Monday, June 19, 2017

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Obviously one doesn’t embark on these pursuits
purely for the kudos, the rewards or the shiny prizes that occasionally get handed out in pursuit of creativity and compassion but when, on the eighteenth of June 2017, I was actually awarded the World’s Best Dad trophy - by a jury of one - I was pleasantly surprised. Out of all of the Dads - me, officially the best! Admittedly it was in the form of a card, and slightly less monolithically impressive that one might have thought for such a prestigious accolade, but nonetheless a nice way to start the day off. In celebration, and in preparedness for the afternoon, there was no little nappage, for this dawn heralded not only Father’s Day but a resumption of hostilities for The Picturehouse Big Band, long after we thought we’d drawn stumps once and for all. We have been lured out of retirement by the promise of a chance to play at Portman Road (on the practise pitch – only the likes of Elton get to do the stadium proper) for our long time patrons and benefactors Ady and Karen, formerly of The Olive Leaf and The Milestone and currently curators-in-residence at The Dove Street Inn.
Rather than go through all that tiresome malarkey of hiring a rehearsal room and sweating it out on the streets of a runaway East Anglian dream, we thought we’d probably just set up in the courtyard at the pub and bash through the set to see how much of it we could remember, and so gathered we were on the hottest day of the year, sweating like an EDL member at a spelling bee*. We’d literally only parked the gear on the stage and there were already rivulets soaking the shirts on our backs.
"It’s open” sighed The Drummer. “We’re losing all the bottom end”.
“What do you want me to do – put the roof back on?” queried The Other Guitarist dryly.
“No – just turn the bass up”
"Ah, yeah, that would work…”

As it happened, great winding was done, and the oversized pub-umbrellas-on-steroids which make the Green Room at The Dove definitely-not-a-permanent-structure spread their pterosaur wings and sheltered our lobster-pink middle-aged** foreheads (and in one case torso) from the piercing glinty rays of The Day Star. The only problem now, of course, was that it grew increasing stuffy ‘neath the canvas carapace. Thankfully we all had separate microphones, so there was no need of that backing vocal buddy-buddiness so beloved of coves like Mick & Keith, which meant we could stay a respectable distance away from each other’s Dad shirts – already humming as they were like a backline of badly-earthed Marshalls.

Given the deleterious conditions, we survived intact, played all of the songs we should have done, and even attracted a few people in from their nearby gardens, where they had been enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon sojourn. “We’re looking for a band for our wedding” said one. “Do you do any Wings..?”   


*Thanks @zerojayz on the Twitter for that one.   

**Although, strictly speaking, this only works if I’m expected to live to be a hundred and three. The jury’s still out on that one.        

Monday, June 05, 2017

Art for Cure's sake.

I’ve played in an art gallery before. That time, one of our audience had rather over-enthusiastically pursued the pre-gig refreshments and as a result had been sick on the carpet next to where he was sitting. Having covered the offending result with his jacket until it was time to leave – we’d been warned about not creating a mess - if I recall correctly, he then put it back on and sauntered casually out. There seemed little likelihood of this sort of behaviour re-occurring in the genteel seaside ambience of the Garage Gallery in Aldeburgh, where by an odd set of diversions I had been contracted to play along with a friend-of-a-friend to accompany the launch of Art for Cure’s She - An inspired collection of paintings, sculpture, ceramics and prints, all about women. I had been promised fine wines, exotic nibbles and (quote) ‘minor celebrities’ and indeed the fizz flowed and the platters of oysters circulated, as did Clive Anderson. Since it was a Friday night and I was in Aldeburgh, I plumped for fish and chips for I felt it was not the time to break my “No oysters before the first set" rule, especially on a dep gig and certainly not after the unfortunate incident with the coconut chunks which so very nearly derailed the SftBH sound check that time.
Poppy, my employer for the evening, and I had spent every Thursday night for the previous six weeks working through her suggested set list – me trying to second guess the changes on a broadly unfamiliar selection of songs so I didn’t have to rely on crib notes and she reading lyrics off an iphone (which lead to the rather surreal incident where Siri tried to answer the question ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ mid-rehearsal) and we’d reached the point where, as we set the PA up in brilliant sunshine under a gazebo by the beach, we were feeling pretty good about our two-set ability to entertain the great and the good of the Suffolk art world. This was effectively our last night of the school play. There seemed to be a few people checking their phones and dire mutterings about weather warnings, but aren’t there always? No need to worry about it, I said. Always blow themselves out before they hit the coast these squalls, I promised. Probably go off down the river; I'd even reassured myself. It was during Belinda’s introductory speech that the storm hit. Great, vertical, inch-thick stair rods of thundering rain which quite drew the attention away from India Knight’s exhibition opening ribbon-cutting. Lovely woman, India, by the way. Vapes like a docker.
Having moved peremptorily into the nearest room, and with no end to the maelstrom in sight, the now slightly damp Pops and I re-struck the stage and embarked upon our performance to the accompaniment of conversational buzz and with a backdrop by Samantha Barnes. Obviously one likes to be the very fulcrum of attention whenever essaying one’s talent live, but it quickly became apparent that the level of appreciation I was receiving throughout our performance was less due to my almost zen employment of the fingerpicking nuances of Lindsey Buckingham (in this case ‘Landslide’ – many of the songs in the set were approved due to their agreeably four-chord nature) but more because people were checking the price tags on the prints behind us. “I’m sorry I’m getting so close” said one over the rim of her flute of pink champagne. “It’s just that I don’t have my glasses with me”. “In which case, I can assure you that I am terrifically good-looking” I bantered. “Oh, silly, I don’t need my readers to be able to tell that” she replied, raffishly. 

We finished up, high-fived ourselves at having started and ended all the songs at roughly the same time and in the same key, and looked out at the artist-customised deck chairs arrayed along the beach under a bruised slate-grey sky. The fund raising continued as we packed away. “Come on people" I heard someone say "Who wants to park themselves on a wet Maggi Hambling?”