Welcome to another brief (eh?) installment from me; I know I'm breaking my own rule and posting more than once in a month, but someone's got to do it...
Thak you everyone who came down to West Kensington last weekend (especially the two girls who aren't on Bowlie and only knew us cos of our gig with Saturday Looks Good To Me; you are our first offical fans, I think!), your support was very much appreciated. Certainly the most bizarre gig I've ever played and I hope you liked it. For those of you that weren't there, allow me to elucidate...
There I was, at home on Thursday evening, watching The Simpsons when the phone rings. It's the promoter for West One Four with bad news- the venue's double booked on Saturday! We're going to have to move to Sunday night. Thankfully we had a rehearsal scheduled for Sunday night, so I knew it wouldn't be a problem. I called the rest of the band to tell them, and they were all agreeable (though the issue of 35 heads through the door became a moot point due to the change). So I phone the promoter back. Then he tells me it's still going to be on Saturday, but in the bar downstairs. Fine, I say, and phone everyone again. We're not pleased, but a gig's a gig.
Come Saturday, we trundle to West Kensington, eye up the area around the venue, along with the 'interested' looks from the local gangs and unload the gear as quick as possible. The barman tells us to close the stage door as people are prone to wandering in, picking up anything valuable-looking and wandering out again. Point taken before any gear does, the door gets closed.
We set up on stage for sound check. It's at this point we realise that a) the pub resembles a Wetherspoons in all aspects; comfy sofas, faux-wood decor, sports on the big telly, b) The 'stage' is in fact a raised non-smoking area with bannisters round it. and c) Dan, the enthusiastic soundman is hampered by the fact that he's had to cobble together the PA from a stray mixing desk and spare bits from the venue proper. And he's never worked here before. To his utter credit, he did a fantastic job, and I reckon with the right tools he's a magic bloke to have behind the desk. However, by this point, Sharon looks beyond the state of despair.
The other bands soon arrive, and it's obvious that due to the venue change, two of them (Black Cabs and Dialog in this case) have decided that they don't want to play. Hooray, we think, we're headlining. While we're soundchecking, the guitarist from Dead Monroe comes over and questions the situation, asking what we think about the poor choice of venue and the attendant deficiencies that a pub PA will bring. They don't seem happy, and after watching/ hearing us soundcheck, promptly walk out, claiming the PA can't handle their sound. A shame, cos I'd have liked to have seen em.
Then there were two. The only trouble is, this is a pub, and the Flaming Monkeys are all aged about 14. The bar manager tells them in no uncertain terms that she can't let them play in a pub. Ah. They (and their undoubtedly pushy father/ manager types) retreat to their people carrier (comlpete with tinted windows!) and sulk before driving off, no doubt muttering under their breath.
"Would you like to do two sets?" the promoter asks us. By this point, the mood in the Gresham Flyers camp is somewhere between confusion and hostility. We've hired amps, driven miles and set up. We don't have another gig for a fortnight, plus we've told people we're playing. We can't leave now. Okay, I say, we'll do two sets. Dan negotiates the entry fee down to four quid, but even that's a bit steep. I'd rather play to fifty non-paying punters than charge for a substandard night, and the way this has gone, it is indeed sub-standard.
Come 9pm, we get up on stage, and play a set. The assembled punters number somewhere around eight. It's nice to cut loose and have some fun, so the set is relaxed, but not so that we're taking the piss. We include our two top-secret cover versions, but drop a couple of songs just so we don't overdo it. The melodica gets its' stage debut on a couple of songs. A few more people come in, though the promoter turns away probably twice as many people cos they don't want to pay four quid. All told, a good but sloppy set.
The valiant Tim Silver of Fifteen Minutes comes to rescue and fills the slack space with a few choice tunes of his own, including one great song that I remember playing with him when we were in a band about three years ago. Up we go again. Sharon's had a bit to drink, but we pull out all the stops again and play the whole ten-song set. This time, we're on fire. I don't know how it sounded out front, but to me, that was the best we'd ever played the songs. We dedicated Cat Hits Car to Tim as it's his favourite and he did us a great favour.
The set ends as usual on an epic version of Pretty But Not Beautiful with an ending that seems to go on for ages- I've certainly run out of octaves by the time the end comes round. Nonetheless, we seem to have gone down well, and despite the sparse attendance, the reception is very enthusiastic. Thank you everyone!
But there's still one thing; it's 10.45pm. The licence for live music still has 75 minutes left! So, in a move of either great bravery or great stupidity, we decide to play some more. The fact that we've run out of songs is neither here nor there, as Waz the human jukebox simply shows us a few chords and we fall in behind him. Before you know it- BAM!- we're playing Sit Down by James. That ends and after a brief pause for Andrew to remember the guitar part, we're doing Echo Beach, which we haven't played for months- in fact, I think it was the first thing we ever played together. Needless to say, we forget bits of it. Our former sax player and original seventh member Jess is in the audience, but sadly neglected to bring her instrument along and I have to sing the sax solo. Badly.
Non-paying punters from the back room come in and sing along/ dance. One even requests something by The Jam (if only...).
Dan strolls off, claiming to have had enough. Andrew gets behind the kit and we plough on. Common People by Pulp and Transmission by Joy Division follow (despite not being familiar with either song, Andrew's drumming was still magnificent). Dan comes back to play keyboards on Transmission. Girls are dancing!! And not just ones we know!!
The soundman, having endured quite enough of this malarkey, tells us to make the next one the last one so he can get the last tube home. I struggle to remember how the bassline to Pump It Up goes (another early rehearsal room chestnut) so instead we somehow end up playing Another Brick In the Wall Pt 2 by Pink Floyd. Out of this comes a drum solo from Dan, a bass solo and band introductions, hotel house-band style. One last flourish and we're off.
And breathe out. We get off stage, collect our gear, and absorb the situation. The mood is generally positive- even Dan, the band's biggest in-house critic is happy with the spontaneous ending. A drunk lady tells us in a roundabout way that we'd be good enough to play Salsa music- a high compliment to these ears. Thinking that we've done well, we beam all the way to the car as we load the stuff in.
One particularly inebriated bloke stops Waz and points him out to a girl he's vailantly chatting up/ holding onto for support.
"See 'im? 'E's in the band!"
"Yes, I am." says Waz
"You were fucking shit, mate."
You can't please everyone.