Tonight’s Gig

I shouldn’t be writing this now. I should be concentrating on playing bass. But quite frankly, the guys are getting on with it and I can play the riff with one hand on open strings, so I’ve got the iPhone out and I’m blogging with the other hand. It’s slow but I can do it and it will give a unique ‘live’ feel to the blog. I’m in the corner with Mike drumming to my right. In front, Stuey is on guitar and vocals. No one can see me properly.

I may be interupted now and again if the key changes or we do a different bit in the song. I’ll let you know when.

There. Just did an improvised middle eight, walking the bass up to the octave. Cool, even if I say so myself.

So we turned up at the pub and the other band sharing the bill were starting their second set, late. The pub was pretty much empty. The weather, which turned nasty this evening… oh, wait, a tricky… stretch my fingers to get this run… there… where was I? The weather probably put a lot of people off. By the time we were ready to go on, the pub was actually empty.

Oh wait, end of song. Better look up at the rapturous applause. Yeah, thanks. Cool. I have to listen to what Stuart is saying to try and guess which song we’re playing next. I know I have a set list, but that only hints at what we might be doing… what? What did he say? In what key? ‘J’? My bass doesn’t go up to J. Excuse me, reader, I have to fake a song in the key of J. Only Stuey…

… well, that worked, just.

We could have cancelled the gig. I remember one fabulous weekend a few years ago when Stuey and I, as a duo, were booked to play a three gigs over the weekend. We were going through a busy period and this was the norm. We turned up at the first gig on the Friday night, in a pub in a holiday resort, to find used nappies under the table a drug deal going on in the corner and no one else in the pub. Wait…

… That was close. They decided to end that song early and if I hadn’t been paying attention, I’d be playing a solo now.

Anyway, the landlady told us that we wouldn’t be starting to play until about 10.30 as that was when all the resort staff would finish for the night, and they would be the audience. We decided the money wasn’t worth it and we didn’t like the dodgy surroundings, so we walked out. The following night we were due to play in a pub in Carmarthen. When we got there, there was a disco in full flow and the manager said we’d have to use the disco PA and none of our gear. There was no room to set up and no sign of the disco stopping, and it would have been rubbish to use that gear, which wasn’t up to it. So we walked out. We ended up in Llansteffan, eating chips on the sea front. The rock star lifestyle…

… here’s one I haven’t played before. Turn the volume down, smile, move my fingers around a bit. Nod my head in time with the bass drum…

On the Sunday, the gig was cancelled before we left the house. It was a welcome break in a period when we were playing a lot of gigs.We were dobled booked a few times when the Agent, who got a percentage of our take, failed to do his job properly. The rule for a doble booking was the first band to set up played, so we would race to a gig if we got a hint that there might be a problem.. tricky bit coming up… bom bom bommm… there… but double bookings were always frustrating.

Oh no. I missed what Stuey said. I don’t know what we’re playing. Again. I’ll jut see if I can work out what Stuey is playing. Nope. Oh dear. It sounds like ‘Teenage Kicks’. I’ll play that one. No one will notice. ‘Teenage kicks right through the night, alright. Da da da da dadadadaaaa!’ Yeah, Thanks,  awesome.

That’s the first set over with. It went quite well.

(This post was brought to you by the imagination of Franticsmurf. His conscience would like it to be known that tonight’s gig was cancelled due to lack of interest. Town was empty.)

No photos – below this are adverts that I don’t personally recommend.

That difficult third post

Bands always quote ‘the difficult third album’. The first album is the breakthrough product; it is a distillate of the songs the band has been writing and honing since it started. (I’m talking about proper bands here, not manufactured acts). They’ve had the filter of time and usually a number of live performances to weed out the weak stuff. The first album is quirky, it’s new and it defines the band. You buy/download/blag the album, listen to the tracks and decide whether you like it.

The second album tends to be the leftovers. The first album was a hit so the label wants more product, quickly, to ride the crest of the publicity wave. Maybe the band did Glastonbury or one of the other festivals. The second album can appear a bit weak or, if material has been written specially for it, disjointed.

If the band lasts until the third album, most people agree that it’s the hardest one to do. And that’s not a bad thing. Putting effort into the songs can create tension and tension can lead to some fantastic creativity. It can also destroy the band.

I’ve played in bands since the late 80’s. We started off thinking we were going to ‘make it’ and I’m not ashamed of that. After all, why start off thinking anything else? We had our own unique sound. For months it was a dissonant cacophony but it slowly came together until one venue owner described it as ‘post punk’. That was a little disappointing as we were all heavily influenced (so we thought) by 70’s rock. It was edgy (their word), complex (our word), loud (several venue owners comments) and progressive (we told the press). We played any gigs we could and some we shouldn’t have. We did back garden parties, charity gigs, last minute replacement gigs (we were the fourth emergency service for one Swansea venue), festivals and ‘battle of the bands’ competitions.   We even released an album and, more surprisingly, sold some copies.

Fame, fortune and stardom  wasn’t to be, though. We had personnel issues (we found it hard to keep bass players for some reason), some people were less enthusiastic than others and eventually, the band faded away.  It briefly resurfaced, in different forms, over a few years but it was never as popular and we were never as enthusiastic. Eventually, after the band was dead and buried, I started playing in a duo which quickly expanded to a trio and manifested itself in various guises (including a short lived 6 piece with female lead singer) over the years.

I enjoyed the 12 years or so I was with them. The only instrument I didn’t play was the drums. We had some fantastic laughs. I remember the whole band being in hysterics just before going on stage in one club for no real reason. We had wound ourselves up and someone suggested, for shock value, going on stage naked. We didn’t but the first three numbers were played with tears in our eyes and very shaky vocals.

We played a club in the Welsh valleys where the entertainment secretary complained that the previous weeks act, ‘Abbamania’ only played Abba songs. He was genuinely surprised at this. We played a holiday camp and went on immediately after the furry mascot (played by a very hung-over student) and our screaming audience consisted of 50 or so 5 year olds.

We endured the inevitable bingo, support acts that were better or worse than us, dodgy venues that we really didn’t want to be in and some fantastic venues that we wanted to be in more often. We played a last minute gig in a pub to a largely silent and well dressed crowd.

Suits and ties were the norm but there was no reaction from them after the songs despite lots of alcohol flowing. To end the first half, we tried to re-energise them by playing a full-on, heads down rocking version of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’.  Still no reaction. Which was understandable when the landlord told us we were playing at a wake.

I stopped when my mum was ill and I had to spend time looking after her. It was the right time to take a break because the late nights were taking their toll. I found I didn’t miss it as I expected I would. Other things took over and while I miss the camaraderie and the adventures, I don’t miss playing the same songs every night three or four times a week. I still play occasionally – special guest appearances (which sounds great but the reality – fumbling to remember a chord sequence I haven’t played for several years while trying to look cool – isn’t so good).

We never got as far as the difficult third album. I beat you, bands. I got the third post!

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