So it was then that, after a busy enough day in the shop, myself and the long-suffering Shirley made our way up to Cambridgeshire for the Fordham Festival. Bad Manners are headlining, we've got the slot before them and I'm feeling nervous. I've not eaten much during the day which isn't big or clever so we stop at a service station on the A11 for a carton of pasta and even more inconclusive ranting on my part. The site is easy to find being extremely well signposted with the only dodgy moment coming when we encounter a level crossing (Shirley hates 'em!). There's a band on as we arrive, they're ok if a bit hippyish for my vastly bigoted tastes- we meet up with the lads and are introduced to the Bad Manners boys who seem a splendid bunch which eases my awkwardness a little. I'd met Doug/Buster before- he always seems pretty friendly; we swap Dr. Feelgood anecdotes (really!) before the next band drowns us out, they're pretty punky and play some suitably unlikely cover versions. We spend a few minutes putting a set together- 12 songs, 'just the ones we're sure of', that should be 45 minutes or so. Manners keyboard man Ritchie suggests that him and the horn section join us for 'Jah War'- they did that when I saw them at Brighton late last year and it sounded great so it seems like a good idea to me.
Suddenly our gear's all set up and Kevin (the band's agent) giving us a 'do it for Foxy' pep talk, a nice gesture but certainly not necessary for me to hear since that's about the only reason I'm doing it any way... he introduces us, explaining the situation- Paul's too ill to perform but we didn't want to let you down- something like that anyway. Mark our singer says more-or-less the same- and then, at last, it's 'H-Eyes' and then, at last, we're playing rather than talking and it's sounding good, great even, and then it's 'Staring at the Rude boys' and a voice shouts loud, we'll never surrender and we won't and we don't and there's a few people dancing and singing along and I'm sweating already and we're playing well, very well even and the Manners boys are on for 'Jah War' and it's going down better and better, and 'In A Rut' has that big guitar solo that I've seen Paul play so many times and now I've got to play and at last I feel ok, relaxed even and I'm trying as hard as I can because I mustn't let Paul down now, not now that we've come this far, and then it's 'Babylon's Burning' and the crowd's going mad and we're going mad and we've finished our set but there's still another song to do and it can only be 'Human Punk' and Mark's out in the crowd and they're singing with him and they love it and they're right to because we've done it. All of it. Game over.
Thank you and goodnight.
Right- that's the 'easy' one out of the way. Let's see what tomorrow brings...