Now, who are these friendly little fellows? Well the picture on the left features sax maestro Richard Pardy with trumpeter Steve Walker posing furiously in front of a shower curtain, whilst the right hand image shows the afore-mentioned Mr. Pardy's usual partner in crime Dave Land with, well, a right hand other than his own. If they all look pleased with themselves then it's almost definitely because they're wearing their new Balcony shirts. But how did they all come to have them?
This week has been book-ended by two Chicago Blues Brothers gigs. We played our first theatre show for a while last Saturday, at The Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. It's an 'almost-the-A-team' line-up with Marc and Ian returning on drums and keyboards respectively; Steve's on trumpet in place of Dave but other than that everybody's where they should be (Matt and Mike are Jake and Elwood, Squirrel's on bass, Richard's on sax, Tracy's on vocals and Pete's playing the extra characters in the show.... that's it I think, although I'm sure someone's missing from the list... oh yeah, I'm playing guitar!) and by the time the long-suffering Shirley delivers Richard, Tracy and myself to the venue Phil's nearly ready for us to soundcheck. I'd been working in the shop until 3 o'clock and when they arrived to pick me up Richard was unable to resist (a) coming in to see what all the fuss is about, and (b) buying 2 t-shirts depicting their hometowns for himself and Steve. (For the record this one's his and this one's Steve's - pretty cool eh?) Oh and he bought this one for his son who's learning the drums - rather a costly visit don't you think? Good man!
The gig itself was a bit of an uphill struggle in many ways. It's a lovely old theatre but I thought the atmosphere was a bit 'cold' from the word go; add to that the fact that for some unknown reason (principally because I didn't ask!) I didn't have a monitor, which meant that it was hard for me to hear what Ian was playing. I usually have a bit of my guitar in the monitor too (more is more don't you think? No wonder my ears play up sometimes!) so had a bit of trouble hearing what I was playing, and on a couple occasions thought it all sounded a bit odd... halfway through my solo in 'She Caught The Katy' I decided that it definitely sounded a bit odd - in fact it was cutting in and out. In a move that surprised most people (including myself) on the stage I decided that the best course of action was to kick my amplifier - so I did. I wonder about myself sometimes... a quick - and I mean quick! - bit of fault finding at the end on the song revealed that it the lead from my guitar to my pedal was faulty; fortunately I had one behind my amp for just such an emergency, and was back on the air in time for the next song. I try to keep my gear in good condition and check my leads regularly so it was an annoying occurrence, although why I thought booting my amp would help I don't know. Oh well - at least I'm told it looked good! But I wasn't the only one with problems - Squirrel's bass fell over and knocked the mains lead for his amplifier out of the plug (what are the chances of that happening?!?) causing a moment or two of mid-set madness, and Richard inadvertently dislodged the cable from Ian's monitor when he walked past it leaving him with no sound for 2 songs. Maddest of all was the incident during 'Natural Woman' when a couple who had been sitting at the front looking horrified throughout our performance decided to leave as the song drew to a close - Tracy said something like 'I hope it wasn't something that I said' and then was laughing too much to be able to finish the song. One of 'those' nights as they say... still I managed to fit the riff from 'Purple Haze' into my solo in 'Riot In Cell Block Number Nine' so it wasn't all bad news!
Last night we returned to The E.M. Forster Theatre in Tonbridge - we played 2 shows there almost exactly 2 years ago (here's the story of those shows and the sat. nav.-powered confusion that surrounded them) with Chris in place of Ian on keyboards, Dave back on trumpet and Pete taking Matt's place in Jake Blues's shoes. Backstage signs warn NO BARE FEET (murder is ok then?!?) and Richard threw yet more money in the Balcony direction by getting these two shirts for Dave, who seemed overjoyed with both. And the two hornists had been out shopping too as we shall see... Richard bought his 3 sons with him, and Joseph bought his guitar along - he's doing very well with several Hendrix riffs, which he demonstated to me in the dressing room before the show. Excellent!
As a gig it was almost the total opposite of the previous Saturday's event, with the band somehow gelling better and small but enthusiastic audience ready to rock from the word go. And the atmosphere within the band was good too - a couple of numbers into the show I suddenly heard a shriek of alarm from Tracy's general direction - I looked across to see the two brass boys convulsed with laughter and a rather incriminating fake hand on Richard's music stand. It turned out they'd bought two earlier in the day (or as Richard put it, 'I bought one for the kids and Dave bought one for himself') and judging by their antics during the show they were determined to get their money's worth! Of course they could have made one almost as easily...
Talking of Hendrix, and following on from last weekend's posting (sorry it went on a bit, I got a bit carried away! Maybe I need an editor?!?) I spent Wednesday afternoon stumbling around the West End of London in search of 2 exhibitions currently running in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the great man's death. There are 2 blue plaques on the wall outside the Handel House museum - one as you might expect is for George Frederic Handel, the other is somewhat incongruously for Jimi Hendrix. As so often happens in life there's a simple enough explanation - they both lived in the flat at some time - and there's an equally incongruous Hendrix exhibition on the first floor of the building next to the expected Handel artifacts, and very good it was too. Handwritten lyrics, a cartoon self-portrait, posters, a jacket worn on stage and more, although the centrepiece has to be the Gibson Flying V (the third one in this article) that he played towards the end of his life, notably at the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970. (Here's Red House from that show - that's the guitar, easily identifiable from the others that he played by the so-called 'split diamond' inlays on the fingerboard. Mad as it may sound I've actually played that guitar! No really, I have! I happened to visit The Vault at The Hard Rock Cafe when they were making a new case for it and so it was in there for a few days. I played lots of guitars there that day - remind me to tell you all about it sometime...) It's a shame in some ways that there weren't more items on display but maybe I'm being a bit picky - after all what was there was tremendous. You could also visit his actual flat on the top floor - I'd have liked to have done that as well but all the tickets were sold out. I didn't know you needed one! And the Handel exhibition was very interesting too, not least the portrait of concert promoter Thomas Britton who I learned came to a rather sad end. Apparently he was a very superstitious man, and a friend of his decided to play a joke on him by getting a ventriloquist to throw his voice to tell him that his end was near - he was so shocked that he had a heart attack... the second exhibition took place at The Snap Galleries in Piccadilly and featured photographs by Gered Mankowitz taken in 1967 and which are some of the best-known and iconic images of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They say familiarity breeds contempt (whoever 'they' are) but in this case I think that they're wrong as the photos still look fantastic, stark black and white images of a man and indeed a band who went a long way towards both defining the times and showing the way forward. So impressed was I that I nearly bought one, and they weren't cheap... I bought a book instead, and might even go back for a deluxe edition... stop it boy, you can't afford it... although there must be something that I could sell... (continued on page 94 - I really must get an editor...)