Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's friday night. Now, friday night gigs are different to thursday gigs (saturday gigs are another, whole different, kettle of fish - students of the genre are advised to seek out Mott The Hoople's seminal work on the subject, but I digress) - it's the weekend, there's no work in the morning, and on this occasion it is pay day. This all adds up to a heady cocktail, a veritable powder keg of emotion, and one which is ripe for exploitation by the savvy pub rocker. Obviously it's our weekend too, but someone's got to drive. I get myself in the mood by selecting Thin Lizzy's "Live and Dangerous" as the pre-gig driving warm up music. This has the dual effect of reminding me of both how exciting and adrenaline enhancing live bands can be and also that I'm never going to work to the solo to "Still In Love With You". Somehow, I'm still always surprised by that. As it turns out there are two pleasant surprises in store for me. Firstly, the drummer has proposed to his girlfriend, and she has accepted (however, given the weekend at a nice hotel, the provision of a personal stylist, a gift voucher at Jimmy Choo's and an evening at the ballet, one would have to be the worst kind of churl to decline such an offer - hell, I'd've married him for that little collection). The second is that, from the outset, it's clear that everyone is on fire this evening. No-one, especially not us, is this tight, are they?! It becomes apparent that this is no passing phase and we are having an absolute fucking ball - not just with the audience, but with each other. The jokes are flying in thick and fast, no-one's getting cross at the 'tween song intros, the audience, or each other and (lord knows how) the sound is hanging together beautifully. I wonder if (say) The Kaiser Chiefs ever wonder how their stuff goes down in a pub in Stowmarket when they're writing it. It's unlikely it crosses their collective minds, but we feed vicariously off their talent and lap up the resultant applause. At one point I'm windmilling mindlessly through some punk rock and notice that there is (a) a broken lampshade just above and to the left of me and (b) my hand is bleeding. It's not exactly Pete Townsend impaling himself on a whammy bar, but I'm secretly pleased....we mean it maaaan.... The drummer insists we play 'Band On The Run' and so we do. I sing some Bowie andThe Singer says (irony free) "Awesome". He tells the crowd to watch 'The Apprentice', a guy I work with tuts at "the gay stuff" (we play a Scissor Sisters number), there's condensation running down the walls. We're over time. We're done. Afterwards a guy, barely able to form coherent words, tells us how much he loved the gig. It's friday night, and the boys are back in town.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

An Acoustic Diversion

An extraordinarily succesful gig by Me and The Missus last night. Having not tread the boards as part of an acoustic duo for a good eighteen months we were a bit concerned about how we'd manage, especially given that we'd been asked to bulk the set up to a sturdy two hours and as a result had spent a couple of anxious evenings running through some new (to us) songs and resurrecting a couple of half-remembered hits of yesteryear. Oh, and being too hungover on thursday to run through them all and see how long they lasted. 

The venue was a local village's local's pub, and one thing regulars in such an establishment expressly do not want to do on a saturday night is sit transfixed in silence while you pursue your heartfelt reading of an obscure Boo Hewerdine album track, and so the hubbub of conversation is at a constant throughout. 

Bolstered by the presence of a good few friends, neighbours, supporters and a close-to-the-stage table of youths who, although lippy aren't about to do anything to jeopardize their chances of getting served in the pub next weekend, we strike up a rapport with most of the audience, inviting responses on questions of the day such as why The Clash are responsible for global warming and whether Cliff Richard really does have a living doll at home with real hair (and which is quite possibly wired for sound). While the chat in the room is raging around us, that doesn't mean that they aren't listening, as their enthusiastic reactions to (of all things) a belligerent version of Richard Thompson's 'Shoot Out The Lights' and a whooping singalong to Squeeze's 'Up The Junction' betray. 

By the end of side two of the performance a combination of our getting the measure of the crowd and their galloping consumption of Adnam's Ale lead to a triumphant closing trinity of 'London Calling', 'Istanbul (not Constantinople') and KT Tunstall's 'Black Horse and The Cherry Tree', during which H's throwing herself into the spirit of the occasion leads her to inadvertantly rename 'Big Black Bush and The Cherry Tree' during some of the latter choruses. 

We are invited to encore and a combination of the crowd getting the measure of us and my galloping Adnam's consumption leads to a lengthy 'These Boots Are Made for Walking' (H is indeed wearing some shiny knee boots and a pencil skirt, which may have gone no little way to pacifying the upstarts at the front for a good deal of the set...) interspersed with running requests including 'Fit But You Know It', 'Parklife', 'Ring of Fire' and 'Not Fade Away' between (and occasionally instead of) verses. We thank them for a lovely evening, some of them make a point of thanking us and the experiment in introducing live music into the pub by the management is deemed a success.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A call comes to a rehearsal – a rare enough occurrence in the natural scheme of things, this get together been prompted by our forthcoming return to Spalding. Some years ago, when The Singer and The Other Guitarist were scouting around for ideas to fill their time with, they came up with the idea of forming a Beatles tribute band. The Other Guitarist was a bass player then, and blessed with not only left-handedness and a great voice for harmonies but with the Beatles Anthology for Easy Guitar, and so it all seemed to make sense if we got together and hung out at weekends, played some great music and earned a bit of beer money in the process. The vituperative letters to the local paper accusing us of stifling the local original music scene, the slightly obsessed stalkers, our local MP’s wedding reception, and the original member of The Quarrymen who shook us all by the hand after a gig and warmly congratulated us on our performance were all, benignly unsuspected, in our future.
One of our first champions was a local landlord called Paul, who with his partner CJ, had been hauled in to straighten out one of the, ahem, more characterful local pubs and was booking bands in on weekends to at least provide a soundtrack to the regular fights that inevitably broke out after the combination of several pints of two-star lager and the wrong look at the bar. At least one rolling and tumbling couple of ruffians pitched up in front of the stage just as we were about to break into ‘Love Me Do’ only to retreat in astonishment and to Paul’s delighted laughter, and so when he got offered a pub Oop North (anywhere further up the A14 than Peterborough is ‘Oop North’ to us lot) one of the first bands he contacted to follow him up the road was us. We duly took time off the day jobs and made our way across the flat and breezy fens, not really knowing what to expect once we reached our destination. As it turned out, what we should have been expecting was a run of four gigs in five days - one of which was an off-the-cuff acoustic show in the pub next door which I think climaxed in a stirring run through ‘Wish You Were Here’ if I recall correctly (which is unlikely), but certainly ended in the presentation of one of the art prints off the wall to The Drummer, a stern admonishment that if we were caught eating or drinking in any other establishment in town then we’d be barred immediately from his gaff (all food and drink at his was, naturally, gratis for the duration) and a barman dedicated at all times to ensuring that none of us, on pain of his dismissal, had an empty glass at any time during our stay. We took to it like naturals – this Lincolnshire flower town was our Hamburg, The Bass House our Reeperbahn, and dammit, if Spalding’d been good enough for Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix in 1967 (the poster was still above the bar) it was darned well good enough for us.
There have been many more returns over the years - for parties, barbecues, festivals, fundraisers and weddings (one of which was Paul and CJ’s) and throughout all of them our host and hostess have been unfailingly warm, generous, and usually at least very slightly drunk. But over time we grew out of The Beatles (or at least the drudgery that goes with being in a Beatles Specialist band), the visits became less frequent, we got in touch more by phone than in person and finally the new band swept the decks and cleared the air with a “No Beatles” rule which finally cut the cord with our previous incarnation. The polo-necks were tucked away at the back of the wardrobe, the Chelsea boots put out to grass. And now we’re going back. Not for a wedding, or an engagement, or even a fortieth birthday party, but for a wake. We weren’t expecting that one. Sleep well CJ; at least this time we’ll have rehearsed for you.