Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Five alive

...and as predicted last time that was indeed a very busy few days :-

I arrived at the Air Serbia check-in at Heathrow Airport about 15 minutes early for our allotted meeting time of 11.30am on Friday morning. After meeting up with Dave, Segs and Nick (Molara was on her way) and checking in Segs and myself took our instruments to outsize baggage then joined Dave and Nick to go through security. Despite taking off my watch and emptying my pockets I still managed to set the alarm off - I was eventually allowed through after removing my shoes and standing in another (presumably more elaborate?) scanner. With a while to go until we were due to leave we got some food, after which I decided to look for an iPod in the duty free shops. I somehow managed to lose mine a while back and have been looking around for a new one ever since, I suppose I always hope to find a bargain but always end up thinking something like 'well, they're the same price as on Amazon so maybe I should just buy one from there?' Mind you, then I'd have nothing to do at airports...
Our flight was full, and got off to an entertaining start as the chap doing the safety announcements clearly had a rather dry sense of humour - 'In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure an oxygen mask will magically appear in front of you. When you have stopped screaming place it over your face'... he finished with 'if you have been listening to this announcement then I wish you a good flight, if you haven't then I wish you good luck' to the amusement of those who (presumably) had been listening.
We landed at Belgrade Airport just after 5 o'clock. I'd not been to Serbia before and so was hoping to see a bit of the country during our journey to our gig; since our driver chose to take the smaller (and therefore bumpier) roads to Novi Sad rather than the motorways we saw more of the countryside than we otherwise might have. Along the way we stopped at a shop (don't ask me where it was!) where Pardon crackers and Jalen beer was purchased, to the general approval of all concerned. On arriving at The Hotel Putnick (where I'm sharing room 415 with Nick) we met Igor the promoter and dropped some of our stuff off before walking around the corner (literally!) to the venue, a large open air stage in the town square. As Dave checked the drum kit over and I was shown the Marshall JCM 900 provided for my use 'Plan 9 Channel 7' by The Damned played over the PA system - a good sign for the evening ahead.
After eating in a nearby bar I walked back out into the town square - the first band were on and thousands - literally thousands - of people had arrived to watch the show. This was going to be good. I went back to the hotel to get changed and to write out some set lists - by the time I'd done that it was time for us to get set up. As I was plugging my pedal board in Segs asked me if I had a spare guitar lead ('I don't think mine is working') which fortunately I was able to give him; after what felt like only a few minutes we were on and into 'Whatever We Do'. My amp sounded great, in fact everything sounded great, and a potentially classic show is in prospect. It certainly had the makings of that - until during 'Something That I Said' when some worrying buzzing and crackling sounds started to come from Segs's side of the stage. We start 'Mighty Soldier' and everything seems to be ok - until the bass cuts out completely - Segs fiddles with his lead (my lead!) and it comes back on, goes off again... he's given another lead but the same thing happens so it must be the jack socket on his bass. Bugger! Can anyone lend us a bass please? After what felt like ages (but what according to Nick behind the sound desk was actually no time at all) a bass guitar is found - but it's a 5-string model, and Segs has never played one before. He introduces 'Jah War' and then realises that it's got one of the most prominent bass lines in the show - 'let's play it anyway' says he with a smile, and halfway through the first verse the guitar strap comes off and he just catches the instrument before it hits the ground. Oooo! By now we're running short of time so it's straight to the last two songs of the set - 'Staring At The Rude Boys' and 'Babylon's Burning' cause a near-riot and a breathless (and at one point bass-less!) 'Society' close our show. As we walk off some of the crowd are singing 'In A Rut' - oh well, that'll have to wait until next time... as Segs stands at the side of the stage ruefully eyeing his bass he looks at me and smiles - 'you have to laugh don't you?' Yes, I suppose that you do... Dave and Segs went off to do a television interview (The Ruts played in the-then Yugoslavia back in 1980 and there was a lot of interest in their return) while I took my guitar and pedals back to our hotel before joining the others for a drink. Before long liberal application of Lowenbrau along with a plum brandy called Slivovitz have easily banished any possible negative thoughts about our performance - and why not? It really was great to be able to come over to play, and while the technical difficulties made it a difficult gigs in some ways it was also a good one as the audience's reaction proved. Well, I enjoyed it!

Saturday began with (you've guessed it!) a headache. That Slivovitz is strong stuff... I managed to get a bit of breakfast (it finished at 10 o'clock, I got there just before they started clearing it all away) before going back to the room for a shower and (you've guessed it again!) going back to sleep. I did however remember to set an alarm, and so Nick and myself were downstairs in the lobby for our midday rendezvous with Igor who thanked us warmly for coming over and playing before putting us in a taxi to take us back to the airport which this time took a more direct route. Annoyingly our aircraft then sat on the tarmac for over an hour before eventually taking off at quarter past four - no wacky announcements this time, just the rather ominous prediction of turbulence throughout our journey. This fortunately proved to be mostly unfounded, although the pilot did say that he was expecting 'a bumpy landing' as we approached Heathrow - it could have been better, but it could have been a whole lot worse! No time to worry about that now though - my cab got me home for just before 7.30 and I had to be back out an hour-and-a-half later. Oh well - I guess that's why God gave us takeaway food...
I arrived in The West End just after 10 o'clock - it was raining but the streets were still crowded, and the walk from Tottenham Court Road station to The 12 Bar Club took longer than perhaps it should have. Then again, maybe I was flagging a bit? Either way I arrived just in time to catch the last song by The Legendary Groovymen before saying hello to Chris Pope's bass player Mic who was celebrating his birthday by playing with both Pope and a new band called (wait for it!) The London Sewage Company, who feature him and Ken the drummer from Pope alongside 12 Bar Club manager Mark a.k.a Barnet on vocals and their mate Pete and your humble narrator on guitars. Mark asked me if I'd be interested in doing the show the while back, and emailed me a few of the songs he and Mic had been working on - when I heard the first song 'Bridget' start with the line 'he's in love with a cross-dressing midget' (I bet you can guess what that line rhymes with!) I got on the phone straightaway to put myself up for the job. Well, wouldn't you have? We're on later but in the meantime Chris Pope and co. played a storming set in front of a very enthusiastic audience - the band seem to sound better and better each time I see them, which admittedly has been rather a lot recently! There's a while before we're due on - the place is very full, and with a couple of other birthdays in the house it looks like we should be in for a good debut gig. We kick off with 'Night Of A Thousand Beards' (this band really does have some very, er, 'interesting' lyrics!) and I realise that although the rest of them had rehearsed together the previous day I'd only had a brief run through with them a few weeks ago. Ah well, 'in for a penny' as the old saying goes... 30-odd minutes later we all agree that our debut had gone well - after all, we did get to play 'Bridget' twice which I think you'll agree constitutes a good gig by anyone's standards.

By the time Sunday afternoon's Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks gig at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook came around I was feeling tired. Very tired. I'd got in well after 4am and hadn't managed to sleep for anywhere near long enough, and as a result I personally don't think I played too well although nobody else seemed to think that there were any problems (or if they did then they didn't tell me!) The band had played a long show the night before and as a result were all on top form so maybe I was just feeling a bit 'left behind' or something? Anyway it had been a great weekend, which I managed to all-but-ruin for myself by going to The Three Wishes in Edgware for the first time in ages - I though it might have been good fun to go to the regular Monday jam night, but as has occasionally happened at these events there was more than one unpleasant moment of spitefulness from someone who really ought to know better. While I'm not going to let this sour a memorable few days, I really must get around to writing a piece about jam nights one day... 

No comments: