It's been a long 3 days. A very long 3 days. Santa in a bra and g-string, policemen playing electronic drums and singing C.I.A. agents everywhere. Business as usual then.
It was The Ickenham Festival on Friday; all the shops stay open late, The Salvation Army band appear as if by magic (where are they the rest of the year?) and hundreds of people wander the streets saying things like 'it's a pity they don't do this sort of thing more often isn't it?' All good fun if a bit nerve-racking to have so many people in the shop at once, though Paul the guv'nor had recruited his family to help keep an eye on things. A moment of madness saw 2 uniformed policemen trying out some drums- Paul's wife Julie was dispatched with a camera immediately. I pulled the shutters down at 9.15; we'd been open 11 hours by then which seemed long enough...
Next time you're on the M5 passing the Weston-Super-Mare turn-off see if you can spot The Webbington Hotel- it's up on the hill amid what I would imagine to be some very picturesque little villages and scenery. (I say 'imagine to be' because I've only been there in the dark!) Myself and my Blues Brothers buddies played a Christmas party there on Saturday, almost a year to the day since our last visit. The venue's the same but the band's changed a bit since then- I remarked to Squirrel that only me, him and Dave remained from last year's show (not strictly true since Pete and Richard are still very much involved with the band but were away gigging elsewhere) which we both agreed was rather an odd thought... for once the motorways were running smoothly although it all went a bit wrong when we turned off for the hotel and the sat. nav. left us in the middle of nowhere; calls to the venue didn't help as much as they might have but we found it in the end- it was just around the corner from where we'd originally stopped.
After a quick (maybe a bit too quick?) sound check it was off drop our stuff off in the rather grandly named Charterhouse Suite before doing the decent thing and going to the bar. While I was queueing up I got a call from Pete (away gigging with C.J. in Belfast) who told me that they were on the same bill as John Wilson, one of Rory Gallagher's drummers. Excellent... meanwhile there's a lot of people about, many of which were rather scantily clad young ladies which did wonders for band morale.
9.45 and it's first set time. Neil's back with Mike in the hat and glasses, Ian and Dave are on sax and trumpet and Steve and Keith are on keyboards and drums. Squirrel's a long way away in the far-left hand corner of the stage on bass and I can't hear my guitar very well. As a matter of fact I can't hear anything very well. Phil's on sound which normally makes for good news all round but tonight something's not quite right- we miss a couple of cues and Keith mysteriously stops dead in the middle of 'I Feel Good'. But there's ladies dancing on stage and general merriment all round so we must be doing something right? And there's more of the same in the second set- the sounds still a bit strange, Keith mysteriously stops in the middle of 'Everybody Needs Somebody to Love' and the ladies and the merriment are still going strong. A rather strange show.
But if that's a strange show, then how do I describe last night's Price gig? Well... we returned to The Duke of Wellington in Shoreham to support Attila The Stockbroker's band Barnstormer who were playing a warm-up show before their upcoming German tour. Also on the bill were local lads The Fusion and Dave Lippman The Singing C.I.A. Agent, (yes, you read that bit right) and if that wasn't enough, it was Price singer Malcolm's birthday and our first gig for ages with Huggy on bass. The scene was set for chaos- and it didn't disappoint...
Myself, Huggy and East arrived just after 3.30 to find Attila setting up the P.A. and Malcolm & co. already looking a bit, shall we say, confused... The Fusion provided drums and amps for us all to use (thanks lads) and opened proceedings with a good set, a bit introspective for me in places but perhaps I'm just being a bit miserable. Then Dave Lippman became 'George Shrub, the Singing C.I.A. Agent'. And very good he was too, using a battered Martin guitar to great effect and delivering a very funny parody of how most of us would imagine a U.S. government agent to be.
Then it was our turn. For reasons best known only to himself Malcolm was wearing a Santa outfit, which he later removed to reveal a furry red bra and g-string (I'm pleased, and indeed relieved to say that the latter was worn over his jeans!) and was now officially very confused indeed. The first couple of songs had rather less words than I remember them having, though rather more worryingly 'She Belongs To Everyone' (a recently re-discovered song that none of us could remember writing!) had rather less bass guitar than it should have had- The Fusion's bass amp had stopped working. After a bit of coaxing had got it going again it finally gave up totally during 'Wonderland'- fortunately Huggy had his in the van so Malc and myself filled in time while he set it up by playing 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away'. We finished with a dedicated-to-Paul-Fox 'In A Rut', encored with 'Between The Lies' and must have done something right since we were offered 3 gigs on the back of our performance. I only hope that they don't think that we're like that all the time...
'Welcome to our rehearsal' said Attila as Barnstormer took to the stage with an excellent rendition of 'Baghdad Ska'. And it's true- they don't rehearse, they just play at The Duke of Wellington before going out on tour. And they were great, a true 'renaissance core' band (as Attila describes them, a cross between medieval music and hard core punk) if ever there was one. I must admit that myself and East developed quite a taste for the draft Budweiser by the end of their set- he gave a t-shirt away to a girl because she was tall (nothing ever really changes does it?) and I received a text message from Malcolm this morning saying that he hoped he 'wasn't too embarrassing'.
Let's hope not eh?