Every so often a gig comes along that redefines the word 'unique'. Such was last night's event- a Christmas party held at The University Women's Club ('A London haven for discerning women') in London's Audley Square. I travelled up to Green Park on the tube and followed the directions from their website; they were right, it was only a 10-or-so minute walk. They didn't mention that the large white building that you walk past to get there has an armed police guard outside it- I know that size isn't everything but these were big guns. I could feel myself looking guilty as I passed them; they carried on talking, I carried on walking. Scary- it's still something that we don't see very often on here isn't it?
I found the club and went inside. I immediately felt as though I'd gone back in time to maybe the early part of the 20th century. An atmosphere of austere formality prevailed- for example, during the course of the evening most of us had to be reminded that the use of mobile phones was not permitted in the club. We were playing in the library- yes, it is ironic don't you think?- which I was told was upstairs. It was a playback show (myself on guitar, Pete and Mike on vocals, Squirrel on bass and Dave on trumpet and percussion, all playing along with backing tracks) with Joe providing the P.A. and lights. As I walked into the library I couldn't help but notice 2 things:-
(1) there were decorations and streamers hanging down from helium-filled balloons which had floated up to the ceiling, and
(2) There was a long table set for the guests along the left hand side of the room.
Walking past the table I guessed to myself that it was set for about 20 people. I was wrong- it was actually set for 21 people which Pete informed me was the sum total of our audience.
'Kelp' said Dave, looking very pleased with himself. 'Kelp. That's what it looks like don't you think?' He placed his left hand palm down on his forehead so that he could wave his fingers around in front of his eyes. I couldn't resist it- 'Isn't that an album by The Beatles?' 'Yes!' he roared, 'Kelp! I need somebody!'
It was funny at the time, ok?
We were booked to play 3 sets- 30 minutes of 'dinner music' while the food was served then an hour of Blues Brothers, with 30 minutes of 'party music' to end the evening. Pete had been to see Michael Buble the night before which may or may not have influenced his choice of material for the first set- mostly swing songs and ballads, most of which I had absolutely no idea how to play; I wasn't much better on the party set, though I at least stood a chance on them. So it would have been a good idea to spend a bit of time trying to work out some of the chord sequences wouldn't it?
Yes it would. Instead I went off to The Clarence pub on Dover Street to meet Kate the ticket mistress for a drink. Sadly she'll not be the ticket mistress much longer, as she's changing jobs amid some acrimony. Much ranting occurred, so I gave her a Clash bootleg in the hope that it would cheer her up. Well- it always works for me.
8.30 and it's time for our first set; we kick off with 'Moondance' to a mixture of bemusement and confusion- and that's just from me and Squirrel. Dave plays a wonderful trumpet solo, I attempt some vaguely jazzy guitar that actually doesn't sound too bad. Ha!
'Hmm- that's an easy one to get caught on' said Dave, presumably referring to my hilarious attempt at the chord sequence to 'Fly Me to the Moon'. I got him back on to the kelp gags immediately. I really must sit down and try to learn some jazz guitar one day.
The second set's much better- well, it should be if you think about it. The undoubted highlight occurred when the guests were given what can only be described as 'indoor fireworks' with their pudding. As the sparklers went off amid general hilarity Dave grabbed my arm- 'look at it- the Mad Hatter's tea party. I love it!"
By the third set we're in a parallel universe where 4- count 'em, 4- people are dancing wildly to 'Suspicious Minds' while the rest of them appear and re-appear seemingly at random. An extraordinary, unforgettable performance. And to think we get paid for this madness...
We finished in time for me to get the tube home. That's good- I often have to get the night bus. As I was walking home from the tube station I became aware of a car moving slowly along the other side of the road. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that it was a police car. I thought about the armed policemen earlier- surely I couldn't have looked that guilty?