Monday, April 21, 2014

Soho A Go-Go

It's Easter Monday and I've got a day off. It's feels like a while since I had one of those. Perhaps it is? In fact I'm beginning to wonder if I ever actually have a day off - after all, I'm sitting here now doing this blogging lark, then I've got songs to learn this afternoon... mind you, it's not exactly hard compared to some work is it? You know like digging holes for a living? Hmmm... I'm rambling... maybe I really do need a day off...

More about that another day - Wednesday evening saw a charity night at Q Vardis in Cowley organised by John Jenkins who used to run the Sunday jam nights at The Swan in Iver. Big Al, Pete and myself performed a few songs with the house band in an evening with saw a partial reunion of Meal Ticket (with Steve Simpson sounding as great as ever) and much more besides. A most enjoyable evening raised several hundred pounds for cancer research, which can only be a good thing if you think about it.

Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played The Sunningdale Lounge in (you've guessed it!) Sunningdale on Thursday followed by a gig at The King's Club on Canvey Island the following evening. The first show was a short notice affair confirmed only a few days before, and with Dave busy elsewhere Mac Poole once again depped on drums. I thought that we played well although maybe not quite up to the standard of recent shows, but everyone there seemed to love it, and Graham the guv'nor rebooked the band immediately. It's good when that happens! The next night saw the band venture into cabaret territory for the first time, with Joe Longthorne as the headline act. Chris (keyboards) and Terry (bass) were late and didn't arrive until our allotted stage time of 8pm - a frantic set-up meant that we were playing by 8.15. I wasn't sure if the band would work well in this sort of environment but as so often happens Al won the crowd over and the dance floor was all but full by the end of our first set. Al then did 20 minutes of comedy after which Joe Longthorne took to the stage. Singing over backing tracks he seemed to me to be a bit uncomfortable with proceedings, holding the microphone a long way from his face when he wasn't singing meaning that his between song patter was all but inaudible; this lead to quite a few complaints from people who couldn't hear what he was saying and I felt he lost the audience somewhat as a result. Very strange... still when we returned for our second set the dancing resumed almost immediately, and after Bill the compare had joined us for 'Kansas City' he sang several songs to bring the evening to a close. An interesting night - I've not done much cabaret! - which couldn't have been more different to the day and night that followed...

Record Store Day has been running since 2007 - it's held on the third Saturday in April and I believe it's pretty much a Worldwide event these days. In London festivities centre around Berwick Street in The West End, and this year an open air concert featuring Ruts D.C. among others was held on the junction of Berwick Street and D'Arblay Street. I arrived just as Edwyn Collins was beginning his set - with two acoustic guitarists either side of him he sat stage centre and got a good reaction from the rapidly-arriving crowd, with his closing song 'A Girl Like You' inciting smiles all round. Sadly I missed most of the Augustines set as Pablo (who was helping us with our equipment and generally co-ordinating our efforts on the day) and myself attempted to gain entry to Sister Ray Records where we were due to store our equipment until it was time for our show. The queue to get in stretched around the corner and they were operating a 'one out, one in' door policy as there were so many people about - we eventually managed to get Phil the boss to come to the door who let us in and showed us to the basement where we could leave our gear until showtime. By now a large crowd had gathered in anticipation of Adam Ant's appearance, and he certainly didn't disappoint them. Performing as a duo with his guitarist he played 'Get It On', 'No Fun' and 'Shakin' All Over' to the raucous approval of all concerned, as well as several old Adam & The Ants songs ('Never Trust A Man With Egg On His Face' sounded particularly good to me) and they left the stage to rapturous applauseSeptember Girls were up next, I saw a couple of songs before getting some food and meeting Segs at The Ship. From there we went to meet up with Dave at The Blue Posts where a green room was available for the bands; at 5.30 it was action stations with myself and Pablo retrieving our gear from Sister Ray, Nick making his way to the mixing desk and Segs, Dave and myself setting our gear up while DJ Andy Smith entertained the crowd with the help of some very good rock 'n' roll dancers on the front of the stage. As our 6pm stage time approached I looked out at the crowd - there were people everywhere. This was going to be brilliant. In my romantic (ok, over-romantic) way I mused on the area - The Marquee Club used to be just around the corner in Wardour Street, where everyone from Jimi Hendrix to The Who, Led Zeppelin to The Sex Pistols and indeed The Ruts played. They would all have walked along here, drank in The Ship and The Blue Posts - this was indeed going to be brilliant. And, my friends, I'm pleased to say that was indeed just that - brilliant. With Molara away elsewhere we'd mused long and loud on which songs would work best played as a three-piece but as we kicked off with 'Whatever We Do' I don't mind admitting that I had a moment of doubt - had we got it right? Thirty-odd minutes later and with deafening applause ringing in our ears we know - knew! - that we had. It was a great show, a real pleasure to play from start to finish. To use the same line that I used earlier, it's great when that happens... afterwards there are hands to shake, records for Dave and Segs to sign, photos to be in and more smiling faces that I can remember seeing for a very long time. We even signed a ten pound note for one person - strange but true. Great stuff!
After we'd but our gear back in the Sister Ray basement we all went to The Green Man for a drink or two - but the clock was ticking as we were due to go to The Hammersmith Odeon (or Apollo or whatever the hell it's called these days!) to see Adam And The Ants. Dave and co. left early, I hung on a while drinking and chatting - when I arrived at the venue the queue to get in seemed to go on forever. Surely they won't get everybody in before 9 o'clock? And sure enough they didn't - I walked through into the packed stalls just as 'Car Trouble' started and there were still a lot of very disgruntled people outside who would miss much of the 'Dirk Wears White Sox' section of the show. I thought the band sounded good (once again 'Never Trust A Man With Egg On His Face' was something of a highlight - I must really like that song!) and the old punks around me seemed to agree. As the feel of the show changed and they moved onto the later poppier material the old punks began finding their way out to the foyer bar rather than watching the show - and that of course included me or else I wouldn't know just how full the bar had become... still the closing number 'You're So Physical' sounded brilliant to my ears, and I have to say that Mr. Ant is a great performer - people are rarely as successful as he's been by accident are they?

And the weekend didn't end there for your humble narrator - after listening to Liverpool beat Norwich on the radio (yes, I'm that old!) I journeyed back up to The West End where in contrast to the sunshine of the previous day it was pouring with rain. I trudged down Berwick Street to Sister Ray - it couldn't have looked more different to how it looked the last time I was there. What a difference a day makes eh? I collected my guitar and effect pedals and walked the short distance to The 100 Club where Back To Zero were appearing at The Groovy Easter Eggtravaganza with The Sha La La's, Chris Pope and The Legendary Groovymen. I arrived to find the front doors locked - a call to Andy the drummer revealed that we had to get in through the backdoor in Berners Place. I arrived just in time to hear the last minute or so of The LGM's soundcheck 'You Need Wheels' - as I said hello to the rest of the band I realised that I was absolutely soaked. Bah! Still we set up and soundchecked in no time, after which Johnny Squirrel and myself walked down to Eat to, er, eat (!) before returning to the venue 15 minutes early for our half past six stage time. I'd not had chance to rehearse with the band (they'd got together without me on Wednesday evening) so I'd revised the material on my own, and despite the odd wrong turning I got through our set reasonably unscathed. Once again, it's good when that happens... and all the other bands played well too, making it a good night all round - but I'm feeling tired today. Maybe I really do need a day off? Happy Easter indeed.

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