Sunday, May 08, 2011

'What's the secret of good comedy?' a.k.a. 'The rain in Staines...'

Another weekend, another wedding, this one on Friday night at The Horsted Place Hotel in Uckfield. Tracy's put a band together to play at her friend Lisa's nuptials, and it features some familiar faces from Chicago Blues Brothers gigs - joining her and Matt on vocals are Squirrel and Marc on bass and drums, Chris on keyboards, Ian on saxophone and your humble narrator on the six-string razor. Dave and Big Tel are on P.A. duties, and everyone is present and correct by 6 o'clock to set up and talk through songs for the show. There are 2 requests - Adele's version of Bob Dylan's 'Make You Feel My Love' for the first dance and (gulp!) the Engelbert Humperdinck (ahem!) classic 'The Last Waltz' (something to do with David the bridegroom's football team apparently) to end the evening. Much of our soundcheck is taken up running through these songs as well as 'Son Of A Preacher Man' which we've been meaning to play for ages but have somehow never got around to. With everything sounding good it's time to get some food then get changed for the show - except there's nowhere to get changed and no food... actually that's a bit harsh as we were invited to change in the toilets (it's been a while!) and a small platter of sandwiches appeared for, ooh, several seconds, or at least as long as it takes for 9 people to take a couple each. Oh well. In the meantime Matt spots Tracy's high heels with the words 'are they M&S or S&M?', the bar (which appears to be free for everyone except band members who want to buy an alcoholic drink) is open, and the plan is for our first set to start at 8.45 for 45 minutes; there'll then be a break for a 'surprise' fireworks display with our second set running from 10.30 - 11.30. What actually happens is that we play for around 20 minutes from 9.10, then from 10.45-12.10, and the 2 sets couldn't have been different from each other...
Tracy offers her congratulations to the happy couple who take to the dancefloor as 'Make You Feel My Love' begins. But something's wrong - Chris is playing too quickly, or changing chords at a different time to the rest of us, or something - either way Tracy can't fit the words in, and it sounds terrible. Terrible. It's so bad in fact that she stops the song and apologises and attempts to make light of the situation, talks to Chris, they try to work out what's going wrong.... bizarrely Chris, who is in my not-so-humble opinion a brilliant musician, is playing in 3/4 time rather than 4/4 - somehow we get through the song although I for one never want to hear a recording of our efforts. (Once again lots of people filmed it! Bugger!) From there it's a shaky version of 'Play That Funky Music' before 'Midnight Hour' nearly stalls as half the band start in the wrong key; thankfully 'Superstition' goes some way towards redeeming us before Tracy makes the 'please could you all go outside for a surprise' announcement and we're spared further confusion. Chris looks nearly suicidal but we all tell him it's ok and all forgotten about, he says he's been having trouble with the timing of the song all week and even listened to it on his iPod just before he started playing. I must say that you can sometimes get a 'blind spot' with a song or a part of a song and if that happens it can be really difficult to get through it; you also have to very careful that you don't practice doing it wrong which then makes it very hard to ever get right!
The second set, when it eventually arrives, couldn't have been more different. Squirrel described 'Take Me To The River' as 'Steaming!' as it roared to a conclusion and he wasn't wrong - we sounded like a totally different band than the one that had tightrope-walked it's way through 20 minutes of near-chaos only a couple of hours earlier. Tracy invited a young lad called James who was wearing a pair of training shoes that lit up when he walked to join us on 'Mustang Sally'- he roared 'RIDE SALLY RIDE!' at a speaker-threatening volume then looked very pleased with himself. Meanwhile the dancefloor was full for much of the proceedings and we got compliment after compliment when we finished which given our antics in the first set was a huge relief all round. Well, it certainly was for me. Even 'The Last Waltz' sounded good!

And last night The Uppercut returned to Staines 8 days after our first ever show there - weird! - for a gig at The Town Hall. It looks as though the building has recently been converted into a bar - it's certainly a very impressive structure with a balcony and some of the most ornately-framed mirrors I've ever seen. They're even in the toilets! It's somewhere that could turn out to be a fine venue too, although as we began with 'Dock Of The Bay' we looked out to see about 15 people in a venue that could have easily held over 500. Still we played well (you always do when there's no one there!) taking the opportunity to play a few songs that we'd not performed for a while as well as trying out some newer material. By the interval there were a few more in, but by the time we finished there were 2 - 2! - people watching us. Mind you the bar staff were dancing, which is always a good sign for a re-booking! 'You deserve a crowd' said a burly security man as we finished on the stroke of midnight - so does the venue, although as we loaded our gear out in torrential rain of almost Biblical proportions we realised why no one had wanted to brave the walk across the Town Square. Shame.

Anyway I can't sit here typing all day as there's work to do. I've been asked by Esso to play at his brother Dave's funeral on Thursday; I've got to put together an instrumental medley of riffs from '60's Who singles as well as playing 'Waterloo Sunset' as people are leaving. I've never done anything like this before - no pressure then...

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