I am stood in a park in the north of England. The crowd is sparse and even the rain is giving only a half-hearted dribble. I can’t help but slightly wonder what I’m doing here. I wonder more at what Pulp frontrunner Jarvis Cocker is doing here: performing a free DJ set at a bicycle event in Harrogate.
15 minutes before the show and the turnout is lacklustre, to put it mildly. A modest group of rain-soaked bike enthusiasts and I are huddled together: waiting for the Common People singer to inspire us with his musical taste. The presenter is on stage trying to rake in crowds with the promise of throwing free (and frankly hideous) bobble hats to the spectators. Much to my displeasure, it appears to be these woollen monstrosities that are bringing in the audience rather than the prospect of spying the record collection of one of my heroes.
However, whether for the freebies or the music, people started to pile in.
8:43 pm, Jarvis Cocker emerged from the wings. Looking like a cross between your cool uncle and Hairy Maclary, he made his way to the mixing desk. As the music started, I won’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed. I had expected a series of eclectic songs that would widen, surprise and dazzle my musical taste. I’ll admit, it was a lot to ask for, but having loved Pulp from My Lighthouse to After You, this gig was highly anticipated. Instead, it began with two songs about bikes and continued to Saturday Night Fever and Human League. From there, the words grew increasingly infrequent and the bass increasingly deafening.
Just past midway and my energy was dissipating fast. The music seemed to be chiefly inspired by a playlist for an 80s nightclub and not a cool one. The gig was partially redeemed by the end when The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones made an appearance; however overall, I was not massively enthused.
After the concert, I considered my judgements. In one word the experience was: entertaining. The songs were upbeat and appropriate for an occasion centred around two-wheeled transportation rather than music. My only criticism is that coming from a 90s legend I expected more than an entertaining concert; I expected a unique one. But it was a free performance at a cycling competition so maybe it’s my overestimated expectations at fault?