Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Scent of the Underground: a finger farce, a phantom note, and sniffing a gaggle of gig-goers

This time last year, I was looking forward to a whole slew of UK gigs by my favourite band, The Monochrome Set - the tour kicked off in Edinburgh on 19th October and finished up in Bristol on 26th. This autumn there has only been the one date, in Brighton last weekend. Well, I tell a lie, as they are playing two gigs in Tokyo next week, but for those of limited means, the Brighton one was the only real contender.

I arrived last Saturday at about 3pm, did a bit of shopping in Boots, then thought I'd best reconnoitre the venue in daylight, as these sorts of places are notoriously tricky to find. True to form, the Green Door Store was tucked away 'under the arches' in an alley behind the railway station. As I rounded the corner and clocked the place - which to its credit did boast a very obvious green door - I spied the guitarist and singer from the band, loitering on the cobblestoned concourse outside. I gave them a thumbs up sign as if to say: 'Hi there, I know where the place is now - see you later', but the singer beckoned me over. As I approached, I noticed that his thumb was bleeding rather profusely, though he seemed oddly detached about it, and had clearly not summoned me for my first aid skills, but rather to pass the time of day while they waited for the promoter to arrive and open up. I couldn't overlook his darkly dripping digit, however, and immediately rummaged in my handbag, producing a cotton wool pad (notionally for mascara malfunctions) and a large fabric strip of Elastoplast, of the type you trim to size. Assuming you have scissors on you, which I didn't. So the singer dabbed the cut with the cotton wool and slapped the entire bandage on his thumb, all the while playing down the seriousness of the cut. 'This is just a little flesh wound', he remarked. 'It's nothing compared to Andy's finger!'

Having so recently injured my own finger, I was finding this inventory of band hand mishaps rather Twilight Zone-y. I asked what the bass player had done to himself, and they said they didn't know, but his finger was very swollen apparently, and he hadn't played a note since he hurt it. Whether he would be able to rise to the occasion that night was a moot point in fact, assuming he got here at all - there was a snarl up of some kind at Gatwick Airport. My Florence Nightingale duties discharged, I went back to the hotel to rest after the long journey down, and wished them luck at the sound check.

Just before nine I headed back to The Green Door Store, bumping into an old fan called Warren and his wife, who were looking rather lost at the station. I offered to accompany them to the venue, which they eagerly accepted, as they had been going round in circles trying to find the correct alley. As we approached the entrance, another fan, Andy - who had made the trip from Cumbria, no less! - came out to greet me, instantly proffering his left wrist and the right side of his neck for me to sniff. On his neck was Ormonde Jayne Zizan, on his wrist Isfarkand, both of them procured by yours truly. I pronounced him very fragrant, and watched as a look of bemusement came across the faces of Warren and his wife. Quickly entering into the spirit of this strange masonic ritual, Warren thrust his neck in my direction and asked me to guess the identity of his strongly spicy woody scent, but I was floored. It turned out to be Armani Diamonds - I clearly need a refresher of my mainstream sniffing knowledge.


Once inside, I made a beeline for the merch table, where the stalwart sales team of Caryne and her husband had been in place since 5.30pm. Caryne instantly stood up, leant across the table and announced brightly: 'Smugglers Soul, as requested!' A long time Lush fan, her rate of purchase from the line has definitely gathered momentum in recent years, partly due to my influence, I like to think. Anyway, Smugglers Soul did smell of a very fine sandalwood as billed, and I would have liked to have tested it myself on skin.


As I went through to the room where the gig was held, I smiled at the thought of my fellow fans dutifully applying perfume and offering themselves up to my questing nose. It struck me as a happy confluence of my two favourite hobbies, and lifted my already high spirits even further.

The bass player turned up at last, and stoically played his way all through the set and an encore or two. I went up to him afterwards, thanked him for pushing himself to the limit in this way, and inquired which finger it was. One look at his left hand told me that it was the same one I had hurt, since it was nearly twice the size of the others! He had hit it on a fixture in a tube train, I didn't catch what exactly.

And there was one more perfume-related incident before the evening was out...I was wearing Guerlain Attrape-Coeur - possibly rather liberally applied - because in the course of the post-gig mingling the singer inclined his head towards me and said: 'Hmm, is there cinnamon in that?' I was put on the spot rather, but in my cursory reading of reviews of this scent I couldn't rightly recall any mention of cinnamon. I replied that I didn't think so, though not all the notes are always listed. He took another sniff and declared: 'Yep - it's definitely there. And I am not sure cinammon should come into direct contact with human skin.'

Well, that's me told, haha. Good job I wasn't wearing Puredistance BLACK, I thought! ;)

Have you ever had someone say they don't care for a perfume you are wearing because of a note you didn't think was in it?

And for those of you familiar with Attrape-Coeur, do you detect cinnamon in it?

Source: Pinterest

PS For another post featuring perfume and a gig, check out the latest postcard from Undina!


Tara said...

V, lovely to hear about your Brighton gig adventure and all those "band hand mishaps". You really are "with the band"!

It's great that you carry around those first-aid supplies. You really helped me out with my sore foot in London that time.

I can imagine it must be so gratifying to have influenced so many fellow fans with your love of perfume. I love that Andy was wearing not one but two OJs.

Nick bought a little bottle of Smuggler's Soul when we were at the Gorilla art installation.

I can't say anyone's criticised a perfume I've been wearing because of a note I didn't notice but my Mum spotted there were aldehydes in L'orpheline before I did - I think this was because she loves a soapy note. Perhaps it's love or hate that makes people notice these things?

Having missed out on Attrape-Coeur I feel a bit better about it now I know it features cinnemon, of which I am definitely not a fan :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I am 'with the Band-Aid', certainly...;)

I had forgotten about your sore foot. I also now carry Compeed on trips, though haven't needed it yet. Scissors would be a useful addition to my first-aid kit, for sure.

I was also impressed that Andy (the fan) was wearing two OJs at once. Most conscientious of him. ;)

How interesting about your mum picking up on the aldehydes in L'Orpheline. It may well be a strong reaction that helps people to hone their nose and pick out individual notes.

If you are not a fan of cinnamon you might not like Attrape-Coeur, because it does appear to present a spicy facet of some kind. I have just worn it out on a walk and the friends I was with spontaneously described it as 'woody' and 'peppery', but when I said: 'Could that be cinnamon' they both agreed it could - for cinnamon sticks are after all like little bits of wood....

Carol said...

I love that your friends came up to you to have you sniff them!

My scent wearing days are not over, but have definitely slowed to nearly a stand-still. But it is getting cooler out (weather wise) , so it's time for me to bust out my 'fumes!

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

Maybe the scent of flowers and vegetables is stimulating your senses as much as you need? The winter months may be where perfumes come into their own in your sensory repertoire as the natural world goes into hibernation...;)

Carol said...

And the sweat, too. The summer, between riding my bike and the physical work of the nursery, there was no time for perfume - or I was afraid it would just slide right off me!

I'm looking forward to re-discovering scent this fall/winter!

Vanessa said...

Aha - sweat, I didn't think of that! I wish you a more static season ahead, enabling you to dive back into your stash...;)

Undina said...

You trained your friends well! I'm proud of you. You are a true perfume evangelist :)

I always carry first-aid kit with me - alcohol wipes, Neosporin, Band-Aid, etc. It proved to be useful on more than one occasion.

I had my perfumes criticized for notes that I didn't think were in there on more than one occasion. But since "notes" do not really represent either what actually is in perfumes or what different people smell in them (or how they interpret/name what they smell), I'm not surprised.

Blacknall Allen said...

Once upon a time I actually had a bottle of Attrappe Coeur and there was something in the second half of it that was slightly cinnamon -like. So I can see where your bassist smelled the note, but AC is almost linear after a while and pretty dependably handsome. What I'm trying to say is that most people enjoy AC, but maybe like me, it just doesn't dry down properly on you? I had to sell my bottle eventually because it never did perform the way it did on other folks. Very annoying! I do hope your finger is mending,

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I am proud of my proselytising prowess, though there is still a lot more potential out there amongst the fan base...;)

And I am mega impressed by your first aid kit - though knowing your general MO in life, I am not surprised exactly. ;)

And you make a very good point that smelling experiences are not all about the actual notes contained in a perfume. Plus I have established from those other friends that there could be a woody, spicy 'cinnamon-esque' something in Attrape-Coeur.

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

I don't think Attrape-Coeur is misperforming, hehe, and I personally like the slight spiciness that came across to the chap in the band as cinnamon-like. It isn't markedly so, but I really can see now how it might read as that. I have yet to smell Attrape-Coeur on other people, but that would be another interesting thing to do maybe, to see if my skin is a 'typical' canvas.

Thanks for the good well wishes! The finger is taking a very long time, but I think nails do. It doesn't hurt now at least.

Asali said...

I LOVE Attrape-Coeur, and whereas I don't think of it as cinnemony- it's there to add warmth I'd say. I think we all have some notes that we can just spot from a mile away, wether it's because it's something we truly love or something we can't stand.
It has happened to me twice, with the same fragrance. It seems that not every woman loves Songe d'un Bois d'Ete as much as I do ( I think it was the tar/ leathery, part they didn't like), but just like you, both times I had sprayed rather liberally, having quite forgotten how potent is was, since I last wore it.
And I agree, it's nice to see how well you trained your friends :-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

Glad you love Attrape-Coeur too - whatever is or isn't in there, I find it very warm too, addictively so. I do think you are right that people have a particular sensitivity to certain notes - it used to be civet for me (on the negative side), but that has turned around of late!

Count me in as another person who doesn't care for that Guerlain, hehe - and it was because of the tarry / leather note too! ;)