Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Island life

First things first, and after much deliberation (certainly on my part) those loveable funsters The Price are reforming for a show at The Crown And Treaty in Uxbridge this coming Saturday 22nd September. Support comes from The Chilterns, D.J. Chris is spinning some discs (all of these people can be found in Balcony Shirts on a regular basis) and the whole thing starts at around 8.30pm with our group due on at quarter to ten for an hour-and-a-bit; the pub is open until 4am so you can always have too much to drink after we've been and gone. As always with The Price this could turn out to be our last ever show (!) so if you can make it along it'll be good to see you.

And talking of things that may well prove to be a mistake I have done the thing that no right-minded person should ever do - yes, that's right, like an idiot I've started a Facebook page. I've resisted this up until this point, not least because from what I've seen of it in the past I'll need to have at least half of my brain removed to fit in with the general level of intelligence that people seem to exhibit when leaving messages on it, but I guess we'll see how it goes. You can find me by clicking here - I don't know how long it'll be there for, but it's there as I type this...

Marc Bolan died 35 years ago last Sunday. I've been playing some T.Rex albums in the last few days, and they still sound like no other band - some of it is inevitably dated, but the best tracks are timeless examples of just how good pop music can be. 'Metal Guru' was the first record that I ever bought (as opposed to received as a present) and it still sounds fantastic - literally 'the stuff of fantasy' - to me. I remember that as a would-be punk rocker the news of his death hit me surprisingly hard; the scorched-earth policy that 'everything before Johnny and Joe didn't matter' was clearly a generalisation, and Bolan remains one of my favourite artists of all time.

After over 23 years there has finally been an independent enquiry into the Hillsborough disaster, and the findings have revealed what many suspected all along - lies, deception, tampering with evidence, more lies, more deception and even more lies by officials, police officers, the ambulance service and maybe (maybe!) even the government of the time. It's emerged that 164 witness statements were altered and up to 41 fans could have lived if help had been given - let's hope that this is only the end of the beginning, and now those responsible for covering up the truth will finally be bought to justice at last. 

In the meantime the latest Ruts D.C. show saw the band play at The Fermain Tavern on Guernsey on Saturday as part of The Guernsey Literary Festival with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Attila The Stockbroker.
After my antics on the way to our show in Croatia back in July I decided to leave myself plenty of time to get to Gatwick Airport for our flight to the island. With this in mind the long-suffering Shirley dropped me at Hillingdon tube station just after 7.40am. By 7.45am I was walking up to strangers and asking if I could borrow their mobile phone - yes, you've guessed it, I'd left mine behind... given this inauspicious start the rest of my journey went without too much incident, although finding the Gatwick train at St Pancras International wasn't as easy as it might have been - if there were any signs I couldn't see them, and doesn't anyone work at train stations anymore?
I arrived at the Aurigny Airways check in just as Dave and Molara were reaching the front of the queue - at which point I realised that I'd forgotten to print off my boarding passes for the flights. Bugger! 'Don't worry, they'll print one for you' said Dave cheerily - fortunately they weren't one of the airlines that charges you for this sort of things these days!
We went through security before deciding on breakfast at Cafe Rouge where Seamus soon joined us; the rest of our party (Segs, Pablo and Rob) were in The Flying Horse enjoying a different type of breakfast... initial 'oh my gawd the plane's got propellers' worries turned out to thankfully unfounded, and the short flight passed without incident. At Guernsey Airport we were met by Rob and Hayley who took us to The Les Douvres Hotel - whereupon checking through my gear I discovered that I'd forgotten my slide. This was getting silly! I try to leave a slide with each guitar, but had only decided to use to my Lemon Drop the night before and for some reason the case was slide-less. Bah! 
The rest of the band and crew went off for food but I was still full from breakfast (and still feeling the effects of an upset stomach a day or so before) and so stayed at the hotel to catch up on a bit of sleep, play some guitar and get a bit of fresh air. Rock 'n' roll eh?
Half past four and it's off to the venue (via Kendall Guitars to buy a slide - at least I can leave it in the Lemon Drop's case! Incidentally this is an excellent shop, and there was a poster in the window advertising a gig by a G'n'R tribute band called Guerns 'n' Roses...) for soundcheck. The Fermain Tavern certainly seems to be a popular venue, with pictures of Wilko Johnson and Nine Below Zero on the walls (excellent!) and a good stage and P.A. system. We've bought Rob with us to do our sound, he's bought a Roland Space Echo with him for the dubbier parts of our set which takes a while to get working to his satisfaction. I've got a Fender Twin Reverb which would normally have me rejoicing but n this case took a bit of getting used to - a bit trebley compared to some that I've used, or maybe I haven't used The Lemon Drop much lately? Dave was perturbed to find mould on the cymbals provided for him to use - apparently they came from a rehearsal studio situated in an old German bunker and 'it can get a bit damp in there'...
I'd not met Linton Kwesi Johnson before - I think I last saw him back in the 1980s, and he seemed to be a very nice if rather quiet chap; Attila was of course as irrepressible as ever, a very nice if not-at-all quiet chap!
With everything sounding good it's back to the hotel for some food and to get changed before returning to the venue to catch most of Attila's and all of Linton's performances, both of which were excellent but both of which highlighted an interesting audience dynamic - what you might call the 'bookish' part of the crowd consistently appealed for quiet from the 'rock' element who were warming up with beer and often rather loud conversation. Things got a bit heated on more than one occasion - eventually an uneasy calm was reached when the rockers moved towards the back of the room.
10.45 and Attila introduces us as a band that he first saw on the back of a flat bed truck at a Rock Against Racism rally, going on to say that things have changed a lot for the band since then. They have indeed... the show proved to be interesting for a number of reasons. The reggae-based material saw a full dancefloor and went down very well, whereas the punkier songs (like 'Back Biter') saw a more raucous response, mostly from the people who had moved to the back of the venue earlier in the evening. There was a bit of heckling here and there (Segs saw them off with ease!) and the show went well enough for us to play an encore ('H-Eyes' in case you were wondering) and to receive many compliments after the gig.
Sunday started earlier than I for one would have liked, as breakfast ended at half past nine and checkout was at 11 o'clock. At least that's when I thought that it was - the phone went in my room at 10.50 to remind me that checkout was at 10.30. I'd more-or-less got all my stuff together, but since we weren't due to leave for the airport until one o'clock that left quite a while to fill. I decided to have a walk around the area, which turned out to be interesting if a little perilous at times - the roads were often only just wide enough for two cars which meant some very careful manoeuvring by drivers (and often some very careful reversing if the road wasn't wide enough for both cars) and the occasional jumping out of the way by pedestrians (i.e.me!)
At the airport we meet LKJ in the queue, who tells us we 'mashed them last night'. This pleases us greatly! The man behind the counter tells me that I can walk my guitar on to the plane, but when I take my pedalboard to outsize baggage I'm told the guitar has to go too. Oh well. At security Molara gets stopped and has to empty all her bag out, which as you can imagine she's not too pleased about. I'm wandering about in the duty free shop looking at nothing in particular when I hear my name read out over the tannoy. This has never happened to me before but as I heard it I felt my nerves jangle - why do they want me to 'report to gate 4 immediately'? When I get there I'm asked if I'm carrying an outsized item onto the plane - as I was about to answer I looked out of the window to see my guitar being loaded onto the aircraft. Confusion reigns for a few seconds but everything seems to be ok in the end.
On the plane LKJ asks Segs where he buys his hats as the girl across the aisle from them comments on how cool they both look and a couple of seats from me a nun looks on quizzically. A good moment - or maybe that should be a God moment?  
As we wait at Gatwick Segs and myself wonder whether our instruments will be in the outsize section or will just appear on baggage carousel number 1 with everything else. As we debate their fate my pedalboard is one of the first things to emerge on the belt, followed by Segs's bass guitar. What feels like hours later the belt is empty and all our fellow passengers have gone on to bigger and better things but there's still no sign of my instrument - after a bit of deliberation I go to baggage enquiries with Pablo while Segs and Rob stay by the carousel in case it appears. The men behind the glass are helpful but resigned to filling in the large number of forms that are being liberated from a filing cabinet as they tell me that it's 'very unusual for anything to go missing from The Channel Islands'. This information is clearly intended to be reassuring but doesn't really make me feel any better. Suddenly Pablo's phone rings - Segs has got my guitar. It appeared on the belt just before the next aircraft's baggage emerged.
As I opened the case to check that it was still all in one piece I thought about the nun on the plane - she'd bought an enormous bottle of gin when they bought the duty free around. At that moment I felt as though she'd got the right idea.

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