Monday, May 14, 2007

"Leave i', 'E's not wurf i' - Ooh, The Koiser Cheeyufs!"

We return the The Pickerel in Stowmarket, the residents of which fair hamlet are referred to in some circles in a non-ironic fashion as Slowmartians. Not ours, mind - we know which side our breadwinners are likely to be battered should we subscribe to such a foul calumny - and set up in a positive frame of mind, all the better to try out our 'new' songs, since the Stow Boys (and gels) are a friendly crowd and generally forgiving of our expeditions into the unknown. Some regulars still speak in hushed tones of our foray into 10CC's "Rubber Bullets", and warn their troublesome children that if they don't go to bed and get straight to sleep we'll come round and play it again. It sounded fine at rehearsal, honestly. This time we are to debut not only something by The Feeling (we feel a particular affinity with these coves as they themselves were a covers band up until just before their big break, although in ski resorts rather than in small pubs near railway stations in unprepossessing East Anglian towns which produce mainly paint, malt and processed chickens) and a piece of goth rock magnificence in The Damned's version of 'Eloise', for which Gibbon has been assiduously programming the sounds of darkness into his 90's-era keyboard and for which Wendell has been throwing impressively dramatic power grabs (cf Meatloaf) in rehearsal, as well as cultivating a moody mic-stand clutching hooded-lid performance persona which cunningly disguises that he is actually reading the lyrics off a sheet of paper gaffa-taped to the monitors.
The set has a fairly regular feel by now, which can be the curse of the inattentive pub band, as although we might only play it every couple of weeks, if the pub crowd only sees you once every couple of months and you play exactly the same thing every time, they soon cotton on that you're not really paying attention to their needs. After all, The Kaiser Chiefs might only have two albums to pick from, but we've got the whole of rock history to cherry pick, and so there's really no excuse to settle on a set and leave it at that for the duration. We're not The Rolling Stones, after all. Clearly. There is an opening section through which we state our case - a bit of new stuff, a bit of eighties, a bit of seventies west coast Californian country rock (at which point my wife inevitably goes to the toilet, as a childhood spent in the back of cars shuttling her between parents to the soundtrack of Glenn Frey has left her emotionally scarred in terms of references to taking it easy and she can't bear the experience to be dragged back up through her psyche. Either that or she's holding out for something from Desperado). A nice run through the first set ensues, and The Feeling goes down well - given our exalted position in the rock hierachy we're never sure whether the common man is listening to the same thing that we are, and it seems unlikely in some cases, and so we are relieved that we've made a good pick. We are, after all in the business of show, and although (say) one of Gibbon's favourite albums is by a side project of someone who's played on some of the biggest selling albums of recent years, I don't see anything by The Bears making it as far as (say) The John Bull in Woodbridge Road. Their loss.
The break gives us an opportunity to restock, regroup, refuel, sympathise with the ever patient Mrs Skirky, who has had a trampalike spill a glass of house white over her new frock and refuse to countenance getting a replacement in, and who has been drying it off under the hand dryer in the ladies' (always a dignified way to spend ten minutes) and also to respond to the number one mid-set question of our short but glorious career - the answer being, of course, The Jags.
A quick set rearrangement for the second half means that we start off with one of our taking-a-flyers, set wise - the world may love OK GO's YouTube clips, but their actual songs are generally more of an effort to get into, however the group of Trivium T-shirted youth stage left are pleased at its inclusion. They are clearly in a band together and fills, licks and riffs are greeted with quiet consideration and occasional head-nodding-together memos to selves, which is great. I remember doing the very same at a gig by the Turnham Green Blues Band at The Thrasher in 1980, and it's encouraging to know that in twenty five years or so they too may be raiding their kids' iPods for things to play in pubs after their hopes, dreams and wild eyed ambitions of rock stardom have been cruelly dashed at the altar of fame by a cruel unfeeling public who can't make the distinction between genius and genre-hopping. That might, at a stretch, just be me, mind....
The time has come for Eloise, and with a few "good luck"'s and "see you at the end"s we launch hopefully into it. And, d'you know what? It works. The blams come in all the right places, the timing's right, the chords and runs come easily to work-ravaged hands* and at the end of the song the sweet, sweet candy sound of applause and cheering rattles through the air - it's like catnip for fortysomethings, it really is. I'm so pleased I do a guitar solo behind my head two songs later, pretending that I'm being post-ironic. "Ooh" runs my internal monologue "I think I may've put my back out".

*Alright, so mainly ravaged by tapping computer keyboards all week, but you get the idea...I have to take cod liver oil tablets once a day at my age, you know.

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