Sunday, July 18, 2010

Welcome to the family

Shameless self publicity time again - The Upper Cut play The Load Of Hay in Uxbridge this coming Sunday (the 25th if you're counting) which happens to be the day after my 49th (49th!) birthday. If you're in the area why not come along and help me begin my 50th (50th!) year in the way that I'm hoping to begin every year - with a guitar in my hand...

And 'Oil City Confidential' comes out on DVD next Monday. At last! I've written elsewhere in these hallowed pages of it's excellence, and it'll be great to finally get a copy - hope the extras include this recently discovered footage (only seen briefly in the film) and the classic 'Geordie Scene' live performance. I bet it doesn't though... and Wilko Johnson and Julien Temple are signing copies at Rough Trade East (with Wilko is also playing live - oh yes!) on Thursday - I'm hoping to get to that to buy myself a birthday present!

Talking of birthdays, Friday saw a visit to The Marriott Hotel in York to play at Anna's 30th birthday party. She's a friend of Matt's who, when asked to perform at said event, put together a one-off band that he called THE SICILIANS - joining himself on vocals were myself on guitar, Squirrel on bass and ex-CBB and current T. Rextasy drummer John Skelton - with the intention of playing 2 sets of rock covers mixed in with a few standards and songs for our Blues Brothers-based repertoire. However as the gig came in at short notice we had no opportunity for formal rehearsals so Matt came up with a list of songs which we all practiced separately with the intention of getting to the venue as early as possible so that we could run through the songs that we weren't sure of. A situation like this can be a recipe for disaster - thankfully it wasn't (I wouldn't be writing about it here if it had have been! Ha!) although traffic chaos - maybe that should be insanity? - meant that we didn't get chance for much of a run through... John had enlisted the help of T. Rextasy van driver-cum-roadie Dave to get him, Squirrel and myself to the gig, and we agreed that the long-suffering Shirley would drop me at Birchanger Green Services on the M11 where I would meet up with the van and we could wend our way up to Yorkshire. So far so good, except that the M25 was at a virtual standstill, meaning that we had to cut across country in the direction of the service station. Of course we weren't the only people to have that idea, and progress was slow although probably still quicker than if we'd have attempted to continue on the M25. (After dropping me off Shirley headed to Watford for a spot of retail therapy - when I spoke to her later she said that the queue that we'd avoided was still very much in place for 'several miles') Meanwhile Birchanger Services wasn't much easier to negotiate - John called me as we were approaching it to say that they'd been there over 10 minutes and still hadn't found a parking space. Eventually an alternative plan formed, and we ended up meeting them in a lay-by on the A120 just outside Bishop's Stortford - where would we be without mobile phones eh? The rest of our journey North was uneventful in comparison (an excellent Bruce Springsteen interview in this month's 'Mojo' meant that I stayed awake for longer than I otherwise might have!) although with all the earlier delays we ended up arriving just before 6 o'clock - Shirl and myself had left home around 11.30 so a journey that might normally take 3 and a bit hours had taken the best part of double the time that it should have. Bah!
When we arrived Matt was on hand to direct us to The Classic Suite - we loaded in, set up and used what little time was available to us to run through some potential hot spots. Matt had bought us all while ties to wear (if you don't know the material then at least make it look good!) as well as bringing his acoustic guitar with him so that we could continuing rehearsing in The Close Room (our allotted dressing room for the evening) before readying ourselves for a 9 o'clock kick-off. Opening with the inevitable 'Happy Birthday' we played a first set that wasn't without a shaky moment or two but included it's fair share of highlights - when Matt suggested 'The Seeker' I must admit that I wasn't sure that it would work but it sounded good to my ears, and with John behind the drums 'Get It On' couldn't really fail could it? After availing ourselves of a small portion of the mountains of food available in the interval our second set started as the first one had finished - with a full dance floor. It stayed that way pretty much all the way through to our final song (Joey Ramone's arrangement of 'What A Wonderful World' - good choice Matt!) and we all agreed that it had been a great gig. There was even talk of a re-booking at the venue, but even if that doesn't happen we really must do this or something like it again.

We met the long-suffering Shirley just before 4.15 a.m. (that's why I call her 'long-suffering'!) at South Mimms Services; just under 5 hours later I was behind the counter at Balcony Shirts, where a somewhat bleary day ensued. Actually I didn't feel too bad - I'd managed to get a bit of sleep in the van on the way back although I could hardly keep my eyes open by the time I got home. There was time for an hour or so's sleep and a quick plate of food (thanks Shirl!) before it was time to leave for St. Albans where The Upper Cut were making their second appearance at The Mermaid. Last time we had Geoff depping with us on drums, this time Roger was available - we arrived just before the two Terry's and after a quick set-up we were ready for our first set at half past nine. It's only a little pub and in many ways is not an obvious live music venue, but somehow it works well - although fairly sparsely populated when we started by the time we finished our first set with 'Sweet Litttle Rock And Roller' there were a fair few in. Terry the singer was somehow befriended by a chap called Darren (or was it Daryl? I didn't take much notice of him, especially when he continually referred to Terry as 'Tony'. Rule number one - when you meet someone GET THEIR NAME RIGHT. Mind you that means that I've just broken rule number one! Bugger! He kept trying to tell me how good 'Amused to Death' by Roger Waters is - I'm sure it's excellent, but why did he feel that he had to tell me that? Hippie!) who Terry, for reasons best known only to himself, invited to sing a number with us. He had a go at 'Can't Get Enough' - it started off ok but he'd picked a hard song and he was reduced to screaming by the end; I guess he made a better job of it than I would have, but then again I wouldn't have presumed myself able to sing it in the first place... after encoring with 'Sweet Soul Music' there was time for a drink during which I got chatting to some members of local band The 20th Century Boys (good name - I'd suggested that for The Sicilians!) who told me that they 'play the same sort of stuff that you do, but you lot are great!' Nice chaps... meanwhile Mr. Hippie is asking where Richard has gone (he meant Roger - see rule number one above) and increasing the bitterness factor as he bemoaned his fate at the hands of a 'woman' he'd been 'roofing' (I guess the poor little bunny had been supporting her by paying for her to live somewhere - or if she was really unlucky with him - but as you can imagine I wasn't in the slightest bit interested by then) before setting off to bore some other unfortunates leaning on the bar. Overall a good night despite Mr. Hippie, and it should be a good night next Sunday in Uxbridge - oh, did I mention that it's my birthday next weekend?

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