Sunday, December 13, 2009

Friends reunited

2 good gigs from the ever-improving Youngblood this weekend- Friday at The Bell in Ruislip Gardens and Saturday at The Misty Moon in Bethnal Green. The Bell is a local gig for me and always had a bad reputation for violence 'though these days this thankfully seems to be a thing of the past. Terry (vocals) and Mick (drums) played there several times when they were in The Chevrons and they certainly seemed to have something of a following there which contributed to a rather boisterous evening which included some very well developed ladies showing off their dancing skills (I'll leave you to think about that one for a minute shall I?) and an extremely drunken lady telling us her life story in an attempt to get us to play 'Valerie'. We didn't know it (although we now know her life story!) so we didn't play it... The Misty Moon show was the better band performance but to a smaller audience (it's always that way round!) 'though it did include the 'very-drunk-man-in-a-bright-red-jacket-who-thinks-he-can-sing' (haven't had one of them for a while!) whose rendition of 'Ain't No Sunshine' had to be heard to be believed; we also had audience requests of 'The First Cut Is The Deepest' and 'All Shook Up', both of which we gamely tackled 'though I'm not sure we did them justice. Oh and Terry the bassman provided on of the evening's best moments by answering Mick's observation that his car needed washing with the brilliantly mad comment 'I never wash my car- so it never needs washing.' Hard to argue with that one don't you think...

On the other hand Thursday saw the next installment of the ongoing saga that is 'The Chicago Blues Brothers go to Switzerland', this time to play at The Durachpark in Schaffhausen at a corporate event for Unilever who have an office in town (although I remember Lever Brothers at Port Sunlight when I was a lad.) With Marc off in panto ('oh no he isn't' etc) and Ian still away with Ray Davies we had Chris depping once again on keyboards and my old mate Paul on drums. I first met Paul back in the mid-'90's, and got back in touch with him after I saw his unscheduled appearance with Spinal Tap earlier this year; when it became clear that we were going to need a drummer for this show it seemed a good idea to put him up for the job, and to this end we met up a couple of weeks ago to give him a DVD of our Hayes gig from a year or so ago (a bit risky since the show's changed a bit since then but it was the only one I had!) so that he could learn our material. (Rehearsals? Pah!) The long-suffering Shirley dropped us off at Heathrow at 7.15 a.m. (why does it always have to be so early?!?) where we checked in (I don't remember getting my return ticket at outbound check-in before?) then went through security to meet the rest of the troops in the departure lounge. A relatively uneventful flight was enlivened no end by us being able to watch take off and landing on the in flight televisions via a camera at the front of the aircraft. I'd not seen this before although I'm told it's quite commonplace these days- what will they think of next eh? The take off was... well, mad is a good word for it I think- you really get a feeling of the speed the aircraft reaches just before the horizon abruptly disappears from view, And the landing was extraordinary- as we descended through the clouds towards Zurich Airport a small reddish light appeared in the centre of the otherwise grey screen (so grey that I wasn't sure if it was switched on or not!) which gradually metamorphosed into the runway lights (Squirrel- 'well you wouldn't miss those would you?') They got larger and larger before they eventually filled the screen, an oddly comforting sight as we touched the ground. Sadly the return take off and landing went, for want of a better term, unbroadcast which was a shame since I'd liked to have seen the approach to Heathrow although since it was foggy we probably wouldn't have seen anything anyway. Oh well- there's always next time.
Once on the ground Squirrel and myself had a problem locating our guitars- having walked around for ages trying to find the outsize baggage section we eventually spotted them sitting next to belt 22 where the rest of the baggage from the flight had emerged. With everything (and indeed everybody) in one piece we met Marcel the driver and loaded everything into the minibus for the journey to the venue. Marcel had made up a CD to play on the journey as he thought we might like it- I'd just recognised 'Lawdy Mama' by Cream when half the band (possibly rather ungratefully) called for it to be turned off. The 40-odd minute journey passed in a bit of a daze from your humble narrator's point of view (the early start was beginning to catch up with me!) and we arrived at the venue to be met by Ronnie the promoter and CBB supremo Pete who had flown out the previous day to get everything sorted out for the show. The stage had a large image of Al Capone suspended behind the drums (why?!?) and petrol pumps and speed limit signs everywhere- soundcheck showed that Paul had certainly got the hang of the 'Midnight Medley' (4 songs for price of 1!) and 'River Deep, Mountain High', and with everything sounding good (including the excellent Fender Hot Rod Deville provided for me to play through) we went to the dressing room for some takeaway pizza (excellent!) and to draw up a plan for the rest of the day. Since we weren't needed at the gig until 8.30 we went to our hotel to check in (I'm sharing room 121 with Paul) and to catch up on some much needed sleep before all meeting at 6 p.m. for some food.
When we returned to the venue things were clearly in full swing, with an act that I think were called Beatz on stage- they're similar in concept to the 'Stomp' theatre show in that they hit lots of things very loudly, in this case to the bemusement of much of the audience, many of whom were dressed in 1930's style clothing (I'm not sure where the Blues Brothers fit into that but at least the Al Capone picture makes a bit more sense!) By the time we went on at 10.15 the free cocktails were clearly doing their job judging by the audience reaction which was a bit muted at first but seemed to get going as our set went on. Paul did a fine job- he's very self-critical but it's a hard show to walk into with no rehearsal and all agreed that he did a fine job. A quick encore of 'Jailhouse Rock' and 15 minutes after leaving the stage we were already on our way back to our hotel, one of the quickest post-gig getaways that I've ever been part of. Al Capone would have been proud of us!
Back at the hotel Paul and myself decide that even though it's late and it's been a long day there's still time for a drink (there's always time for a drink, or if there isn't there should be!) and so make our way to the downstairs bar which thankfully is still open. We reflected on our first show together for over 10 years, and Paul observed that his last live show was at Wembley Arena (the Spinal Tap gig) with the one before it at The Nag's Head in High Wycombe; we laughed at the fact that my next one was to be at a small pub in Ruislip less that 24 hours after the one that we'd just played and what a strange set of contrasts this job often throws out. Paul said how he doesn't get to play live anywhere near as much as he'd like (he teaches drums privately and in schools) and I reminded myself how lucky I am to be able to play as often as I do- although I didn't feel quite so lucky as I got up at 5 a.m. for the flight home...

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