Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Let’s go fly a kite.

A gratifying number of people have enquired why it is exactly that I’m leaving Picturehouse, the group who have provided me with so many great memories, a wealth of experience, occasionally the warm thrill of confusion - that space cadet glow, one might say - and the material for Do You Do Any Wings? ( still available at http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/do-you-do-any-wings/1087266 in case you didn’t want to scroll back through three years of bloggery). For some reason, today’s answer wasn’t the usual “Well, er, time to move on, new challenges, baby on the way, that sort of thing….”, I simply said “Have you ever flown a kite? You know how you get up, and it’s really blustery, so you get wrapped up all warm, and you go out and run along trying to get your kite in the air? You’ve put the thing together, you’ve unraveled the big ball of string, you’ve seen it crash into the ground a couple of times, but then when you finally get it aloft it goes soaring away, you can just about control it, occasionally it crashes again, but then you get it flying once more, and it’s swooping, dipping, swirling - it’s exhilarating, exciting and you think it’s the best and freest feeling in the world, and you vow to come back on the next breezy day and do it all again. And you do. And again, and again. And then one windy morning you wake up and you look out of the curtains and you can see that it’s great kite flying weather, but you don’t really want to put on all your warm clothes and find the bag with the kite in and unravel the string and stomp up the hill, even though you know this time you might have the best flight ever, you think that you may just stay in bed this time. Well, that’s the feeling I get now”.
“I think that’s the most stupid metaphor I’ve ever heard” she said.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Farewell to Things.

The great Picturehouse farewell tour* is limping to a close. On Friday night, we were in Stowmarket, where pretty much every band I've ever left, dumped or folded has come to a timely demise for one reason or another. It must be either something about the three pound-forty pints of Guinness or the unique approach to making a band feel special that has contributed so emphatically to the Stowmartians place in rock history. "Oi! Some of us were enjoying that!" may well be a heartfelt expression of one person's desire to hear more of our work once we've called it a night, but it's hardly a refined cry of "Encore, encore! Bravo!" is it? I'm guessing it wasn't from the couple who walked out after three songs who'd maybe popped back to see if we'd got any better. You can see how, once ruminating on these sorts of things starts occupying more and more of my day, it's probably best for all of us if I take some time out, now can't you? It was kind of both Neighbour Neil to come straight from his job spreading tabloid filth in that London (I knew Peter would never cheat on Katie!) and for Stalker Bertie to provide custom stage wear for the occasion ("I coudn't get 'Rock in Stowmarket' so I brought one of the Iron Maiden Rio shirts instead') but by the time Wendell got up to guest on "I Predict a Riot" it had the feel of a wake rather than a celebration. It did give me the chance to silently dedicate The Scissor Sisters' number to my late friend Big Graham, however, who used to come to many, many of our gigs and would go out for a cigarette religiously every time we played it because he didn't like "...that gay shit". None of this sounds particularly gracious on my part, some people, as we know, were enjoying that.

Next day it was my turn to drive and so I popped some vintage Fairport Convention in the stereo, wound it up nice and loud and hot-reeled it round to casa Trill. When I got there he was listening to Rush's "Cygnus X-1", which he'd been playing along with on bass. It's nice to know that we would meet later on the middle ground somewhere around the work of Vampire Weekend. In the meanwhilst however, time to get to the gig, unpack, set up and perform. We were first there, even though we were running late ourselves, and walked in to find the lady behind the bar recounting how the last band who were late were phoned at home, only for the person who answered the call to say that the errant frontman was "...in the bath". Subsequently every member of Picturehouse who came through the door that evening walked straight up to the bar to apologise for their tardiness with the words "I'm sorry, You see I was in the bath..." to an element of some intrigue ("If three of us do it, they'll think it's a movement!" as Arlo Guthrie once spake). Shortly after Kilbey's extraordinary rendition of this phrase he was heard to be muttering something about "a bloody idiot!". Naturally assuming that he was referring to Frisky Pat we wondered what could possibly be the cause of his outburst. "I've forgotten to put the P.A. amp and the speaker stands in the car" he 'fessed up, miffedly. "And the mic stands". We all soon came to a band consensus that he was, indeed, a bloody idiot. The extraordinarily patient staff and audience were mollified with a promise of a short break, and Pat was despatched back to base to collect the gear. "No rush to set up then?" I proposed with that plucky spirit that took so many of us Brits through the blitz. In the film, I should have been played by a young Richard Attenborough. Bass player Peter Lorre looked on, suitably hangdog.

Of course it all ended happily - Pat was back in what seemed like a trice, the combination of musical talent finely honed over many years of experience and excessive drinking in both of our frontmen combined to make a special night of it in front of a vocally and terpsichoredly appreciative crowd, and to cap it all at the end of the evening, a terribly pretty girl in a strapless frock and with matching (pink) belt and shoes expressed no little admiration for the louche charm of our "singer". After expressing her regard in expansive terms she wondered if I might effect an introduction, pointing out plaintively that she had "a good job!" I thought that at the very least a 'hello' would be a nice bit of band/audience interaction in terms of PR and so persuaded a very reluctant group member to pop over to acknowledge her appreciation in warm tones and thank her for her support. Obviously my defintion of 'cute' didn't really match up with hers, as an embarassed mumble indicated that the singer I'd procured on her behalf wasn't necessarily the one that she was prepared to risk an argument with an attentive young local in order to actually engage in casual conversation. My bad. Meanwhile, a calm and sober drummer (and that's not a phrase you get to use too often in my line of hobby) reflected on the Jack Daniels-inspired pupils of our four string player. "You look like you've popped an E!" opined the batteriste. "At my age it's more likely that I'll have popped a knee" quipped the stand-tastic front man. "By the way" added Pat casually "When I nipped round to yours to pick up the P.A. I reversed over your garden and knocked down your fence"


*I should stress that it's only my farewell - they're carrying on, and as Michael Stipe said about REM - a three legged dog is still a dog. See how I put the 'limping' thing in there though?