Sunday, August 23, 2020

Strange Days Indeed...

The great unpleasantness of 2020 has touched us all in different ways. Mr. Wendell messages to say that he had a dream in which Eric Clapton had moved to Felixstowe and was invited out for a slightly glum drink with Picturehouse (“Everyone just wants to talk about George...”) whilst I myself am recently awoken from a fever dream in which cardboard cut-outs of the band were included in a press conference conducted by a producer friend of ours, wearing a balaclava and menacingly reading a list of demands (“More reverb in the monitors” most likely being top of the list). I mean, I’ve had the Les Paul out and attempted to annoy the neighbours by widdly-widdling at top volume but that wasn’t as satisfying as it could have been, principally because they’d moved out the week before, so it’s not really the same as pulling the full Pete Townsend in a pub in Stowmarket. But then again – what is?.

In other off-CV engagements I was recently involved in a responsibly-distanced garden gig, wherein the list of T&Cs quite respectably outpaced Van Halen’s notorious M&M-centric rider by a good few pages. Notably, audience members were to use wipes to clean the facilities after use and then discard them in a conveniently placed bin, a measure which festival promoters might want to take a good long look at for the 2021 season, assuming this wasn’t just a ploy on behalf of the hosts to get people to clean their bathroom for them for free - something which can’t of course be entirely discounted.

I enjoyed the show, especially given that these days I rarely get to play to any more than thirty or so socially-distanced people anyway, so it wasn’t too out of the ordinary an experience for me, despite my being the designated driver for the evening inevitably taking the edge off my finely-honed and expansive performance style, but it was also a sobering reminder of what we have (hopefully only temporarily) left behind. One of my co-performers reflected sadly on his entire year of work disappearing into the ether within a single forty eight hour period, and of the curious virus that swept through the tour bus in early February.

For those of us slightly more on the periphery of the business of show of course, the impact has been softer in terms of actual able-to-pay-the-rentiness, but similarly dispiriting in terms of bring Key of G-based folk/country/blues/rock/pop to the masses. I speak, naturally, of Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs, whose occasional sojourns into the fetes, festivals and provincial theatres of East Angular were also brought to a summary stop by the impact of the lockdown. We’ve had a couple of get-togethers in the country since then, utilising the space afforded by Fiddly’s English country garden on one occasion and a freshly broom-swept workshop on another. “Don’t worry about the mice” he said reassuringly as Helen attempted to retrieve a half-consumed brownie during a tea break. “They don’t affect the three second rule...”

I also had a one-to-one with banjoista Tony at his recently re-finished country cottage (painted in ‘Red Stallion’, I’m told. It’s also a film) remembering chords to recently-forgotten songs and finessing our first-ever co-write! There’s one song in the set where we swap roles, and he gets to play guitar (and do the “Can you hear the banjo?” quip) and I suggested that I might refamiliarise myself with the chords of G (natch), C and D in order to best perform my supporting role. He retrieved the five-stringed instrument of joy from its case, ony to find that after months in isolation it was perfectly – and I mean electronically tested by specially calibrated instruments – in tune. This never happens. We sighed at each other. “No-one will ever believe us...” #fakenews

All of this set-list remembering malarkey is not entirely of an altruistic mindfulness-restoring nature, of course. We have an unusual show – a good two hours betwixt breakfast and lunch - so we’ve had to remember even the ones that weren’t in the festival set. In another box ticking first, we’re playing in a churchyard. My suggestion that we knock out a quick version of Bob Dylan’s Tombstone Blues has been quietly paddled to the side of the suggestion pool, but nevertheless we approach the event with all the accumulated professionalism, decorum and gravitas for which we are rightly respected withn the tight-knit world of East Angliacana. “Where’s the venue?” someone asks.

You can’t miss it – it’s the dead centre of the village.”