Saturday, January 16, 2010

Square through a circle

The Square in Harlow is a great venue; no, make that a great venue. The Price first played there in, I think 1986 'though it might have been 1987; one thing that's for definite is that we supported local heroes Real By Reel that first night beginning an association with the venue that lasted right until our final days as a band first time around. We played many memorable shows there- headline gigs when we almost felt like a 'real' band (if you know what I mean!) as well as a charity night when we were joined on stage by Paul Fox along with supports to the likes of Mega City Four, Senseless Things and The (Newtown) Neurotics among others, all of which made it one of our very favourite venues. It went through some rough times in the last few years but now seems to be thriving again, a fine thing to see in these times of venues closing down due to dwindling audience numbers. I'm here for the latest of my occasional gigs with T.V. Smith and I've been looking forward to this one for quite some time...

Myself and the long-suffering Shirley arrived at The Square to find the place nearly deserted- just a few people in the downstairs bar with no one in the venue upstairs. It's dark, cold and smells a bit stale- but venues are always very different when they're empty. I left my guitar and bag at the side of the stage (acoustic gigs are great- there's hardly anything to carry in!) and headed downstairs to see what if we can get some coffee, as I get to the stairs I meet a young chap who introduces himself as Adam- he books the bands at the venue and we've been exchanging e-mails over the past few weeks. He makes us some coffee and tells me that he was at The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool last year (he plays bass in the 'new' version of The Neurotics) where he bought a copy of The Price's mini-album 'The Table Of Uncles', I tell him that it's our 25th anniversary this year ('our silver jubilee!') and he tells me that he's the same age...
Meanwhile T.V.'s arrived- he came up by train and has been walking around 'for over an hour' trying to find the venue- as has Richard who's doing the sound for the evening, he used to do the sound there back in the '80's and '90's, remembers our first gig there and is now co-owner of the venue. We set up for soundcheck in only a few minutes (as I say, acoustic gigs are GREAT!) and while T.V.'s guitar sounds excellent mine sounds terrible, very quiet and fuzzy, Richard suggests a new battery (the guitar I use has an internal pick-up that needs a battery, if it runs low it often causes distortion etc) but I'd changed it earlier in the day so he sets about looking for the fault. He changes the leads then the D.I. box but the problem's still there so I plug my guitar into the channel that T.V.'s using to see if it's my guitar- to my relief it sounds fine so Richard returns to the mixing desk to see if there's anything wrong there. After a few seconds he says 'AHA!' loudly and my guitar sounds good at last. I never did find out what was wrong... we had intended to rehearse earlier in the week as we hadn't played together since our last gig in October but the snow had meant that it had not been possible (I played along with the albums a lot instead!) so we played a few snippets of several songs before trying 'Expensive Being Poor' for the first time. T.V. points down at the stage in front of him- 'look' he says smiling, 'two monitors' then points to the stage in front of me, 'one monitor'. I know my place!
With us sounding good it's time to make way for the support act which was to have been the wonderfully named Jonny One Lung (oh yes!) who sadly couldn't make it (shame!) so at the last minute Popdad stepped in. They're a duo featuring Murray on guitar and vocals and Dave on drums; Murray was in Real By Reel all those years ago (talk about things coming full circle!) while Dave joins Adam in the 'new' Neurotics. They both play rather unusual instruments- Murray has replaced his guitar's lowest E string with a bass A string allowing him to play a bass note along with chords whereas Dave plays a stripped-down drumkit that has a modified bass drum pedal that lets him play the bottom of his floor tom-tom (I'm not making this up, it was held together with 'Fragile' tape!) alongside a snare drum, hi-hat and cymbal. They produce an extraordinary sound, very full and powerful, they soundcheck with 'Please Please Me' and sound terrific.
By now it's 8 o'clock and the audience is arriving- Shirley's behind the merchandise table and things are selling from the word go. With 'Rough Cut And Ready Dubbed' on the T.V. screens and a suitably punky selection playing over the P.A. system the atmosphere is good; T.V. points at my plastic cup, waves his glass in the air and points at the monitors smiling- I know my place once again! Popdad are on just after 9 o'clock, they play a splendid set of spiky pop songs which has everyone wanting more, they're currently recording an album which should be essential listening. Halfway through their set I see Steve from The Neurotics over by the bar, he waves at me so I go over to say hello but before I get to him somebody stops me to ask if we're playing the Price song 'Standing In Your Way' which both amuses and amazes me.
10 o'clock and it's T.V. time. He goes on solo for 5 or 6 songs before he calls me up for 'No Time To Be 21'. We play a 12 song selection which builds up nicely to 3 Adverts songs at the end before encoring with 'Good Times Are Back' and 'Runaway Train Driver' (no conga sadly!) to tumultuous applause, another shouted request for a Price song ('The Price You Pay') and rather surprisingly for an acoustic gig, quite a bit of dancing. Great stuff. Afterwards a merchandise frenzy occurs which Shirley copes manfully well with; T.V. signs CD after CD and I finally get chance to talk to Steve from The Neurotics. He talks of their new live album and apologises for not crediting me on it- we'd supported them at the gig and I recorded the gig on a cassette tape, I gave him the tape and said it was brilliant but he didn't believe me and didn't even listen to it for ages but now thinks it's probably the best live recording of the band that he's ever heard. While we're talking Richard comes over and suggests that it's time for The Neurotics and The Price to play together at The Square again- neither of us disagree.

I was hoping this would be a good gig but it was a cracking evening at one of the best and indeed best-loved venues that I've ever played at. We need more gig venues like this- but as previously observed they will only continue to stay open if we (that's you and me) keep attending the shows. Easier said than done perhaps, but we don't make the effort then we can't complain if we wake up one day and all the gigs have gone...

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