Saturday, December 30, 2006

"What's That Coming Over The Hill...!?"

It's christmas - hence there has been jollity, there has been consumption of fizzy drinks, there has been football in ill-fitting footwear at a party and, consequently, there has been a guitarist-related head/brick wall interface scenario resulting in the sort of look that says to a casting director "Yes, this guy could play Phantom, and what's more, we could save a bundle on make up". Consequently I have been spending a lot of time on the sofa worrying whether an aneurism is on it's way, or whether I'm just going to have a lot of explaining to do at tonight's gig in Stow. Hence when I roll up to the show I'm still waiting for blackouts, spots before they eyes, sudden memory loss involving that tricky solo in 'My Sharona' or a good excuse as to why I have a rapidly developing black eye. As it happens, only the third example manifests itself and that turns out to be confirmation that everything is, indeed, completely normal this evening. We haven't played for a couple of weeks and so we ease our way into the set, a couple of safety standards leading our way, and the vagaries of the room highlighting the lack of a soundcheck that is the hallmark of a veteran pub band. There are marker pen reference points against all the knobs on my amplifier, and that's the usual starting point at all shows - that the 'lead' channel usually ends up a couple of turns to the right bears less relation to any fondness for 'The Time Warp' than it does The Singer's enthusiasm for the latter, more guitar-centric part of the set, where his rhythm parts take on behemothtastic levels of indulgence. Still, the look on his face and that I can embark on tasteful little sweeps and arpreggios with absolutely no possibility of anyone hearing them well make up for it. As I canter through the set I am pleased that my position stage left means that I am principally hiding my weeping cheek from the audience while concentrating on frettery and frottery - the usual posing has given way to my default posture of sub-Frankenstenian Neil Young lumbering with a side order of beer gut, and I am momentarily discomfited to notice that it looks like my sons are fronting the band, youthful and well-dressed as The Singer and The Other Guitarist are. Or at least look. Something else that has come to my attention is that my return to active service, or at least uprightness, has prompted a healing sudden rush of blood to the head which, although welcome in terms of putting to bed those feelings that The Pickerel may be about to witness a dramatic on stage collapse, also means that my nascent black eye is swelling alarmingly, and starting to edge up into my field of vision. At this rate of not having peripheral (ie fretwards) vision I'll be playing by memory alone, which has happened a couple of times - and a couple of times too many. I resolve to take in more fluids and hope for the best. And the best is what it turns out to be. The second set kicks off full bloodedly and we start to get into the zone - that special feeling where everything is locking together, everything's kicking in and all the stuff is coming off. It's not about packing up the car in the rain, the dodgy leads or the odd covers, or the knowledge that someone, somewhere out there is playing this solo a lot better than you ever could, it's about being out with your mates in a pub full of whooping people having a great time. Time flies. There's an encore, then another, then another, and we're having such a good time that we don't want to stop. Alright then, we will play that thing we haven't done for ages, just for a laugh. I tilt my head a bit further back just to keep an eye on any errant notes that may have hidden away below my eyeline and get cigarette smoke in said eye as a result. When we finally finish we realise that for a band that subscribes to the "two forty five minute sets" school of pub bandery we have just played the second 'half' for an hour and a thirty minutes and are still being asked for more. I have seen rock and roll future, and it's five blokes in a pub. It's a shame we don't still do 'Born To Run' - that'd have been a good punchline.

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