Monday, September 15, 2014

The Show-Off Must Go On.

I’ve been doing a bit of stage managing and MCing recently – it helps keep the old chops in order when there are gaps between gigs - and an interesting discussion came up the other night during the post-performance cable winding when one of the crew remarked that he had enjoyed one of that evening’s performers a great deal, but was concerned that there was a point where their ‘tween song banter had threatened to be more entertaining than the songs. Having introduced said turn with a rather splendid quip I’d harvested* from Twitter, which sailed blissfully over the heads of many of the assembled, I'd been happy to hear someone engaging with the audience to such a degree that this might be an issue in the first place.
Meanwhile, a knowing sigh issued from The Soundman Formerly Known as Our Glorious Leader (TSFKaOGL), who has endured many introductions on my part which have been in danger of lasting slightly longer than the songs they presage. Upon our return from a short tour of Denmark with Heavy Big Pop funsters As Is** some years ago we were in possession of two souvenirs, one being a live recording of a performance which had been recorded from a very expensive looking and immaculately maintained sound desk directly to stereo, and the other an only very slightly shorter cassette of all the on stage chat we’d edited out from between numbers in order to fit the gig on to a single C-90 in the first place. Many’s the time Songs from the Blue House emerged refreshed from a beer festival set to be enthused at by a passing tegestologist with a hearty – “You were great!” [beat] “Really funny!” “Not heartfelt, or moving..?” sighed TSFKaOGL ruminantly, back here in the present. A sympathetic assent came from latter day drummer TNDB, busy unravelling a monitor lead over by the power amps. "That guitarist..."  

The thing is, we didn’t really do any outright comedy songs – certainly a couple of wry observations on the human condition, and one light-hearted skiffle through my romantic past, and yeah, maybe the hick yokel faux-country rendition of Fat Bottomed Girls was played for laughs, but most of our set was definitively bedsit confessional Americana. Certainly the one about killing burglars had a neat pay-off and couldn’t really be described as a romp (it was also the one which usually got the biggest cheer with theatre audiences in the Essex/Suffolk borders region). I just couldn’t help chatting away between numbers, especially if someone was busy tuning, retuning, changing instruments or trying to decipher the set list – all of which can conspire to create an uncomfortable silence, especially if you’re in that first date frame of mind which so many performers and audiences find themselves in during their inceptive experience of each other. This is how Peter Gabriel got started, you know. One minute you're explaining who came up with the chorus that time in the dressing room in Sudbury, the next thing you know you're dressing in an evening gown, wearing a fox head and hanging your balls round your neck in a burlap bag*** for effect. However, just as nature abhors a vacuum, I can’t stand a stage full of people busily going about their business whilst fortifying the fourth wall and so I feel compelled to fill the gap with chunter. I know. It’s a knack.

Since my role with my current employer is to mainly stand at the side, play the twiddly bits from the album and occasionally do some Pat Donaldson-esque harmonies I’m not called upon to speak. Regular accomplices may be astonished to learn that I am blissfully happy with this arrangement. It’s not my circus, after all. Besides, I don’t want him to ask me pointedly to work up a version of  Talk Too Much  

*Or 'stolen', if you will. Thanks and kudos to whoever came up with that 'Miss Marple' gag. It may have misfired slightly with the audience but two of the band who had yet to make an entrance remarked that "...that was hilarious!"

**I found a copy of our twelve inch single in a second hand record shop last weekend. Ooh it took me right back, it did.

***We never quite went that far.

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