It's Monday 9th October at 3.10pm and I've just got back from doing 4 gigs in a row. Here's what happened.
Thursday night we played at the graduation ball at R.A.F. Cranwell in Lincolnshire. I don't want to moan, but...
with hindsight it all started to go wrong from the moment we turned into Lighter Than Air Drive (really!!) and made our way into the Longcroft Room. As venues go it's probably the nearest thing I've seen to how I remember our old school assembly hall being- not a good sign, not least for sound quality. I missed the main discussion as I was loading gear in but there was an immediate problem over the show. They were expecting a 'party' set and a Blues Bros. show, we thought it was just B.B.'s. They were also expecting us to play until 1 a.m., something we knew nothing about. It was too late to ring the agency to clarify things so, as Pete put it, we had 2 choices- go home or stay and play. A tricky start; but there was more to come. After a soundcheck that could politely be described as 'difficult' (really echo-y and loud) we were shown to The Dakota Room, our base for the evening. There's 2 covered snooker tables which we're not allowed to touch, loads of comfy chairs which we're not allowed to sit on and, worst of all, no food or drink -we were told there would be. Things worsened when a plate of curly sandwiches were bought in by a man who said he was the manager of the place and who clearly hated us. Oh, and there were cabinets full of wine etc which a lady kept coming in and opening with cheery comments like 'I've counted these so don't try anything'.
With tension mounting there was only one thing for it- go and find the toilet. It turned out we had 2 to choose from- one in total darkness (a bit perilous!) or one with a big 'NOW WASH YOUR HANDS' sign but no sink. Oddly symbolic of the evening methinks.
By now were all starving hungry and it's time for action. Eventually we're told we can go and get some buffet but not to let anyone see us. So out we go and, you've guessed it , it's all been eaten or thrown away (how annoying is that?) except for the puddings. So my main meal of the day consisted of a piece of chocolate cake. Others weren't so lucky...
It's nearly time for our first set but not before a surreal moment when, on my way to the sink-less toilet, I hear the sound of music from one or the adjacent rooms with Squirrel emerging from it with a big grin on his face. He says something like 'you've got to see this' and so in I go, to be greeted by the sight of Michael & Pete doing a karaoke version of 'Waterloo Sunset' to an otherwise completely empty room. It was a lot stranger than it looks written down here I can tell you.
To the stage then and we play our 'party' set to- inevitably given how things have been going so far- a mixture of indifference and bemusement from what audience there is that's still sober enough to realise that there's something happening on the stage. No surprise there then. Halftime and there's fireworks and 'the reading of the scroll' (whatever that is) accompanied by much revelry and a bloke playing the bagpipes. As John was moved to remark- 'What's the definition of a gentleman? Someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but doesn't..' Then we're back on stage for our second set with Squirrel and me amusing ourselves before it started with a version of Bowie's 'Moonage Daydream' (I don't know why either) before we start 'Peter Gunn' to an empty hall- Pete played keyboards with Gary doing some very funny dancing outfront- before we play to a better response than we got for the first set. Well, that's if you think having some moron down the front waving Pete's microphone stand about when he's trying to sing 'better.' Eventually we finish and I realise it's the first show that I've played in ages where I haven't sweated at all. Enough said.
It's getting on for 4.45a.m. when we get back to John's where I'm staying for the next couple of nights. It's great to be in showbusiness.
Friday's show a lot different. For a start tonight Matthew we're going to be The X-Commitments. We've all been part of Dave Finnegan's Commitments (Dave played Mickah Wallace in the film) so this is 'Dave Finnegan's Commitments without Dave' with Pete & Michael joined by the excellent Tracy Graham on vocals (check out www.tracygraham.com and be amazed!). Gary's away at a wedding so Rick Dawson's depping on keys and the show's at the Priestfield Conference and Banqueting Room at Gillingham Football Club. We're there in good time (I particularly liked the sign next to the bell by the side door- 'please ring if you need assitance'- presumably not with spilling) and set-up and soundcheck goes excellently well and everyone's in a much better mood than the previous evening despite the bizarre news that there's been complaints about us to the agency. So- we're there for over 8 hours without even being offered a glass of water and they're complaining about us.
Mind you here we go again- there's 6 meals provided for us and the P.A. boys but 12 of us in all. We opt for the ever popular chip shop option and are just walking down there when I get a text message from my brother Terry. He's filming out in Tangiers (remember?). He's sorry he's not been in touch but he's been 'ill, really ill, thought it was the end but don't tell Dad, I don't want to worry him'. Eventually I got through to him- he went down to breakfast on Tuesday and suddenly he couldn't see and 'it felt like someone had put a knife in my stomach'. He's spent 2 days with a temperature of over a hundred but he's feeling a bit better now; 50 of them have gone down with it. Scary.
Back at the venue it's time for a drink in The Piano Bar with Rick, Michael and Squirrel. We're overlooking the pitch and there's a baby grand piano which Rick can't resist playing, to everyone's approval. And rightly so, he's a fine player.
And it's a fine show from us too, which more than makes up for the previous evening. We'd not done some of the songs for quite a while which made a nice change to the normal show with Tracy as great as ever and, astonishingly, John breaking and changing a snare skin during 'Mustang Sally'. Everyone goes home happy- which is just as well since we're up at 5a.m tomorrow to go to the airport...