Sunday, October 31, 2021

Green and Red

After two years of The Great Unpleasantness interfering with our plans, The Picturehouse Big Band made its return to the live arena in Stowmarket (natch) and despite fearing that we might have forgotten how these things work, by the end of the evening I think we had firmly reestablished the central tenet and mission statement of the group in that it’s just like going to the pub with your friends.

From TAFKAG’s* studious reprogramming  of his keyboard sounds during the day (he also literally dusted off his speakers, which is when he found one of the tweeters rolling around in the cabinet where a tweeter is not supposed rolling around to be), to the surprise guest singer toward the end of the set (modesty forbids identifying the party, but regular ‘Swich gig goers will be astonished to learn that he did not perform bearfoot…) we had an almost literal riot.

Admittedly Last Nite was a bit tawdry around the edges, but it was still better than The Strokes’ version, and that second encore meant that at least we got to re-do Band on the Run, but properly this time. 

Many thanks firstly to my Picturehouse brethren, everyone who rocked up to a packed Pickerel (especially Linda Stix for the photo), that nice girl who played drums in the full Nell Gwynne corset and Harvey Two-Face Halloween** make up while we were packing away, Pat for PA, and lastly Greenwich Mean Time, for letting us have an extra hour in bed on the morning after.

*The Artist Formerly Known as Gibbon.

**At least I’m assuming she doesn’t go around like that all the time.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

“A Picture House in Every One Horse Town”

I am having everything above the neck trimmed and tidied when Danny, my hairdresser* enquires as to my plans for the rest of the day. As they do. I am to rehearse with Picturehouse prior to a forthcoming engagement, as we in the band figure that muscle memory alone is not going to pull us through, what with The Great Unpleasantness having put off our gig schedule by about two years, and we’ve never been the best at remembering to rehearse anyway. I realise that this will probably actually be the first time I’ve sat down with (say) The Drummer for about two years. I know, right?

Everyone having remembered where he lives, we gather at (indeed) The Drummer’s house, he plugs in his electronic kit, tiny tiny amplifiers are produced seemingly from out of nowhere and we start to work through the set list, which The Singer has resisted the temptation to put into chronological order. Since he, The Bass Player and I are also in this country’s premier proponents of East Angliacana, we have seen each other only recently, but it is splendid to hang out with The Other Guitarist again, he resplendent in the almost ubiquitous (these days) thick framed glasses**, his flaming ginger thatch calmed by the passing of the years into subdued autumnal strawberry blond. 

During a break in proceedings, The Bass Player recounts a visit to a mutual friend of ours, who is reluctantly selling his drums. Due to the nature of the Suffolk rock, pop, folk and ambient loon jazz scene, we all have various connections in common, and so he - the vendor - had enlisted help in identifying who it was in the picture he was going to use to advertise the kit online. He knew that it had been taken at The Moon and Mushroom, a bijou establishment in Swilland***, twice named Suffolk Pub of the Year and at a gig by his band Cara Cleibh (also featuring Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs’ Fiddly Richard), and also that the support act was on stage at the time. It was a good photo of the kit, it was just that they couldn’t work out who was playing just in front of it. Drummer Seamus**** suggested it might be The Other Guitarist.

The Bass Player squinted at the picture and pointed out that The Other Guitarist was, and remains, left-handed and that the ginger guitar player in the photo was demonstrably not. “That” he pointed out “Is Ed Sheeran”.

*And beard, and ears and eyebrows.

**Only Gibbon, on bass and keyboards, has resisted the temptation to let his eyes decay with age.

***Literally ‘Pig Land’.

****Seamus Hussey. When we’re in the band gods kitchen together I’m Ted Bidits and Gib is Justin Credible. Stephen is Wendell Gee and Steve is Kilbey. Keep up at the back, there’ll be a quiz later.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Heaped Plaise of Frattery.

To The Snug, where a full complement of Dogs have assembled beneath the hopbines in order to [dramatic hand gesture] create. We haven’t got our heads together in the country for quite the time due to The Great Unpleasantness and so it is with some trepidation that we take to our seats, sofas, deckchairs and, in one case, exercise bicycle and collectively wonder out loud what we’re going to do. La Mulley suggests that we warm up with something we know, and so a slow, countrified version of Not That Kind of Girl is extemporised.*

Suitably warmed up, I suggest something I’ve been working on, tentatively working titled The Merchant of Venus and before long we are locked back into the familiar cycle of hesitation, repetition and deviation - almost the anti-Just a Minute, and during which we learn that Helen has never seen an episode of Taskmaster, Mr. Wendell and I discuss our top five favourite Waterboys gigs, and Turny Winn buys a snake.

Over in the corner by the Marty O’Reilly poster, Helen takes a pencil to the extended, breath-defying opening line. I suggest an alternative to one later couplet, to conclude with the phrase “…surfers in The Suez”. Someone suggests that this deliberately invites a Mondegreen, and although I agree that “…in the sewers” might perform the role admirably, it’s nowhere near that time TT wondered why ‘cokehead’ might be such a deliberate term of endearment to employ in an otherwise perfectly serviceable love song. “It’s ‘coquette’”.

Before too too long we have an acceptable demonstration version available, which we commit to Garageband for reasons of austerity and Mr. Wendell, as usual, lasers in on probable sources and influences.

“It’s that Nagasaki thing” he suggests, and I am indeed reminded** of the first night I saw Channel 4, taking a break from work in the hotel restaurant, and slumping down in front of the staff room TV to see this strange fusion of rock and folk music***, the likes I’d never heard before, and which was probably the first time I discovered something for my very own self - probably why I dove headlong into the oeuvre, and still haven’t properly surfaced to this day. I used to perform a couple of Christy Moore songs during my folk troubadour phase, and indeed I did Moving Hearts’ Hiroshima, Nagasaki Russian Roulette which it turns out has an extraordinary number of verses and is tongue-twistingly tricky at some points, and which is possibly one of the reasons that I have been venting my frustration on Helen by presenting her with similar challenges ever since.**** (My belated sympathies with various audiences in The Albion Mills, who’d probably just nipped out for a pint of mild and a game of darts and had to listen to me earnestly performing Sacco and Vanzetti instead. In front of the dart board).

I looked it up today and although I’m not sure it’s the same gig, it sure looks like it. None more eighties, even down to the hot wired Strat neck pick up and the out of phase lead guitar solo (see also The Home Service, whom I similarly fell heavily for and for whom still hold a candle).

So there you go - musical fellow travellers who know you better than you know yourself. Mind you, he’s gonna freak when he hears JJ Cale’s Carry On

  • *Yes we will, probably.
  • **This part’s a bit like that scene in Ratatouille - bear with…
  • ***The next week they had The Damned doing White Rabbit, so things could all have turned out so very differently.
  • ****”Tell me about your relationship with your mother…”