Hello, my little damp squibs!
Anybody else been on the receiving end of Hurricane Bertha this weekend?
Well, things started off ordinarily enough for us – despite a “road closed” issue that stopped me just 200 yards from the gig, and led to a four-mile detour, I arrived just in time at the Live and Let Live in Frampton Cotterell’s Summer Fun Pub Day to catch the last number from the band playing under a tenty gazeboid thing in the garden. After making a few enquiries as to arrangements for using PAs, playing times, etc., it became apparent that nobody knew quite what was going on. So, once the incumbent band had packed up and cleared out, we hauled our kit in under the gazeboid, and set about setting up. Since we were quite close to home, and my youngest Jimi had been nagging for another gig (despite, apparently “still not having found a proper guitarist yet”), Dem brought the whole mob along so they could have a crack at it if there was time.
We dispensed with the notion of sound checking, instead using the tried and tested “We’re outdoors, so just turn everything up louder and lay the reverb on with a trowel” approach, which seemed to work rather well.
Certainly the punters seemed to like it, and by halfway through the first set, all was going well – Lou was particularly happy having been presented with a pint of cider, from the bar (even if it did make her miss her cue for the start of the song).
Having borrowed an industrial strength bubble machine from our pal Disco Dave, this seemed like a good day to try it out; because Lou has previously shown a delightful childlike joy in playing with bubbles, Ben and I decided not to tell her about it, and just set it up quietly at the side of the stage.
So, just as we entered a particularly jolly instrumental section, Ben hit the “Fire Bubbles” button, and the gentle breeze drew an impressive curtain of bubbles across the front of the stage, swirling around the stage and the front couple of rows of the audience. All the small children in the garden leaped up and started dancing around chasing bubbles merrily, and Lou’s little face broke into a huge beaming grin of radiant joy.
Ben and I were both grinning too, and our grins got even wider as we both noticed the large number of bubbles which were finding her precious free cider as a landing point. By the time she spotted it, there was a good half-inch head of soapy froth floating on top of her pint; and lo, it came to pass that a darkness came across her beauteous face, and mighty waxed her wrath; while Ben and I struggled to finish the song in fits of laughter.
We finished the first set without further major incident, and hauled up lovely talented daughter Lily (Note: – definitely not “diva” daughter; at least, not since she started reading these blogs); who did a couple of acoustic-y songs, before calling up Joe and Jimi for a belt through another handful of numbers, and then drafting in Ben (who is now an honorary Polar Bear Cheese Pirate From Outer Space) to sing on “Paranoid” as an encore. And mighty fine it all went down.
At this point it started to rain, and the waterproofing deficiencies of the gazeboid became apparent; I hastily moved the mixing desk from a small waterfall, but not quite in time to stop a short circuit tripping out the power. But, having a degree in electrical engineering and a complete disregard for health and safety, clever Alan knows what to do; I pulled apart the wettest-looking power connector, gave it a damned good shake and blew into the sockets to clear out any remaining water, and shouted at the barman to reset the breaker – hey presto, power is restored and nobody died.
Lou had been keen to try out some of her solo stuff, so – as by now it had become apparent that there weren’t any other bands going to turn up to play after us, we sat her down and she played a few of her own numbers with just her guitar and a cunning loopy pedal. And, I have to say, even though I never doubted her song writing abilities, she’s written some brilliant stuff there.
Just as she finished, the rain stopped being rain, and started being just a wall of water hurling down out of the sky. The punters ran for cover, while Matt the landlord, Ben and I set about trying to stuff the speakers under the drier bits of gazebo. Just as Matt is wrestling a speaker cab under cover, I spot and ominous bulge in the roof caused by pooling water, which starts to pour in through a hole over some live mains equipment. I grab the nearest suitable item, which turns out to one of Ben’s mum’s crutches (Thanks, Lyn!) to push up this part of the roof and spill the excess water off the edge.
This works a treat, and has the unfortunate side effect of emptying about two bucketful’s of ice cold water all over Matt as he struggles to save our kit.
He takes it rather well, actually.
We’re still supposed to play another set, but nobody is going to be fool enough to be out there in the deluge to listen to it, they have all retreated to the safety of the pub. Matt, shouting to be heard above the thunderous downpour, asks if we’d be prepared to haul the kit in and set up inside and play for “as long as you can, I’ve got loads of beer in that I need to get rid of. I’ll pay you extra”. Aha! Then the answer is Yes. (Actually it would have been yes anyway; for one thing, I feel bad that I drenched the poor guy, and for another, the day is turning out to be marvellously silly and I want to see what will happen next).
Somehow we manhandle the soggy kit in past all the steaming damp punters and manage to squeeze it into a corner and get it set up. No mean feat, as all the cables are wet and slippery with bubble fluid, and there isn’t room to swing a hamster, let alone a cat.
In a surprisingly short time, we’re ready to go, and start playing the second set; with everyone indoors, the pub is now rammed and merrily jumping around and singing along; a particular highlight was our rendition of “Sweet Home Frampton Cotterell” (where the skies are NOT blue), which – as far as I could tell – had EVERYBODY in the pub singing along.
The local lads are getting a bit cheeky – one of the offers Lou a shot of tequila in exchange for – well, actually I didn’t catch what particular act he wanted to her perform, but I can guess the general thrust of it – and rather to our surprise, she agrees.
“All right, then, you’re on!” she says, to our astonishment. “But you get me the shot first”.
With surprising rapidity she is handed a small glass containing what turns out to be tequila.
She bangs it down in one, and then smiles sweetly at her admirer.
“Actually”, she tells him, “I lied.” “But thanks, anyway. Next song, drummer…”
We are impressed. And she seemed so nice…
We play on until we can play no more- they are still asking for more encores, but poor Ben has been up since 4am, and can do no more. We point out that were actually booked for “two 45-minute sets with a 20-minute break”, and so, we stop, we collapse in a happy heap and, once the mob has died down somewhat, we wearily pack up and head off for home.
It occurs to me that I have to be up early in the morning, as Lily and I are supposed to be playing outdoors again, at a “domestic festival”. But that’s another story…
In the meantime – no band gigs next weekend, but Lily and I will be out on Saturday in wilds of Wiltshire – at the rather lovely Crown in Ludgershall. If you happen to find yourselves in that neck of the woods, come and find us.
You may need a boat to get there…