Monday, September 05, 2011

"I've always wanted to be like Richard Thompson..." .

So far this year we in Songs from The Blue House have played a number of festivals and they have all, with the exception of one, had the same thing in common - it’s pissed it down. At Maverick however, the sun shone, insects buzzed lazily in the summer haze, children grasped hungrily at melting ice creams proffered by indulgent parents, and strawberry blonde girls fanned themselves waftily below outsize straw hats. The difference here was that this was the only one that I hadn’t travelled to with bass player Gibbon – he’d taken the opportunity to ride the bus out to Easton Farm Park - and so when we were engaged to perform at Felixstowe’s al fresco Art on the Prom festival I thought I might see if the fates were inclined to smile upon us again and decided to let the train take the strain, thus enabling me to avoid having to worry about finding somewhere to park, whether the gear would fit in the boot, whether the traffic lights on Felixstowe Road would hold me up - basically to avoid all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace that inevitably accompanies these things.

The sun shone brightly in the sky as I boarded the railway carriage at Ipswich station, Sunday paper in one hand and guitar case in the other, and I busied myself with minutae of the inkies as the train surged through the glorious East Anglian countryside, unfettered by roadworks, traffic signals, inconsiderate BMW drivers pulled up on double yellows with their hazards flashing, and pedestrians too lazy to make it the next twenty yards up the road to where the pelican crossing is. We pulled into Felixstowe station right on time – sadly no longer the splendid Victorian edifice with a five hundred foot long platform, where Wallis Simpson arrived to ride out the pre-abdication storm, where I caught last orders after my shift waiting tables at The Orwell Moat House Hotel in the station buffet (divided by a piece of tape stuck to the floor into the public and lounge bars, identical but for the extra ten pence on the price of a pint of ale) or where my maternal grandparents rolled up to enjoy the bracing sea air in the roaring twenties, one of the last memories that Gran happily shared with us that day when we visited her in the home.

I walked down the High Street – past the very cinema where Kipper got me tickets to see Hawk the Slayer and then got me the poster and the promo stills afterward, past the supermarket where RB’s Mum used to work, over the road which leads down to The British Legion where I did my first public gig and where they called the support band back on for an encore after we’d finished our set* and past the Wimpy, still serving the Brown Derby for dessert and with a family sat by the window, a tousle-haired child drawing circles in the spilled fizzy drink on the formica-topped table. It was about this point that it started to piss down.

Anyway, the gazebo on the green by the seafront was a washout and the members of the band who’d already shown up had retreated to the Red Cross tea room – officially opened in 1965 and constructed, according to the brass plate on the wall, by one Percy Plant – where it was resolved that we would continue with the day’s programme and so after a short set by Steve Mann’s Exit 13 we adopted the position in front of the twenty or so souls that had either stoically resolved to see the event out or had volunteered to serve tea and cake in the day centre as required and were determined to fulfill their commitments, and we performed a very well received, intimate and almost totally acoustic performance, utilizing the old-school skills of stepping forward to take a solo, dropping down to enhance a vocal and lustily throating a hearty four part harmony when required. As we cased up our instruments the constant patter of raindrops on the windows which had accompanied our performance quietened to lull, the lowering sun glowed dully on the sullen clouds hovering above the choppy grey breakers of the North Sea and I was struck with a profound truth. “Gib” I said. “Can I have a lift home?”

*Believe me, that Spinal Tap line about the audience “Still booing them when we came on” has no little resonance at Kirk Central to this day.