Monday, January 19, 2009

Citizen Cam.

Apparently there are now college courses in things like citizenship, responsible behaviour, being respectful to your elders and, very probably, not spitting on the pavement – all laudable aims and goals and all exactly the kind of thing that you never had to worry about when I was growing up, as these were the sorts of values that we had beaten into us with stout staves before having to fetch fuel from the outside coal bunker in the tin bath, shin up a few chimneys and taking a brief respite to marvel at the continued weekly riots involving Teds, Mods, Rockers, Parisian students and/or screaming girls, depending on whether it was a Bank Holiday weekend or if The Beatles had a new album out. Drawing a veil over the soft-focus hologram of my youth, however, and screwing my covers band hat back firmly on to my head, I find that Picturehouse are engaged to play a short set at a charity gig, the organization of which has been undertaken by some students from the Suffolk College as part of one of these courses. This is 'organised' as far as I understand it, as most of the shepherding bands on and off stage between sets seems to be being undertaken by bass player Kilbey and long-time friend of the band (and now ex-member) Wendell. That also looks remarkably like Frisky Pat’s drum kit, Kilbey’s bass amp and my guitar combo on stage. Fortunately for some of the young tyros who pop up during the course of the evening we also have guitar leads, plectrums, drum sticks and a spare distortion pedal to hand. Tcchhh – talk about spoon fed – at my first gig I had to manhandle my speaker cabinet onstage myself, behind a curtain while some girl sang a musical number in front of it – in a way very much a foretaste of the X-Factor v. Real Musicians conflicts of The Noughties to come. Playing an evening like this, as well as providing an audience who seem to know all the words to the songs (our set list is very much driven by the band members who have teenaged children), and who bounce enthusiastically up and down in front of us and who seem very much pleased to see us (all three are pretty much novelties for us at our stage of the game) gives us a chance to see what The Kids are up to in terms of what they actually do when they get together, and what it seems they do do is bay loudly upon demand, mosh politely, and pay particular attention to getting their hair almost perfectly asymmetrical before they go out. Whereas in the good old days ™ we’d have a few songs from the set that we knew worked and which we’d got a mate who owned a Tascam four track to bash down over a weekend, and then carefully copied using our elder sister’s dual-cassette deck music centre and packaged using the photocopier at the library, every band who popped up on the stage seemed to have come direct from recording that day and promised that the results would be “…up on our MySpace later”. One of the bands boasted that they’d “Already written two complete songs and are working on lyrics for a further three” - crikey, at that stage in our careers we were still about nine months and two replacement band members away from actually appearing in public! Most knew how to work a crowd, although the “Oh my God – it’s Gemma, hi!” at one point did rather crack the plaster in the third wall (or is it fourth?), and I’m not sure the singer’s mum turning up late and asking if she’s missed anything really added to the effortless cool and panache of the last band’s front girl. There was the sort of windmilling, bouncing off walls and headshaking that I used to enjoy tremendously myself before my hair started going and I started having that gyp with my knee, and all the bands seemed tremendously self confident, knew the moves, had great techniques, generally enough attitude to come across as cocksure rather than arrogant, and there were a couple of fabulous drummers, who I’m sure will one day make a pretty young indie girl with a taste for carting heavy cases around in her Mum’s Corsa very happy. As my rheumy old eye cast about the stage over the course of the evening I felt genuinely happy for the musicians thereupon – just starting out on the long journey of hope, achievement, disappointment, failure, ecstasy, disillusion, triumph and surprise that treading the boards can bring. At my first band gig I forgot to bring my fuzz pedal too.

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