Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"It'll sound different when there's some people in..."

We did the Gods Kitchen gig on Sunday in a reasonably hitchless fashion – nobody fell off the stage, I fulfilled a hitherto unrealised ambition by coming on to intro music (The Battle by Fairport Convention, in case you were wondering), we switched the mirror ball on at an appropriate juncture during the set, which created a nice atmosphere, and I forgot very few of the lyrics during the course of the show – including even the one we’d not played since 1992 (the date of the rehearsal was on the cassette we re-learned it from) and the brand new one we hadn’t previously played at all. Best, I think, was the way a cinematograph whirred away in my head as we worked our way through the big list of songs, the characters from them drifting wraith-like across my mind, gesturing imaginary salutations cheerily toward the stage in acknowledgement of their elevation to my own personal iconography. More importantly, we played most of the right notes, in mostly the right order. 
Through the kind attentions of www.therecordingbooth.co.uk I was able to collect a reference CD of the gig shortly after we’d completed it. I resisted the temptation to listen to it straight away and am subsequently enjoying it even as I write these words, the soft-lit memory of the performance being gently corrected in favour of the actualit√©. For instance, live on stage, guest for one number James Partridge screamed a Beatlesque "Turn me on!" into the microphone as he launched into a blazing guitar solo. Turns out he was shouting "Turn me up!" at the sound man. If I were to venture an observation, it would probably be that we started out with the intention of sounding like REM playing a bunch of Richard Thompson numbers and seem to have ended up sounding like The Cure doing some Elvis Costello demos. Frankly, I blame my eighties musical genes and their predisposition toward overuse of the chorus pedal. Ah well, you can’t have everything.

Where would you put it?*
*Steven Wright.           

Friday, October 26, 2012

Always the Last to Know

I’d been up at five, done a stint seeing how the magic is created behind the scenes at Radio Suffolk, gone in to the day job, put in a full shift there, returned home and was looking forward to forty winks before MyWifeKellyBrook and our First-Born returned from their busy day of smearing paint over themselves and playing Hide-the-Pasta in each others’ hair. Just before turning in, I thought I’d check a couple of the social media networks to see what was happening on the mean, mean super highways of cyber space (does anyone under twenty still call it that, by the way? I doubt it).
The first status update that caught my eye was that of the manager of the venue where 22-years-behind-the-distortion-pedal-and-proud-of-it evergreen hardy perennial popstrels Gods Kitchen were due to perform our annual rite of passage (if we don’t play at least one gig a year the rains won’t come, and the crops will fail. You may not believe that – hell, I may not believe it, but do you want to be the one to blink first and find out?).  It seemed that the powers that be in charge of procurement had finally lost patience and pulled the plug - quite literally in this case – with immediate effect. I checked my phone. I checked my email inbox. I checked my Facebook messages folder. I dialled 1471. I even, lord help me, fired up Google+ to see if there’d been a missive of some sort in there. There hadn’t.

Fair dos to the bloke, he probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the time, but once I’d managed to get hold of him by the expedient method of dropping him a text, he apologised, said it was out of his hands, and got back to (presumably) drowning his sorrows somewhere - I’d guess not at the pub, as they’d already apparently declined to deliver any beer there for a couple of weeks. When a bar is being stocked courtesy of Tesco Direct, the writing’s probably on the wall. Sadly this left me with no promoter, no venue and no PA but - unusually for us - some confirmed customers.  That restorative nap suddenly seemed an awfully long way away.
After a couple of calls I got through to Val, patron saint of Ipswich Musicians for many a year now, who confirmed that she had nothing planned for Sunday evening and would be delighted to host our soiree. “Give us time to get cleared up after jazz lunch” she added. “Mind you, you lot can plug in and go, can’t you? Some of these kids today need four hours to soundcheck”. Phew. Dammit! 'Plug in'! Another text frantically tapped out – it takes me longer than most ppl because I still capitalise names, put in apostrophes and insist on writing the recipient’s full postal address in the text of the message, but I managed it in fairly good time. James from Live at the Institute, purveyors of quality entertainment to the good folk of Posh North Essex said he was happy to oblige. Seconds later, That Nice David Booth, contracted to record the evening’s entertainment for posterity, responded to ask if I needed a mixing desk.
In about half an hour I’d managed to relocate the show, find a PA, alert our fanbase* and thereby avert a potentially distressing dark-and-boarded up venue experience for all concerned. And some of us had already booked babysitters. Would it have been so very difficult to drop us a text in order to tell us that the gig was off in the first place? 

*We refer to it as the fanbase in a very similar fashion to that of Murray from Flight of The Conchords.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Importance of being Gibbon

In 1981 my friend Joey and I were in need of a third in order to complete the line up of Joey and The Juggernauts (previously Brute Force and Ignorance) and we called on a friend of ours who was pretty handy with all sorts of things musical. For a start he played the solo on Santana’s Samba Pa Ti with a group, had dabbled with keyboards, was part of the Woodbridge Excelsior Brass Band and thus clearly knew his way around the dots and squiggles (which is more than we did) and so, we reasoned, he was almost certainly able to pick up the rudiments of drumming without too much practise - which of course he managed admirably expediently. His enthusiastic snare rattling through our version of Status Quo’s What You’re Proposing remains an oft-recalled and fond memory for me to this day. That and the boiler suit he habitually wore on stage which gave him the air of a mildly absent roadie who’d wandered in from a Hawkwind gig.
Musical polymath that he is, I’ve pretty much had Gib’s name down first on the team sheet for anything I’ve been involved in subsequently, especially since he’s settled down on the bass guitar as his principal form of expression. Since those halcyon days of denim jackets and the twenty four minute version of Albatross we enjoyed one Christmas he’s also contributed keyboards to The Picturehouse Big Band (see popular musical memoir Do You Do Any Wings for details), harmony vocals to Gods Kitchen and a trombone solo to the first Songs from The Blue House album, for which he also scored a string part on the big closing number.
I’ve really only ever seen him out of his depth on one occasion when, after unrehearsedly stepping in for The Star Club – a Beatles specialist band doing a favour for our mate Paul - our host wandered in to breakfast in the pub the day after the gig and cheerily greeted him with a “Well, you were shit last night, weren’t you?” Generally though, he just needs a key and a count and you can confidently leave him to his own devices.

Having commenced rehearsals for Gods Kitchen’s 22nd Coming** at the end of this month it was enervating to find the usually reliably assured Gib peering at the set list with an air of confusion. “I have absolutely no idea what some of these are” he announced. “To be fair, some of them haven’t actually been aired this century” contributed drummer Stephen Dean*. Nevertheless we agreed that if I started playing the chords it might ignite some spark of recognition and he could join in at his own pace. After nineteen songs, to which he had played along perfectly, added harmony vocals and reminded me of a couple of lyrics mid-lapse, we agreed that we could probably pull this off after all.

On the way home he wondered out loud whether I recalled the title of a song we used to play with Picturehouse and who it was originally by? After a few bars of humming I identified it as The Circle by Ocean Colour Scene. Did he want a copy, I enquired. “Oh Christ no – I thought it was awful. Well, it certainly was when we played it”. He turned on the radio. “Oh fuck me, it’s The Beatles”. He switched it off. We drove on in silence.

* Just back from a holiday in Turkey, where they had marvelled at the light glinting off the river he also had a splendid Radio 4 panel show-worthy quip about the phosphorus on the Bosphorus, but that needn’t detain us now.

** Gods Kitchen, everyman peddlers of bespoke guitar-based confessional beat music since 1992 will be celebrating our twenty-second consecutive year of gigging with a performance at The Grinning Rat, St. Helen’s Street, Ipswich on Sunday the 28th of October.

In line with received medical advice regarding our increasingly fragile hips, lights dimmed will be shortly before nine and carriages should be ordered for just after ten, meaning that everyone has time to have a nice nap after their Sunday dinner, wander down to the show, get home in good time afterwards, relieve the babysitter and still be in bed with a nice warm cocoa by the time Match of the Day 2 comes on. Entrance is free, however any long-time supporters of the band who are thinking of bringing their children should be prepared to provide proof of age (for them).

As well as playing material from the now digitally-available compilation South of Somewhere, the band (consisting of Shane ‘Ted Bidits’ Kirk on guitar and vocals, Stephen ‘Seamus Hussey’ Dean on drums, Richard ‘Gibbon’ Hammond on bass and long-time collaborator Steve ‘Wendell Gee’Constable on guitars) will be performing new, unreleased and never-before performed songs and welcoming some familiar faces on stage to guest with the group over the course of the evening.