A few years back, in a Hot Press writing competition, we shortlisted an entry which spoke of a brilliant Frightened Rabbit gig in Galway – and a close encounter afterwards with the band’s lead singer, Scott Hutchison. It seems entirely fitting to publish what was an excellent piece, by way of tribute to one of Scotland’s finest songwriters…
People who have been keeping a close eye on Hot Press recently will be aware of our current Write Here, Write Now 2018 competition for student writing talent. It produced a phenomenal number of entries – but also many of genuinely brilliant quality. One only has to browse through the entries for confirmation.
Well, a few years back, we ran a similar competition – and among the entries was a very fine submission from Emma Ní Chearúil (on the right in the photo, with Scott Hutchison, taken when the band were in Ireland earlier this year). Since she entered the competition, Emma has been working as PR for an NGO, as well as running the community radio station Raidió na dTreabh by night. She also writes regularly about music.
“I was shortlisted a few years ago in your young writers' competition,” Emma reminded us today, “for a piece I had written about Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison.”
The piece was about a gig in 2012, which was part of the State Hospital Tour.
“Given the sad news this morning, I thought it might be a nice commemorative piece to publish,” Emma added. “It doesn't particularly go into detail about his music or state of mind but it does give a nice insight into his kindness and patience, especially with his fans.”
It does that, and a lot more besides. So here is Emma’s lovely piece, penned in what might be called happier times, in tribute to a very special musician and songwriter, the late Scott Hutchison.
The Magical Moment I Met My Idol…
Okay, maybe this moment was far from magical, but I will tell the story anyway.
Frightened Rabbit is one of my favourite bands though, and Scott Hutchison is one of my favourite lyricists of all time, ever – a brutally honest, and poetic genius.
The last time I got my dose of Frabbit was in the Róisín Dubh, Galway; an intimate space, fitting for the band whose songs have created a close relationship between listeners and lyrics.
Three of us journeyed up to meet friends at NUIG SU Bar, where they sell €8 pitchers of cider. I blame such ridiculous encouragement of alcohol consumption for the memory impairment and general dizziness that were to follow. Oh, the shame.
If I remember correctly – and it’s entirely likely I don’t – I was pretty happy, let’s say, on arrival and was handed another pint almost immediately on entering the venue. That’s when we first saw them.
The support act was onstage and we were at the back of the crowd. As were Frightened Rabbit. I remember turning and grinning manically in their direction, though I’m fairly sure (and hoping) that they didn’t notice me. Oh, the shame.
My friend played it really cool, wishing them luck with their set as they made their way to the stage. He was delighted with himself, and I was glad that I had spotted them, but raging at not having chatted with them. If only it had stayed that way.
So, the gig was amazing: we sang and danced and loved every song, the entire audience did. Frightened Rabbit have an incredibly live energy: it was always going be a good show. The room was left buzzing, the air thick after two hours of dancing and clearing all our lungs, singing along with every song. Their music evokes an emotional response, a joy and togetherness, despite the sometimes heart-breaking lyrics. Maybe it’s the mutually understood pain that makes the band feel so familiar to their followers.
After the set, we decided to stay for the DJ – cartoon clips along with a playlist that consisted of Local Natives and …well, I don’t remember much else… anyway, it happened during the interval between the live music and this guy setting up his decks.
The band packed up their own stuff after the show. I do remember this, though I was only later informed that I stood eagerly at the side of the stage the whole time – just staring – with far too much enthusiasm and probably not enough cerebral presence to realise that I was terrifying the musicians, who probably felt akin to zoo animals in a tiny enclosure, being ogled by a creepy kid; hands and nose pressed to the glass, eyes wide and smiling like the Joker.
Oh, the shame rushing back as I type this now….
Now that I think about it, it makes sense: I have a pair of drumsticks on my bedroom shelf from that night, though I am not entirely sure how I managed to acquire them. I’m assuming I either thieved them myself or they were offered in the hope that I would leave the band alone…
Once they were done packing and no longer had reason to avoid eye contact with me, Scott stepped off the stage, pint in hand, and began conversing with a few people gathered by the bar.
In my head, I stroll up, real casual, drop a cool “Hey, great gig man, how’s it going?”
In reality, I stand awkwardly just a little too close, until Scott is forced to start polite conversation with me (my brain going “yes, winning!!”, my eyes struggling to focus). It says a lot about him really, that he took the time to talk with me. I barely remember what was said, although I’m sure I stuttered a lot.
“I do play, yeah… a bit… badly… I listen to you guys way too much though… anything I try to write just sounds like Frightened Rabbit songs…”
Obviously I didn’t phrase it that well because my attempt at a compliment was met with a gruff “well I hope that’s not a bad thing?!”
Followed by some apologetic mumbling on my part, the whole interaction ending with “Can I hug you?!”
OH, THE SHAME.
You know what, Scott? I still smile thinking about it. I hope you absolutely never remember that encounter at all. I hope I didn’t offend you. I hope you didn’t notice my friend pat me on the back with a look of pity and pure amusement when I returned to the group, thrilled for having had the chance to “hug FRABBIT – FOR REAL!”
But I smile remembering it because I’m delighted I got to meet someone so amazing and inspiring; because when they said “never meet your idol”, they hadn’t met you; because it’s a great story to tell; and because: what a magical moment?! Though mostly because… Oh, the shame.
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