Monday, May 20, 2013

Who needs a setlist anyway?

As the current burst of Ruts D.C. activity comes to an end (shame! - although there are things in the pipeline for later this year...) it's time for my first corporate show for some time, and it's also my first show with Utter Madness since the New Year's Eve-before-last's extravaganza in Cardiff. This one took place on Wednesday night at The Metropole Hotel in Birmingham which is part of The N.E.C. complex; this gave me chance to boyishly (some might say 'childishly') tell anyone that would listen that I was 'playing at The N.E.C.' - well, I was, sort of... anyway according to my wristband (they wouldn't let me into the gig without it) we were playing at the 'Security & Fire Installer Live Party!' which I think you'll agree is an interesting idea for a social gathering. Also on the bill were Joe Stilgoe (his Dad is Richard Stilgoe) The RPJ Band (a.k.a. The Rick Parfitt Junior Band - the lead singer's Dad is, you've guessed it, Rick Parfitt from Status Quo) and The It Girls (sorry, I don't know if any of their Dads are famous - maybe I should have asked?) and we were due to play an hour set in the middle of the evening. Almost immediately
The ever-diminishing
Utter Madness setlist,
and a pint of lager.
that was cut to 50 minutes, and by the time we went on at a quarter to nine we were only obliged to play a 40 minute show. Given that we hadn't played together for nearly a year-and-a-half that was probably not a bad thing; add in the fact that surrogate Suggs Tony hurt his back during our 4th song and it becomes something of a blessing. We managed to run through a few songs in the soundcheck - you've guessed it, they were all left out as the set got cut down - which helped us all get back into it, although sadly Jon the bass was absent due to work commitments. (He arrived at 7pm just as food was being served - good timing!) Overall our set went well enough, although as so often happens at these events most people in the hall hardly took a blind bit of notice of us. Oh well. And from what I saw of the other acts on the bill more-or-less the same fate befell them, although that said The It Girls somewhat inevitably got a bit more attention, at least for the first few minutes of their first appearance; I rather suspect that most of the observers lost interest when they realised that they were dancers and not strippers. It was that kind of evening.

It was a very different kind of evening on Friday when Ruts D.C. played at The Globe in Cardiff. As I got into the bus to leave Segs told me that Molara had a bad throat and so wasn't doing this show and was very unlikely to be with us the next night - we spent a fair bit of the journey talking through the set and working out what changes we might be obliged to make. The main sticking discussion concerned 'Jah War' - she sings the song in the set (and she does a very fine job as this clip shows) and after wondering which one of us might be up to the job (I rather wildly said that I'd have a go - fortunately I don't think anybody took me too seriously!) we decided to drop the song and replace it with 'Generations', a song that Segs recorded with Joe Strummer and Rat Scabies for a benefit album and one that we played as an encore at last weekend's Camden show. We also elected to drop the second section of 'One Step' which has evolved into 'Warning' which again Molara sings (and this clip once again shows how well she sings it - not much chance of me getting near to that!) Other than that there weren't too many changes to make other than for your humble narrator to join in on the choruses a bit more than usual...
We arrived at the venue getting on for an hour late - not an ideal situation but unavoidable due to heavy traffic. There were three other bands on the bill so we soundchecked as quickly as we could to give them time to set up. A good sized crowd was expected and the venue was filling up by the time The Phucks (nice name!?!) took to the stage. They were an agreeably noisy bunch that didn't take themselves too seriously, whereas Anonamus Iconaclass were an altogether subtler proposition who reminded me a bit of early Dire Straits (i.e. when they were good... no really they were... well, quite good anyway!) Main support band The Sporadics began their set by describing themselves as delivering 'a bit of ska, a bit of punk, a bit of politics' which turned out to be a very accurate description. They were also very good.
!0.45pm and it's our turn. The place is packed and anticipation is high - I'd met Ziggy and John of Death Or Glory Promotions (they put on our Newport and Bristol shows back in March) before the show, both of whom had said that a lot of people were looking forward to seeing us. They weren't wrong as the place went crazy from the first song. It was interesting how Molara's absence seemed to change the dynamic of the band - it all felt a lot rockier, even a bit more 'laddish' than it normally does. That said we played well, and  although we certainly missed her vocals on many occasions the show caused an extraordinary reaction from the audience, with stage diving, crowd surfing and more - I could have done without getting covered in beer by an over-exuberant chap down the front but to be honest the show was so enjoyable that it didn't really bother me too much. As I say, a very different show to the one on Wednesday.
After the show it was back to the hotel where the bar was still open and the mood was good, right up until the moment that Mark the driver said something like 'see you at nine in the morning' - any chance of oversleeping was removed when the smoke alarm went off before 8 o'clock; I was sharing the room was Seamus and we assumed that only the one in our room went off but it seems that it happened to everybody else too. Lack of traffic meant we got to The Bearded Theory Festival in Derbyshire around 40 minutes ahead of our projected 1pm arrival time - we had to get there early to get passes and wristbands - which I guess is better than getting there 40 minutes late, although I must admit I could have done with the extra sleep. (I must have been drifting in and out of consciousness when I heard Segs suggest that there should be a Goth catering company called Dark Satanic Meals...) In no time at all food passes are being handed out (vegetarian lasagne - oh yes!) and Citizen Fish are taking to the stage - I'd like to have seen more of their set but missed most of it as we were loading our equipment in but what I did see was very good indeed. Meanwhile we're allocated
Segs contemplates his options -
'Mints? Cashew nuts? Tortillas
and Salsa dip? Or the fridge
full of beer that's not in the picture?'
our dressing room (maybe that should be 'dressing portacabin') where the rider provided much amusement - there may not have been much food but there certainly was a large amount of alcohol... we were playing a 45 minutes set, and since we'd played for an hour-and-a-half the night before we were able to leave out the 'Molara songs' and still have more than enough material for the show. I must say that I felt that our set went by in no time; it included an unusual version of 'Staring At The Rude Boys' which completely omitted the second verse and guitar solo - when I asked him afterwards Segs said that he'd simply forgotten to sing it! Overall it was a good show, not quite as euphoric as the night before but one that still had the audience calling for an encore that lack of time sadly didn't allow. Still it was a good show to finish this run of gigs with - we now haven't got anything booked until The Rebellion Festival in August although hopefully something will come in before then. 

And yesterday evening I went to the open mic / jam session at The Crown and Treaty in Uxbridge where I played bass on 'Suffragette City' and 'Garageland' with old mates Grant and Steve, than went on to The Crown in Cowley for their acoustic session. It's strange - not long ago I'd never attended such gatherings but now I find them quite enjoyable. That said they do have more than a few odd moments - I really must write a blog piece about them sometime...

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