So the gig. Picture this. It’s 8pm, Friday 6th March. The first and only rehearsal. We haven’t seen each other for about a year. In a band context anyway. I’m clenched (and with good reason – not because I’ve just carried a four stone amplifier five hundred yards and then up a flight of stairs), but because the song that is currently filling the room and soiling my ears is one I don’t recognise. Did I get the wrong CD in the post? No, double checked that and was disappointed both times. Have they just maintained their old standard of playing and are proceding to butcher the classics in the style that has remained popular to them? Why not ask Churchill what he thinks.
I swear that the song that was very much unlike any contained on my disc and there was a brief de-clenching moment (but I think I got away with it – I blamed it on the barman) as I approached the stage that was to be the setting of the Most Unrehearsed Gig in the History of the Universe™.
The song they were reportedly playing was Brown Eyed Girl, which I’m sure you’ll have heard at some point. I know I’ve kicked the knob off the radio a couple of times when it’s come on and I’m sure you have too. As a music critic I would say – not a good effort. As a human being, however, I would gladly remove both my ears with a letter opener than listen to that rendition again. It wasn’t even as if you could out run the sound. It kind of traveled through things, bricks, lead – even the rather stout barmaid had trouble standing.
So after setting up my gear we proceded to inflict musical hell on my (and you’ve seen the pictures) dainty ears. The odd thing is we didn’t play a single song correctly from start to finish for a full four hours. At midnight, as I humbly began packing my things away in silence (for my ears had shut down at about 10.30pm), the band seemed remarkably upbeat about the whole thing. Now, I’m no expert on bands but I’m pretty sure that the Beatles didn’t practise Daydream Believer for a full day, not once getting it right, only for Ringo to remark (can’t do the impression on here) ‘sounding good lads, can’t wait for the gig in front of 50,000 paying fans, some of which may be armed’.
Of course this probably didn’t happen; firsly because Daydream Believer was performed by the Monkees and secondly; my point has got lost somewhere in the previous paragraph.
I left with an odd feeling that this probably wasn’t going to break any records. Except any with a picture of a fish on the front (our first live album) when I got home.
Stardate; Saturday March 7 (by the way, can’t stand sci-fi stuff, that’s the last reference to anything like that).
I don’t know if it was the promise of a Karaoke DJ or the whiff of birthday cake that drew the crowd but there was about 70 people in that room. There could have been more but they must have heard us the previous night.
We were to play through a list of seven songs with three extras if there was an encore. I wasn’t expecting to have the need to worry about knowing those three too well. Neither was the drummer.
We opened at the perculiar time of 9.40, made all the more tense by two of the band members having told me that the two of them had been practicing that afternoon and re-done the settings on the equipment that we had spent two hours perfecting the night before. As it is generally frowned upon to practice scales and tune up at stadium volume whilst someone is singing yet another version of I Will Survive in the Karaoke spotlight as a warm up to our performance, I plugged in and hoped for the best. Luckily someone I used to work with at the music shop, Reidy’s, was on hand to prevent the ‘musical pullover’ that had been so badly knitted that afternoon from unravelling all over the beer stained floor.
The first song was the only one I wanted to get right as it was the only one that I wanted to do. All Along the Watchtower. I played what I considered an excellent improvised solo and there was widdly bits and not a single bum note. Fantastic. Unfortunately there was six more songs to perform and I wasn’t going to be the main guy on those. Now, I’m no show off or big head or anything but I wasn’t totally confident in their abilities. Just the previous night they had demonstrated their inability to tune their guitars well, learn even the simplest lyrics (from their own CD handouts) or keep a basic chord progression going for a full verse. I remember the Farthings back in the old days. Haunting.
The rest of the gig went… OK. The audience wasn’t pleased with the song choices and I was well aware that was going to happen, as was the drummer. Seriously, Caroline, Sultans of Swing and Bad Moon Rising? The only things rising were the people standing up to go to the bar. You could visibly see their shoulders drop as I banged out the first few bars of Caroline. ‘Oh Crap’ they collectively seemed to say, glasses spinning on the tabletops as they fled for the exits.
Overall, I enjoyed the gig though. It was good to be back on the stage but not with those guys. Needless to say, I didn’t sign too many autographs that night. Although it is good to see that I can still get compliments for my playing and am still being told that I should have had a much more central role in the band as I was quite difficult to hit standing over in the corner of the stage. Excellent.
But as for this fish. I think it’s time it was battered and served with a little lemon. I don’t think I’ll be playing with these guys again. It’s official. Starting.. now.
This is actually an extract of an email I sent to a friend when she asked how my gig went. She was so lucky to have missed it.
We hadn’t seen each other for a good while and we had originally agreed not to play together as a band again as it wasn’t really fair on anyone who had to listen to it. Although we had done previous gigs in pubs this was surely an easy one – it’s not like we weren’t experienced. A pre-organised 50th birthday just couldn’t go wrong…
*Churchill is a cartoon dog in the UK used to advertise car insurance. His only words are ‘Oh yes’