We have another wedding reception to play. As per normal we have strongly advised both bride and groom to come and see us in a pub environment prior to the big day and warned them that, possibly minus a bit of Radiohead and plus a bit of Beatles, that's what they'll be getting. We're not a cabaret band, we don't do requests and we don't turn the PA back on after we've finished so that the chief bridesmaid can make an announcement. Not since that time one of them slurred "But i's very important - jes' wanna tell evryone tha' I splept with th' groom las' week...." although, believe me, we were tempted. Especially after The Bass Player said "Did she say 'the groom' or 'the bride and groom'?". These details can be important. So we turn up at the appointed (and anointed) venue, a decommissioned church, still used for spiritual matters but doubling as a conference, exhibition and meeting centre, although according to the sign outside "Revelations is cancelled on saturdays for further notice". The Bass Player is comforted by the inference that tonight's gig will be mercifully undisturbed by any apocalyptic horsemen, not least because I imagine they'd leave a terrible mess on the carpet. We have arrived bright and early to set up but find that the stage is already occupied by the pub rocker's sworn enemy and only natural predator - The Dixieland Jazz Combo. The Drummer is freaked out enough by clowns, so you can imagine what the sight of half a dozen MU members in blazers and toting such things as banjos does to him. They affably explain that they didn't know that there was another band playing tonight, but they'll be off at eight, which will give us plenty of time to set up before we start at nine, and there's still time to catch the second half of the England game at the nearest pub. This all sounds terribly reasonable and so we retire for coffees and cigarettes and a discourse on Peter Crouch's scoring record, at The Plough. The Drummer also has something on his mind. He has a beautiful gifted and attentive partner* and is charged with the care of three beautiful children, all of whom he hardly ever sees, has a way stressful day job to which he has to devote many hours of his own time, and on top of that goes out several thursday, friday and saturday nights a month with a bunch of guys who make him play 'American Idiot' and then 'I Fought The Law' in quick succession without a fag break in between. And at his age? Something's got to give, not least because it's rumoured that his golf handicap is also suffering. It's been building for a while and so we are not entirely surprised when he announces that this will be his last performance with the band for the forseeable future. And he might be losing his hair, but he's got great eyesight. Coffee cups are clinked. We go back to the venue and set up. The Drummer points out that this place "sucks the bass out of things". It's not a metaphor, the sound is odd. Three songs in we play a John Lennon song we've learned especially for the occasion at the Groom's behest and I shudder quietly to myself at how easily a "no requests" principle can be quickly neutralised by the application of ready cash. Perhaps it's the venue (although the huge organ** intro to one song sounds especially dramatic given the surroundings), perhaps it's occasion, perhaps it's the sunshine the starlight or even the boogie, but I keep drifting off. Regular viewers will be aware of my penchant for shape-throwing at pertinent points of shows, but there really is something especially wonderful about windmilling a chord in a Who song and having a wild drum fill punched into the crowd by The Drummer at the same time. We don't do any Free, but sometimes when I've been hitting a hanging barre chord on the Les Paul (roots ad fifths only, no thirds) leaning close up to the hi hat and locking in with the bass drum I really have thought "Were Kossoff and Kirke like this on Top of the Pops in the seventies?" - that we were probably playing 'The Bends' at the time needn't impinge on my reality, any more than the stuffed moose's head hanging from the ceiling over my head had to. During a slow Coldplay number I remember that when I did my first ever stand up solo singer-songwriter gig it was supporting The Drummer's band*** and when we finish I'm sorry that it wasn't in a frenzy of thrashing guitars, bass drones and Moonist fills around the kit, just that we had served our purpose for the evening and foks had mostly either disappeared for a cigarette outside or gone on to a club. And so this is how it ends. Not with a bang, but with a wedding. We are in the town centre, and rowdy crowds pass us by on their way to club land as we are packing up, many seasonally underdressed. Two girls dressed as Playboy bunnies totter past unsteadily. A man in a wedding suit nudges The Other Guitarist. "You can see their tails from here.....". Back in the venue, a very small boy clambers on to the stage, unsure of himself and looking for reassurance from his father, who urges him forward. The Drummer hands him a set of beaters, settles him on the stool, and watches happily as the child swooshes a few cymbals, delighted at the noise. I can see him thinking to himself - "My art will go on".
*Hi Trudes. x
**Oh stop it.
***It's alright, he doesn't die in the end, this is all just flashbacks. He's fine.