Monday, February 27, 2017

"I've marked you down two points for doing some Coldplay..."

A return to where it* all began this week, as a temporarily reconstituted Picturehouse Big Band conduct what we refer to (several times) as a Sunday afternoon ‘live rehearsal’ prior to one of our occasional forays back into the world of birthday-parties-by-request. The Singer, The Bass Player, The Drummer and The Other Guitarist are all present and correct, as is a cheerily receptive audience, thanks in no small part to our two televised support acts – The Old Farm Derby and an England rugby international, which we try very hard not to disrupt by sound checking the drums midway through.
Having originally set up an acoustic strum through a few appropriate covers, we have remembered an exponentially increasing number of things that we like to play, and so the set will eventually come in at a hefty couple of hours’ worth – and although that’s including the traditional onstage conversation and instrument swapping, it's still probably about an hour and a quarter more than we’re actually going to need on the night. Still, it’s nice to stretch out a bit, both figuratively and literally, as the big green tent at The Dove provides ample stage swagger room for all of us – not always the case in our heyday, when we would frequently be shoehorned into the last available space in the bar, whether that be by the dartboard, under the telly or – as on one occasion – tucked in next to the condiments station in the restaurant. The Other Guitarist had to stop between songs to hand out forks and mayonnaise.
After an understandably hesitant start (by our standards) – after all, some of this equipment hasn’t been out from under the stairs in half a decade – we get into our stride and as well as a few old favourite songs, some of their bespoke introductions are getting an airing too. “This is a rehearsal, after all” says The Drummer “So if there’s anything you need to practise, do feel free to join in. I’m brushing up on my drinking”. In the midst of the audience, my KS1 firstborn Lord Barchester is practising his joined up writing by noting down the song titles and marking our performance out of ten like a diminutive Len Goodman or a slightly less acerbic Craig Revel-Horwood**. He is also (naturellement!) wearing a cape, which adds dramatically to the effect of his whirling dervishness during a couple of consecutive Clash numbers in the second set. This is a set I am running behind for, and arrive onstage only just in time to hear the announcement that as well as performing at today's salon, we will also be part of a Summer free festival at Portman Road to celebrate our hosts’ twenty years in the booze and muse trade. “I’m so sorry I’m late” I explain “I was taking my son for a poo”. I consider it unlikely that Joe Strummer had occasion to present this as an excuse for not turning up on time to fight the law. It wasn’t always like this, I reflect.
Mrs K, having taken a temporary leave of absence from audience member duties is privy to a gentleman displeased with our current direction. “I told ‘em – if they play another Radiohead song I’m off!” he mutters as he takes his leave – this delivered in broadest Gyppeswyckian, which adds incalculably to the gaiety of the scene. Back inside, thankfully not everyone is as disapproving by our choice of material and at the conclusion of set two we are invited to continue our performance by an appreciative crowd, albeit one thinned slightly by childcare responsibilities and the realisation that some of them haven't had their tea yet. We use this opportunity to invite friend and former co-Picturehouser Andy Trill up to properly shred his way through My Sharona in his inimitable fleet-fingered fashion. He looks at the disappointing dearth of rack effects and flashing lights at his feet “Give me more gain than I could possibly ever need” he politely requests, before quietly and efficiently going on to tear the roof off the sucker while I look on with a cheese-eating grin of satisfaction. We attend to packing up, grateful that it’s eight o’clock in the evening as we call to carriages, rather than two in the morning - we're not as young as we used to be, you know, however much we might look it.
Back when I started writing about Picturehouse it was to capture and treasure these times for posterity – to keep alive the feel of the moment ere I forget in the fog of the morning after.

By the time I get home there are four live clips from the gig on Facebook.            

*This blog
**We scored an impressive 148 points out of a possible 150, I am told.
(The picture at the top of this entry is poster we used for our first gig together. The Other Guitarist got his kids to design it when they were around the age that Barch is now. The eldest of them is now a paramedic who you occasionally see tearing around town under blue lights and sirens. Time is round, and it rolls quickly). 

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