3 gigs in 3 days- just like old times...
Thursday- Blues Brothers at The Pizza Express in Maidstone. We've played here quite a few times now and I still think it's a bit of an odd one; the nearest tables are close enough for the people sitting at them to touch us (or indeed, us to touch them- I must try that one day) and are almost always populated by people who look shocked when we start playing. Surely they've noticed that the stage is full of musical equipment which makes it likely that a band of some description is likely to be playing at some point in the evening?
Anyway it being near to Christmas there's people away gigging or otherwise- Mario's back as Jake, Stuart's on sax (the last show with him was something like 18 months ago!) and it's Dave the trumpet's last gig with us this year. And it's a good one, with pizza and cheesecake finding it's way to the stage for various hungry band members and pretty much the whole audience up and dancing by the end. We've already been booked for next New Year's Eve- but who's really thinking that far ahead?!?
Friday- Blues Brothers at Nailcote Hall near Coventry. It's a Christmas party for a hundred or so people in a marquee on the side of the hotel. Tony James from the excellent F.B.I. Band is in the hat and glasses with Mike, Richard (just returned from some European dates with Vanessa Mae) is on sax, Adam is on trumpet, Squirrel's on bass, Steve's on keyboards and Keith's on drums- and, unless something comes in at very short notice, it's our last gig of the year. Unusually Squirrel and myself found ourselves in the bar with Steve and Phil the sound man before the show; 2 somewhat over-refreshed young ladies in Blues Brothers outfits emerged from the venue with the words 'you'd never guess that we're solicitors on 60 grand a year each would you?'. 'Was that 60 grams a year?' said Phil looking pleased with himself, as Squirrel mused 'I wonder what they're soliciting for?' as only he can. By the end of our first number the dancefloor's full, and by the end of the show the place is going mad. Great stuff.
Saturday- The Lee Ryder Band at the rather punkily-named Pistols Wine Bar in Coulsden. I used to play in a rhythm and blues band called The Informers about 10 or so years ago- our drummer was Roger Brewer who's been playing with Lee for the last few years, and who called the other day to see if I was available to play 'this Saturday somewhere near Reigate'. When I asked about a setlist he just said something like 'oh, you've seen us play, you know what we do'- and he's right, I have seen them play and I do know what they do; they play, as Lee himself puts it, 'blues, blues and more blues'. In a desperate attempt to swot up on things, I have a look at their website... virtually the first thing I read is-
'where rehearsals don't feature, setlists are laughed at and none of the band know what is going to happen next or for that matter what has already happened- that's REAL blues'
After a suitably chaotic day in the shop- anyone would think Christmas was coming!- myself, Shirley and East, assisted by the latter's sat. nav. (rather peculiarly named 'Aggie' by it's owner) found our way to Coulsden which is indeed somewhere near Reigate. Paul the shop guv'nor, rather intrigued by the prospect of a gig with no setlist, has followed along. We load my gear in, order some drinks and wait... and wait... eventually Roger turns up. 'No one else here yet?' He looks a bit worried- we're due on in less than half an hour. Lee and Vince the bassist arrive a few minutes later; while he's setting his gear up Lee asks me if I know the Ray Charles song 'Hard Times' and runs through the chord sequence with me and Vince as we 'might play it later'. Then, at last, Janos the keyboard player comes through the door with 5 minutes to go- somehow everything is set up in time to start just after 9 o'clock.
'What shall we play?' asks Lee cheerily. 'Well, what did we start with last time?' says Vince. 'Don't know' says Lee. 'How about ''Reconsider Baby''?' 'Could do. Any other ideas?' 'Er... any songs you fancy playing Leigh?'
It's all true. There is no setlist.
Eventually we start with 'Reconsider Baby'. I'm too loud. As usual. Good.
Somewhere in the next couple of hours we play 2 sets of, to coin a phrase, blues, blues and more blues, neither of which includes 'Hard Times', the one song that we'd almost rehearsed. It's great fun- why would it be anything else?- and I'd almost forgotten what a great drummer Roger is. Excellent.
As we're leaving I spot a pile of magazines by the door- you know, the sort of free mag that you see everywhere these days. It was called 'CROYDON LIFE'. I give a copy to East, who is overjoyed. It was that kind of night. Oh, and Paul had to leave after the first set; he's got an early start Sunday, he's off to Paris where he's working with Bruce Springsteen. Other people's lives eh?