We have been engaged to perform at what can truthfully be described as an estate pub. Custom built to form a social nucleus at the heart of the community it serves, we have been enduring chicken-wire-in-front-of-the-stage jokes from fellow musicians for some time now. The principal theme of these remarks is that we should take our own, just to be on the safe side. However, a gig’s a gig and so we dutifully roll up at the appointed time just to hear the end of the story about the glass that hit the landlady last Saturday night – “….and if she’d been any taller that wouldn’t’ve bounced off her, no”. Said landlady looks remarkably chipper despite her recent brush with glassware and welcomes us in to her domain. The estate is a close-knit community and the pub has the air of a social club – you wouldn’t necessarily travel to drink there from further away than, say, the other side of the Norwich Road, and as a result everyone knows everybody else and strangers are generally either taken to the bosom of the family or regarded as some sort of alien force which must be subdued, by force if necessary, but at the very least by sustained badinage of the like not experienced by the unwary since Sam Tyler went back to the seventies in ‘Life On Mars’.
Indeed there are several gentlemen who appear to have come straight from their day jobs as extras on the show, as well as an impressive array of tattoos, stubble and ill-fitting sportswear (and that’s just the women – boom, and indeed, boom) however they seem interested enough to sit down and pay attention as we attempt to entertain them. The band vibe is much as it must have been for the concert party in ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ – we are clearly fey and artistic and they are clearly hard as nails and not about to have their Saturday night out twatted about with by a bunch of artsy fartsy musos who can’t cut the (English, obviously) mustard. After the first couple of songs though, it seems we can, and both sides relax into the evening. We have an ample playing area although we are playing at lower volume than we’d prefer (“phasers on tickle, lads”) and as a result the room sounds a bit thin and weedy. It’s always the room, you see, never the array of impressively be-knobbed and lit equipment with which we are playing – although you rarely see a lounge bar with a tone control, musicians are adept at finding a myriad of ways to describe why ‘the room’ doesn’t suit them – it’s our schtick.
The screaming solos whimper, the chunky chords wither in the air and the jingle jangle comes mournfully following through. Our new friends the audience are all listening though, all clapping, and hardly anyone is busy txting at all. The glittery in house disco lights somehow suit the pomp of Coldplay and Snow Patrol in the circumstances and we feel each other out (not literally – that’ll get you glassed quicker than you can say ‘Mrs Robinson’ around these parts) and our preconceptions fade gently away to the point where we are relaxed enough to jam along with the interval music (techno, I believe they call it) being piped from behind the bar before running through the second half like carefree spring lambs. I believe they’re generally unaware of the possibility of imminent slaughter too.
The clock ticks on to time. We say our goodbyes. And in the words of Steve Miller, take the money and run. “Well” I say, “weren’t they nice?”.