Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Livin' the dream on G's and caffeine..."

Tonight's the night, everybody - welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends! To recap, our mildly cynical neighbour, a member of Her Majesty's Press, has been contacted by a gentleman who claims that he can teach someone to play guitar using the power of the interweb in a month. One recent graduate of the course was playing with a band within two weeks, it transpires. We are doubtful and, as ever when these sorts of conversations are held on licensed premises, we determine that we must discover if this be true and so our friend Producer Simon is volunteered in his absence as a suitable guinea guitarist. Once he shows up at the pub and is confronted with a tableful of mostly pissed and therefore overly insistent friends of his that he undertake the challenge, he agrees, I suspect mostly for the sake of a quiet life. However, with a deadline to meet and a set list and programme of forthcoming gigs despatched to Talbot Towers, it seems there is no escape for our hapless victim. I mean hero. The Mighty Picturehous are coming down off our friday night gig - the third in rapid succession at a pub in Colchester where we are currently flavour of the month and have done so many shows in such a relatively short time that we not only recognise a few of the punters, but also the pub's 'twixt and post-set CD collection - to be honest it seems a bit high camp (Copacabana, some Abba, a bit of George Michael, Dolly Parton's Nine To Five) but I guess no-one's going to start a fight to I Will Survive. On this occasion we missed the vital timing slot which means that the pub pretty much empties bang on a quarter past eleven so that the nighthawks of Colchester can get in at the late night establishment of their choice by the half eleven price hike. It's unnerving the first time, but we're generally getting better at it. Barry is louchely sipping at a nice Merlot and considering his options, the freshly re-monikered Sweetpea Ibbotson and I are considering why they built the castle at the bottom of the hill and not the top ("Romans, fucking idiots" considers the former Frisky Pat sagely) and Kilbey is reflecting on his evening's Jack Daniels consumption from a prone and frankly horizontal position on the bandstand. His conclusion seems to be that an apple a day may well keep the doctor away, but is not a practical daily diet on its own if you're going to celebrate the end of your four year certificate in training course in the company of Kentucky's finest. Wise words indeed. It is friday though, and no-one has to work tomorrow, which is a mantra he has been repeating ever more forcefully during the course of the evening. "Did I mention it was friday?" he asks one last time.

Our trip to the seaside at Felixstowe for Simon's grand debut the next night brings out a fair smattering of supportive friends, all eager to see how he will face the challenge. A photographer from the paper, detailed to capture his triumph in digital form contents himself with getting Si to throw a few shapes while we're setting up and assures him that these are the best shots he'll get and buggers off conveniently early for a prior appointment, very possibly an urgent assignment at an Indian restaurant, we suspect. We have decided to not prolong the new boy's agony for too long and bring him on third song into the set. Any possibility of a low key entrance subsides pretty swiftly as Kilbey welcomes him to the stage by announcing that he has been playing guitar for approximately four weeks and this is his first ever gig. A breathless audience readies its camcorders. Well, if there were nerves, they were beautifully disguised. I think I may have held my breath sidestage for the duration of the song, but all his changes were there and he was at no point helpless. Cues in and out faultlessly executed and a happy man whose first words upon leaving the stage were apparently "I want my own band!" How potent cheap music is. As for us, we chuntered on with the thing that we do, enjoyed a cigarette break on the balcony at half time, and rounded off the evening's fun with a surprise "I Predict a Riot" that we hadn't planned, and indeed hadn't played for a while. A nice crowd, a bit of dancing, and it's always good when someone comes in their Lara Croft fancy dress outfit (as it were). The gig was upstairs - up two flights of stairs in fact, and the difference between the previous night's venue and this became rapidly apparent as just as we finished the place really started filling up (either that or they'd all seen us before and were just waiting for us to announce the last number so they could get the beers in). This was the half eleven place round these parts. As leads were packed and guitars put back in their cases the space between us and the door began filling up with bodies - bodies that were generally disinclined to leave a convenient corridor for some fairly tired and inordinately sweaty musicians to get their gear to. As we moved through the throng they magically swept around behind us like an ocean tide, and being the well brought up boys that we are it seemed impolite to ram knees and shins with heavy speaker cabinets, tempting as it was, and besides, most of this lot of incomers were breezered up to the max and it didn't look like it was going to take an awful lot to kick them off. Each trudge to the door, down the stairs, back up, through the throng and over to pick up another cumbersome piece of equipment seemed to take longer and longer, and still they came. "Yeeeaaahhh Bwwooiiii!" shouted one, patting my guitar case in approval and asking if he could blow into the piece in my other hand. It was an extendable speaker stand, but it seemed churlish to turn him down, and he seemed to enjoy the experience. "I'll give you fifty quid to go back on" said another. I may have laughed a little too risibly. By the end we were wondering whether it would be possible to simply drop drum cases from the balcony to the pavement below and try to catch them (rather than kick them down the stairs, which Sweetpea, determined to not be defined by his nickname was already doing by this point) but since one girl had already had the same idea regarding disposal of her wine glass we thought it was probably a step too far in the circumstances to start lobbing the lighting rig into the street in case some of the partygoers thought it was a good idea and decided to join in. We left and drove away, and still they came.

There is a theory (proposed by my friend and part time philosopher Neil) that those who live beside the sea are different to the rest of us. The expanse of water both constrains and excites them. It is, paradoxically, both a barrier and a gateway - "Come to me" it says, "See what mysteries I hide" while murmuring with another breath "You shall not pass". Those who turn their backs to the sea face inland, face a journey, face finding another way for themselves - to travel, to explore, to get away, to lose themselves. Or, as we discovered, get wankered on a saturday night, lob glasses off balconies and shout "Gary, he's not worth it!". It takes all sorts.

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