If there's been a reoccurring theme among musicians this year (at least among the ones that I've talked to, although I read in the latest issue of the M.U. magazine 'The Musician' that even neo-legendary function band The Dark Blues have seen their bookings decrease) it's that there aren't as many gigs around these days as there were last year. Maybe the much-vaunted recession has hit us a year later than it hit everyone else? I haven't counted the shows but it certainly feels as though The Chicago Blues Brothers worked less than we ever have. Theatre work has all but dried up at the moment (although there's some in for next year) and corporate work is thinner on the ground; then again it was a great gig last night at The Pizza Express in Maidstone, a riotous show or as Squirrel put it, 'just like the old days'. Again I know a lot of people who didn't have a New Year's Eve gig this year so maybe we're not doing too badly after all?
On the other hand it's been a good year for The Upper Cut. We're playing well and getting gigs although we've got to somehow figure out how to get more - there's talk of doing some recording and getting a website sorted out, both of which should go some way towards getting more work. It's a great band to play in, and judging by the audience reaction we're doing something right - hopefully a good year is in prospect. And The Flying Squad should make a return appearance in the scheme of things at some point in the not-too-distant future - well we've got a gig in July!
On a personal level my most enjoyable gigs have probably been the ones with T.V. Smith. From playing a couple of impromptu numbers at The Load of Hay a couple of years ago we've developed a 90+ minute act that runs more-or-less chronologically through his songwriting career - and what songs they are. I wrote elsewhere in these hallowed pages of standing onstage in Leeds playing 'Borderline' and thinking that it just might be the best song that I'd ever played. Sitting here now it seems like a mad thing to say - there can't ever be a 'best' song can there? - but it was a real 'goose bump moment' if ever there was one. He's about to embark on a 'Best Of The Adverts' tour with The Valentines as well as releasing a new solo album so it's unlikely that we'll perform together until the summer at the earliest, but that's really something to look forward to, as indeed are the new album and the Adverts tour. And I enjoyed depping in The Ali Mac Band, Utter Madness and The F.B.I Band too - all totally different from each other, all good stuff all round.
Talking of The Load of Hay there have been some remarkable shows there in the past year - the ever-amazing Kris Dollimore continues to, well, amaze and Steve Simpson played a great show in November. But the most memorable night has to have been courtesy of John Otway 3 weeks ago, when he delivered his 'Christmas Lecture' to a packed audience, many of whom told me that it was one of the funniest things that they'd ever seen. Otway may have made a career out of (apparent) failure, but he certainly knows how to put a show together. Absolutely brilliant. I don't mind admitting that it often feels like something of a thankless task putting the gigs on there, but when you get nights like these it all feels worthwhile. And it was great to get The Blue Five back together too - we really must do that again sometime!
And then there was The Price. Sadly the word that comes to my mind here is 'disappointment'. It was our 25th birthday this year, and I for one had hoped that we'd have been able to play as many gigs as we could as well as writing some new songs and doing some recording - but it was not to be. In the last few months I've turned down some potentially great gigs and had to attempt to explain to gawd knows how many people why we're not playing at the moment ('but I thought you were going to be gigging a lot this year?') with the words 'have a look on the forum on our website'. I'm not known for quoting from The Bible but in this case something that I remember from one of my favourite ever films comes to mind - the 1980 Boer War film 'Breaker Morant' features an extraordinary performance from the late great Edward Woodwood in the title role; when asked what he'd like for an epitaph the character references Matthew 10:36 - 'and a man's foes shall be they of his own household'. I think I know how he felt... and yet The Price refuse to go away - when I played in Ipswich with T.V. Smith Rikki from Red Flag 77 to told me that we were one of the bands that inspired him to get a band together in the late '80's 'when there wasn't much good stuff around'. It sometimes felt as though no one was listening, but comments like that make you realise that they were, and that's something to be really proud of.
So - 2011 then...