Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Who Was That Masked DJ?

What do the following have in common: a Bruce Springsteen-loving noodle bar, a 19th century gothic chapel, the battleground between two warring radio stations, a Victorian community centre and my mate's kitchen?
That’s right, its me.
Whilst Blunts and Sondek man the radio side of honkjazz I am limited to my performances on the wheels of steel by live music. I play the drumset in a couple of bands which are gigging or rehearsing quite regularly and this means that more often than not I have to miss out on the radio shows .
And there children, is the answer to my earlier conundrum, my puzzler, my quizzlet – they’re the first five gig venues that I’ve played with the latest project. What follows is part information, part memoir, part vitriol  and part advertisement. Infomemtriolisement!

Our first gig was in a local FM radio station. We had no bass player at this point and had only managed a few rehearsals with drums and guitar. The harmonium player had rehearsed with us for about half an hour before the show. We played three songs on a Sunday afternoon folk session and all of the other artists were middle-aged hippies with pot bellies covered by mystic t-shirts depicting a wolf standing near a waterfall with the silhouette of a native American in full headdress in the background. One played fiddly electric guitar through a digital delay pedal. Others played a sort of wishy-washy folk music which made me scratch my head and smoke another roll-up. We played three songs which dip their toes in folk, post-rock, etc.
I find it much more interesting than most bands that I've seen lately and certainly more interesting that the other offerings on this particular afternoon. I don't mean to sound like a music snob but it's prety clear that I am.
We'll discuss that in more detail later.
The next gig was at a noodle bar in Plymouth. I love noodles.
This was a new line-up again with bass guitar replacing the harmonium. It was quite odd playing to a room full of people who were trying to enjoy their noodle dinner and I'm not entirely sure that we were welcome in their lives. And I was really hungry all the way through the set.
After our last song (which is a delicate and haunting piece called ‘A Golden Fire’) the bar staff put their in-house music on which blasted out the hits of Bruce Springsteen at the volume that the hits of Bruce Springsteen truly deserve. Bruce volume or Brolume! (high five someone now)
Delicate and measured psych-folk he ain't. It didn't matter too much as the last of the diners had finished their food and scarpered into the Plymouth night a fair time before so it was left to us and our partners to look quizzically at each other and shout over the awesomeness of the rock saxophone solo and feel sad that we are not and never will be from the United States Of Americans.
(note - It’s a music music business Powerfact that whilst recording the guitar takes to ‘Born In The USA’ Bruce was also repairing barb-wire fences on his ranch and laying railroad tracks with a sixteen pound hammer, all at the same time - the big gandy dancer.)

Our next gig was a daytime affair at the amazing Union Chapel in Islington, London. Being asked to arrive at 9:45AM to soundcheck is an odd thing but the Union Chapel is without doubt the most stunning venue I’ve ever seen. It’s a working chapel, music venue, homeless shelter and art exhibition space which takes your breath away from the moment you see it. It gives it back when you buy a ticket which is a fair deal. The staff were ace and the onstage sound was very, very good. Just a beautiful space to witness music in whether playing or listening. We played pretty well despite heavy nerves and the crowd was good for an afternoon show, clapping when we finished each song and not shouting "YOU SUCK" at us. We then drove through London in a people carrier eating cheap dirty chicken just like U2. The chicken place must have bested the Colonel’s secret recipe as they’d named their shack Perfect Fried Chicken. There was a sign up that said we could like them on Facebook so I went home and didn't do that.
Instead we stopped off in Farnham to visit some friends and listened to an old man rant so furiously about Bob Harris that I remember thinking to myself, "if Bob Harris is found dead tomorrow then I can probably put this case to bed".

The next show that we played was in the venue part of another local radio station (clash of the titans). The setting was beautiful with candlelit tables and that but the crowd just didn’t show up. We played to about twenty people and we knew most of them anyways. But still had a great time and it was the best performance that we’d played until………………..

The show in Brighton! That was on Saturday just gone and was without doubt the best gig I’ve played. It was in a Victorian community centre and was a sit down, bring your own booze affair. Candlelit tables again.
The audience were fantastic, the support acts were both brilliant and we played a scorcher of a set. The soundman was an old friend of the band and was that most beautiful of creatures that is a creative tech. He was adding dub delays to vocals and snare drums, fading reverbs in and out and generally adding another dimension of ambience to our sound. It was also the first time we’d played with the full line-up and I’m pretty sure that we were super, awesome and also super-awesome. 

Thank you Brighton.

The last of our gigs was on Tuesday of this week and was in a kitchen.
We decided to gatecrash the Cornish House Gig Day. Gatecrashing something in your own house works right? Luckily the kitchen in question is a fair enough size to fit twenty or so people so after clearing the furniture away and putting up a black-blanket/fairy lights backdrop we set up the instruments and waited for the man with the barrel of ale to arrive. This was an utterly charming gig. The three acts played three songs each on rotation with some chatting, laughing and breaks to play old records and alter the dynamic of the night a bit. It was really lovely playing to familiar faces in a familiar room and being able to chat with the audience in between songs. It was just like doing a gig in someone’s kitchen.

So there you go. Hopefully you’ll not be so confused, upset and eventually bitter about the fact that there are three names on the radio show header but more often than not only two on the airwaves. If you really, really want to talk about this then you can either approach me at one of our upcoming gigs (you’ll have to pay to get in and will then have to watch us play so you may find yourself won over to the extent that you rush to the merch’ desk and buy copies of every CD and vinyl that we have for sale before touting us to all and sundry as the best thing in your bread bin like a giddy town cryer) or you can just evaluate your anger issues and speak to a close friend, relative or trained professional.
Either way, good luck.

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