Sunday, August 13, 2006

"Turn 'em all on, then turn 'em all down...."

I am loading the car when the phone rings. It is Stalker Bertie who is already at tonight's gig and mysteriously offers the advice that I should pack an extra acoustic guitar. It seems that the venue has had a council-approved decibel meter installed, wired irrevocably to the power supply. Upon arrival it transpires that the previous night's band managed one thwack on the kick drum before departing in high dudgeon, and ominously The Drummer has set up only a bass, snare and hi hat ensemble and is regarding the soundchecking Singer mournfully. Sure enough, our saturday night out loosing the hopes and cares of the working week through the medium of loud rock music is to be skewed slightly and we settle down on stools for an evening of overly polite strumming, battling both the ever-present draconia of the amber light on the meter and the ribald revelry of the lads just to our right who are exploring the social possibilities of massive lager consumption, mobile-phone related humour and raucous repartee, some of which regularly threatens to trip the light not-so-fantastic without any of our help at all. I bet they're having no trouble washing away the week's cares. Still, needs must, and The Singer, who is currently resting between engagements, is keen to uphold the showbiz maxim that the show-offs must go on. And so we do. After the third power cut in three songs we have found our level and worked out that it is the harmony vocals which seem to be both triggering the electrical blowouts and keeping us going through them, and for a band that prides itself on its harmony work this is clearly going to be an issue. Gallows humour takes over as we try to entertain (after all, that's our job) as well as salvage our dignity - a 'London Calling' lyric is subtly altered to report "London Calling / and I don't wanna shout / 'Cause every time I do / That fucking thing keeps cutting out" before the Noel Cowardesque reading of the songs slides to a jazzy denouement involving the call-and-response backing vocals originally found in 'The Monster Mash'. It's not supposed to be a joke band, but the temptation to play up to the audience is overwhelming on occasion. A popular Kaiser Chiefs' anthem is presented as 'I Predict It's Quiet', and 'Smile' is taken at a steady swing jog. We are forbidden from playing past eleven, which is a blessed relief and we gamely throw in a polite 'Fat Bottomed Girls' to close the show. That The Drummer, bereft of his usual armoury of percussion, manages to trip the power by vocally freestyling the big drum fill is the final ignomy. There is a gentle faux-Who trashing of kit before we accept defeat. And our gig money. Stalker Bertie sympathises as his uncannily similarly-featured father slopes up and stands next to him, giving us a collective Back To The Future-esque vision of Stalker Senior handing over an envelope containg the words "....and if you get to the band on friday, tell them to cancel the gig and go out on the town instead." I receive a text from my friend James, who is at the festival I would have gone to if we weren't gigging. Glenn Tilbrook's doing Squeeze songs backed by Fairport Convention and " sounds great!". I don't know what the weather's like in Cropredy, but here it's just started raining.

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