Sunday, January 18, 2004

Assistant at the Spice of Life

Saturday night's gig was our best so far, by a long way. We all met up at Brighton station at about 4 o'clock, lugging our instruments behind us (with not too much difficulty, actually - me and Pete bought light gig-bags last week, and AS's laptop and controller keyboard combo are incomparably easier to transport than her old synth) and feeling slightly apprehensive about playing outside Brighton. The venue itself was surprisingly central; bang next to the Palace Theatre and its endless cycle of Les Mis in Cambridge Circus; kind of the epicentre of the West End. And when we arrived, the downstairs bar, where the gig would take place, was full of late afternoon and early-evening drinkers, and not ready for us to soundcheck.

We went upstairs and had a pint, and were joined by others (aside from the band, Vic and Sam travelled with us, closely followed by Andrew, Mark and Emma from Brighton and lots of people from London - my cousin Jess and her friend Tristan, Martin and Ali, lots of Anne-So's work colleagues, Chris, Stuart and Shanida - neither of whom I'd seen for years - an unexpected and lovely Matt, and even Rob, I think someone said, whom I haven't seen for years and still didn't, as he left early, if indeed he was there).

People noted before the soundcheck that I looked nervous, but I wasn't at all - just impatient to do the soundcheck; in the past I've always felt completely calm after that; but beforehand full of kind of unfocused energy. I want to get going. By the time we did soundcheck, the venue was filling up and - frankly - I was in a bit of a flap. Soundchecking in front of people is odd, not least because you can't get it out of your head that they'll be sitting there thinking 'this is the real thing', not realising that it's not deliberate the way the mics don't work, or the songs cut mysteriously mid-song. Connecting up the laptop was a bit difficult at first, but we got there OK, and it sounded lovely through the PA. By the time we'd half done a couple of songs and got the better of the set-up, we had about twenty minutes 'til we went on.

By this time the place was disconcertingly full, and people started saying things about punters being turned away. The main section in front of the stage was full of milling customers and the bar was busy too. The sheer number of people meant that first-band-on-trauma-no.-1 (audience standing so far back from the stage that they are mere glints in the distance) was necessarily avoided. We started with It's Alright and I CAN'T REMEMBER ANYTHING. Not then - now, I mean.

I think I got the opening chords right - the solo went alright - it all seemed to be going alright. We waited for it to fall apart; it didn't. In fact, it went really really well - and it just kept on going well. You Should Know was great; by this time I had settled in and started picking out people in the crowd, and noticing that people really seemed to be enjoying it. The sound on stage was excellent for once, although Andy later said he couldn't hear much bass (although I could, standing a bit further ahead of him), and - buoyed - I found myself moving about unselfconsciously (perhaps for the first time), although the suspicion hangs that I just bobbed up and down like one of those sad, mad polar bears in London Zoo.

Sorry, unpleasant imagery, not quite sure where that came from.

The song closed to cheers, clapping, people enjoying themselves. We went into Easy to Leave and started to hit our stride, although I felt my voice wobbling on the held notes; ah well. The song has a groovy buoyancy. I got to the ending and missed a few notes on the outro. Ha ha. No-one Need Ever Know came next, sounding kinda full and breezy - we sound like a band. Pete's guitar cuts out a bit and I play the verse right through the chorus. Hurrah - no one seems to notice! It doesn't matter. Vine to Vine is the best song yet - AS on lead vocals, me out on the side and singing along so loud I suspect I'm just about audible off-mic. By the time we get to the end we're getting a really good reception and I'm really hot, really full of energy, really enjoying myself. And excited at the fact that we've saved the best song to last. Engines and Anvils sounds incredible, Andy's 303 and Pete's guitar swirling around the room; it sounds vicious. Now I'm suffering from serious delusions of grandeur and milking the applause at the end. Oh dear - I'm sure I look like a fool. A happy one, though. I get drunk.

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