Thursday, June 27, 2013

No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones...

"It's like going to the pub with your mates" - that was our combined USP, mantra and mission statement. When I regularly ventured out with The Picturehouse Big Band (so named to disinguish it from Mr Wendell and Kilbey's acoustic duo, Picturehouse and partially in tribute to Thompy's live outfit around the time of Hand of Kindness) it really was the best play date ever. I got to hang out with some of my best friends, threw a few shapes, hit a few power chords and occasionally mugged shamelessly to a live audience while shaking a tambourine, playing my guitar behind my head or just doing my best impersonation of Toddler, erstwhile frontman of the first band I covered a great many of the songs in our set with. He had the moves like Jagger long before Maroon 5 ever came up with the concept. It certainly beat hanging out at home with a tennis racquet and a mirror and besides, with the headphones on you were always likely to be surprised by someone bringing up a cup of tea.

Everyone got to sing - even Gibbon, who switched between bass and keyboards, occasionally handing over the Precision copy to me when Kilbey wanted to play guitar and I wanted to do that Derek Smalls thing with one hand playing the root notes while the other punched the air (and on one occasion, accidentally, a waitress who'd got too close while I wasn't looking but still managed to impart the information that the buffet was ready).

I was out with Mr Wendell this week in a social capacity and we got to a-jawin' about what songs we could remember and whether, if someone dropped a hat, we could reasonably be expected to perform them. These days I have trouble remembering whether I've left the bath running, let alone how many bars there are in that rundown in Born to Run.

Some of you, very kindly, have bought the book - Do You Do Any Wings? - which I self published regarding these halcyon days but it occurred to me that very many of the folk enjoying ribald tales of Kiss t-shirts and mains power-cancelling noise monitors may not have had the opportunity to experience the PHBB, um, experience first hand. With the advent of Spotify however, we can go some way to bringing you up to speed. Simply scatter a small amount of wood glue on your carpet, let a nice pint of lager warm gently for a few hours before pouring it over your shoes, get a friend or neighbour to blow cigarette smoke in your ear for a while, click on the link, sit back, and enjoy the meat n' potatoes pub rock grandstanding that comprised the set list of the Picturehouse Big Band.

Don't look for us, we're not there any more.        

Do You Do Any Wings?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

“Blimey – at Glastonbury we just get an orange and a cup of tea!”

Regular correspondents will be well aware of my foray into stage management at last year’s Maverick Festival during which I successfully got a keyboard on and off stage without dropping it, asked if Alejandro Escovedo’s bass player could be turned down a bit, prevented Jason Ringenberg from being crushed by a tree  and introduced Amelia Curran as “…probably the best Canadian singer-songwriter in this room right now!” after I had fallen very slightly for her, a flame I maintain to this day despite the fact that she never writes, she never calls, she never phones.   
Due to my less than exacting schedule, ‘tween stage time wasn’t terribly trying, to be honest. I wandered around the festival site vaguely offering help to anyone who looked particularly stressed, and as a result at one point spent thirty minutes queuing for a latte for That Nice David Booth, who probably knows what a lighting truss is and why you shouldn’t plug the input/output parametric EQ through the reverse foldback loop while the PFL’s being deployed - mine was very much the Sergeant Wilson role in all of this which is why I was in the coffee tent and he was standing next to a man with a black t-shirt and a maglite. Nevertheless I have been invited back, in much the same way as I was invited back for the Orwell High School First XV when I was thirteen and a half, which is to say although not necessarily of any great use aside from making up the numbers, I am willing, available and have my own transport.
This year, having not broken anything or been photographed in a compromising position over by the Tipis by the gutter press I have been promoted to The Barn, which to all intents and purposes is the main stage for much of the weekend and from where I shall have dominion over such folk as Hallelulah Trails (I’ve met them, they’re lovely, and they do a great version of ‘Jackson’), Feral Mouth (Norfolk newgrass and not, as one might suspect, Grindcore) and one Leeroy Stagger, who I’m assuming wouldn’t be taking such an ambivalent approach to receiving an introduction along the lines of Amelia’s should I improvise in such fashion again.
Having been on the receiving end of some pretty injurious stage management myself over the years, I’m quietly confident of being able to respond politely but firmly to most of the ad hoc requests that are likely to come my way, all the while employing a Pirsigian approach to The Talent but being aware that however much the band in possession would like to maintain their presence on stage (musicians tend to be one of the few sub-group of employees to regard knocking off early with a disdainful curl of the lip and/or eyebrow) any over-runs necessarily impact on the next domino in the chain, and with eleven turns and ten minute changeovers being the norm then time becomes a valuable commodity, virtually to the point of being currency. I once watched Neil Innes tune up a twelve string guitar for fifteen minutes before going on at a festival (to be fair these were pre-electronic tuner days and Keith Allen was on stage at the time) and to tell you the truth I’m not looking forward to having to pull him off halfway through “I’m The Urban Spaceman”.
The Maverick Festival is at Easton Farm Park from the 5th – 7th July 2013.