Monday, January 11, 2010

First things first

It's the first week of the year and it's been snowing. This happened last year and previously rational people lost their minds. It's happened again this year and the same previously rational people have lost their minds again. What can this mean?

I've written a revue of the year for the last couple of years but haven't this year, not least because in thinking about what to write about I've found that the same names are turning up as in previous years. I guess this means that I've not found anything new or watch or listen to, or maybe it's not found me? Hmm... perhaps I should get out more? Mind you, look what (sometimes) happens when I do!

Anyway my first gig to go to this year is a real nostalgia-fest for someone like myself as it's The Rich Kids at The Islington Academy last Thursday. This is a benefit show for guitarist Steve New who is sadly suffering from cancer; this venue is a bit of a strange one for your humble narrator as the Paul Fox benefit and the Wiz memorial shows both took place here which might account for the fact that I find it a rather 'cold' place. It was a highly enjoyable if somewhat chaotic evening- I felt as though it needed a compere or D.J. to keep it moving as between-band changeovers as it lost the atmosphere that each act created once they'd finished. Myself and Big Andy arrived just in time (7 o'clock!) to catch the opening act of the show, the mighty T.V. Smith whose 3 (3!) song set went down excellently well with the rapidly arriving sold out audience. From there the evening wound it's way towards it's climax through a succession of good to great performances, the most controversial of which had to be Beaststellabeast who bewildered much of the audience that I suspect had been looking forward to seeing Steve New's latest band (they were pretty confrontational although I did smile when their singer threw her bottle of water over the first couple of rows of the audience and then complained that she was thirsty a song or two later- very rebellious dear...) whilst Carbon/Silicon turned in an excellent performance with Rusty Egan sitting in on drums (don't know where their regular man was?) and Mick Jones and Tony James both in great form- when Jones sang a few lines from 'Police On My Back' during 'Why Do Men Fight?' the audience intensity leapt so who knows what would have happened if they had played a Clash or Generation X track. There were obviously quite a few people in to see Midge Ure who played a solo acoustic set of hit singles before returning with The Rich Kids to roar through a splendid blast-from-the-past which, though slightly under rehearsed in places went down a storm. I'd always liked their stuff and as expected 'Rich Kids' and 'Ghosts Of Princes In Towers' both sounded brilliant 'though I'd forgotten what a good song 'Marching Men' is- time to get their album out again methinks. Oh and Gary Kemp joined them for a couple of songs and behaved like the punk rock'n'roll guitar hero that I'd guess he'd always wanted to be, which was something to behold I can tell you. An excellent evening.

And I saw some great gigs last year, from the likes of The New York Dolls, Kris Dollimore, Oasis and P.i.L. - and I'm already looking forward to Iggy And The Stooges in May...

My first gig with a guitar in my hand of 2010 was on Saturday with The F.B.I. Band at The Penta Hotel in Reading; it was a Christmas Party (yeah I know- but lots of companies are having them after Christmas these days) for Marc Antoni Hairdressers. Lots of musicians I've spoken to have had gigs cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions so I for one was grateful that this one went ahead, and very good it was too. When we arrived there was already some musical equipment on the stage- a Gibson SG, a Line6 combo and a Freshman acoustic guitar- we were told that there was to be a 'spoof X Factor' before our gig featuring some of the company's employees. Hmm... joining the omnipresent Tony (vocals) and Ian (sax) were regular band members Jon (bass) Richard (keyboards) and Jim (trumpet) with Steve depping on drums who I'd not met before but is the nephew of CBB trumpet supremo Dave Land. After a quick soundcheck of 'Soul Man' we gave way to the X Factor boys- the guitarist had an immediate problem as the jack socket on his amplifier came loose and fell inside, I lent him some pliers but they didn't help so we ended up using a plastic drinks stirrer to hook it out. He played lots of notes with lots of distortion, not a good approach in my not-so-humble opinion but he seemed happy enough. The other lads sang over backing tracks and sounded... well, like X Factor contestants to my old ears, or at least the ones that I've heard.
Out in the lobby bar the guests are arriving- young men who made Julian Clary look like Rambo mingled with very tall and very thin young ladies, all with immaculate hair and clothes, they were all hugging and kissing each other although if there had been a bitch-o-meter on the premises I think it would have melted. With the scene set for a good gig we went through to the dining room where initial attempts at finding some vegetarian food proved disappointing ('how about a prawn sandwich sir?') although when a goat's cheese pastry eventually arrived it was very nice indeed. By the time the X Factor boys are on things are hotting up with the girls (and indeed the boys) in the audience screaming louder than the music before speeches and awards kill the atmosphere totally. As we walk towards the stage to play Jon wonders to me if we're the right band for the occasion- judging by the reaction we received I'd say that we were although as often happens at these sort of events I remain convinced that they'd all forgotten we'd played before we'd left the stage.

And I played some good gigs last year too, especially with The Price in Cowley, The Chicago Blues Brothers in Fribourg and T.V. Smith in Kentish Town- and I'm playing with him again this Friday at The Square in Harlow...

Last night it was time for this year's first Acts Less Ordinary gig at the Load of Hay, featuring the wonderful John Hegley. By 8 p.m. I'd set the P.A. up and by 8.30 we had a good sized audience, but sadly we didn't have John- he eventually arrived just after 10 o'clock ('no trains on the Metropolitan Line') and after a quick introduction from Y.H.N. ('turn your mobile phones off and keep your glasses on- it's John Hegley!') he gave a breathlessly brilliant performance before asking around for a lift back to Ealing from where he could still get a last train home. He was in the building about an hour, and he left without being paid! Amazing!

And there's lots to look forward to at The L of H this year, starting with the splendid Steve Simpson on Sunday 7th February...

So that's how my year started- let's see where it takes us shall we?

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