Sunday, May 25, 2008

"It was the best of times, the worst of times..."

One of the interesting things about playing in two different bands, one a principally acoustic-based vehicle for original songs and collaboration, the other an electric guitar-heavy covers combo, is the contrast between the two, the, if you will "little differences" as Vincent Vega once so notably mused. On friday, for instance, Songs from The Blue House played at one of the country's finest venues, The High Barn in Great Bardfield, a sixteenth century edifice reeking with history and redolent of a great beamed cave, with perfect acoustics, a sympathetic crew, and an appreciative audience. We were there ostensibly to launch our new single, but since the download isn't ready yet, the vinyl idea had been nixed, we forgot to video the performance of the track at the album launch gig and it wasn't deemed worth pressing up any CD's, it was a low-key sort of shindig in terms of pimping some merch, so we decided to play some of our favourite songs, mix it up a bit and have a good time. And a good time we indeed had. A healthy turn out of family, friends, regular band devotees and interested and enthusiastic strangers, and a liberal application of Brewers Gold, meant that we enjoyed bantering with each other and the crowd to what would probably be regarded as an unnecessarily lengthy degree if it weren't for the fact that we were all enjoying it terribly. We had some new songs to play, the joy of which were that some of them were better than the ones we'd already recorded and released, and so there was a great feeling in the group that we were still moving forward, still stretching, still improving, and the performance itself reflected that. As a writer it is gratifying in the extreme when generous and talented souls apply themselves to the performance of something you've had a hand in creating and it's especially pleasing when something you've lived with for a while can come alive and bring hairs up on the back of your neck when it's being exercised in front of a roomful of people who are getting the vibe, feeling what you're trying to do and more than willing to show their appreciation. A microphone and a handful of chords make for a potent course for your endorphins to flow freely along, and so it's no real surprise that when the aftershow finally wound up back at The Blue House, the sky was blushing pale and the rooster next door was already crowing. I know how it felt.
Next night I was in a windswept seaside town in a bare white hotel back room, setting up my amplifier next to the toilets. It was, shall we say, a compact and bijou turnout in terms of audience attendance, most of whom preferred the sanctuary of the bar and the sanctity of the sea view, a long grey North Sea miasma, where even the gulls had battened down the hatches for the night and abandoned the promenade to the gale whipping down the east coast. The dismal evening which followed wasn't our fault, I know this because a large gentleman with a forked beard and bike club patches told me so, (and besides, last time we played for a Bike Club we had a whale of a time - on that occasion we were more than happy stay stay on for an extra half hour, but then on that occasion there were more than twelve people to play to) - We were simply the wrong band in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, the lesson here seemed to be that if you're going to organise a motorcycle club rally and bike run to the coast on a Bank Holiday weekend, best make sure The Eurovision Song Contest isn't on on the same night first, eh?
It was a long old drive home, but as I pulled into my home town, just feeling about half past dead, Roddy Frame sang to me from the CD player - Life's a one take movie. I don't care what it means.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Call Came Through at two fifty-nine....

Friday afternoon at the office, and the phone rings. It's Kilbey, who is in a bar with Barry The Singer. They've popped out for a quiet half of mild and a bowl of chips and been buttenholed by the manager, who's frantic at the band cancellation he's just had - can we fill in? Initially, of course, the idea holds no appeal whatsoever, what with it being friday afternoon and me having a serious work head on, and I point out that since we haven't any gigs in the duiary for a couple of weeks, I've put my amplifier into the shop for a service, but Kilbey points out that he's got a spare and can pick me up and drive me there and back, at which point the prospect becomes a whole lot more attractive. I agree that we really should help out, and check out early from the day job to power nap in preparation.
We set up, me with a borrowed amp and a selection of effects pedals that I've only seen from a distance but which offer a pleasing variety of echo, flanging and other kid-in-a-sweetshop like effects, which once I've sorted out, I am now very much looking forward to playing with. Over a pre-gig fag and a beer I am aware that I am being shouted at. "John Terry !" exclaims a voice. "John Terry!". After the last gig we played here, when a chippy young gentleman held the door to the toilets open for me and beckoned me through with a cheery "There you go Dad!" I have taken the precaution of applying groomtastic hair care products in order to give me a certain spiky facade, but I'm not entirely sure that I'm quite in the Chelsea captain's league, quite literally, however a nearby gentleman of restricted height is convinced that am the spit of him, and insists that his friend take a picture on his mobile, all the better to fox gullible friends (and presumably those with reasonably poor eyesight). Having said that, someone else (astonishingly) said the same thing later, and it makes a nice change from being mistaken for Darren Anderton.
The wee fella made another appearance later on as, mid set...well, you know how your parents used to make an arch with their legs and you used to run through it with a beaming smile on your face? That happened, although I'm pretty sure that wasn't his mum hoisting her skirt up to allow his passage, as it were. Spirits were high, comments were exchanged and someone decided to pick him up. Brilliantly, he responded by then hoicking a couple of people over his own shoulders, barging out of the back door and depositing them in the garden with a determined "...and let's see how you like it!" expression on his face. When he requested a song later, it would have been churlish not to accede.
It was a good show - lots of dancing, not least between some ladies who were obviously very close friends, and two of whom helped put some gear in the car afterwards. Celia, if that was indeed her real name, was absolutely charming and proud enough of her four piercings ("It's alright, there's nothing south of the border") to show one to a fortunate member of the band, possibly because she especially appreciated the Kylie song we did as on off the cuff encore. As we relaxed afterwards with a nice Merlot and reflected on the random chances that incidence sometimes throws your way we agreed that it really was splendid way to spend a friday evening. It really was just like going to the pub with your mates.