Sunday, May 11, 2008

Elvis lives! If you see Sid, tell him...

After a gig-less couple of weeks it's time to get back to it (at last!) with 2 very different events:-

Friday saw the first performance for quite some time by PTX, also known as The Pete Tobit Experience- basically the same band as we normally have but with Pete at the helm rather than us being fronted by various Brothers Blue. We play more-or-less the same songs (more about that in a minute) but without the hats'n'glasses, making it more of a 'party band' (maybe that's what a function band is!?!) than a recreation of Jake'n'Elwood's act. We're playing in a large- make that LARGE- tent at the back of the Newnham Court shopping centre (I'm not making this up, honest) on the outskirts of Maidstone- we've played there so often lately that the Shirley-mobile practically knows the way on it's own. It's Sarah's 40th birthday party and also on the bill in Shawn Klush who won a recent competition on BBC television to find the world's best Elvis Presley impersonator. When we arrive there's no sign of Elvis but there's a very impressive Vegas-style suit hanging up in the dressing room.
We're on last (I always wanted to go on after Elvis!) so we're soundchecking first- and it doesn't go well. There's monitor problems making it very difficult for us to hear what we're playing, and 'Treat Her Right' and 'Take Me To The River' (neither songs are normally in our set) are more than a little rough. Still it could all be a lot worse, and Elvis's band are a friendly enough bunch- they're from Wales as is Shawn/Elvis himself, and Juan the acoustic guitarist tells me he plays Elvis when Shawn's elsewhere; they're short of a guitar stand so I lend them one of mine. Tony the guitarist plays a Telecaster so we have a few moments of guitar nerdery with each other's instruments. We hang around waiting to hear them, but hunger takes over so Squirrel joins myself and Shirley at the Newnham Court Arms whilst everyone else opts for the nearby Chinese restaurant. The tills in the pub aren't working so chaos reigns but when the food eventually does turn up it's excellent- just as well as I think we were about to eat our table.
Backstage at the venue and we meet Elvis... sort of... he does look amazingly like the man himself- Tracy was, shall we say, particularly impressed. Whenever I see tribute acts I'm always interested in how the audience (including myself, I might add) react to the show- in this case with pretty much total hysteria (not including myself, I might add) especially the ladies present who go crazy from the word go and by the end are certifiably insane. I thought that parts of it were a bit rough but Shawn gives a very good performance 'though I found it a little bit too irreverent in places- still I guess that's better than taking yourself too seriously?So now it's our turn- and less than a minute into 'Midnight Hour' Richard walks off stage and over to the sound man; as he returns Mario passes him going the other way. The onstage sound is dreadful making it a very difficult show for all concerned- add to that a certain amount of confusion over whether we were playing medleys or full songs (there was one particularly awful moment where half the band went one way and the rest went the other- hope that doesn't turn up on YouTube!) and you have a show that in many ways doesn't rank among our better ones. Still, it all went down well which I guess is the most important thing?
Straight after the show I talk to Ian the keyboard player who's not happy; 2 minutes of ranting and raving about the show ends with him looking at this watch and saying 'still, that was yesterday'- then smiling broadly with the words 'it's another day now'...

...which saw me journeying up to Stoke for a gig depping in The Sex Pistols Experience. I haven't played with them for nearly 2 years (I've done a few shows since then with The Pistols, another tribute band) and it's all been going very well for them in the meantime, with tours across Europe and America and various media appearances to their name. They've also got a new singer since then (Nathan- here as Johnny Rotter) who joins Nigel (Kid Vicious) and Dave (Paul Crook) with regular guitarist Dave (Steve Bones- he's very thin!- away at a 40th birthday celebration) in an eerily accurate recreation of our heroes. Well, I don't think I look much like the mighty Mr. Jones- but I don't half enjoy trying to play like him...
After a reasonably uneventful train journey from Euston to Birmingham New Street there a mild panic in finding my connecting train to Tamworth where I'm meeting Nigel and Dave- there's no main destination board at the station (at least there wasn't in the bit where I was!) which meant walking up and down looking at the television above each platform to see where the train was going... alright so there's a lot worse things in life but I had a guitar and bag on my back and it was hot and I was late and... yeah ok, I've stopped moaning.
After meeting up with Nigel and Dave it was time for the hour-or-so drive up to Stoke where we're playing at The Glebe. It's oddly gratifying to report that we're not the only band that gets plunged into sat. nav. chaos; we spend a while going round in circles before the boys recognise where we are (they'd played the venue once before) and, ignoring the sat. nav which was telling us to turn left towards the 'Cultural Quarter', turned right and pulled up outside the venue which was easily distinguishable from every other building by the amount of mohican'd punk rockers outside. I said something like 'it looks like something out of 1981' as Nigel and Dave wondered if Charlie Harper ever gets fed up with seeing the same sight as The U.K. Subs arrive at their gigs. We load in our gear (I've got a very-excellent looking Mesa Boogie combo to play through) and I meet Nathan for the first time- even in civvies he looks uncannily like a young Mr. Rotten. Dave opts to use the house drum kit to make things easier for the other 3 bands on the bill; we soundcheck with 'No Feelings' and 'I Wanna Be Me', the sound's a bit rough (monitor problems again!) but we're assured it'll be fine when there's a crowd in. With Nathan staying at the venue to win friends and influence people among the local young punkettes (use your imagination!) we walk into town in search of some food. We settle upon a burger bar that also serves pizza and curry (really! I'd never have to cook again if that was around here!) and order up- my vegetable biryani is big enough for 2 people, and the naan bread is as big as a dustbin lid, much to Nigel and Dave's amusement.
Back at the venue I catch up on some phone calls. Stuart the guitar repair man is spectacularly drunk-after our 'conversation' he sends me a series of increasingly hilarious text messages including a totally blank screen followed by one boasting of how he could still text even though he was so drunk. Excellent. And Shirley's ok, East is off down the pub- business as usual then... time to check out the first band Up The Ranks. They look and sound exactly like most people's idea of a 'punk' band- indeed I recognise them as being some of the mob outside the venue earlier. The lead singer's got a foot high mohican, and he spits at a lad watching from right at the front who spits back at him straight away- I decide they're probably brothers. They finish with the Albertos Y Lost Trios Paranoias song 'Kill'- I wonder if they realise it was a parody?
Up next, The Vicious Kids who I thought were excellent. They're 3 young lads dressed in non-matching white shirts and black ties who look as though they might sound like The Jam (they do, a bit) but who also remind me of U.S. band Agent Orange. One chorus ran 'I wouldn't steal money from a friend, but I'd steal his girlfriend' (punk quiz part 1- who said those words?) and I thought they should have done an encore, 'though maybe they'd ran out of songs. Great stuff.
Third band The New Subterraneans distinguished themselves by being even older than me (good boys!) which makes me think that they must have been in bands since the punk heyday 'though I didn't recognise any of them. The bassist reminded me of John Entwistle technique-wise- using all his right hand fingers to 'roll' across the strings. Good noisy stuff with bonus points given for a cover of 'Action Time Vision' (punk quiz part 2- who did the original version?)
Then, at last, it's our turn. With the intro CD blasting over the P.A. we fight our way through the packed dance floor and onto the stage- then it's off with the glasses (for the first time since The Price days!) and into 'Pretty Vacant'. The sound's still rough 'though it's better than it was but it doesn't matter because the place is going wild. We're playing well and Nathan has become Rotten- an extraordinary transformation. I have to keep crouching down to read the set list (my eyes are really bad these days...) and I only just manage to avoid getting my vocal microphone in the face during 'Holidays in the Sun' (it was getting a bit mad down the front!) but it's a great gig which finishes with 'My Way' (Nigel/Sid/Kid in great form) before Nathan/Johnny returns for the encore of 'No Fun', 'Satellite' and a repeat of 'God Save The Queen'. Fantastic.

After the show I peeled off my t-shirt and wrung it out. I told you it was a great gig.

-and no doubt the other bands are on MySpace somewhere...

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