What has been your favourite instore?

Ah, the instore performance - you can smell the moisty-palmed mouth-breathers, almost always 45 years old. They arrive just as the performance starts. Although if they've had to make an excuse to avoid family they may have been browsing the racks for 10 to 15 minutes beforehand, particularly if they are not a regular of the store where the mini-concert is about to happen. They need to get the lay of the land and appear as if they are in fact a regular.

I mentioned, briefly, as part of Monday's post, that I saw The Wedding Present's instore at Slow Boat Records. So that's the most recent one for me. Last weekend. And it was great. You can read more about it, and see a photo, if you haven't already, over at The Omnivore.

In a stripped back, acoustic set, the band were generous with their time. They played some of the nostalgic favourites, the "hits", they gave a flavour of the concert ahead that night and they gave fans a chance to reminisce, to be reminded of why they first liked the group's music.

The acoustic format worked well for an instore too - a bit quieter, the songs still recognisable but sounding a bit different - a new spin on an album favourite; you get the feeling, too, that you're actually hearing something closer to the original demo, perhaps, rather than the spit-polished final take. And that's going to get the mouth-breathers doing their own brand of spit-polishing...

Er, anyway, I told a mate afterwards that it was probably my favourite instore performance. And he fired straight back suggesting I blog about that. In fact he asked if I had done something on the topic of instores before - and I don't think I have. It seemed a good call.

I'm not a fanatical instore attender - if I like the artist I'll go. Sometimes I just plain forget. I would have liked to see Liam Finn at Slow Boat a couple of years ago but a brutal hangover meant that it just faded away into one of the folds of the day. (But I saw the main event that night - it was a great gig.)

I mention the Liam Finn instore because I heard he was generous with his time - signing, photos, chatting - all of this factors into making a great instore, I figure. I wasn't desperate to meet The Wedding Present's main writer/singer - I'm not enough of a fan - but I did note that he sat around and met some fans. I presume some eager beavers bought a new album to have signed, or brought along their old copy of George Best or what have you. As it turned out, later that day I did - by accident as much as anything - meet David Gedge. And he certainly seemed like a nice chap.

But I liked the instore because it reminded me of seeing an acoustic set by The Go-Betweens a few years back (a very special concert). It reminded me, also, of my university days driving up and down the North Island listening to Hit Parade 1 and Hit Parade 2 on tape. It also provided a platform for me to meet up with a couple of friends, and it gave me a flavour of the band's sound with regard to that evening's main gig. And that was useful since there was a chance I could have missed the gig, given I was off reviewing Cat Power earlier that same night.

There have been a few instores at Slow Boat that I've caught. Craig Terris Band was another good one from recently, and before that, last year's Record Store Day was Oscar's first concert experience. Five months old and he was dressed up in a T-shirt with The Who mod emblem, rocking about in my arms as The Eversons played.

They were great instores. I've seen a couple at Real Groovy back in the day and I hosted a few when I worked in music stores; Bic Runga, Brooke Fraser, The Exponents - all sorts. They weren't always my favourite acts but sometimes you saw something - a bit more personality - that you might have missed if you had just attended the gig; sometimes you were won over by an artist you weren't really into; perhaps you weren't going to go to the gig and the instore was either an unexpected treat and enough of a reward, or it was the prompt to get along to a great gig. Have you had that sort of experience?

The Wedding Present is the most recent instore for me - and I'm sure there'll be a couple of others this year that will take my fancy. But as I'm writing this, remembering that I hosted a few instores, I realise the best was Darcy Clay. I've mentioned this before. It was the day after my 21st birthday. I was a fan. I loved Jesus I Was Evil from the first listen. And this was in the earliest days of the internet really, and Darcy Clay was very DIY/low-key/grass roots. So I doubt he would have had a big net presence anyway. So it was old-fashioned word-of-mouth. As was his brief career/cult-status really; a viral hit in pre-viral hit days. He wasn't really good enough to play his own songs - he played many of them on one-string only, picking out the riff and playing a sort of mock-bassline in place of the actual chords to the song. But he was great. Hilarious. And I still treasure my signed copy of his Jesus I Was Evil single/EP. I talked a bit about this instore, as part of my chat about Jesus I Was Evil on Radio NZ's Summer Noelle show over the Christmas holiday period.

That Darcy Clay instore at the old Tandys was the pick of them to date for me. Definitely.

How about you? Are you a fan of instores? Maybe you've played a few? Or have you also hosted them, in that you worked/work in a music store? Do you have any good stories from a chaotic or brilliant (or both) performance at an instore? Have you been turned on to a new band quite by accident, maybe because you were just walking past at the right time? Are you a fan of instores as a concept? Or are you frightened by the mouth-breathers? Are you in fact one of the mouth-breathers? Anyone else really enjoy The Wedding Present? And what has been your favourite instore?

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