Mystery Music March in April

By The Sea – Roosta

In the late 90s I worked as a roadie for rock band called Roosta. Well, I used to carry the drums in for my friend Chris who was in a band, but since the opening line sounds cooler, we’ll stick with that. I used to be a roadie for a rock band called Roosta. They were a four, sometimes five piece, who met at university. As well as Chris's drumming, Rick was the lead guitar, Tony on bass and Mark on guitar and vocal, with Eddie around to cover for Mark when his voice was having a few problems.

They played mostly pubs and bars, in Manchester and North Wales, the biggest gigs were at the famous Flying Picket when it was still on Hardman Street in Liverpool (in September 1999). They fooled around with mostly covers -- Oasis, The Stones, U2, The Kinks, Quo and Hendrix. Their signature Radiohead reworking became something of an in-joke as we shouted Creep throughout the gig until they finally relented with a sweary and lengthy rendition.

The best of their own material was By The Sea. On the version I have, recorded at the old Fold & Firkin on Wavertree Highstreet in 1997, the words are largely inaudible, drowned out slightly by the rebound of the drums and excellent guitar work, but the chorus is all too clear ‘By the sea […] Is were I wanna be […] Is were I wanna send me away…’ (with some lyrical duplication in there). I don’t know if it was their best performance of the song, but it was certainly tight, with Rick for once not going off into a ten minute guitar solo.

I know this because Chris recorded a few of these concerts and he passed on a bootleg. The whole set is on here, and between songs you can hear the chatter from pub visitors and even what sounds like the barmaid asking them to turn the amps down. Just as this song begins Mark says ‘This is one of ours…’ and someone from the crowd, our crowd mocks ‘Oh no!’ and boos which is just the kind of support a band needs when it’s starting out. But I remember that night more clearly than most simply because I think everyone turned out to hear them.

I like to believe that By The Sea was autobiographical, that Mark (assuming he wrote it) was lamenting some lost love, last seen on a beach. To these ears it’s as good, if not better than most of the cover versions they played, with great hooks and a complex counterpoint within the wall of sound. It follows some of the rules (ABA) throws out others (guitar solos after each chorus and not just before the bridge) and it improves with each listen. I’m bound to say this, but it’s a tragedy that they never managed to make it into a recording studio to lay down a definitive version, but as it stands this is good enough.


Ian Jones said...

For some reason the name Roosta is ringing bells with me. Could I have seen posters or flyers or something similar in the years after I first moved to Liverpool (1994)? Or read about them in a local paper? Did they play student venues at all? I don't know, something about that name is striking a chord.

Stuart Ian Burns said...

Wouldn't it be if you'd actually been at some of the gigs? They played the bar at Liverpool Hope University which I think was called The Derwent loads of times in 1996-1997 (that's where they met) and latterly Lennon's Bar, Scruffy Murphys which was at the bottom of Wood Street and my mind's gone blank. Chris?

Ian Jones said...

Well, I can't consciously recall seeing them live - but then subconsciously I might very well have watched them play, given the number of bands I saw by chance and accident around that time. Yes, maybe that's it.