The day I was measured for a suit (aka Conor Oberst @ O2 ABC Glasgow)


Even though I frequently wear a suit – and sometimes I not only wear a suit, but I wear a suit – I have only ever been measured for a suit once.  That was for my mum’s funeral and there were so many other things on my mind at the time that I couldn’t really enjoy the fitting experience.  Nobody is going to a funeral thinking about whether they look good enough to attract the attention of someone of their chosen sexual persuasion.  A wedding, though, is different.  Or at least they are for other guys; guys who know how to talk to women, how to make women think they are more attractive than any of the other guys there, how to convince a woman that having sex with them would be a really good idea.  Guys like me aren’t pulling at a wedding.  I’ll be happy if my socks are commented on.

I had a really strong idea of the look I was hoping to achieve when I visited Slaters on Tuesday afternoon.  What I wasn’t expecting was the equally strong stench of fish which was polluting the air along Howard Street, presumably from the wholesale fishmongers across the street from the menswear store.  So pungent was the smell that I began to have concerns that it would somehow attach itself to all of the clothing in the store – including the suit I was about to purchase – and linger around it forever, like some ancient curse you might read about in Egyptian history books.  I quickly dispelled this fear when I decided that all of the Joop I am likely to wear on the night of the wedding will overpower any hint of fish.

Entering Slaters is like finding some sartorial paradise.  There is rack upon rack of pristine suits, crisp shirts and ties in every colour you can imagine.  I wanted to wear it all, but I knew this might be frowned upon.  I briefly walked around these islands of elegance with the sort of dazed and bemused look which immediately has an assistant asking if you require any help.  I informed the young lady that I was hoping to be fitted for a suit, and to my relief she directed me towards another sharply dressed male colleague.  I knew that I would become unbearably nervous if I was to be measured by a woman.  The handling of the measuring tape, the talk of taking in inches and the closeness of it all would be too much for me.  I could imagine the awkwardness of the situation if I became aroused during the measuring and I wondered who that would be more awkward for.  I would almost certainly be banished from the premises.

Though would that really be a worse outcome than if I felt a stirring whilst being measured by the bearded gentleman I was placed – literally – in the hands of?  I tried to put this question out of my mind as he went to work with his measuring tape, his use of small talk as a method of distraction proving quite effective.   He asked about the occasion and what I do for work as his tape ran down the length of my leg and I wondered where the inseam ends and intimacy begins.

Slaters is like a conveyor belt of clothing elves with each elf there to tailor for a different part of the anatomy.  Once I had provided the bearded gentleman with my measurements and suit selection he ushered me down the store to another well-dressed man who would deal with shirts, and then a woman who would assist me with a tie and shoes.  I was expecting that picking a shirt would be the least arduous part of the process, bearing in mind that I knew exactly which colour would go best with my new suit and that I am familiar with my collar size.  Nevertheless the clothing elf asked me my size.  Sixteen-and-a-half, I told him, before he proceeded to measure me anyway.  Sixteen-and-a-half, he found.  Have you lost weight recently?  He asked to my bafflement.  I mean, I try to look after myself as best as I can when I’m not drinking ten pints of beer in Aulay’s on a Friday night, but it was an unusual question to ask when the measurement he took was exactly the same as the one I gave him.  Perhaps, like in the Hippo Taproom last month, this was the first time I was being hit on by a man in a men’s clothing store and it was my luck that he turned out to be so inept that my confusion was preventing me from feeling any flattery.

It was my hope that if the shirt selection wasn’t quite as buttoned down as expected then at least finishing off the outfit with a tie and socks couldn’t cause any controversy.  It is, after all, a pretty straightforward combination of colours I was looking to pair and the older, bespectacled female clothing elf was able to find me the perfect tie to compliment both the shirt and the suit.  I was happy.  That is, until she began trying to match the socks to the suit.  Maybe it’s just me, but for me that is a strict no-no.  I cannot think of a worse thing than socks which are the same colour as your suit and, worse still, your shoes.  In that event a man just becomes one single colour from head-to-toe and it looks ridiculous.  After she pointed out a couple of pairs of socks that might go well with my suit I suggested to the lady that, actually, I prefer to match my socks to my tie.  She seemed aggrieved.  As though I had declared that I hate puppies or find Donald Trump a fair and reasonable man.  I’ve never heard of that, she sniffed, and I could almost see a vision of her measuring tape tightening around her neck in fury and draining the colour from her face.

Nonetheless, the assistant dutifully obliged to my apparently crazed request and I was successful in spending a lot of money.  I elected to spend the afternoon after my first actual suit fitting in a bar, and eventually I would go on to experience another first – the first time I have had a drink with a girl who has pink hair.  It’s not that I have actively avoided people with pink hair in the past.  I find the colour quite becoming and spent much of the evening imagining this particular shade on a tie.  I just don’t tend to encounter pink hair often, and as a result probably concerned myself far too much with the question of whether it was closer to a light lavender or lilac.  It was maybe due to this conversational tick that I made the flawed decision to order a pint of Joker IPA, which despite being one of my favourite beers proves very difficult to drink in a sociable fashion due to its wicked hops.  It felt as though I was probably nursing this prickly potion for hours, and goodness knows what terrible chatter I devised to distract attention from my inability to drink beer at a normal pace, but I enjoyed a pleasurable few hours with the first girl with pink hair I have met.

Unfortunately we were separated before the Conor Oberst gig, largely due to the ABC’s ridiculously early stage times, and I instead took in the show with a guy with regular, boring coloured hair.  Owing to my condition at the time I don’t have a fantastic memory of the performance.  I remember that it didn’t feel nearly as intimate as Conor’s set at the Albert Hall in Manchester in February, but it was perhaps more enjoyable musically with the addition of a backing band and the return of a few Bright Eyes songs to his repertoire.  Lua, in particular, made me feel simultaneously happy and excruciatingly sad.  By all accounts it was a very good gig.

 

A night in the church (aka Conor Oberst @ Albert Hall, Manchester)

Manchester has a great history of producing legendary musical acts, from The Smiths to Oasis and Joy Division to James and New Order.  The list isn’t endless, but it is substantial.  So it seemed only fitting that I should see one of my personal Gods of emotionally tinged sad music, Conor Oberst, at a converted church in this city.

The Albert Hall was originally built as the Methodist Central Hall in 1908 and was designed with Baroque and Gothic elements.  Its Chapel Hall was unused from 1969 until its renovation as a concert venue in 2012-13.  That’s more or less all Wikipedia tells us about the building, which is a quite beautiful and atmospheric venue, ideal for a gig like this.

Getting there was somewhat less beautiful, however.  Ordinarily any day which begins with your weak and weary eyes taking in the surroundings of the easyhotel in Glasgow can surely only get better, but the cold which made the football barely tolerable the night before was in no mood to let me cling to that hope.  A three-hour train journey to Manchester seemed as palatable to me as the beef and ale pie I would later attempt to consume at a Wetherspoons on Oxford Street.

As I sat in my seat on the train awaiting its departure and listening to my playlist of sad emo songs by Conor Oberst in an attempt to brighten my outlook, a large older gentleman hobbled slowly towards the seats at the opposite side of the table from me.  He spilled into both of them in the manner I’d imagine a bowl of jelly might and it became clear that he had purchased two tickets for them.  I observed him as he emptied his bag of shortbread and chocolate and his wallet and a diary and various other items, before proceeding to tear up several sheets from his sticky pad and attach the pieces to his belongings.  It was a curious thing to witness, and sadly the most interesting sight of the entire journey.

Things would get better, eventually, with a beer.  Don’t they always?  Fortunately there is a BrewDog bar adjacent to the Albert Hall where I could enjoy pints of Dead Pony Club in the company of several other flannel clad fans of misery.  On the downside I was only capable of drinking three beers, which was due to either the man flu sweeping my body or the fear of missing the 7.19 train back to Glasgow the next morning.  Whatever it was, this was the most sober gig I’ve been to in some time.

There is something inherent about a church, I feel, that makes a person cough.  That was one facet of my cold that was missing, right up until I entered the Albert Hall.  Then I found myself clearing my throat and coughing incessantly, and I wasn’t alone.  The difficult part was trying to find an appropriate point during these poignant acoustic songs at which to let them out.  It felt like being nine-years-old again and at mass on a Sunday morning trying to stifle a cough – usually brought on by the incense – because the priest was still delivering his important reading,

This venue still looks much like a place of religious gathering, with its stained glass windows and beautiful terracotta decor, the organ resplendent at the back of what would once have been the altar and is now a stage.  Its acoustics capture wonderfully the emotion in Conor Oberst’s voice; the sharp sorrow of his harmonica.  The show leans heavily on his most recent release, Ruminations, which was recorded over three days in New York City with little more than the equipment seen on stage last night, making this feel as though we were being brought right into the album.  You could almost taste the liquor on Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out, a song about the NYC bar “that saved my life.”

Uncanny was preceded by an apology for America and “the orange rat” and an impassioned plea for human beings to stick together.  We’re probably going to hear a lot more of this at gigs over the next four years, or until Trump is impeached, whichever comes first.

The triumvirate of Bright Eyes songs that closed out the night were the undoubted highlight, with Phoebe Bridges almost stealing the show on Lua; her voice was flawless and haunting.  At The Bottom of Everything was a lively, foot-stomping finale, with its final line stating that “I’m happy just because I found that I am truly no-one” seeming somehow fitting.