Monday, August 30, 2010

They called it madness

I started this blog 4 years ago this weekend. Did I think then that I'd be publishing slightly disturbing photographs of entertainment industry professionals in someone else's indoor swimming pool? Oddly enough I probably did, if only because they don't have any swimming pools of their own...

The weekend featured 2 outdoor gigs, the first of which was a Chicago Blues Brothers show in the grounds ('garden' doesn't really do it justice) in the grounds of a large dwelling (again 'house' isn't an appropriate term) in Sutton Courtney near Abingdon. I'm not sure whether it was a corporate event or a jolly-up for friends and neighbours - it could even have been a bit of both - but there was a stage and P.A. set-up that would have done justice to a small festival and a marquee big enough to play football in, although to my knowledge nobody did. Pete and Mike were in the hats and glasses (and indeed in the swimming pool with trumpeter Dave) with Ian returning on keyboards after being away filming a live DVD in Denmark with Ray Davies. Squirrel's on bass, Ian's depping for Richard on sax and Bob from the Ali Mac Band was depping with us for the first time. We went for some food in the marquee just in time to catch the first set from a Bee Gees tribute act - I didn't catch their name but one of them looked a bit like Rat Scabies (sadly it wasn't!) and they were loud enough to cause some consternation from the band members sitting nearest to their speakers. By the time we started our first set at around 9.30 it was clear that many audience members were a little, shall we say, 'confused' - well the ones who spent most of our show on stage dancing certainly were... a surprisingly busy Bank Holiday Saturday in Balcony Shirts had seen me graze my right hand when I fell over running up the stairs (admit it, we've all done it!) which although only a small injury had resulted in enough blood to concern at least one customer (and if I'm honest, me!) and which came back to haunt me during my solo in 'Hard To Handle'. I touched the cut against the metal bridge of my guitar and the resulting wince-inducing moment was enough to make me play terribly out of tune for a few seconds. Well, that's my excuse anyway... Bob did very well especially considering that he'd not had much time to learn the songs (he took a DVD of the show on holiday with him - good man!) and the event organisers seemed happy with things which is always nice to see. Oh I broke my right hand thumb nail ('windmilling and being silly' again - will I never learn?!?) which was annoying as I'd been trying to grow it to help with fingerpicking - maybe it's time I got brave and bought a set of fingerpicks?

Sunday's show saw your humble narrator depping with Utter Madness for the first time in just over a year - that was in Belfast, this was in Sunderland. Richard (keyboards) and Tony (vocals) arrived just after 11.30 a.m. - with everything loaded into Richard's estate car and me safely installed in the seat behind the driver ('there's a child lock on your door' said Richard as I sat down) we set off on our epic journey. Around 2 p.m. we stopped at Donnington Services on the M1 where Richard produced a cool bag from which he bought forth seemingly endless amounts of minestrone, sandwiches and other refreshments. What a hero! (The long-suffering Shirley had sent me off with some cheese rolls which I didn't get chance to eat, but I've just had them now and very nice they were too. Thanks Shirl!) A thankfully uneventful journey North ended with us passing The Turbine Business Park just before 4.30, and pulling up in the backstage area in the shadow of rows of identical cars a few minutes later.
We're playing at the Nissan 'family day' which the company puts on for it's workers each year - Ian, Jon, Stuart and Ray (sax, bass, drums and backing vocals / dancing) were already on site as were about 100 or so people in a field that could have held thousands and probably would have had it not been so cold and windy. Mind you I'm saying it was cold and windy - judging by the number of people walking around in t-shirts I was either (a) mistaken or (b) a soft Southern ponce. Either is possible... I got myself some chips and gravy (oh yes!) and a cappuccino (just the drink for a soft Southern ponce eh? And yes, you've guessed it, the froth blew everywhere!) and watched a bit of ZU2 (pronounced 'Zoo Two') who did a very good job, especially considering that they had 50 or so people watching and listening to music that's normally played in venues that hold 50 or so thousand. Still at least the turbines were busy... no sooner had they finished then we were asked to bring our stage time forward an hour to 6 p.m. as people were drifting away from the site. Minor panic ensued on my part when I got locked in Richard's car (remember the child lock?) which I'd sat down in to sort out my stage clothes, although everyone else found it hilarious! Well - the wind blew just as I'd sat down! After the quickest set-up and clothes change in history (I hate rushing don't you?) we were on stage and into 'One Step Beyond' and my hands were so cold that it was difficult to hold my plectrum; by the time we got to a sticky-fingered 'My Girl' I'd warmed up a bit and was playing a bit better although I was aware that I could have done with a bit more revision on the songs. No one else noticed, or if they did they didn't tell me! Our shortened set was well received by the few brave souls still in attendance (you could tell how cold it was getting as the t-shirt wearers had disappeared!) and we encored with 'Our House' to cheery applause.
After the quickest get-out ever (I didn't bother getting changed as I hadn't been sweating!) we left the site just before our allotted stage time - strange but true! - and after a journey enlivened by various word games (rock'n'roll eh?) I walked back in through the front door exactly 12 hours (9-and-a-bit of which had been spent travelling) after I'd left. As I say, strange but true, and a good story to start my 5th year of blogging with. Stay tuned for further distractions, as they say...

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