Athlete - Winchester - August 2005
by Louise Glyde
A very big band came to little old Winchester last week for an exclusive gig at the Bishop on the Bridge pub. Athlete had just come off the back of touring with legends U2 and after a short break will fly out to the USA to introduce themselves there once again. Then it's back to Europe for a few weeks before they kick of a small UK tour in November. The Winchester gig was organised by radio station Power FM and the band were due to appear in the city back in April, but due to an illness had to postpone their appearance. However, being the gentlemen they are, they honoured the agreement and delighted around 150 Power FM competition winners at this intimate gig. Joel Pott, Carey Willetts, Tim Wanstall and Stephen Roberts turned up at the Wessex Hotel, in Paternoster Row, slightly later than expected and starving hungry, but they were kind enough to take 20 minutes out for a chat. The first thing that strikes you about Athlete is that they are just four normal guys. There's no airs and graces or showbiz demands (except for some dinner!). "We've seen one pub and a lovely river, it looks nice," said Carey, referring to Winchester. Probably with food on the brain, the band revealed that their tour bus fridge contained only single malt whisky and their favourite cheese, Stilton. Athlete came to Winchester the day after they played to 55,000 people at the V Festival, held in Staffordshire, for the fourth year in a row. "It was the best festival we've ever done. To play to that many people and to have them all singing back was amazing. When the call came through to see if we wanted to support U2 Tim let out a little squeal, it was like being in a different reality. Doing those gigs was very special," Carey continued. Tim added: "It's quite nice to get out of town and do something small that you wouldn't normally do. You definitely feel more exposed in that situation than if you're facing 55,000 people, it keeps you more on your toes." The band have had two extremely successful albums, 'Vehicles and Animals' and 'Tourist', which was released in January and bore the fruit of great songs such as 'Wires' and 'Half Light'. A third album is still just a glint in the band's eye, but is likely to be conceived sooner rather than later. Tim said, "We've got to the stage as a band where things go in cycles and we've definitely got to the point where we're itching to do creative stuff again, but we probably won't be able to do that for a few months. We're all having little ideas and in the few moments we get free we jot things down, but it is important not to go over the same ground again." Athlete is one of many talented British bands that have popped up over the last five or so years. They fall in line with Scottish band Franz Ferdinand and Brits The Zutons and those three Ks: Kasabian, Keane and Kaiser Chiefs to name just a few. However, in the year of the genre's 10th anniversary, they deny they are part of any Brit Pop revival. Steve said: "We don't feel part of any revival of anything or part of any particular scene. It's just a lot of bands doing a lot of different things, which adds to the diversity." After a quick chat and a bite to eat it was off to the pub to do what the band do best, in front of dedicated fans from across the South Coast. The audience squeezed into the bar, which became ever more cosy during the band's 40 minute set. The taller people were able to film their favourite band from the ground and the shorter members were on chairs to get a better view. Even the staff, who admitted to being big fans, sat on the bar transfixed, like everyone else, to the fine performance. Audience members were also allowed to ask questions of the band. This only added to the friendly, laid back and warm atmosphere. The band seemed to enjoy the banter as much as the crowd, who were entertained by songs from both albums. At the end of the set there was the inevitable call for an encore. The foursome honoured it by playing the title track of their first album 'Vehicles and Animals'. Athlete even stayed after their set to sign autographs and chat to fans. All in all, they were just really nice guys - lets hope they come back.