We’ve had a couple of cosy sit down affairs at Mr Wendell’s house (at one point I was going to take a souvenir photograph of our collective increasingly comfortable footwear, which contained at least one pair of slippers) but last night was the first full electric blow-out of the set for what we’re calling The Return of Picturehouse – a nod in part to Mike Scott’s epic The Return of Pan, in which he revisits the same chord sequence he employed for The Pan Within, but adds some bells and whistles over the top. This is effectively pretty much what our efforts at a reunion amount to. With age though has come, not necessarily wisdom, but certainly a degree of disposable income which has allowed some investment in labour-saving devices like combined multi-effects boards, tone controls that actually make a difference to the sound of your guitar and amplifiers which don’t require an application of what Drummer Reado refers euphemistically to as ‘impact rectification’ in order to make them start working. His other patented solution to amplifier-related issues is to “leave it in the car overnight” which he swears works in 83% of all applicable cases. Wendell has a proper Gibson acoustic. Turns out this is the first time it has been out of the house since he bought it.With our new and improved battery of sounds and processing devices to hand we are not overly worried when Kilbey informs us that he has forgotten to bring his bass, since he has an octave divider contained within his FX box and will simply play the part on guitar, relying on the good auspices of Mr Boss (Roland rather than Hugo) to make the necessary tonal adjustments electronically on his behalf. I am also reluctant to pass comment since I had to phone him from the car on the A12 at the weekend when Mr Wendell tactfully pointed out to me that although we were on our way home from Helstock - at which I had once again had the pleasure and privilege of performing - my acoustic guitar was not. I think it might be an age thing. Certainly that was a contributing factor in our selection of rehearsal room, since the other one available to us was on the first floor and we’re all getting on a bit to be carrying large, heavy objects like amplifiers up two flights of stairs before we even get started.
So it was doubly galling when after we’d completed the first set and had briefly stepped out to enjoy the brisk, refreshing night air that we realised that the in-house PA had started emitting a low but pervasive hum, seemingly of its own accord - a low hum slightly sharp of ‘G’, as it happens. After unplugging everything, turning it off and then back on again, having swapped all the power leads and (without the luxury of being able to leave it in the car overnight) having called the studio owner to check if it was still under warranty we were faced with the prospect of either decamping to the upstairs room after all or calling it a night.Fortunately at this point Gibbon, who had earlier confessed that he’d driven to the rehearsal not quite knowing what was in the back of his car other than that it was all probably going to be needed for something or another, remembered that he had a spare power amplifier which we could simply hook into the circuit and which would enable us to complete our practise without having to indulge in any further heavy lifting. We ran through the rest of the set, congratulated ourselves on a job well done, packed up and went home. The set sounds good, everyone can remember where all the bits go and in the interim between our retirement from active service and now the only real debate now turns out to be whether we need to start early so we can ensure everything fits in or whether we should just start early so we can be home and in bed before our knees give in.
In the meantime Mr Wendell tells us that he had taken one of the flyers we're using to publicize the gig in to work last week. We've used an old photo of us, from when we all had hair as we figure that might remind people of who we were. "They spent the weekend trying to guess which one was me" he relates, sadly. "And only three of them got it right".
The Picturehouse Big Band will be appearing at The Steamboat, New Cut West, Ipswich on Friday April the 11th. Do come, won't you?