Friday, November 24, 2006

"All back to the hotel, two birds each....."

Now, most of these blogs have a happy ending - a tiny triumph, an if you will, little victory - but it's not always like that. There are gigs where the highlight of the evening is that the leads haven't had beer spilt all over them, something you tend to only disover once you've coiled them up around your arm at the end of the night. We once had to make our way out of a pub armed with mic stands as makeshift offensive weapons after The Drummer sang a ribald alternative version of the chorus to "Something Stupid" at the wrong guy in the Gents (not as alarming as when our friend DJ Simon happened to walk into the toilet singing "Beautiful Stranger" that one time, but that's a different story). I was in a particularly chipper mood arriving at tonight's gig, having spent the day in a recording studio discovering the wonders that a magical thing called ProTools can perform on an ineptly played harmonica part and listening to a fiddle player weave marvellous parts around some songs that I'd been involved in writing. 

The previous evening I'd been in a pub listening to old timey down home singalongs and had woken up in my friend James's spare room with a cup of tea and a wet lurcher (the dog, not the gait) and this evening I'd partaken both of fried food and a Richard Thompson album on the way to the gig and so things, pretty much, were going as well as could be hoped for.

We were set up and ready to rock when a young lady approached the bandstand. The bete was about to turn noir. "Do you do 'Mustang Sally'?" she enquired. "No", I answered truthfully "We don't". "Why not?". "Because I hate the song and despise everything it implies about the lack of imagination and lazy easy hit attitudes of the worst kind of pub band" I responded. I always find that honesty is the best policy in these situations - it saves an awful lot of misunderstanding later on.

“But you could do it?" she persisted. "Yes. But we choose not to". That pretty much summed up the situation as far as I was concerned and I felt sure we could move on in our relationship - to the first song of the set perhaps, which was patiently waiting to be played at this point. "Well, people say I have a kinda okay voice and I could do it with you". "No". "You're just being a typical male now, aren't you?". She sure had a lot of questions on her mind, and here came another one. "Well what can you play?". I nodded toward The Singer's big book of lyrics cheat folder. "All those songs in there". I was still processing the information that a 'typical male' would be just the kind of churl to deny a girl the chance to sing "Mustang Sally" on a first date, which out of all the accusations I'd ever had levelled against me was way down the list - a long way behind not offering to pay for dinner, for starters (as it were). 

She regarded the ring binder acidly - "What are you, some sort of karaoke act?". I turned slowly to take in the two basses, four guitars, one drumkit, two keyboards and three microphones and complete lack of request slips we'd managed to arrange on the stage and considered that I may well have misinterpreted our role. Nope, I was pretty sure I was in a band. "No", I confirmed, "We're a band, definitely a band". "So, do you do any Beatles?". As it happens, we do sometimes, but I wasn't going to let the tricksy little minx get round me that easily. "No" I said. "Now go away". Typical male.

Three songs into the set, she approached again. No, we still didn't do any Beatles. We tried differing responses. The Singer's "Umm, I'm actually working at the moment" cut no ice. "Please go away" from The Other Guitarist didn't really cut the mustard. "Look, do I come up to you at work and start telling you where to put the gherkins in your burgers?" provoked only a desultory "How did you know what my job was, anyway?". "A lucky guess". From the bar came a pleading "Leave them alone, it's not your show, it's theirs". Now there was someone who wasn't getting extra relish on his hot dog tonight. In the break we were informed that we were quite good but our stagecraft wasn't up to much. It's nights like these you live for. 

And then the people came. It's amazing what a turnaround in fortune can be provided by the bar upstairs at chucking out time (thank you so much Bouncing Off Concrete for being so good that nobody left your gig to check out the group downstairs....). Suddenly, rather than having a good chance at beating the entire audience at a pick up band vs. audience kickabout there were people dancing, and shouting, and clapping, and whooping. You knew the happy ending was coming, didn't you? By the time the second encore came around we were throwing shapes (there's your stagecraft), odd covers (has she gone, great let's do that Beatles song we had up our sleeves all the time) and whacking our way through a double speed Waterboys cover we hadn't previously tried with The New Drummer which provoked whoops, frugging, a free drink from the bar, oh, and a fight.

As I wound up the leads I was happy to discover that no-one had spilled beer on them. We come, we go, we play. We have fun with our friends we play the songs we like and we make a loud noise that makes people drink and dance until the early hours. Is that such a bad way to spend our evenings? We could be more accomodating when it comes to requests, I suppose, but all we really want to do is ride them, sadly, ride.

Friday, November 03, 2006

We definitely ate the bear......

Some nights it all comes together. It's loud, it's hot, the sound of your guitar is exactly what you want it to be at every turn, those little licks you try come off, everybody plays out of their skin, there's a girl dancing at the front like nobody's watching, someone hands you a beer, the audience are singing and clapping and grinning, the set flows like a river, suddenly the skinny fit jeans and Converse don't feel like an affectation and every shape you throw feels like you were born to it. Last year I was in London watching Keane when the singer announced that there was no better feeling than playing 'Bend or Break' in Hyde Park to a girl on her boyfriend's shoulders with her tits out, and at the time I believed him. Tonight Tom, I'm not so sure you were right. Or as The Other Guitarist said after the gig, grinning like a darned fool. "Where the fuck did that come from?!?!?"