Saturday, February 11, 2012
"This song was number one...
....on the set list earlier, but we changed it"
It’s always interesting to watch a band from the other side of the monitors from a musician’s (or at least band member’s) POV. This week I went to Live At The Institute in Kelvedon, a lovely little monthly club night with no bar and a bring your own policy regarding both food and drink, which means that the turns are blissfully uninterrupted by the rattle of the till and the clank of change on palm during their sets, and that the audience is one prone to listening rather than discussing whose round it is and whether they require salt and vinegar crisps with their pickled egg, although I will say that I momentarily misread the enquiry “Chilli nuts?” from one of our party given that it was minus eight in darkest Essex that night and I’d just been out for a fag.
We were there to watch a band called Moses touring their ten year old The Swimming Zoo album (almost) in its entirety and to marvel at both their song and their stagecraft - both of which were depressingly still on top of their game after a decade of baffling obscurity for this superb collection of singers, musicians and potty-mouthed betwixt song raconteurs. Before that then, the supporting artistes. First up were a four piece acoustic band called One Sixth of Tommy which, before we go any further, I have no hesitation in damning as a terrible name for a group, even given that ours (Songs from The Blue House) is as eminently memorable as that of the band who hit number three in the Billboard chart with Jackie Blue in 1975 by comparison.
Forever the fate of the support act is to go through the middle-aged musician’s filter. How old are they? What are they wearing? Can they play? Can they sing? Do they insist on explaining how they came to write their songs? Who do they sound like? Where can I file them away in in my internal rolodex of genres? And, finally, what are the songs up to? OSoT, as I expect no-one outside their Google Calendar stenographers refer to them, were through all of these hoops like an otter through the country of the two rivers as my jaundiced forty-something eyes took in their schtick, cast about for a suitable pigeonhole in which to place them, and ate some more chilli nuts.
I liked ‘em. At one point they advised that their next song was available as a free download from their website. But that’s not what I want. When I’m in the room, the sound of digital reverb still echoing off the rafters, and wondering if I’ve got time to nip to the toilet before the proprietors have rearranged the onstage furniture for the next act, I want to go to the merch stand, proffer a round sum in currency, and have something in my pocket that I can listen to in the car. Hence today’s tweet - Buying a band's CD at the gig is like leaving a tip, or writing a thank you note. It also means they can afford a Ginster's on the way home. I bought One Sixth of Tommy’s CD because it was shorthand for explaining that I thought they had a lot of promise and I hoped they’d do well, that they wouldn’t split up and go off to separate universities and split the band, and that I really appreciated them coming out to a large village in Essex in the middle of winter for third on the bill expenses, and because I’ve been on the unwilling receiving end of so many post-gig lectures about what I should be doing to further my career in music that I wrote a book about it.
This isn’t so much about my night out. It’s about how a tangible product is always going to be a better calling card than, say, a calling card. How folk faced with a merchandise table and a queue will pay a tenner for an album and get to their next appointment rather than wait around for the person in front to have their one pound and a penny in change counted out (whoever’s manning the table will appreciate it too, incidentally) and how the critical process is generally merely a number of box ticking exercises undertaken by middle-aged men with chilli nuts.
There was one more thing. I hope I managed it.
This is One Sixth of Tommy. www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxFxkCM-4xQ
The Swimming Zoo by Moses is available at CDBaby http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mosesuk