Months of planning went into RH Fringe Rock and Write. The organiser tells the story of the big fundraiser that never was. A gig by anthemic Indie rockers Apollo Junction.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you are from Yorkshire but now live elsewhere like ‘down south’ for example. That, by law of the land you will naturally love and like anything ‘Yorkshire’: Arctic Moneys, The Wedding Present, Mel B, Sean Bean, Jeremy Clarkson, Theakston’s beer, Joe Root, I have been their number one fan by Yorkshire association. There is no need to include Yorkshire Tea on this list as everyone knows it is the best.
‘So back in 2018, when a close friend told me: ‘You’ll like them, Apollo Junction. They’re good live and… They’re from Yorkshire.” I will admit to thinking that they’ll probably be shite and its only the Yorkshire link etc.
I was so wrong. To quote Steve Lamacq BBC 6 Music “It’s always a good sign when you feel you know the chorus after hearing a song for the first time” little did I know as roared up the A23, a couple of years ago to the sound of This Could Be the Day, that the boys would headline the RH Rock and Write festival and be my first gig booking ‘proper’ like.
Summer 2019 and planning for RH’s own festival. We planned to bring successful arts initiatives together under one joyful umbrella, with a few added bits and pieces (Grime Workshops, tales and tapas, Crime writers, kind of eclectic and mad). We needed a strong opening event, a gig to bring locals together in communion and that would be something out of the ordinary for the RH Towns.
I was on holiday when I got the call to say Apollo Junction would come and play for us. Oh My God Was my first thought, plenty of brilliant pubs but where would be best. Ever the optimist I started cracking on with making plans.
Are you sure? Asked Paul, one of my ‘gig’ friends down here. ‘Strong northern following but we have 200 tickets to sell.’
I was certain. Apollo are an amazing live band – bloody brilliant in Yorkshire parlance who have amassed a sizeable live following and were making waves. I knew that their soaring tracks, with arena like sing-a-long choruses would be popular.
As one convert said: “Their sound reminds me of the halcyon Brit Pop Days when Blur v Oasis dominated. For me, as a huge Killers fan I simply say that Brandon Flowers himself would be proud to call tracks such as Begin his own.
Teething issues with original venues (sound issues) proved daunting and as friends and colleagues knew I had a few doubts at times and full on panic attacks at others
A stroke of luck came my way. Ian Orrick, Programme Manager at The Harlequin, stepped in to host the gig, with the proviso that local bands or musicians ‘supported’ Helve, a brilliant band with Redhill lad Patch Sawyer on bass were signed up straightway.
Tickets went on sale early January 2020, as the cold wind of corona was starting to blow. Little did any of us know what was in store as we went deeper into 2020.
The first week ‘onsale’ and friends from London and Yorkshire Whatsapped to say they had their tickets. Heck even AJ superfan Sylvie was coming, all the way from France. Thank you, Sylvie.
Local friends brought blocks of 20. The band had their first airplay on local radio. A buzz was starting. I felt this relief that it looked like a sell out and that I wouldn’t be out of pocket and selling a kidney to recoup losses.
In the end the cold fingers of corona that had started to tentatively grip the globe in January took hold.
” Well if it is cancelled, you’re in good company, said a friend. Glastonbury have cancelled today. 18th March and 5 days before Boris locked us down officially.
I knew the game was up for our gig, if not the entire festival. Confirmation came from Ian later that week. “I’m sorry”, he said. “The theatre is closed until mid-June and we will refund the tickets but the event is cancelled. There may be a chance we can have the Writing Awards. But it’s doubtful”.
After all the blood, sweat and tears by myself and others including Ian and Cllr Rich. It is still surreal that Apollo Junction didn’t ‘play Redhill’. They didn’t get their Rider from The Junction and they didn’t get to play for the many RH converts to their brilliance.
For me and the rest of us planners.
I learned many lessons had fun and remain touched by the boy’s faith that myself and Redhill would put it on for them. A night to remember was planned, especially for those seeing Apollo Junction live for their first time.
The band, of course had a whole tour impacted.
And in that awful April of 2020, the band released Forever, the first single from their second album -an uplifting supersonic banger of a tune, that brought joy into our lockdown houses.
Evocative and powerful at a time when, as a friend Emma puts it” being told you can’t travel makes you want to … travel” Forever, described by the band as a ‘love letter to Leeds’, was an ode to our times.
Apollo Junction didn’t stand still during lockdown – hard work does pay off. Looking at their social media, their following has increased massively and as newly minted Redhill fan and Leeds University Graduate Sarah says ‘If I Fell, a track from their debut album takes me back to those Leeds Uni days. Rented houses in Hyde Park, dingy, scruffy but warm. Curry’s, smoking, late nights and bloody good music.”
Ian and I had our last Apollo Junction meeting early March. It is now like looking back at a sepia photograph when I recall my biggest ‘concerns’ were ‘Holy Crap what if a Paul McCartney at Live Aid moment happens? What to do if the band break down on the M1?” What if what if.
Nobody foresaw a global pandemic.
Rather like Leeds United returning to the Premier League, we will be back next year. Older and wiser. If you haven’t listened to Apollo Junction, then have a go.
They are Born for Now. They recently announced a big slot at the 2021 IoW Festival, have a second album in the pipeline and are now signed with Leeds based label Shed Load Records. Enormous luck to them.
The RH Fringe is a series of literature and music events. It is set to take place during June 2021.