"Jarvis once asked “Do you remember the first time?” and he could recall that “it was the worst time”. First gigs can be tragic and can scar musicians for life, making them opt for living room or selected audience performances to justify the presence of family members only.
Fortunately, this fate did not cross The Gresham Flyers’ path on Sunday at the Pleasure Unit, where they performed their first gig ever! The enthusiasm, the nerves and the thrill of a first gig were there and so was a big audience – well, yeah, it was their first gig, remember? – and the band did not disappoint.
Despite some initial sound problems, their set was very good and rather bold for a band who is just starting up. Surely many hours must have been spent rehearsing this sunshine pop bonanza set which was not limited to a classic combination of rhythm sections and guitars. “Shiftwork” was captivating and bouncy with a dominant keyboard feel, “Pretty but not Beautiful” had a joyous, graceful stream of xylophone which faded into the end of the song accompanied by jangle guitars, while “Student Nurse” flirted with some catchy funk overtones.
There is room for improvement, especially on the vocals side, but overall it was a good performance.
An audience of music lovers – not just relatives - can be devoted but also very critical. Seeing all those people cheering and tapping along, I can only say one thing: “mission accomplished, serge”."
We've been getting generally good feedback from the two songs we put on the website, which is quite heartening, (even more so for John, who wrote them, I guess). It's not been the sort of shrug-of-the-shoulders 'yeah, it's all right', nor the overly hyperactive 'Oh! Well done! You're brilliant!' sycophancy that is often just said to make the recipient feel better because the end result is garbage, but a nicely balanced view. Some people like Shiftwork, others prefer Pretty But Not Beautiful. We've had responses from people whose opinions we value; one who we thought would hate us really loved the songs. Another called it 'indie-by-numbers'. Fair enough, I've always said that it's impossible to please everyone and you shouldn't try. There's nothing worse than someone desperate to impress their audience rather than accept criticism and move on. I just think of the Alan Partridge 'I love wine' scene where he's squirming to get his job back.
Just as an aside, and for a bit of trivia, the lineup for both songs is essentially the same - John on guitar and lead vocals
Sharon on keyboards
Martin on rhythm guitar,
me on bass
Andrew on drums
Dan doing synth on Shiftwork and glockenspiel on Pretty But Not Beautiful
It's interesting that these two were put up, as these are Andrew's drumming songs; apart from one new one that I've got in the works, Dan plays the drums. It'd be nice to get some more songs done with Andrew on drums as their styles are very different (the difference reminds me of Levon Helm versus Richard Manuel in The Band) and it adds a lot of variety to our sound. It takes up a lot of time when we play live, swapping stuff round, but we're working on that... anyone know any jokes?
Thinking about it, our versatility is probably one of our strongest facets; musically we're pretty good, not technically perfect (I'd say Dan is the 'best' musician by dint of his drumming skills), but none of us have any aspirations to be Dave Gilmour or Rick Wakeman, apart from the capes. Even so, between us as a sextet, we have two drummers (plus two 'trainee' drummers), four contributing songwriters (though I'd prefer to have six!) five guitar players, five keyboard players, five potential singers, six percussionists and (now that Sharon has decided to give it a go on one song) six bassists. It's enough to make your head spin.
We had a potential festival gig in Cornwall this weekend supporting Hawkwind(!), but Andrew's on holiday and I'm not quite sure how well we'd go down without a naked lady onstage (no, Sharon won't do it). If you are in Cornwall go and see Syrus play. That's my brother's band. They're very good, but I don't think they've got a website. They're on just before the 'Wind.
Our next gig isn't until the 10th September in London. I have mixed feelings about this one, simply as it's going to be on a bill of four other bands who seem to have little in common with us. The promoters have a policy of booking audiences rather than bands, which is good as it makes for a large audience, and exposes you to other bands who might pique your interest, but makes for interesting running orders; we're on in the cushy middle slot, but the 'headliners' who are on at 11.30 are a group of 13 year old skate punks called The Flaming Monkeys. On the plus side, having seen Syrus play there, the stage is nice and large, the sound engineer is very very attentive and knows what he's doing. Plus the soundboard recording of the gig is excellent; a nice source for new sounds to tie us over until we record properly later this year.
If you fancy coming along, let us know. I'll try and get the flyer scanned and put up this week. Likewise if you want to send me birthday presents for tomorrow, let me know. ;)
, 10th August, Afroba,
I’m very pleased to have two relatively solid gigs under our belt now. We’ve done pretty well to get this together since January, and it’s always alarming to how quickly something like this can take over your social life – before you know it you are spending more time with other members of your group than anyone else! My personal recollection of the gigs so far is the usual mix of enjoyment/self-loathing/aspiration created by ourselves and the other bands on the bill. Frankly, I would have thought I’d have grown out of this by now, but it never seems to diminish. I have no doubt that Waz and Sharon will establish themselves as charismatic front ‘persons’, once they relax a bit and let their personalities come through. Here’s what we’ve achieved so far:
- Two gigs with four more dates already booked and some in
- A more than decent website (cheers
- Photo shoots and artistic collaborations with friends
- A full set of our own material
- Starting to carve out a sense of identity
- Our own pub (sort of…)
Realistically, we’ve reached a point where you could expect a small band to get, given a bit of time, but no further. Without wanting to bite off more than we can chew, I think it’s time to raise the bar… at least a foot! As I’ve discussed with
When you think of being a musician, being in a band or doing something creative in any sense I believe you are aiming to emote in the same way that you may have felt when you listen to a favourite record, experience an amazing art work or witness a thrilling sports game, in other words elated, joyous, moved etc. The distance between fulfilling this yearning and what impact you actually have on yourselves and others when you start out is, not to put too fine a point on it, vast.
It’s easy to convince yourself that this lofty ambition is unrealistic or beyond the pale. When I was younger and first started playing an instrument, I was probably more ambitious in respect to music (as I think is the case with many people) than I am now. Whether this was youthful naivety, cynicism that comes with maturity (!) or some sort of natural dulling (god forbid), I can only guess. I think I look at this band in an ostensibly less pretentious way, than I might have done if I was 18. I think now you don’t necessarily need to reach even a smallish audience in order to effect people. I’m happy to write music for myself and friends, rather than to play at winning a fan base or attracting artist and repertoire bods to gigs. If the band picks up pace maybe that sort of drive will return naturally, but I don’t think so. It occurs to me that I have far more intense personal moments listening to recorded music by myself than I do at live gigs; that’s what I aspire to.
That brings me neatly onto our intention to start recording some tracks for ‘public consumption’. Whilst the others in the band are eager to have a tangible product in their hands, I would rather wait and make sure we have something we are delighted with and will want to play at home because we genuinely love it. If we’re going to get it done this side of Christmas, I’ll probably have to compromise a fair bit on this, however.
One of the things which will take us away from being an easily ‘pigeon-hole-able’ indie pop act, which is what I see us as at the moment, is if we can make that most of the musical diversity within the group. There is an undoubted scope of taste within the group, so we can start mining that. I would get bored very easily if we remain too musically conservative. Please see the request for a tabla player below. Another useful feature of the group is the mixture of levels of experience (of being in bands/playing live), for some of the band the Pleasure Unit gig was their first experience of playing to an audience. I anticipate that this should keep the ideas fresh and enthusiasm levels up. A number of friends have suggested with could do with a bit more light and shade in the music they’ve heard, so we are planning to work on that.
The band currently has three song writers: Waz,
It may continue to be a challenge to swap instruments as we do in a live setting, but I love the idea of it. Sharing and learning from each other should be a major theme of the band. If I had my way I’d get the audience to join in the gig, but I suspect this might be a bit hippy-ish for the rest of the band’s taste…
Finally, from securing our gigs to the formation of the band in the first instance, we owe debt of thanks to the Bowlie website (www.bowlie.com). We’ve enjoyed a decent crowd for both the gigs we’ve played, and had valued support from other bands/people we know and like. Hats off to skipper,
Despite the success of our performance, however, the highlight of the night for me was seeing Saturday Looks Good To Me who were quite simply awesome. I hadn’t heard much of them before Monday night but they were truly brilliant. This made me realise that being in a band is also a great way to see some fantastic bands for free, which can’t be bad.
There are some great photo’s of the night on the HDIF website for your perusal:
And here are some secret bonus photo’s of The Gresham Flyers!!!
I'm extremely proud that Mark Hibbett from M.J.Hibbett and the Validators and Mark from the Lucksmiths liked us. People called Mark seem to like us, actually. Anyway, to have people I've bought albums by, which I've played endlessly in my bedroom, telling me they were impressed by my band has truly made my week. I can only hope next Monday's gig gets the same reaction.
So thanks to everyone who turned up, cheered, ensured that we got paid etc. By our reckoning it was a generally good performance with a few minor fuck-ups, and hopefully we've got more in the tanks. We have more tunes on the way, too. See some of you again at one of the next few gigs, hopefully.
It was a tense afternoon - with the soundcheck running late. But once I heard people applaud after our soundcheck, I knew we must be doing something right.
I had a great night, and I can't wait to do it all again. Thankfully that will be in less than a week's time (8th August, The Windmill, Brixton).
Thanks also to Wintergreen for arranging the gig, and our friend Ben who became a superstar DJ at short notice.