Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Smoke machines, friendly Croydon traffic wardens and a sad demise

On Friday I drove to Southampton to headline a brand new gig called Comedy Boom Boom at Archers Bar on the outskirts of the city in the middle of student land. I had a bad feeling about it from the start - new gigs are generally problematic and the hell of Friday afternoon/evening driving in The South East is not to be under estimated. I got to Rickmansworth to pick up fellow performer Paul Ricketts at 3pm, as arranged. Paul arrived at 3.30pm, as expected. We hit the M25 at 3.45pm on a Friday, as dreaded. There was no traffic and we arrived in Southampton around 5.30pm. These bare facts are in themselves astounding. The gig itself looked to be another example of a pudding being over-egged. There were professional cameramen, a sold-out audience that looked particularly non-student, TV screens everywhere and an hilariously massive Ibanez amp for my guitar. Our dressing room was (of course) a cupboard and the organiser (James) had additionally arranged  a backlit smoke machine in another cupboard for the acts to walk out of, "Stars In Their Eyes" style, which the compere and first two acts (including Paul) had turned down. James and Rob (The smoke machine operator) looked downcast at this as they had spent all afternoon rigging it up. I, like the excited child I am over such things, agreed whole-heartedly that I would absolutely love the opportunity to be introduced onstage from a cupboard full of backlit smoke and what a decision! The show went ridiculously well, all things considered and I was introduced with the instruction "Look over at that cupboard - it's Paul B. Edwards! Loud rock music began, the door was flung open, smoke billowed out and I emerged like some alien statesmen travelling through time to enthrall the Hampshire throngs. I did. It was great. The whole thing was filmed in Hi-Def and I'm hoping to have some clips soon. Paul asked for a lift back to London Bridge. I reluctantly agreed. It took us an hour and three quarters to get there, it took me three and a half hours to get home.

Burger & chips, guitar, two chicks by my knees - it was the dressing room of dreams...
Saturday saw me heading back to South London to compere a Christmas party at Jongleurs Croydon. Saturday early evening driving through London is normally a pleasure. It wasn't. I was expected at 8.15pm. I left at 5.15pm. I got there at 8.30pm. A ninety minute drive took over three hours. I queued up at Staples Corner, sat in a traffic jam down to Mill Hill, got in a queue at Archway and another at Kings Cross. It took me an hour and a half to get over the river, then I queued up to Elephant & Castle, all the way through Brixton and hit a massive jam on Streatham High Road. Finally, I got lost in Croydon until I stumbled upon the venue and parked hurriedly in a loading bay. A telling off awaited and a parking ticket loomed. I walked in to the packed venue to find they were going to be late starting, no-one minded me being a trifle tardy and the excellent bill looked ready for a great gig. The sound man checked my guitar in double-quick time and I remarked that he was the best I had ever dealt with.




The show started at about quarter past nine, the mic fed back terribly, the audience strained and winced in turn and I got the first act on. The whole of the first half was dogged by mic trouble and was, to say the least, a bit flat. The interval was great, though.

By the second half most of the audience were leathered and difficult to control. We did however, and the headliner worked his socks off to make a show of it. Despite everything, everyone, acts and audience alike, left satisfied and I returned to my car to find the windscreen blessedly ticket free. I drove home in an hour and a half....

...and who should be waiting on my doorstep when I got back than the little tomcat who shat behind my telly. Now I'm a soft touch with animals and he appears to have been abandoned by the former occupants of the downstairs flat so I let him in anyway. I put a fleece on a beanbag thinking it would be a perfect cat bed for the little fella. I also vowed to keep an all night vigil if necessary so he could have a proper sleep but at the first sign of potential stool arrival I could kick him out. He jumped straight on the makeshift cat bed and had a fit, chasing his tail, biting himself and jumping about like a Mogwai in the verge of Gremlinhood. I stared, panic stricken. Then he jumped off, calmly strolled over to my sofa and jumped onto four silk cushions, spread out and passed out. He is clearly very middle class.

There he remained until around 4.30am when the cover fell off the extractor fan in the kitchen, clattered on the floor and scared the bejesus out of the pair of us. He jumped up, ran round the back of the sofa and jumped on my head. Petrified, I jumped up, sending him flying. We both ran to the front door, I opened it and he ran out in a blind panic. As I closed it behind him he looked round, realising that he was out for the duration and he gave me a look that I can olny translate as "ohhhhhh..... B***ocks".

On Sunday I drove to Mansfield to go to the last night of its premier venue, The Town Mill, which has now closed, much to the chagrin of the local music-loving population. As a grand hoorah they had amassed an all-day gig featuring some of the area's best bands, most of which seem to feature the same guitar player, Ellis. I hadn't been able to track anyone down to stay with so had to book a B&B, the Clifton Hotel, a stone's throw from the gig but a lot further back in time than its surroundings. It was run by a fantastic guy who called me en route to check what I time I would be arriving as he was going out to dinner. I said "About quarter past five" and got there at quarter past five. He was waiting in the hallway bedecked in cravat and 70s lounge suit. He was great, He also said there was no rush for me to leave in the morning. We bade each other well and I went up to my single room. It was a double. Nice. It also had a terrific state of the art music system attached to the wall. Check out THIS bad boy:

Sadly, I didn't even have time to switch it on because I wanted to get to The Town Mill as quickly as possible. It was exactly what I wanted, more so in fact. An evening of old friends reminiscing to great music. Highlights were Flying Blind On A Rocket Cycle, Resistance 77...

Resistance 77 featuring the multi-banded Ellis in incredibly silly hat

...and throwing bottles at the back wall with the departing curator, Kev, at the end of the night (A tradition developed in a previous life). I went back to my friends Sam and April's house afterwards where we drank cherry brandy until she said "Oh f**k! I've just remembered! I've got work in the morning!". She tottered off to bed and Sam and I had one last smoke on his front porch. It had been emotional. I woke up at 7am the next morning (entirely ridiculous), watched telly until about 10am, had a cup of tea and went to finally say goodbye to my two former grandmas-in-law as I never got the chance when my wife and I split up four years ago. I'd built it up into quite a big deal over time and viewed it with a little trepidation. Would they welcome me, slap me, abuse me, ignore me, refuse to answer the door? I needn't have worried -  Neither of them were in.

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