Luton, what does it have to offer? It wasn’t a place that I’d really thought of visiting unless I was meeting someone there. When I found out that three interesting bands would be playing there on a Saturday night I found myself looking up train times and hotel bookings. The journey there was fairly straightforward, a train into Brighton and then a train to Saint Pancras and then on to Luton. Had the timings been a bit better I could have caught a train direct from Brighton but being able to get off and on trains on the same platform was quite handy.
After doing a bit of research to find out what the options were for vegan food, I aimed to get there about 2pm, as the one totally vegan place shuts at 4pm. Arriving in Luton and walking out of the station you are greeted by a wall sized mural on the side of the Hat Factory, the venue for the gig. Walking past that and a bit around the town centre brought me to Monstera Canteen. I was greeted by the very friendly owner and his assistant into a cosy setting. It took me a while to decide what to have – too much choice. I ended up having the Seitan Coconut Katsu Curry with the Seoul Bites, washed down with a cappucino and followed by a chocolate brownie. Whilst I was there, alternative music was playing, including a track from the headline band at the gig that night. After I finished, I chatted with the owner for a while, finding out that he had started the restaurant as there was nowhere he could take his girlfriend too, that he had lived in and near Brighton and was also going to the gig.
My food requirements met I went to check in to the hotel, joining a queue behind some grumpy people who had been waiting for someone to be at the desk for a while. Eventually I got the key to my room but not before meeting some drunken northerners, also there for the gig. The room was basic, as expected, and I was afforded the view of the Job Centre out of the window. After settling in I headed out for a walk to Stockwood Park, one of the few places close to a tourist attraction the town has. It was a pleasant enough walk and killed some time. Waiting for the event to open, I had a drink in the pub across the street, also finding two drunker northerners.
After the Hat Factory opened its doors I went in and milled around looking to see who was there. I got a wave from Arianna Mahsayeh, soundchecking with Countless Skies, before having a chat with Cedric Demolis, who was acting as headliner Svalbard’s sound engineer. I got chatting with someone who writes for various metal magazines who, like me, was having a night off just to enjoy the music. Soundcheck over, I had a quick chat with Arianna and said hellos to some of the Countless guys.
The band that had swayed my decision to go to the gig was on first, Cage Fight, featuring the former vocalist of one of my favourite (now defunct) bands, Eths, Rachel Aspe. She was doing something a bit different, a hardcore based band. Her powerful voice fitted the music well and it started the evening off well. Countless Skies were on next, with Arianna’s electric cello adding depth to their already proggy metal. Headliners Svalbard also gave us a great set.
Highlight of the evening for me was a brief chat with Rachel, after having had a longer chat with Jon, Cage Fight’s bass player. I managed to not be too much of a fanboy when speaking to Rachel, I hope. I also managed to speak to most of the other musicians, a few fans and the local photographer who was shooting the gig.
The next morning, with nothing to keep me in the town, I headed back to the south coast with pleasant memories of my trip to Luton – good food, a good live venue and interesting people.