Wednesday, September 11, 2013

“My hand to God, she's gonna be at Carnegie Hall. But you - I'll let you have her now at the old price, OK?

Word reaches me (over a nice Marlborough Sauvignon blanc in my back garden actually) that Our Glorious Leader has expanded his portfolio of obligation into the Agency business. In short, as well as booking turns into his own evenings, arranging intimate soirees live in The Oak Room at The Sun in Dedham, doing sound at Little Rabbit Barn and popping the odd passing singer-songwriter into a bistro in Coggeshall on the off-chance of a hat tip and a plate of free hors d’oeuvres, he is adopting a stable of thoroughbred performers of Top Quality Americana and Modern Folk and trying to persuade other people to book them too. I think I’ve got that right. It sounds like an awful lot of hard work to me - sort of like an A&R role, but without the mounds of cocaine and lavish after-BRITs parties.
When bands get bored with each other, the set list, the venues they’re playing on a Sisyphean loop or even the charm of the miss-teatime-get-back-late-eat-a-Ginsters-on-the-way-home lifestyle, or they simply outgrow the childish things that first led them into being in a band in the first place (like the chance to miss tea, stay up late and eat Ginsters on the way home, ironically) it’s often the singer who diversifies into alternate arenas of expression first. Since drummers spend a lot of awful time hitting things and adjusting cymbal stands prior to gigs, guitarists like to warm up by playing all the licks they’re not allowed to include in the set proper and bass players can’t usually be trusted with electricity, singers also tend to know which end to plug in the microphones, which gives them an extra edge in the utility stakes après group hiatus. A friend of mine ended up doing the sound for a Saturday morning kids TV pop show from just such a career start point (learning in the process just how high the number of incidences of sore throats occurring between Friday’s rehearsal and Saturday’s broadcast can be, which is why for all his faults I retain a soft spot for Housewives Mum’s favourite Ronan Keating, who makes a point of delivering the goods live every time).

Frequently it’s their PA anyway, since they’ve grown tired of flirting with acute pharyngitis by trying to make themselves heard over the throaty roar of the guitarist’s backline and they’ve bought some decent gear to replace the cobbled-together collection of stands and wedges that have accumulated over time. They also tend to build up an informal network of people who similarly need such a capability but who gig so infrequently that it’s not worth them buying their own. They sometimes flirt with them, too. After that it's all “Are there any other good places to play around here?” or simply “Are there any places to play around here?” and the mid set “You should learn…” turns into the after show “You should book…” and before you know it you’re paying the hire fee on a church hall out of your own pocket, panicking about the late walk-up, trying to find the one duff channel on the multicore which has wiped out the stereo monitor feed, isolating the earth buzz that’s threatening to derail the whole sound check and wondering where on earth you’re going to get quail’s eggs for Boo Hewerdine’s backstage rider.
There’s also a down side.

By the way, you can see what he’s up to at


John Medd said...

Apparently, when Nirvana appeared on The Word, Kurt Cobain's rider was three cans of Top Deck shandy.

Do You Do Any Wings? said...

One of the riders he's received is that there is to be absolutely *no* alcohol backstage, which I believe is probably a first.

James Partridge said...

I ignored that one just as much as I ignore the others. He got fruit, water and Brewers Gold just like everyone else.

SimonB said...

Can you still get Top Deck shandy?