Monday, August 28, 2006

"Hi, I'm Johnny Cash...."

The Drummer has passed a late fitness test and announces his presence from behind the kit by launching into a couple of choruses of 'Ring of Fire'. All is well in the Picturehouse world as we are restored to full strength and amplifiers settings are rotated clockwise just a little further than is ordinarily considered polite. This evening will be a testament to the power of rock (country skiffle covers notwithstanding) and we have already seen off a great many guitar-based numbers so far tonight by the simple expedient of thrashing the merry hell out of our instruments at somewhat extreme volume. It's fair to say that after a series of party gigs, decibel metered-power cuts and enforced periods of acousticity, built up tensions are being released. They're not the only thing close to being released, as it occurs to me that the cold sweat I am generating may not be simply down to the pressure of trying to remember the riff to that Coldplay song we haven't done for a while but may also have something to do with the extended dinner I enjoyed last night with an old friend, the artist formerly known as The Behemoth of The Bass, and his lovely partner which ended up with us sitting over pints in the garden of a pub which hosted some of our finest moments back when we were someone, pointing out where the monitor engineer sat in a sort of "this were all backstage when I were a lad" fashion. The Behemoth mentions that he bumped into Fruitbat out of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine in a bar in London recently and drunkenly reminded him that he'd supported him in Ipswich once. Fruitbat was either compos mentis enough, or polite enough, to recall the gig as a good one, and there is much discussion over the correct sequence of the lyrics to 'Sheriff Fatman' as a result. This was all terribly good fun at the time but it occurs to me that it's a good job that tonight's venue is no-smoking as having a naked flame anywhere near my pores just at the moment would be tantamount to inviting the local council to close the place down as an unwarranted fire hazard. Tonight I am playing the role of brooding guitar sidekick, and the resulting Peter Buck shapes being thrown, at least in my head, perk me up to the point where my unsteady passage to the microphone to front my first featured number of the evening is not quite as terrifying as it would have been ten minutes previously. While the audience is expectant, I am still feeling mildly expectorant, nevertheless the song passes without any embarassing evacuations, either by them or me. The healing power of REO Speedwagon is an underrated one, I find, nevertheless I am grateful to retire once more to the shadows and return to my imagined desultory air of mystery while the front pair pump up the volume.
By the time The Drummer has introduced his Johnny Cash turn we are all positively playful - there are a couple of injoke riffages and The Singer's sense of urgency is infectious - every 'tween song break is punctuated by an agenda-setting purposeful "right...." before he announces what we're doing next, to the point where I idly speculate that "I predict a 'right'" may be the way forward for my next go at the microphone. As it is, some anthemic choruses bring forth a display of mobile phone screens in lieu of waved lighters, audience members shake tambourines and egg-shaped shakers (one returning said eggs with a leered - "It's alright, I didn't get them wet....") and by the time I'm feeling perky again it's all over bar the encores. The Other Guitarist does his party-piece "It's The End of The World as We Know It", we fade down the faders, switch off the electrics and retire to the garden for a contemplative post-gig cigarette. To paraphrase, doing a gig is like making love to a beautiful woman - you have to turn up on time, bring the right equipment, know what to do with your hands and leave 'em gasping and wanting more. Obviously, getting a round of applause is a bonus. And it's a bastard trying to do it with a hangover.

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