Monday, 25 October 2010

A terrible gig, a lunatic pub, a man in a wig and a face full of grub.

As usual, it all started out so innocently. I had the weekend off and was going out for a few drinks with Georgie, Limburn and a few other close reprobates to belatedly celebrate her birthday. Then at two days notice I was asked to go and do a gig in Dunstable – the money was all right and it was an early finish so I figured I could be back in Hitchin for 10pm to get back to the original plan, albeit a couple of hours late. On the day I remembered however that it was also Small Paul’s “Phat” party at The George II in Luton. I’d heard about these legendary evenings and frankly didn’t want to miss out. This would, of course, involve Steve as his pub was in Luton and it would be churlish not to invite him along, so I did.

I got over to the venue in Dunstable nice and early for a sound check. On walking in it looked for al the world like everything  was wrong with it. There was loud dance music being played, a ridiculously high ceiling, three rows of forlorn-looking empty chairs facing a dauntingly high stage and a smattering of punters dotted around by the bar. The staff were incredibly friendly though and the atmosphere was really quite nice. The guitar worked (Always a relief with a nightclub PA), the other acts arrived and the smattering all obediently sat at the front when asked.

The show started and the compere was plunged into darkness as the techies struggled with the lighting rig. Unperturbed, he carried on in silhouette and after a while decided not to use the mic either. Whether this was a mistake or not remained to be seen, but he certainly struggled. The first act went on and he struggled as well. I was feeling for them but couldn’t help thinking that once I was on everything would be all right. In the break I heard a couple of women saying the last time they had been to see comedy was Freddie Starr live and alarm bells began to ring. This audience was possibly very mainstream and definitely not that bright. They weren’t horrible though. I think it’s too easy for performers to blame audiences if they don’t go well but I must stress that none of this was their fault – I really don’t think we were the right comedians for them, that’s all. Anyway, the compere didn’t do very much before me and then got my name wrong, no noise came out of my guitar until I realised I hadn’t plugged it in (the biggest laugh I got), the lights went on and off a bit and I played to near-silence for the duration of my act. It felt horrible but I kept smiling and took the gentle applause gratefully as I left. A little shell-shocked, I also didn’t appear to have done all my time. All in all, it was dreadful. I left, rapidly, with my tail planted firmly between my legs. I hot-footed over to Steve’s, lobbed a Guinness down me and we got a cab up to The George. That’s when it all got a bit odd.

Small Paul is a bit of a legend and famous locally for being able to shoehorn “Motherf**ker” into practically every sentence he utters. He also puts on the occasional party night, this one to celebrate his "birthday" (cherr, right) – oh and what a party it was...

...We got out of the cab to be confronted by the man himself who said simply “The band are in there and they smell blood, you motherf**ker”. This relates to a band I have unwittingly upset by not giving their podcast a bad review but being accused of it nonetheless. Steve and I entered, ordered Guinness and were confronted by a sprawling mess of a party that I will do my best to describe forthwith:

Another band were just finishing as we walked in, called “Queen Lizard” who fell apart gloriously as we began drinking with members leaving the stage, other people arriving and the lead singer/guitarist staying resolute and breaking into a number of impromptu numbers accompanied by a bloke with long hair in a shell suit (Who Steve thought was a woman) on single-bongo duty and a geezer with a didgeridoo. That these didn’t fit the brand of one-man hardcore thrash he was delivering is moot. The point is that they were brilliant. This guy is obviously a local legend and rightly so. I later discovered they were a muckabout side project called “Kunty Kuntish”. He broke into a long spiel about the familial issues and generational problems with serious drug abuse before revealing the song title he was introducing to be “My Grandma Is A Crack Whore”. The song itself was five seconnds of furious fret-noodling followed by a grunt. It was spectacular. They stayed on until he got bored and was replaced by heavy-metal karaoke which Small Paul got involved in...

...Russ (The DJ) looked vaguely embarrassed about and no-one else took a blind bit of notice about, quite frankly. Steve and I got involved in a conversation with Loopy (Russ’s wife) and a man with a hook in place of a hand kept getting in my way, which was a tad annoying. I switched to JD and diet coke when I became full of the black stuff and I don’t remember why we left but we did at some point anyway because we obviously had decided to go to a gay bar.

We hailed a cab to The California which is quite simply the most inappropriately-named public house I have ever seen. It’s in a really run down bit of Luton (And that’s saying something) and from the outside just looks like any other boozer. Inside is another matter. It is full of the friendliest, happiest gay people in Christendom and they are surrounded by palm trees, spangly backdrops and fun, Fun, FUN! It’s camp as Christmas and utterly hilarious. We always have a good laugh in there and it stays open very late. There’s always something that eventually makes me want to leave though and this time it was Steve drawing my attention to the most brutal-looking transvestite I have ever seen (At least he spotted this one). This guy had REALLY big arms. They were so big I’m tempted to slip into an American accent to do them justice.

Jeez man he was like Bluto from Popeye.

Small Paul would only have had one word to say.

Some guys really carry off cross-dressing well – my mate Simon for example, who is a far better looking bird than he is a fella and is really quite demure and more than a little stylish. This guy was (American accent again) like – three hundred pounds of 100%  beef in a goddam turquoise lycra cocktail dress. He was stood on a raised area toward the back of the bar and dwarfed everything around him with his massiveness.

(it wasn't this guy but you get the idea - this is a separate night in there and a photo I've nicked off their website, which is California Inn)

 I lobbed back my JD & diet (I was still on them – unusual as I normally transfer to red wine in The California for some reason) and ushered Steve out. Next stop – Jimmy’s Kebab shop just down the road as surely, the evening drew to a close.

No chance.

A pub across the road from Jimmy’s was still open. I have no idea what time it was. Obviously I demanded that we went in “For a quick one”. Steve initially said “No way – haven’t you heard of The Foresters Arms? It’s the roughest pub in Luton – it always kicks off in there”. Well I like a challenge. We went in and ordered Guinness. It was packed. Packed full of Luton’s hardest Irish. We were largely ignored however, I suspect because we were quite clearly not worth fighting. I got a bit of grief off a generously proportioned Irish lady but I couldn’t really understand what she was saying (her drunk mouth or my drunk ears?) and she gave up. Then Steve got surrounded by various people he had barred from various other establishments he has owned over the years but the man has a certain level of respect and they were all utterly charming with him. Apparently it all kicked off by the pool table but I had my back to it so just carried on drinking, oblivious.

When finally sated, we got to Jimmy’s and ordered kebabs for ourselves and Lisa – the poor girl Steve had left looking after his own pub while we went on our minor booze rampage. We got back to his alehouse (The Ashcroft Arms) at I-don’t-know-when, ate the kebabs (Well I think I wore more of mine than I consumed), had more Guinness, put on my “Hallowe’en A-Go-Go CD” and hit the shots with Lisa until Steve fell asleep on his own bar. Lisa and I then had a couple more drinks and giggled at him before finally retiring. I was woken up at 2.30pm the next day by my friend offering  dinner. I got them to phone Steve to ask him to make me a cup of tea (I normally just text him) and he had to send out one of his customers to buy milk so he could make it for me. He’s a good lad is our Steve. I on the other hand, am best summed up by Small Paul.



PS. This just in from Lisa (Three days after the event):

More of the shots were going over the bar than in the shot glasses!!! And considering we didn't like the chilli sambuca...we polished off half the bottle!!! Steve and I had a water fight in the bathroom, after he spat his toothpaste water at me...and then the funniest bit of the night!!! Remember the scene in the pub when Del Boy falls through the bar....well Steve was trying to get his trousers off...and due to his drunkeness, and inability to function normally....he fell out of the bedroom door and back into the hallway x

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