Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fair exchange?

A fine gig last night, depping with The Ali Mac Band at The Drill in Worcester Park. Myself, Ali (vocals) and Bill (bass) managed a quick rehearsal without an unavailable Hud (drums) where we ran through the band's two sets- I'd depped with them before (click here for the story of a particularly eventful gig that I played with them last year) 'though this was the first time I was due to play with them for a whole evening rather than just playing a short set. The Drill might be a candidate for the 'scariest pub name ever' award (can you think of any genuine pub name that's scarier?!? Leave a comment if you can!) but it turned out to be a friendly place that's trying to get established as a live music venue and as such is well worth supporting methinks. (Hmm... I wonder who else I could play there with..?) There were a few dodgy moments not least during an unscheduled attempt at 'Sweet Home Alabama' (they've clearly heard a completely different version to the one I know!) but overall it was a great gig.

And it was an excellent jaunt up to Inverness on Wednesday where The Chicago Blues Brothers played a very enjoyable show at The Eden Court Theatre. As we (the A-Team with Chris depping for Ian on keyboards) amassed for breakfast at Luton Airport we speculated on what sort of flight awaited us given the almost biblical weather conditions that had befallen much of Scotland and the North of England over the previous few days. I was stopped by security as I'd forgotten to take the change out of my pockets- perhaps I'd been distracted by being asked to take my boots off, or maybe I was a bit nervous of the upcoming flight? In the event it could all have been a lot worse, especially considering the 'bumpy weather' warning issued by the captain as we began our decent; then again maybe the stunning rainbow visible over the water as we came in to land took our collective minds off the severity of the wind as we landed. Pete picked up the minibus and with Mike donning a hat that prompted Matt to dub him 'The Laird of Primark' we set off for the local Travelodge. We arrived to find only one room ready and with Tracy flagging (she'd flown in from South Africa the day before and was due to leave for Germany on Friday- other people's lives eh?) she opted to take the available room and see us at the theatre later.
We arrived at The Eden Court just after midday. As we pulled up we saw Phil loading in his P.A. in the pouring rain- he'd left the day before to drive up from Nottingham and 'couldn't believe' how far it was. As I headed into the venue with my guitar and bag I discovered to my dismay that my left boot was leaking- don't you just hate it when that happens? We're playing in The Empire Theatre which was soon to feature 'Jack and the Beanstalk' as it's Christmas pantomime (cue cries of 'oh no it isn't') and much of the scenery could be found backstage- I saw both Richard and Dave separately observing the giant's costume with a 'what mayhem could I create with this?' look on their faces- in the event neither of them did, at least not while I was around. With soundcheck not due until 5 o'clock there's plenty of time available to us- after lunch in the restaurant (10% off for performers- excellent!) most of the band opted to go to see 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' at the venue's cinema, but I rather wildly decided to brave the weather (it had stopped raining when I left!) and go for a walk. The River Ness looked to me to be a bit higher and faster flowing than perhaps it normally is, but I took the opportunity to catch up on a few phone calls as I walked alongside it- the rain didn't start again until I was nowhere near anything that even resembled shelter, but that always happens doesn't it? Well, it does to me!
Soundcheck went well with none of the monitor problems evident at the Dunstable gig (well, not to many of 'em anyway!) although I'm sure I heard Chris playing the chords to 'Killer Queen' at one point (never a good sign in my opinion!) and with the best part of 700 tickets sold the scene was set for a good night. The show's going well when I hear a whistle from the side of the stage to my right during 'Hold On, I'm Coming'- I go over to Pete who tells me that I'm too loud on stage and could I turn it down a bit. Bah! I must admit that I'd struggled a bit during the soundcheck as the amplifier that I'd been provided with (an excellent Fender Hot Rod Deville) was a bit powerful for the situation (it's a 60 Watt valve combo, I normally use a Blues Junior in theatres which is only 15 Watts but more than loud enough when put through the P.A. system) but I ended up with it turned down so low that I could hear the strings of my guitar louder than the amplified sound! Fortunately Phil put some guitar in my monitor so that I could hear what I was playing without it being too loud out front. (If you can't hear what you're playing it's easy to break strings by hitting them too hard!) It felt a bit like a waste of a fine amplifier, but it's the overall sound that's important don't you think? The show went very well indeed with many band members wishing we could have an audience like this one at every show- then it's a mad dash to the Jeera Indian Restaurant where Pete had booked a table for the band. I didn't have anything myself (I don't like eating late at night) but judging by various band members reaction (and by some of the online reviews!) that may have been a wise decision... back at the Travelodge Matt asks me if I fancy 'swapping that guitar of yours for some Stella Artois and having a drink' which sounded oddly appealing in a mad sort of way- I must have been tired! I'm sharing room 209 with Squirrel, there's no bed linen for the sofa bed so I go back downstairs for some- the night porter tells me that the rooms had all been booked as double rather than twin, and by the time I get back to the room to tell Squirrel he's already asleep. I don't blame him- it'd had been a long day.
Thursday dawned a lot brighter than Wednesday had ended. We got to the airport at 9.45 to check in for our 11.35 flight, and with few if any vegetarian options available at the cafe I went to Starbucks for a coffee. As I sat there I realised that I'd normally be sitting in Starbucks on Tottenham Court Road with Stuart the guitar repair man at 10 o'clock on a Thursday morning, a slightly surreal moment which hopefully made for an amusing text message to the man himself. Security's tight- my bag gets searched (nothing too embarrassing, honest!) with other band members also getting the once-over, and the flight home was thankfully uneventful despite the severity of the wind as we walked out to the aircraft. As I say, an excellent jaunt- and we're off to Switzerland next month! Hurrah!

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