Radical Embitterment

I used to listen to a band named Radical Face. I say a band, but it’s actually the project of singer-songwriter Ben Cooper. I discovered his music in 2010, when his song Welcome Home was used in a particularly frequent television advert for Nikon. Radical Face remained one of my absolute favourite musical acts for years, up until 2013 when an extremely petty situation sadly blemished the music for me.

You can see the dramatic drop in my listening figures. I did the math and worked out that if I stuck to my listening average as observed in the first four years, Radical Face would very comfortably be my most played music artist of all time right now.


I feel like a bit of an imbecile writing about this, but Radical Face popped on while I was listening to music on shuffle the other day, and I found I’ve finally matured enough to get over this silly situation. You see, Radical Face was tainted for me by a loathsome venue doorman.

I went to see Radical Face in 2013 with my then-girlfriend. We lived in London at the time and Radical Face were playing at the Union Chapel, which is a very wonderful and intimate venue. The show was fantastic. The music of Radical Face is very layered, with Ben making use of numerous instruments and sounds. Obviously he alone can’t play them all live, so the live songs with his band members had a different character, but they were superb and wholly interesting renditions all the same. They even did a cover of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, which was a pleasant surprise in all its impromptu greatness. I have nothing but good things to say about Radical Face and I would absolutely recommend going to see Ben perform live if you ever get the chance.

I even got to meet Ben afterwards. When the show ended a crowd formed around him, but when it transitioned into a line, I found myself near the front. I’m not typically good at meeting people, let alone people I admire. I quickly shot out my praises, asked for a picture, and thanked Ben with a big smile. Infused with happiness, as I approached the exit I decided I wanted to buy a T-shirt. I didn’t actually own any band merchandise, but I had listened to Ben for years, both as part of Radical Face and Electric President. I loved the design and wanted to support one of my all-time favourites.

I didn’t have any money with me, so I left to go to a cash point. When I returned no more than five minutes later, I was blocked from going back into the venue by a doorman who had materialised in front of the entrance. Sadly, he was one of those pathetically authoritative types. No matter our plea, he was having none of it. I showed him my ticket and explained I only wanted to go back inside to buy a T-shirt, but this elicited little more than a shrug from him.

The venue was still open and would be for some time; though the performance had ended, the bar in the adjacent room had just opened. This man should not have denied a paying customer, but apparently his ego was running at maximum capacity. He proclaimed that if we had told him we were coming back when we left, he would have let us in. This made little sense considering he wasn’t blocking the entrance when we left. How were we to know to seek out this mystery man, let alone that being gone for mere minutes would cause any issue at all. This statement alone revealed there was no reason for him to block our way other than to exercise his authority.

Most were still mingling inside, but some were exiting the venue and the doorman would constantly maneuver around the doorway to ensure I wasn’t able to enter as they left. It was really rather wretched. Credit to my then-girlfriend who gave him a piece of her mind after I had fallen quiet in utter disbelief over how needlessly hideous this person was being. It still makes me angry thinking about it now. It’s one of the very few moments in my life where I wish I had never backed down, but I had become so deflated after a ten minute dispute with this man that there was little drive to keep going. I wonder what he would have said if I told him I had left my belongings inside, or if I had sought to talk to somebody else working at the venue.

I posted a short comment on the Radical Face Facebook page when I got home, about how much I had loved the performance, but that I was blocked from re-entering and whether any merchandise was available to purchase online. The band manager reached out to me and said I could purchase a T-shirt, which they would post to me (they didn’t have an online shop). This alleviated my disappointment, but ended up being a second blow. There was radio silence thereafter and I never heard from the manager again. It’s extremely petty and immature on my part, but I found I couldn’t listen to Radical Face for a while after that. To this day I lay the sole blame on the repellent doorman; the music just reminded me of how disappointed I had been. You know how the smallest of misfortunes can sour your day — that’s what this man had done for me.

I suppose I hadn’t realised it until I started writing about this, but now I try to avoid those sorts of situations. I won’t leave room for disappointment. If there’s something I want, or something I need to do, I tend to take care of it before any annoying little variables have a chance to crop up. I feel silly for letting such a trivial situation spoil my enjoyment, but disappointment is such a potent emotion that can ruin even the most sacred of things, no matter how it comes about. I was much less disappointed about not being able to get back in than I was with how needlessly horrid this man was. He carried himself with a smug attitude and seemed to revel in his authority. Evidently, his position meant that he was God and his word was Gospel. Any pleas from me or my then-girlfriend — any semblance of sense or reason — were rebuffed with short, apathetic remarks. The experience, at least, reminded me of the utmost importance of being respectful, humble and considerate.

I’m sure my absence wasn’t noted, but I regret being gone for so long. I never stopped listening to Radical Face entirely, but my disappointment and bitterness woefully attached itself to the music I loved. I suppose you could say my enjoyment was tarnished by a radical embitterment. Eventually I put it all behind me, but by that point I had given myself to different sounds and never reattained the level of enthusiasm I had previously. Finally, after all these year, I find I am feeling the music again. I hate that I let somebody ruin what I loved, but at least now I can rediscover the beauty and genius of Radical Face as though I am rekindling a once passionate romance.

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