Friday, December 24, 2010

'Excuse me, I said... Shrewsbury!'

The occasional / ongoing obituary column continues with the news that Captain Beefheart has died. His influence on the likes of Joe Strummer and John Lydon (and therefore most if not all of the British punk bands, if only by proxy) has been well documented, and this is surely one of the great OGWT clips of them all. A great artist and a true outsider.

Talking of outsiders (sort of!) Vince Cable has been found guilty of having an opinion (declaring war on Rupert Murdoch is guaranteed to get you in the news, although a lot of people will be buying him a gun as a result!) as the cracks in the coalition government begin to show. Let's see how they decide to paper over them, as it looks like our old friend Jeremy Hunt is about to get involved... and then there's the weather. I've heard a lot of people say things like 'I don't know, a bit of snow and the country grinds to a halt' which may well be a fair point under normal circumstances - but this wasn't a 'bit' of snow. Saturday should have been a very busy day in the shop followed by an Upper Cut gig at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth, and it certainly began that way - but sometime after 10 a.m. it started snowing. By midday Windsor Street was buried under 6 inches of the stuff, and by 1 o'clock our gig had been cancelled. Oh well. Once it stopped actually snowing a few customers braved the Arctic conditions to pay us a visit and the till total at the end of the day wasn't a complete disaster, but for the Saturday before Christmas it should have been so much more. Mind you at one point it was snowing so heavily that you couldn't read the signs on the shops on the other side of the road. Still from the band's point of view Terry the singer has been instructed to call the venue in January for a rescheduled date so at least all is not lost there.

Sunday and with chaos on the roads and absolute insanity at the airports (Pete and Tony played a duo gig in Switzerland last Friday - they finally got back to Heathrow Airport on Wednesday afternoon!) The Chicago Blues Brothers are playing at a wedding reception at The Rowton Castle Hotel near Shrewsbury. (Yes, another castle - none for ages then 2 come along at once...) We'd originally thought the gig was in Roydon (that's apparently where the enquiry came from) which would have been a simpler journey for most of the band; I was travelling up with Big Tel and Dave were D.J.'ing at the event. I spoke to Big Tel on the phone around midday and suggested that it was probably not a good idea for him to bring to van to our house to pick me up as we're at the bottom of a hill amid several abandoned cars which couldn't get back up again. Instead we agreed to meet up on the main road (he lent me his amp and I carried the rest of my stuff) and by 2.10 we were on our way. Within 40 minutes we pulled in to Oxford Services on the M40 as we were out of windscreen washer fluid - a large bottle of screen wash, 3 very expensive takeaway coffees and several Mars bars ('for the journey' - Dave) later we discovered that the washers themselves had frozen. Bah! Still it's interesting to note that in sub-zero temperatures the water fountains outside the main building were still working. Hmm... progress was steady until we passed Bicester where things slowed somewhat due to weight of traffic (strange to see a SKID RISK SLOW DOWN warning next to a sign for Silverstone) although by the time we got to the M42 things were moving well. It started to get foggy near the venue, but the trusty sat. nav. got us there for 7 o'clock where we made our way to (dressing) room 12 to meet up with the rest of the troops. Mike and Mike (just flown in from gigging in Belfast) were in the hats and glasses, Squirrel and Marc are on bass and drums, Dave and Ian on trumpet and saxophone and Steve is on keyboards for the first time in ages, with Phil manning the sound. There are sandwiches and chips (excellent!) with the promise of hog roast later (not too good for us vegetarians!) and it's good to see everyone again for the first time in what feels like ages.
We're booked to play for (gulp!) 2 hours (at least it makes the journey worthwhile!) so soundcheck includes a few 'what other songs do we know?' moments, with 'Superstition' and 'Unchain My Heart' both making an appearance. They both make an appearance in the show too, which begins with the happy couple dancing to 'Chasing Cars' by Snow Patrol (very appropriate!) then our epic performance being witnessed by at best the 20 or so guests that made it along, and at worst by Phil, Big Tel and Dave. Still we played well and did our job as best we could, which on a night such as this is the main thing.
And talking of epic performances Big Tel did a heroic job driving us home - we found ourselves back at Oxford Services over 13 hours after our first visit (the fountains were still working although it was even colder!) and I arrived home at 5.30 in the morning. Several people had told me that we were mad to go at all, and in many ways they were probably correct - but don't you think that it's ironic that I had a gig a few miles from home cancelled then did a 350+ mile round trip to play a gig the very next day?

Since then the shop picked up considerably as all the people who couldn't get in on Saturday found their way to us during the week; we finished for this year at 1 o'clock this afternoon (we're open again on Tuesday 4th January if you'd like to come along and spend all your Christmas money!) and then went down the pub. That's the way to do it... Happy Christmas y'all!

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