At last! I finally get chance to chronicle the last few days in mad-guitar-land. It's been busy this week in the shop- very busy in fact. Still it's better than sitting about bored don't you think?
Thursday lunchtime and I'm in the bus with Richard, Dave, Tracy and Mario. The latter's behind the steering wheel and we're on our way to meet the rest of the band in Brentwood before journeying up to Tyneside for gigs in Middlesbrough and South Shields. The weather's not too bad, the traffic's not too heavy and the mood is good, despite a bit of moaning here and there about having to go to Brentwood. I must say it didn't bother me too much- we've all got to meet up somewhere and The Holiday Inn car park is a good place to leave vehicles overnight- but what do I know? Anyway as we arrive we see Squirrel, Marc, Mike and Ian ready and waiting; in no time everything's loaded up and we're on our way.
To cut a long story (and indeed a long journey) short, we get to the theatre late. After the quickest set up in history there's just time for a verse-and-a-bit of 'Midnight Hour' before we have to stop for them open the doors and let the audience in. As always the mighty Ian Bond gets the sound right first time. Somehow I end up with dressing room 6 all to myself which, as a fan of 'The Prisoner' I naturally find rather amusing- much more amusing than my appalling solo in 'Green Onions' which for some reason starts bad and gets worse. Maybe I was a bit tired? I think I made up for it in 'Sweet Home Chicago' though.
After the show everyone's hungry so after asking around it's off to 'Khan's' Indian restaurant for a curry or two- and what an excellent choice it was with Bollywood-style pop videos on the T.V. and the proprietor coming out with lines like 'a spicy feast in the North-East' at every available opportunity. The food was good too... from there it was a 40-ish minute drive to The White Mere Travelodge and some well deserved sleep.
10.30-ish Friday morning and I drag myself out of bed. I'm sharing a room with Mario so I have a quick shower and then leave him to it and go for a walk. It's cold. Very cold. And windy. Very windy. I give the long-suffering Shirley a call then spot Bondy in The Little Chef next to the Travelodge so go in and join him for breakfast. Great is the talk of amplifiers, guitars etc- just what I'm looking for in fact. We're joined by Richard and Dave, then everybody gradually arrives. After checking out it's off to The Customs House in South Shields to drop our gear of before walking down into town for a look around. Inevitably this involves visiting a pub- in this case The Fitzpatrick which serves food that can only ever be disappointing after the previous night's offerings but turns out to be disappointing in it's own right... I decide to go off on my own for a walk and spot a sign for a Roman fort which I decide to try to find. I walk a mile or so through streets almost totally populated by Indian restaurants (the one's that weren't were Chinese!) before passing Marine Park and making it down to the coast to see the fort off in the distance. It looked amazing through the sea mists, I stood there gazing at it for a while before deciding to head back onto town. As I turned to head back the heavens opened, like someone had thrown a bucket of water in my face (maybe they had!?!). Suddenly it was a very long walk back to the venue.
By the time I got to The Customs House I was soaked; not 'a bit wet', not even 'drenched'- no, I was, as my nan used to say, wet through. Squirrel's the same- he remarked on how, as he and Ian were struggling against the elements on their way back, the locals seemed completely unperturbed by it all. I'd thought that too... I got changed into my stage trousers (always a risky business this early in the day- it's at this point that you inexplicably order something totally mad to eat like blancmange which you then drop all down your pants causing unbelievable on-stage embarrassment) and left my jeans and coat to dry out on a handy radiator.
Sound check goes well with a run through 'Funky Nassau' taking up a fair bit of time- it was in the show a few years back when I first started playing in it and might make a return although I for one am not so sure that it should (I tend to think that songs leave and join set lists for a reason, if you know what I mean)- but everything sounds good and the band's on top form. It's a great venue and it's a great show with Dave Land posing furiously next to me with what can only be described as a 'comedy lute' during my solo in 'Flip, Flop and Fly' and a rather loose version of 'Minnie the Moocher' testing our ability to think on our feet. Afterwards there's time for a quick drink before packing the gear away and heading South into the night. The A1's closed and my seat is not too conducive to sleeping in but we get there in the end. A good couple of gigs.
I walked through the front door sometime after 6 a.m., and opened the shop not long after half past nine. It was a long but curiously enjoyable day not least because I think I started hallucinating sometime near closing time (that normally costs me a fortune across the bar!) after drinking what I suspect was rather too much coffee... after a quick snooze at home it was back to The Old Fox in Ickenham to see local heroes The Cane Toads play an enjoyable show with more than a few new numbers in the set and Martin the singer as mad as ever. I spent much of the evening with Stuart the guitar repair man whose mood could perhaps best be described by this exchange with Nigel from The Lurkers:-
Nigel- 'So, you repair guitars then?'
Stuart- 'I try not to'
Nigel- 'What then, do you make guitars?'
Stuart- 'I try not to' etc etc
I'm sure you get the picture.
I spent most of Sunday asleep. I can't think why.