has been accepted as a fellow Martha fan. In a time of division, political awfulness and nervous unrest, Martha and Martha fans shine like a beacon. It's truly a joy to go out and have such a fun time and a testament to the tired yet ultimately true adage that we are stronger together.