My last gig of 2011 was with Utter Madness in Cardiff headlining The Calennig New Year celebrations. It's a yearly event (obviously!) held outside The City Hall - the band played it back in 2001 when according to Ian the saxman there was 'horizontal rain' and freezing temperatures; he suggested 'a hat, long coat, fingerless gloves if you've got them' as stage wear... in the event the temperature was a lot higher than freezing and the rain had stopped earlier in the evening. Good!
We'd soundchecked at 5 pm - lots of echo from the cold concrete in front of us. 'Don't worry' said Matt the stage manager, 'there should be thousands of people here by midnight'. And there was - when I left the stage with my amp and guitar after the show an impressively long conga line was. er, congaing to 'Enjoy Yourself' by The Specials. And why not?
We were all staying at The Holiday Inn (I dread to think how much 7 rooms on New Year's Eve cost the organisers!) where food was served at 7.30; as I made my way up to room 329 Batman and Robin were haranguing guests in the bar while scantily-clad young ladies mused on the festivities to come. I got changed for the show then met everyone (Tony on vocals, Jon on bass, Dan on drums, Richard on keyboards, Ray on vocals and the afore-mentioned Ian on sax) in the lobby to head back to the City Hall. When we arrived Botown were halfway through their set; they mix soul classics with Bollywood songs which is an interesting idea although the audience reaction generally consisted of recognition for the soul song ('Sex Machine' for example) and confusion for the Bollywood song (sadly I've no idea of the title) that it morphed into. The massed dancing and singing along that accompanied their last number 'Valerie' was all dissipated by 30 or so seconds into the unidentified song that it became. Like I say it's an interesting idea but I'm not sure how it will work in practical terms, although now that I've said that they'll no doubt now sell millions.
'Don't watch that, watch this!' Tony started 'One Step Beyond' to a huge cheer from the rapidly-swelling crowd; I dropped my plectrum a few seconds into the song which suggested that my hands may well have been colder than I thought that they were. I wonder if my moment of madness (sorry!) was seen on the big screens that were either side of the stage? It's probably on YouTube by now... (well if it is I haven't found it yet - but I did find this!) As the clock at the side of the stage showed 6 minutes of 2011 left we swung into 'Baggy Trousers' - when the song ended we downed tools as chap from S4C and the compare (sorry I didn't catch either of their names) came on stage and counted down alternately in English and Welsh; fireworks heralded the start of 2012 as band members made good use of their mobile phone cameras. It all went out live on TV - you can see it here on the S4C website for the next month, we're on from about 16 minutes into the clip and the picture you can see me taking at midnight is the one at the start of this posting. Really!
We came back on to a jammed version of 'Auld Lang Syne' (I found this and the countdown on YouTube too - there are more clips appearing all the time!) and few more songs before 'Our House' ended a great gig. I'm told there were around 10,000 people there at midnight - now that definitely counts as a happy new year! I hope you have one too.