Monday, July 13, 2009

A simple twist of fete.

A nice day out in the country for stunt bass player Kilbey, who stood in on behalf of Mr. Gibbon for the Songs from The Blue House expedition to Littlebury, where we completed the latest leg of our summer tour of bijou and boutique festivals, the sort which are usually hosted in either a field or someone’s back garden, depending on which is the more convenient for accomodating a stage, several hundred metres of cabling, a sound desk and a couple of PA stacks. Obviously if one’s back garden happens to be of the dimensions which look fully capable of attracting EU subsidies in the first place, that does tend to help things along in terms of deciding where to install the Pimms pergola. The night before, Kilbey and I had been cruelly inveigled into playing at a wedding by the simple expedient of booking Picturehouse for a pub gig and then holding the reception there at the same time. “We’re big fans of the band and really looking forward to the set” the groom explained. “Catch you later, Steve” he added. The evening didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts as a Gentlewoman of the audience procured umbrage at the volume setting of Barry Trill’s screaming Fender Twin. “Can’t you move it?” she enquired with all the charm and decorum of a bad tempered docker in the throes of a particularly irksome hangover* “I can move it all the way back to my house if you want!” responded Barry, somewhat peremptorily. Two songs in and it already looked like it was going to be a long night. Things picked up though, and by the time we got to our atmospheric and deeply moving rendition of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” we were expecting a good crowd reaction. We weren’t necessarily expecting the bride, still in her big white frock, and her best friend to actually lie down in front of us on the quintessential pub carpet and act out the line “If I lie here, would you lie with me?” in real time but that’s what happened anyway. To be honest the pomp and gravitas of the number is necessarily compromised in my mind, as just after Barry delivers the line “...those three words…” with all due solemnity, the unbidden voice of Mrs. Merton pops into my head and interjects “…if you must.” After a hearty slap up barbecue supper we were on our way home by half eleven rather than just starting in on the second set, and we’d made some new friends at a new venue. If Disney had employed Elton John to write the songs to soundtrack the Picturehouse story he’d probably have come up with something very much along the lines of The Circle of Life to accompany this particular bit. As it was, Barry had some particularly fine thirties Gypsy swing jazz in the car, which worked just as well.
And so, with all good speed the next day to Saffron Walden and the village fundraiser, where we reclined lazily by the river while jugglers practiced their art (or is it craft?) and we made the most of the hummous and samosa-laden buffet. It had the feel of a date on a tour promoted by Ratty, Mole and Badger and we fully enjoyed the sedentary vibe of our exclusive compound, venturing out mainly to utilize our vouchers for a complimentary Saffron Blonde, which turned out to be the ale on tap in the beer tent and not, disappointingly, a willowy teenaged girl from the village who’d been laid on for our amusement (as it were). Think what you like, but I defy anyone with a taped off “Artists Only” area, an ice bucket full of chilled Sauvignon Blanc and a selection of spinach and ricotta filo parcels on their rider not to put on their darkest glasses, kick back and get the teeniest attack of haughtschmerz. Of course there was the gig to play too, which in itself was a pleasure and a privilege - too rare an occasion in life, I feel, is having the opportunity to invite the technical crew to fire up the dry ice machine by bawling “Go on – pretend we’re the Dennis Stratton Band!” at them in an entirely irony-free manner, and it’s always a nice touch when the running order on the main stage has to take a break for evensong. Sadly, we had to depart at this point, leaving behind the families relaxing in the soft summer haze, the dancing children, and, in an alternate universe, Elton John on a deadline to get the score for the Blue House musical finished and desperately trying to find a rhyme for ‘bucolic’ that wasn’t ‘alcoholic’.

Those roses smelled lovely.



*To be fair, that may have been exactly what she was, and it may be wrong of me to make these sorts of allusions purely for comic effect. Still…

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