Monday, March 16, 2009

Warrior on the edge of time

Well I don't know about you (obviously!) but I've just woken up- I sat down on the settee and woke up 2 hours later when the postman put some letters through the door (obviously!!) and the dog went mad as a result. I don't know why I was so tired at 10.30 in the morning- or maybe I do...

Friday 13th (!) - Red Noise Day

After a fairly quiet start to 2009 things are hotting up for The Chicago Blues Brothers over the next couple of months with 20 or so gigs between now and the end of April and some festival dates coming in for the summer which is good news all round. The week just gone saw 3 shows, the first of which was at The Palace Theatre in Newark. To this end a Mercedes minibus pulled up outside our house at 10.45 am (15 minutes early!) and I say hello to Brian our driver for this jaunt into the unknown; Pete's hired him and the vehicle from Vans For Bands who we've not used before 'though I've heard from various people that they're a good bunch for this sort of thing. By 11 o'clock we're heading for Richard the sax player's house; by 11.05 we've discovered that we're both old punks and have been to see quite a few of the same gigs and bands over the years. Excellent! He also tells me that Bill Nelson is one of his favourite guitarists, a good choice methinks... there's enough time at Richard's to have a cup of coffee and see a bit of 'Top Gear' before picking up Tracy (backing vocals) and heading over to Duxford to meet up with Dave (trumpet), Ian (keyboards), Mike (Elwood) and Steve (depping for Marc on drums) for the journey up the A1. We arrive a couple of hours later to be met by Matt (Jake), Squirrel (bass) and Pete and Jane (producer and costume controller respectively) and with sound guru Ian Bond's P.A. all sorted and ready to go we set up and run through 'Minnie The Moocher' and The Gospel Medley so that Matt can have a chance to practise them (Pete sang them at Hunstanton last week) then top 'n' tail a few songs for Steve's benefit as he hasn't played with us for a while as well as running through the whole of 'Funky Nassau' as he's not played that one at all before. With everything sounding good it's time for a walk into town in search of a chip shop which we fail to find- we end up back at The Fox & Crown pub a few doors down from the venue (incidentally check out some of the revues of this place- hilarious!) where everyone gets something to eat and Matt meets up with his Mum and Dad who are coming to see the show.
Back at the venue Squirrel looks relieved- he's just realised that it's Red Nose Day which explains why he's just seen Batman and Robin in the barbers; it also explains why there was a genie serving in the pub... it's an 8 o'clock show and while it's by no means sold out there's more than enough people in to make the show work. We're a bit loose in places and things take a while to get going ('New Orleans' goes a bit wrong in the making) but there's lots more good bits than bad and Matt makes a fine job of his new songs 'though he later confesses that he had 'a complete blank' as he went to sing 'Minnie The Moocher'.
With everything packed away after the show it's a short drive past Newark Castle out of town to The Hop Pole Hotel an Ollerton where we're spending the night, which turns out to be a good choice, with chili peanuts and Samuel Smith beer finishing our evening off nicely.

Saturday 14th - 'If you wanna get ahead...'

The day begins promisingly with Richard (I'm sharing room 6 with him) producing a couple of packets of biscuits to go with our coffee. Top man! After a quick shower it's down to the dining room for breakfast, as I arrive I hear Ian saying how his room has 'soap but no spoon'- same as ours then... we're not leaving until 11 o'clock so there's time for a stroll around the village, there's a florist called 'Forget-Me-Notts', a tattoo parlour called 'Ink Inn', a wedding shop called 'All Things Bride and Beautiful' and 2 photographic studios- but no paper shop. Matt went home after the gig as did Pete and Jayne (giving Dave a lift in the process), and Tracy's catching a train up to Newcastle to attend a surprise 50th birthday party for her brother so with 'Grand Theft Auto' on the DVD player (the reception on the radio wasn't good enough for us to listen to the Liverpool vs. Manchester United game) it's off up to Ferrybridge services on the A1 to meet Adam (depping on trumpet) and Matt (still playing Jake) before setting the sat. nav. for Langholm where we're playing at The Buccleuch Centre. The scenery gets ever more spectacular and at one point there's a rainbow in the horizon even though it doesn't appear to be raining; by the time we see the HERE COMES LANGHOLM sign 'Lawnmower Man' is on the DVD player and we've all been in the van for long enough. We're early for soundchecking, so much so that Bondy tells us that he doesn't want to see us for 'at least an hour' so we check in at The Eskdale Hotel where I'm sharing room 12 with Steve; it's a twin room which also includes 2 bunk beds, much to everyone's amusement.
Back at the venue (incidentally it's pronounced 'Buckloo' not Bucklee' as we all thought) Walter is impressed with my guitars, he shows me a picture of his Telecaster and Stratocaster as he's setting up the lights. With Tracy missing 'Natural Woman' and the 'Think/Respect' medley aren't being played- after a bit of discussion we run through '634-5789' which sounds so good that I for one can't quite work out why we don't play it more often. It's a new-ish venue part funded by the owner of The Edinburgh Woollen Mill and everyone there is very friendly and helpful. The show's tighter than the previous evening, and total hilarity occurred when Mike came out for the second set in a bit of a hurry and forgot his hat- the moment when he re-appeared with it on got the biggest cheer of the night. Perhaps we should leave it in the show?!?
Back at the hotel there's a disco starting at 11.30- while we're in the bar people start arriving, they're mostly young and scantily clad and sound as though they've already been out for a while already. They go out through the back of the bar to what is either the quietest disco ever, or is a long way from where we're sitting although I could just about hear it as I was drifting off to sleep. Then again my hearing's not too good these days so it may have been keeping everyone else awake!

Sunday 15th - Glasgow-a-gogo!

Having resolved to wake up in time to see the 8 a.m. repeat of the previous evening's 'Match Of The Day' I of course woke up just in time to catch the very end of the show, meaning that I missed Liverpool beating Manchester United by four goals to one. Oh well, I'm sure it'll happen again soon...
Actually I'm not- as a Liverpool fan it's been hard going recently so it would have been nice to catch this one. I spoke to my Dad about it and he just said 'you should have seen Fergie's face...' which probably sums up what this fixture means to the 2 clubs these days. When I was a lad I remember seeing pictures of Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby together looking the best of friends- it's hard to imagine a similar picture of Rafael Benitez and Alex Ferguson isn't it?
After breakfast it's time for a walk around town, it's another unusual collection of shops including a Royal Enfield motorcycle showroom although at least there was a paper shop this time; Matt bought The Sunday Sport - and before you ask, no we couldn't get the DVD wouldn't work in the van, although it wasn't for the want of trying! Oh and there was a narrow road near the hotel called Laird's Entry which caused much amusement as you might well imagine.
11 o'clock and it's time to set out for The Pavillion Theatre in Glasgow. It's a nice bright day and it's a leisurely journey through some astonishing scenery and including a 'let's-see-what's-here' stop in Lanark. Although the answer turned out to be 'not much' I did see a florist's called FLORAL AND HARDY, and the board outside the newsagents advertising The Lanark Gazette proclaimed 'Lost Bible- hunt is back on' so it wasn't a wasted journey from my point of view.
For the second day running we're early arriving at the venue so it's time for a look around. It's Celtic verses Rangers in the Co-Operative Insurance Cup Final at Hampden Park so the city is quieter than it might be- maybe this isn't such a good day to be playing in Glasgow?- but Sauchiehall Street is still pretty lively by anyone's standards. In Buchanan Street it's buskers paradise- Steve and myself see one guy playing Shadows numbers over backing tracks, a drums and guitar jazz duo, a percussionist sitting spreadeagled amongst his instruments and, rather disturbingly, 2 young lads in full tartan regalia playing The Hokey Cokey on bagpipes and snare drum complete with all the moves. It's all a bit much for Steve who's comment of 'quick, let's go before they play 'The Birdie Song' ' may well have been uttered just in time.
Time for a soundcheck- and it's an odd affair with no-one appearing to be too interested, we play 'I Feel Good' to check the tempo as it had seemed a bit slow in Langholm and after one verse it dissolves into an out-of-tune row. 'What a load of bollocks' said Ian Bond in a manner that could politely be described as 'exasperated', and he had a point 'though I for one couldn't really tell you why it went as it did.
Time for a drink and a chance to meet up with John Barnson, an old mate of mine who I last saw a few years ago when I did a playback gig with Dave Finnegan in Cumbernauld. Looking around the bar you get a real sense of the history of the theatre, with old music hall posters all over the walls and the elaborate decor strangely out of time with our 21st century sensibilities.
There's a saying that you often hear in bands along the lines of 'good soundcheck- bad gig, bad soundcheck-good gig'; if ever a show proved that to be true then it was this one which was easily the best of the 3 both from a band and audience point of view. Tracy returned as did her songs, Matt did a really scary splits- the look on the guy in the front row's face said it all!- and we sounded like a totally different band to the one that did the soundcheck. Great stuff.

After getting changed and nipping out to see what John had thought of the show (he must have liked it as gave me a bottle of single malt whisky- top man!) it's time to head off down South and back into the real world again- but only until this Wednesday when it all starts again in Epsom. Excellent! Then again when we stopped at a service station I nearly bought a Hawkwind CD so perhaps I had been away from home for long enough this time...

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