Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Long Weekend.

The High Barn in Great Bardfield is part venue, part studio, part web-based conglomerate, but all based in a beautiful 16th century barn (hence, um, the name). It is a lovely place to play and three-fifths of the combo, plus occasional stand-in drummer Frisky Pat and our friend Shev have signed up to play one of their occasional acoustic showcase tribute nights - on this occasion performing the music of The Eagles. We have been forewarned that a couple of people have dropped out at short notice and so we have decided to play what Shev terms 'the Jack Charlton card' and a last-minute rehearsal has bumped up our repertoire by three songs, two of which are not strictly Eagleish, but do have strong family connections, hence the term. Thus it is that Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" for one, will receive a gentle acoustic makeover. Upon our arrival we are designated a table and invited to line check the instruments; that is, plug them in and make sure they're working, a full soundcheck being precluded both by the rapidly filling auditorium and the absence of Pat, who has phoned ahead to say he's just finished work and may be a while. There is a hastily convened set-list huddle to switch things about as we are supposed to be opening and closing the show which is settled amicably and I will be up to sing the first song - one of the ones we put together last night - the opening track from 'Desperado'. With this thus resolved we retire to the sold-out hall where a little old lady has taken residence at our assigned table. "Who's she?" whispers Shev and I, manfully avoiding the temptation to repeat Ralph Brown's beautifully drawled line from "Wayne's World 2" (" my old lady") confess that I have no idea. From table N comes a cheery wave from Louise, one of the other turns (and who will sing very well later on). We leave the little old lady to her place at table M, retire to the artiste's seats and resolve to buy some of those earplugs the drummers favour these days.
We are called to the stage, which has been meticulously cleared of guitar cases, guitar-stand bags and all other detritus by soundman James, or "Slacker" as we have been referring to him, since his was one of the bands that dropped out, and are mildly peturbed that our opening jokey line of ""So, who here owns anything other that The Eagles Greatest Hits?" is greeted with baffled silence by the well-heeled assembled and we prepare to open our set with an album track from the band's most poorly received outing with no little nervousness. Three songs later and we retire, having been encouragingly well received and wait excitedly for both the rest of the evening and for drummer Pat's arrival. James's perceptive comment of "I like the way you repeated that mistake you made with the slide guitar so it sounded like you meant it the first time" is treated with the opprobrium it deserves, ie none. Well spotted that man.
There are ups and downs throughout the course of the night's entertainment - 'Hotel California' is delivered without it's signature guitar solo, one comment from the stage of "We're going to do a little something different with the next song" is greeted with an arch whispered "What did you do - learn it?", there is some discussion around whether the world is ready for a cod-reggae version of 'Desperado', duo Pavlov's Cat deliver a storming open-tuned version of 'Seven Bridges Road' which is worth the price of admission alone, and also serves to gee the assembled up into a form of anticipation for our second set. With Pat now firmly in place behind the kit we kick off with "Take It Easy" and the by now well oiled as well as well heeled seem happy that there is a five piece band doing four part harmonies and delivering songs they know in an instantly recognisable form. A couple of us are even in checked shirts. It's not so much radical reinterpretation, more sub-tribute band but we are, in the parlance of the business, giving the people what they want. So much so that by song three there is a conga line of women of a certain age making their unsteady way to the front of the stage, seemingly fuelled equally by chardonnay and HRT patches, where they remain for the rest of the night, swaying, singing along and making requests for Shev's hat - it really does make for a terribly fun party atmosphere which at the generally austere and 'listening' barn is a novel experience. By the time we've encored with the Jack Charlton-carded 'Rocky Mountain Way' we are all happy, some of us are very slightly drunk, and Shev is in the middle of a melee trying to retrieve his hat. Next stop, The Royal Oak in Ippo for a full band gig, unencumbered by the niceties of being party entertainers or not having electric guitars to whack up during the solos.

To be continued.....

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