Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy holidays!

You join your humble narrator in a post-Christmas (purple) haze of YouTube clips and scribbled chord sequences as he attempts to learn the songs that he's playing on New Year's Eve- I'm guesting with Price bassman Huggy's band Sweeney (isn't there another band called that?!?) at Buckinghamshire Golf Club. They're playing some really good numbers so I want to get them right!
As December arrives people often say things like 'I bet you're getting really busy with gigs now aren't you?' Well you might think so but it's not always the case; I think that with the advent and subsequent popularity of karaoke coupled with the fact that many acts have slimmed down to a duo-with-backing-tracks rather than a band it's now quite a hard time to be a gigging musician; 'though the last thing I'm going to do is sit here complaining- I'll leave that to everyone else... this year your humble narrator has managed to stay reasonably busy (for once!) to such an extent that the last week or so has been a bit of a blur...

Friday 18th I depped with The F.B.I. Band for the first time since September, at a Christmas party for Boehringer Ingelheim at the Bracknell Hilton. It's an event that the band's played at for the past 3 years 'though with upcoming redundancies this might well be the last one; joining the ever-present Tony (vocals) and Ian (sax) are Jon on bass, Paul on drums, Gabriel on trumpet and after a somewhat impassioned phone call from Tony on the previous Tuesday ('you don't know any keyboard players do you?) we've got the excellent Dave Dulake on keyboards. I met Dave several years ago and he struck me as a good person to contact for the gig as we'll be playing a mixture of soul, Blues Brothers and Madness material and Dave scores very highly on all accounts. Oh, and he runs a pub which is always a good sign...
Myself and the long-suffering Shirley made the journey through a snow-covered Windsor Great Park (which looked amazing) and arrived at the venue just as Tony and Ian were setting up the P.A. system- we're playing in The Wentworth Suite and have time to set up, soundcheck and run through a couple of songs before it's time for food. 'Welcome to the F.B.I. Band Christmas party' said Tony waving his lager in the air as Gabriel and Paul blew up those long balloons that fly off into the middle distance when you let go of them- no, I don't know what they're called either but you know the ones that I mean don't you? A suitably festive atmosphere meant for a well-received show that saw Tony battle his way through the set despite has voice gradually giving out ('I had a cold a week ago and it seems to have come back') to such an extent that by the end of the show he could barely speak let alone sing. As we were leaving the alcohol seemed to be taking it's toll on some of the party-goers- one young man appeared agitated as he loudly described himself as being 'like an octopus'- an evocative image I'm sure you'll agree.

Saturday 19th saw a Youngblood gig in The Elizabethan Barn at Ferny Hill Farm near Barnet. We were playing at a horror themed 25th wedding anniversary party (hmm...) and when Terry the bass and myself arrived it was cold, dark and seemingly deserted- calling Terry the singer revealed that we were at the wrong part of the farm which was something of a relief as it looked like the sort of place that gangland executions might have taken place at. Mick had set his drums up underneath a ghostly apparition, I had an upside down hanged man above my head and the bar consisted of cans of beer floating in a bath which also contained a skeleton in a deep sea divers outfit. Excellent! We were due to play 3 30-minute sets and the first one started earlier than expected as the belly dancer was late (yes, you read that bit correctly!) It was cold- so much so that I had to walk around with my hands in my pockets while we were waiting for the heaters to warm the place up for fear of my hands being too cold to be able to play- see how I suffer for my art? It warmed up a bit as people got into the evening with a fair bit of dancing ensuing though this might have been due to some of the cake on offer... a good night all round even though it started snowing just as we were loading our gear back into our vehicles at the end of the evening. Real horrorshow don't you think oh my brothers?

It was Chicago Blues Brothers time again on Monday 21st and Wednesday 23rd, the former being our last visit to The Pizza Express in Maidstone this year. With Ian back from gigging with Ray Davies and Marc returning from panto ('oh yes he is!') it was the first A-team gig for a while; with the weather still pretty rough Shirl and myself set out early, not least as we'd seen on T.V. how Operation Stack had effected traffic in that part of the country. In the event our journey was uneventful until we got to Maidstone itself when an articulated lorry clipped us as we waited to change lanes. When he eventually stopped and got out the driver's first words to us were 'which part of my lorry did you hit?'- when we pointed out that we'd been stationary when the incident occurred and so it was probably him who had hit us he looked disappointed to say the least. Silly boy.
The gig itself was an odd one- it being only a few days before Christmas you might have expected something of a raucous evening but it was probably the most restrained audience that we've ever played to there. That said we played well and there was a fair amount of dancing by the end of our show so maybe I'm being a bit over-critical?
Mind you if that was an odd gig the one in Wolverhampton 2 days later took things to another level. In no lesser venue than The Civic Hall (the 'home of rock' according to the poster at the side of the stage) it was a Christmas party organised by Beacon Radio (more about that in a minute) and it took Richard, Ian and myself (joining us on baritone and alto sax for a rare 3-man horn section with Dave and Richard) a mighty 3 1/2 hours to battle our way up the M1 and M6. We parked in Corporation Street and phoned Pete to come out and let us in- since it had been snowing Richard and Ian readied the snowballs which were duly dispatched as the stage door opened; sadly the first person through the door wasn't Pete but was a burly security man who fortunately saw the funny side... Bootleg Abba were doing their stuff as we loaded our gear in, they sounded ok to my 'I-never-liked-Abba-much' ears. With Marc off elsewhere Paul is back on drums and Pete is in for Mike in the hat and glasses; when Bootleg Abba finished their set I went on to the stage to set my gear up, only to be told that there was another band on, they featured the radio station boss and were called Bad Radio, I said to the stage hand that I'd get off straight away- his reply of 'BOSTIN'!' reminded me which part of the country we were in. (If you're wondering what on Earth I'm going on about click here.) As they began their first song I realised that they were aptly named- then again it's the 'as a matter of fact I do own the company' moment... with things running late we opted to play one set rather than the two that we'd originally planned, and a strange set it was- onstage sound wasn't brilliant (very echoey and indistinct) which contributed to some timing discrepancies here and there although it all went down well with much merriment all round which I guess that's the main thing?

It's rare to have a gig on Boxing Day but this year I depped with The Cane Toads at The Half Moon in Harrow. With regular band members Malcolm (guitar) and Bruce (drums) away elsewhere original drummer Russell joined myself, Pete (guitar) Ken (bass) and Martin (vocals) in two 45 minute sets of rock covers in front of a small but appreciative audience who included my new friend Mick who's in a band called Harmonica Lewinsky (oh yes! I'd put a link here if I could find them; I did however find this chap, this band and indeed this band- I guess it's too good a name to only be used once!) and a Scottish gentleman called Swindell who is a bagpipes instructor. I like this venue!
Incidentally Russell, Ken and Malcolm used to be in a band called The Attendants who were well known in our area when I was a lad; plans are afoot for them to make an appearance with The Price at some point in the not-too-distant future- remember where you heard it first!)
And if that wasn't enough last night The Flying Squad played their final gig of 2009 at The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge. (Sometimes booking gigs at a venue really does have it's advantages! Incidentally the extraordinary John Hegley will be there on Sunday 10th January...) We were a little loose in places- it's been a while since we last played- but all agreed it was a good way to end our year. And it was great to see some friendly faces, not least legendary Price fan Mark Delderfield (a.k.a. 'Mark-from-the-football-club') who bought along a collection of Price videos dating all the way back to 1988-91, most of which I've never seen. It'll be very interesting to see what they look like!

So that was Christmas- well it was from my point of view anyway. I'm sure I had a day off on or around the 25th but can't really remember...

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