Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reflections On A Gig

Sunday afternoon was filled with gig. A nice relaxed gig at a VW festival, one of those things where people bring along their Beetles and Camper vans, in fact anything with a VW badge. It's the second year that Mimosa have been one of the featured bands and this year's event was sunny, warm and throughly enjoyable, a contrast to last year which was still enjoyable but grey and rainy.

It was an open air do, with cars and people, stalls and steeples, all mixing in the grounds of a big sort of manor house. There weren't actually any steeples, not even any churches, but I added it in for poetic effect. Cars and people were in plentiful supply though. If only I could have thought of another word that rhymed with people, something like Beetle would have been perfect. Damn!

We were set up at the back of the manor house. It's a bit hard to describe but we were in a kind of verandah area facing the gardens and grounds with our backs to the house. Me and my drumkit were in an alcove of sorts, my back to a big set of glass doors, behind the doors was the inside seating area in the bar, full of leather sofas and cosy surroundings. People could have sat or stood comfortably inside that area and watched us play, albeit from behind.

After a bit of an altercation with the DJ we kicked off. It's quite normal, in fact it's almost de rigeur, that when there's a combination of DJ and band there'll be some form of argument, or at the very least a bit of friction, between the two. It's understandable. We've got talent and ability and the average DJ just has a couple of decks and some records and thinks he, or she, is some kind of musician.

This argument involved the DJ shouting something at us and walking off in a huff. He failed to grasp the complicated concept that an eight piece band has to tune its instruments and do a semblance of a soundcheck before it plays the first song. It was a tad unfortunate as an eight piece band is also a little bit loud when it warms up, but it has to be done. As the mature and sensible bloke that I am I went over to try and pacify the fellow but he was well and truly in the middle of throwing all his toys out of his pram.

Still, we started our set. There were supposed to be four bands playing on the day but two had pulled out, so we were one of the remaining two. This meant there was a bit of set extending and some reshuffling to be done as we were asked to play for about an hour and a half instead of the original hour.

It was a lovely relaxed and mellow atmosphere. I've played gigs where it's too laid back, festival type things when people have been milling around so much that it's demotivating. That's when a DJ can be useful. This time there was a pleasant balance between people watching and listening to us and people strolling around, enjoying the sunshine and having a good time.

About two or three songs into the first set I glanced to my right, towards the bassist and G, the percussionist. I caught a glimpse of several people behind me in the bar area going a bit mental. There was some serious dancing going on inside the room on the other side of the window. The next time I glanced I saw, kind of in my peripheral vision, that they were still at it and that there was a chap air drumming too.

Surreptitious glances during the rest of the set confirmed my suspicions, though they were nice suspicions, not ones like Miss Marple would have about the vicar's wife and the Colonel. Mine were motivational ones and they made me smile and feel good, they weren't caused by the vicar's wife though.

Air musicians are a phenomenon that both puzzle and amuse me. They only ever play one of two instruments; drums or guitar. You never see an air keyboardist or an air bassist do you? Occasionally you'll see an air guitarist who plays air bass but that's normally because he doesn't know the difference. Over the years I've been lucky enough to play for several air drummers at gigs. Some have looked good, hitting cymbals when I have, flailing round the toms when I have and generally playing along and looking impressive.

Others have been poor, hitting things randomly and only being vaguely in time with me. There's one thing that they have in common; the clear and obvious fact that they are not real musicians. They may well be DJs, but they're not musicians. We wouldn't that kind of thing to another musician, it would embarrass us and them. It's only wannabe musos who play air instruments.

But, as the gig progressed I realised that the air drummer was a competent sort of player. He certainly wasn't a total idiot, not up to the level of a Sri Lankan newspaper editor, but he showed a certain level of knowledge and competence. There were moments when he played the wrong thing totally but most of the time he kept up with me. Fair play to him I thought, there's nothing better than an enthusiastic fan. He certainly fired me up a bit and made it just that little bit more enjoyable.

The end of the set came and I turned round fully to give a rock star wave and a smile to my air drumming fan. I wanted to thank him for the support and the energy and there was always the chance that he was a cute blonde girl.

I pivotted fully and looked at him. He looked at me and there was a familiar look in his face. Sort of puzzled recognition with a hint of disappointment. I turned back round and tried to look nonchalent, thinking it was the best way to behave, that no one had caught me.

The air drummer was my reflection. That's what big glass windows do to a fellow's vision. The people I had thought were dancing were the reflections of the rest of the band.

"Bollocks." I thought to myself quietly.

Keep it to yourself though.


sach said...

haha that's so funny. oh and the poet is an air guitarist and I'm an air drummer (who has no idea what she's doing). just realized we must be quite a sight at gigs :D

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

You must look like the odd couple, or the White Sripes!