Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fever pitch

Well I don't know about you (obviously!) but it's been a bit too hot for me lately. I often think that I'm a bit of a miserable old bugger (ooh imagine that!) but once the temperature gets above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 21 in new money) I find it all a bit difficult, not least because I've had hay fever for as long as I can remember. I've been taking some over-the-counter tablets in an attempt to keep it at all bay - they're either not working particularly well or it's really bad this year. I last went to my doctor about it a few years ago, when he cheerily advised me that the only real cure was for me to stop breathing. Yeah, thanks for that doc...

Despite financial woes I went down to Brighton last Wednesday as planned, where I tried a couple of Electro-Harmonix effect pedals. I was so impressed by the Neo Mistress flanger pedal that I found in Eastbourne last month that I decided to track some more of them down, and research revealed that GAK had a good stock of the company's wares - they're made in the U.S.A. and not everyone over here stocks them. I tried a Tone Tattoo multi-effect unit (I thought it might have been useful as something that I could take along as a spare in case my pedalboard went wrong at a Ruts D.C. gig) and a Neo Clone chorus pedal (I've been borrowing a Danelectro Cool Cat pedal from my good friend Paul Cope since I lost my old pedalboard back in November 2011) and ended up buying the latter (which sounded terrific) but not the former (the distortion sound was horrible!) which made the journey more than worthwhile. And it's always good to visit Brighton don't you think? It's impossible for me not to think of 'Quadrophenia' when I'm there - but more about that in a minute.

Last Friday was a very busy day in Balcony Shirts - and when I say busy I mean busy, with people everywhere and the phone all but ringing off the hook. Having a nosebleed is not a particularly pleasant experience at the best of times, but having one behind the counter on a day such as this really isn't recommended. Still there wasn't much that I could do about it other than to hold a tissue to my face amid various pieces of well-meant advice from customers on how to make it stop. 'Pinch the bridge of your nose' said a cheery lady who went on to tell me that her daughter gets them all the time, while another issued a 'don't put your head back' warning in a possibly over-stern manner.In the event it only lasted a short while which was good news - unlike the one I had an hour later which went on for about 20 minutes. Urgh! Whether or not this contributed to my light-headedness upon arriving at Hayes Working Mens Club for a Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gig that evening is open to debate, but that was certainly how I felt when I got there. We'd had a rehearsal on Monday evening at which several new songs (well they're new to us, we didn't write any of them!) were tried out, all of which made it into the set with a steaming version of 'Baby Please Don't Go' (possibly not quite as steaming as this one, but we had a go!) something of a highlight. Pete joined us on guitar for the whole show (he often gets up for a few numbers but as he's depping for me at a couple of upcoming shows so it was a good chance for him to run through the songs) and although I must admit that by the time our third set ended I was flagging a bit overall it was an enjoyable evening.

Saturday in the shop couldn't have been different to Friday, being quiet without a nosebleed in sight. Well it was quiet right up until the last hour when it went crazy. This always seems to happen when one or more of us has to get away - I think they call it Murphy's Law? Anyway BAR and The BBs (now that saves on typing!) we due to be playing down the road in Iver at 6 o'clock as part of a 'Summer Fun Day' event so I'd hoped to get away on time at 5pm - I eventually left around 5.15 (a good Who reference there - more about them in a minute) which made for a somewhat fraught journey to The Swan, although when I got there the bouncy castle was still in place where we were due to be playing (now that's a line that I didn't think I'd ever type!) meaning that we had more time than than we thought we had. Ah well - it's better than having less time than expected... with the bouncy castle packed away we set up on an area of AstroTurf (now that's another line that I didn't think I'd ever type!) in the pub garden and were playing within a half hour or so of our allotted time. We all agreed that we got a really good sound - not always the case outdoors so maybe it was the AstroTurf? - except for poor old Pete who's amp kept blowing fuses. Bah! With Al on great form up front, Terry and Dave working well on bass and drums and Chris sounding as superb as ever on keyboards we all agreed that it was an even better show than the night before - and it was an early finish too! I was home by 9.30, and with a long Sunday looming it would have been sensible for me to have an early night - so I of course went to The General Eliott in Uxbridge to catch rock covers band Large Portion. I got there just before the interval - Gary the guitarist came up to me with the words 'you always come along when we're trying a Who song for the first time'. Well I don't know about that but sadly 'Who Are You' went wrong in the middle, and Gary broke two strings in the second set. Not a good night for him, and the band sounded as though the heat had got to them a bit. Mind you, it was bloomin' hot in there!

Sunday morning saw your humble narrator wend his weary way (I definitely should have had an early night!) over to Soundlab Studios in Loughton for a Back To Zero rehearsal. We're gigging at The Borderline this coming Saturday (we're on at 6.40pm as part of the 'Summer In the City' all-dayer) and since we'd not played together since the two shows back in May we all wondered if one rehearsal would be enough to get things back on track, but things came together remarkably quickly (it's good when that happens!) and we made such good progress that we finished early (it's good when that happens too!) with us all looking forward to the show. 
From there it was off to Hoddesdon for the third Buicks gig of the weekend. (That saves on typing too!) When Al first told us that we had a gig at a Mexican restaurant that puts on rock 'n' roll bands every Sunday afternoon I for one wondered if the big man was in a bit of trouble, but Sally B's really is a Mexican restaurant that puts on rock 'n' roll bands every Sunday afternoon. Excellent! It's also got air conditioning which was certainly appreciated by the band if not the audience - that said it's been a while since I've started a show to an audience of one solitary onlooker, as everybody else was downstairs watching the Wimbledon Men's Final. I think he felt sorry for us... fortunately people started drifting upstairs during the first couple of songs, although they did ask for the tennis to be put on the upstairs television with the sound turned down. With the third set looking crucial we had a word with Ian the guv'nor and mutually decided that a break from live music was in order - 'it's the first time that I've ever played support to the tennis' said Terry the bass somewhat ruefully. I sat on the edge of the stage feeling tired and none too well. The box of tissues that I'd had with me throughout the three shows was looking a lot emptier than on Friday evening, but at least I'd not had another nosebleed... the next thing I knew Dave's bass drum woke me up. It was time for our second set - like I say, I should have had an early night. Still with the atmosphere suitably lightened by Andy Murray's victory the rest of our show went very well indeed, with a fair bit of dancing and Ian the guv'nor taking to the microphone to announce that in his opinion we were one of the best bands that they'd ever had playing there. A good afternoon's work. And yes, I went home and went to bed! Well, I was working in the shop the next day...

And on Monday evening I saw The Who at The Wembley Arena. I was optimistic that it would be a good show as I've seen them there on several occasions and the venue always seems to suit the band somehow, and I'm pleased to say that I wasn't disappointed - but first things first, as support came once again from the wonderful Vintage Trouble who played a barnstorming show to an increasingly appreciative audience. I can't help thinking that this band is going to be big. Very big. And rightly so, as they are brilliant both vocally and instrumentally, write great songs and have a dynamite stage act - you don't see many bands like that these days. I'll spare you a rant here about the state of the music business at this point and just say check them out as soon as you can. 
And then there was the 'Orrible 'Oo. With Pete Townshend resplendent in a white jacket and stripey t-shirt and Roger Daltery looking as mean as ever they tore through 'Quadrophenia' to give probably the best rendition of it that I've ever seen them play. Townshend was on particularly spiky form (witness his classic ad lib from 1.50 - 1.59 in 'I'm One' from the show) and played wonderfully as did the whole band - a classic Who gig from start to finish. As the man himself put it, 'it's not nostalgia, it's pre-history'. Indeed it is.

Then there was Tuesday and Wednesday as reported in the last posting (I've just about sobered up!) and today I was back in the shop. I've got a day off tomorrow. Good.

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