Three days and two gigs, it was almost like a proper band except the day in between saw all of us go to work rather than wreck our hotel rooms and sleep with groupies.
Both of the gigs were in venues that were new to us, something that always presents a few challenges in figuring out where and how to set up, where the plug points are and which bits of furniture we can move. I've got a feeling that these are details guys like the Foo Fighters don't have to worry about.
I bet Dave Grohl doesn't turn up at the venue and have to think about where he can park without getting a ticket. Hell, I bet he even has a bloke to help him unload the stuff from his car. I bet famous bands like that even get free drinks at a gig, maybe not spirits but beer and soft drinks at least.
So after we'd got through all this fussy stuff Thursday's gig turned out to be fun, but in a strange way. It was a fundraising thing for a childrens' charity and most of the people there were out to have a good and sociable night while raising money. This meant that our first set was mostly irrelevant, it was just background music while the audience chatted to each other, loosened up and generally got in the mood.
That was fine but it's always a bit demotivating to play to people who appear indifferent. Playing to a crowd that likes you, or even one that doesn't like you, at least gives an idea of where you are. When it's a bunch of people not reacting it's harder. After each song there'd be a few clapping hands, usually an even number of the things, something I though was uncannily weird.
When we got to our new extended bit in Molly's Chambers, something we've worked out carefully that involves me playing a rather funky sixteenth note snare and hi hat groove, no one really gave a flying fuck. I would have rolled my eyes if I hadn't been concentrating so hard on my other limbs at the time. Such is life.
By the time the second set came we'd got more attention from more people, but the gig finished with good reactions from most people and wild applause from a select few. It was hard work in every way you can imagine. The day had been a long one and then the performance was arduous but I find these type of gigs are best treated as positive and look at them as good practice, particularly with another one in two days' time.
Saturday came. In an unusual twist it fell bang in the middle of Friday and Sunday, again I tried not to read too much into it, but there are evidently forces at work. The venue was a rather rough looking and well known music pub in Central (in a slightly Westerly direction) London, another virgin venue, though from the looks of things that was the only thing vaguely virginal about it.
According to legend this pub has played host to such acts as Jeff Beck, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, the Chemical Brothers, Oasis and, wait for it, The Corrs. Even though once we turned up it was just like any other small pub, it's one of the brilliant things about playing in a band in London. I'm sure I'll never share a stage with those guys but at least I can say I've shared a stage with them!
While we were setting up there were a few groups of locals in the pub. One of them was a friendly but hard looking bunch of "youngsters" as my Mum would call them. There were a few women in this bunch and a few men. And a dog.
The dog unnerved me a little I must say. As I set up my drums, each time I hit a drum or a cymbal, the chap would start barking and straining at its leash. I wasn't keen on playing a gig in front of a dog that was only being prevented from attacking me by a thin piece of leather and an owner who looked likely to let go at any moment.
It was one of those bull terrier flavoured ones too, I don't know the exact brand and though small, this was no calm and harmless sausage dog. It might have been bred to hate drummers, Sri Lankans or both. I cared not, for it clearly hated me however it had arrived at the conclusion, and Chris Dhason or Shiraaz Nooramith weren't there to help me figure out the dog logic.
After set up I went for a pee. As I opened the door to gents I heard a bark and the little bastard was standing there, with its owner doing that laughing thing that dog owners do when their dog is about to maim someone. I know enough about not showing fear so cracked a joke and attempted to pee. It was then that I found a skill that I never knew I had; the ability to urinate quite normally while a scary dog sniffs around your ankles.
If this ever becomes an Olympic sport I reckon you'd be wise to put a few quid, or rupees, on me for the gold medal. I'm not sure how I'll cope with taller dogs, ones that may be able to actually do damage in that crown jewels area, but let's just say that everything flowed quite nicely while this fellow was there. It took a lot of willpower to resist the urge to pee on its head just a tiny bit too.
We got to our soundcheck part of the evening. Their were about ten people in the pub, a few scattered couples and the group that the dog was part of.
I counted in and we kicked off. The song was Don't Believe A Word, one that I love by a band I love; Thin Lizzy. Within about four bars of the intro, before the vocals had even started, there was a girl, one of the dog's group, standing at the railing just in front of us trying to get the attention of anyone in the band.
She was wearing pink tights, a mini skirt and those high heels that are all the rage over here, the ones that make even a fashion conscious and liberal bloke like me wonder how a girl can walk in them without falling over. Of course I'd never be able to tell her that unless I stood on a bus or something.
Her frantic handwaving looked as if something was urgent, so urgent that she couldn't wait until the end of the song. We stopped to see what the problem was and expected to hear about someone needing immediate medical attention or a car about to be towed away. Instead we got this
"Sorry to interrupt you, it sounds great. The thing is, it's my birthday today and I was wondering if you'd turn it down a bit so we can hear ourselves talk."
We were all stunned, we were all lost for words. What on earth do you say to a request like that?
There we were on a Saturday night at a pub in which we'd been booked to play a gig being asked to turn things down so a birthday girl could have a conversation. We didn't want to upset regulars and there was still the Sri Lankan drummer hating dog to consider but this was unbelievable.
We decided to ignore the request and started the song again at the same levels. It seemed the only viable option. The birthday girl said no more and I think we might have scared the dog, for it went quiet.
The pub filled up and once it got to the start time the atmosphere looked buzzing and promising. Things went well, then got better in the second set. C, our singer, started to get a bit moany about being too close to my left side crash cymbal, muttering things about not being able to hear, so obviously that spurred me on to play it more and louder, but otherwise all was good.
We had to drop Creep and Starlight from the second set because things were running late. I was a bit gutted about the second one as it's one of my favourites, but the rest felt and sounded good. By the time we'd finished, played an encore and got off stage even the birthday girl was asking for contact details and saying how much she'd enjoyed it. The dog was nowhere to be seen and I'm unsure if that was good or bad.
The crowd dispersed, we packed away and gratefully received the adulation and adoration, mostly from each other.
I drove home with a song or two in my head and a feeling of gratitude, gratitude for being in a band and gratitude for being able to do it in London.
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