Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Return of Picturehouse

We’ve had a couple of cosy sit down affairs at Mr Wendell’s house (at one point I was going to take a souvenir photograph of our collective increasingly comfortable footwear, which contained at least one pair of slippers) but last night was the first full electric blow-out of the set for what we’re calling The Return of Picturehouse – a nod in part to Mike Scott’s epic The Return of Pan, in which he revisits the same chord sequence he employed for The Pan Within, but adds some bells and whistles over the top. This is effectively pretty much what our efforts at a reunion amount to. With age though has come, not necessarily wisdom, but certainly a degree of disposable income which has allowed some investment in labour-saving devices like combined multi-effects boards, tone controls that actually make a difference to the sound of your guitar and amplifiers which don’t require an application of what Drummer Reado refers euphemistically to as ‘impact rectification’ in order to make them start working. His other patented solution to amplifier-related issues is to “leave it in the car overnight” which he swears works in 83% of all applicable cases. Wendell has a proper Gibson acoustic. Turns out this is the first time it has been out of the house since he bought it.
With our new and improved battery of sounds and processing devices to hand we are not overly worried when Kilbey informs us that he has forgotten to bring his bass, since he has an octave divider contained within his FX box and will simply play the part on guitar, relying on the good auspices of Mr Boss (Roland rather than Hugo) to make the necessary tonal adjustments electronically on his behalf. I am also reluctant to pass comment since I had to phone him from the car on the A12 at the weekend when Mr Wendell tactfully pointed out to me that although we were on our way home from Helstock - at which I had once again had the pleasure and privilege of performing - my acoustic guitar was not. I think it might be an age thing. Certainly that was a contributing factor in our selection of rehearsal room, since the other one available to us was on the first floor and we’re all getting on a bit to be carrying large, heavy objects like amplifiers up two flights of stairs before we even get started.

So it was doubly galling when after we’d completed the first set and had briefly stepped out to enjoy the brisk, refreshing night air that we realised that the in-house PA had started emitting a low but pervasive hum, seemingly of its own accord - a low hum slightly sharp of ‘G’, as it happens. After unplugging everything, turning it off and then back on again, having swapped all the power leads and (without the luxury of being able to leave it in the car overnight) having called the studio owner to check if it was still under warranty we were faced with the prospect of either decamping to the upstairs room after all or calling it a night.
Fortunately at this point Gibbon, who had earlier confessed that he’d driven to the rehearsal not quite knowing what was in the back of his car other than that it was all probably going to be needed for something or another, remembered that he had a spare power amplifier which we could simply hook into the circuit and which would enable us to complete our practise without having to indulge in any further heavy lifting. We ran through the rest of the set, congratulated ourselves on a job well done, packed up and went home. The set sounds good, everyone can remember where all the bits go and in the interim between our retirement from active service and now the only real debate now turns out to be whether we need to start early so we can ensure everything fits in or whether we should just start early so we can be home and in bed before our knees give in. 
In the meantime Mr Wendell tells us that he had taken one of the flyers we're using to publicize the gig in to work last week. We've used an old photo of us, from when we all had hair as we figure that might remind people of who we were. "They spent the weekend trying to guess which one was me" he relates, sadly. "And only three of them got it right".  

The Picturehouse Big Band will be appearing at The Steamboat, New Cut West, Ipswich on Friday April the 11th. Do come, won't you?

Monday, March 03, 2014

Moby Dave.

Friends, pray serve my indulgence as I reproduce a heretofore un-blogged excerpt from All These Little Pieces (down in price to £4.99 for the paperback, everybody!) regarding Songs from The Blue House's appearance at The Cornbury Festival in 2006, at the behest of The Word magazine. There's a post script on this occasion.     
We are unwashed and slightly dazed the next morning when a dishevelled denim-clad fellow staggers toward us as we are drinking tea outside our tent, which is parked to the rear of the backstage area at the festival. “Hello” he introduces himself “I’m John Bonham’s son - Ravin’ Dave’s the name. I was here last night - s’posed to play drums with Plant, he’s known me since I was this high”. He waves an unsteady hand somewhere aroung knee level. “Thing is, I’ve flown in from fackin’ New York last night. I was in Barbados yesterday, got a gig tonight in Glasgow and now I’m in fackin’ Oxfordshire. I don’t know where the fack I am” - this much is clearly true, at least spiritually if not geographically.

“I was s’posed to play drums” he continues “But Robert took one look at me and says “You’re jet lagged - you can’t play, but can our drummer use your kit?””. Robert Plant, it is inferred, has remembered to bring his own mixing desk but seems to have forgotten to bring a drum kit. Lucky that Ravin’ Dave’s roadie was there in time, eh? That’s what we thought. “Where’s my coffee?” Our passing soundman has been persuaded to grab a couple of reviving hot drinks from catering for the tired and emotional alleged offspring of erstwhile rock legend ‘Bonzo’. “Back in the day, yes, I was heavyweight boxing champion of Great Britain you know” he continues apropos of nothing. We are aware that a line of security men are observing from a safe distance and chuckling visibly to each other.

“You know what’s unusual about me?” We can’t think of a safe answer to this and so decline to answer at all. There follows a long and involved monologue about the South African security services and how Ravin’ Dave was unfairly incarcerated under the same laws that put Nelson Mandela away - “...and poor old Steve...” Dave shakes his head sadly “...of course he never made it. Can I buy a fag off yer, I fackin’ hate rollies”. His rather damp and sad-looking cigarette is indeed hanging unloved and unlit in his hand.

There is further discussion around his consumption of drugs and alcohol over the previous twenty four hours, and indeed forty two years. “I’ve got an interview with Kate from The Guardian” he mumbles, and gestures to indicate where his drinks are to be delivered. ‘Kate from The Guardian’ seems to resemble nothing so much as a startled and rather nervous looking gentleman, who spares us a pleading look as we make eye contact. An idea seems to occur to Dave - “You’re beautiful” he announces to one of our party “I bet you’ve got a beautiful body - do you want to go skinny-dipping in the lake?” Rock Mum Helen politely demurs. Dave senses that he has outstayed his welcome. “What the fack did I say that for?” he wonders out loud. No-one can provide a cogent answer and so he gathers what remain of his wits about him and stumbles off. The guys on security are still chuckling contentedly to themselves.
So anyway, James did the sound for Deborah Bonham on Saturday last and asked her if she by any chance had a nephew called Dave. Apparently she hasn't. We were pretty sure that was the case, but the confirmation prompted a momentary frisson in both of us anyway. Presumably there's an LA club doorman somewhere still wondering if that guy that night really was the drummer from Coldplay. If you're reading, sir, that was the night my mate Steve tried it on.