Sunday, October 04, 2009

Down on the farm

The long-suffering Shirley and myself have just (just!) returned from a much needed break in sunny Dorset, hence the lack of blogging for nearly 2 weeks. It's been a fine few days, not least when we went into the Town Mill Cheese Mongers in Lyme Regis (I like cheese, ok?!?) where we were greeted with a comment about 'dead pigs noses'... I was wearing a Blockheads t-shirt, and it turns out that my new friend and cheese monger Justin 'did a bit of work' with Ian and co. back in the late 70's. Excellent!- and proof were it needed that Leigh's mad world of guitars never really closes, it just goes on holiday occasionally... but now it's back to Blighty and to work- 2 gigs this week with the mighty T.V. Smith (oh yes!- details are on his website) as well as rehearsing with The Flying Squad for an upcoming recording session and getting things together for a new venture with bassist and old mate Terry Peaker. Good job I've just had a holiday!

Last Saturday it was all the way up to Low Farm in Dewsbury for a Bootleg Blues Brothers playback gig at a wedding. I travelled up in a hired van with Big Tel and Dave who were P.A.-ing and D.J.-ing for the evening, with Big Tel doubling on sax during our performance. After a 3-and-a-bit hours journey up the M1 we arrived to find Pete (Jake) on hand to direct us to a parking space,and to tell us that Mike (Elwood) was sleeping off the effects of the previous night's festivities- they'd been to regular BB Matt's wedding in York- in the car. Good boy! I must say that when he emerged he certainly looked as though he'd had a good night...
There was a duo playing when we arrived, everything from 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' to 'Dueling Banjos' ('name any Beatles song and I'll give you a tenner if we can't play it' said the one without the hat; I thought of going for 'Revolution 9' or 'The Inner Light' but they seemed like nice enough chaps so I went for 'I'll Cry Instead'. They kept their tenner.) We're playing in a structure that's probably best described as a series of interlocking teepees (!) with the girls from Weddings and Wellies bringing food and drink through from an adjoining tent. As we're setting up it looks as though the bar's been open a bit too long for some people- one guy is shouting (he probably thought he was just talking) about how he's a 'party animal' (half right!) and how everyone else is 'boring' (or just bored by him perhaps?) except for him and his mates, they eventually get more drinks and go outside to watch the bride and groom having their pictures taken in a cart that's being pulled along by a tractor... it's around 5.30 when the first fight starts 'though it's more of a scuffle really, two girls shout and swear at each other as half-hearted attempts are made to hold them back and no one looks too concerned. By the time we've done a soundcheck there's been a more serious incident out in the nearby lane- I went out to get my stage clothes in from the van to see a large shaven-headed man throwing punches and insults at all and sundry, there are quite a few people involved but it ends with the man and his entourage roaring off down the lane, turning the area into a near-dustbowl in the process.
As it turned out I needn't have bothered bringing my clothes in as there was nowhere to get changed so we all ended up doing so in the back of the van. It's all glamour this showbusiness lark I can tell you... by the time we're on for our first set the atmosphere's better- Tel and myself struggled manfully with some unfamiliar songs from Pete and Mike's playback set, many of which stretch the Blues Brothers brief to near breaking point. I was particularly grateful for Big Tel's collection of percussion bits'n'pieces during 'Loco in Acapulco' (is there a worse song than this? I can't think of one- can you?) and there's a full dancefloor by the time we hand over to Dave for the interval. The Weddings and Wellies girls came out to dance to 'Love Shack' as the hog roast was unveiled (potatoes and coleslaw for me again then!) and everyone seems happy... suddenly the party animal from earlier is back, careering and lurching his way towards our equipment, Tel retrieves the microphones as Pete takes the saxophone of it's stand and I move my guitar out of harm's way- with nothing to amuse him there he grabs hold of a girl in a blue dress who'd been standing by the dancefloor and picks her up, he staggers around for a second or two until he looses his balance and she lands on her back with a thud, her head bouncing slightly as it hits the dancefloor. Pete is among the people who go to her aid as the party animal goes back to the bar, no doubt he's forgotten what he'd just done and is wondering what all the fuss is about? She's shaken but not stirred, asks Dave if he'll play a Girls Aloud song for her which she sings along while dancing rather unsteadily...
Our second set sees a perilously full dancefloor and the BB's brief abandoned totally- either that or I missed 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' in the films? (I certainly missed most of it on this occasion as the battery in my Bad Monkey pedal went as I trod on it at the start of the guitar solo and I spent the rest of the song trying to change it- I must remember to change these things more often!) Meanwhile the party animal is back near the bar, he's the one throwing punches around this time but picks the wrong guy and they both go outside followed by their respective followers and I wonder if I'm the only person who hopes that he gets what he deserves. (Yeah I know that's a nasty thing to say- but if ever someone deserved a black eye it's that fool.) Meanwhile our set ends with 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' after which we leave Dave to keep 'em dancing and go back out to the van to get changed. We're told it 'all went off'' out in the lane- don't these people care that it someone's wedding (presumably one of their friends) that they're ruining?

We're all packed up and on the road home not long after 1 o'clock; we stop at the Watford Gap services on the M1 for a coffee and to reflect on the finer points of the evening's work, it's recently been renovated and looks a lot different from the place I remember visiting as a youngster when my Dad used to drive us up to Merseyside to see our family. It had been a long haul but somehow we found the good points among the bad- then as we left there was a large rat on the ramp leading back down from the service station to the car park. It was definitely time for a holiday.

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