Venue: The Riverie at Buxton Mill
Location: Mill Street Norwich England NR10 5JS
Telephone: 01603 279332
Norwich NR10 5JS
Phone number is 01603 279332.
Tickets are a positively Japanese £45:00. For this, however, you get dinner, champagne and the JBC in full, hideous festive effect.
All the rooms at the hotel are booked now but it's possible that they might be able to suggest other accommodation in the area. Close personal friends of the band may be able to blag floor space with someone.
This bizarre event has not been advertised before, as the band thought it was a private party!!!
Max Eider, the man who got us into this pickle, writes:
"It is unquestionably an ill-conceived event, as was clear from the start: I suppose I was naive to think that we would be immune to the consequences. However, let's just have a larf: I think it has a lot of comic potential."
He knows a thing or two, that Eider...
Best festiff regards to one and all,
On the afternoon of 31st December 2001 I learn something that I didn't know before. Owen is explaining to Steve about today's JBC destination, Norfolk. The natives, he tells us, were only converted to Christianity in the 17th Century. To Steve, just off the plane from Downtown LA, this may be interesting cultural background. To me it is one more in a concatenation of signs that maybe this time the JBC have got themselves into something just a little bit too deep.
It all started a few weeks back when The Talented One suggested that we might care to do a show on New Year's Eve at a smart people's country house hotel in deepest Norfolk that had somehow fallen into the hands of an old school pal of his. A hefty fee was on the cards, with hotel rooms and all our worldly demands fulfilled. Unsurprisingly, this struck your correspondent as being one of those Good Ideas.
It also reminded me of a classic remark made by my good friend, George, a fifty year old shamanically-inclined Turkish aristocrat who has somehow managed to end up living over the fire station in Northampton NN1. During one of our habitual fireside conversations George had advised me that the citizens of Sheringham in Norfolk lived life in the "classic, old-fashioned and normal style." It struck me that George would love to spend his New Year's Eve in a Norfolk country house hotel.
Assuming, then, that we had lucked out getting booked by a load of mad rich rustics for their private New Year celebrations, the JBC said.
It was only just before Christmas that it was revealed to us that this show was actually open to the public and that we were allowed, nay encouraged, to advertise it. At the same time we discovered that tickets were a positively Japanese £45:00 a head and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they had not been selling that well. That big fat fee suddenly started to look a touch more theoretical. Nonetheless, by this stage we had all made our travel arrangements and booked some other UK shows besides, so we decided to go ahead with this mental scheme and have as many laughs as possible from the whole weird experience.
In which, the reader will be glad to hear, we were in no wise disappointed.
While the majority of the posse travel up from London by train, the hardcore rhythm section boys and gals drive with the equipment from NN1.
Steve is at the wheel, superb in his handling of the ubiquitous "roundabouts" that plague the English roads. I navigate and Lynda sits between us, trying to get a glimpse of the English countryside as it flashes by. Kathie, Owen and George are in the back with the kit. Arranged on a big pile of cushions they cope well with life as freight until, somewhere east of Newmarket, the sun goes down. Then they go very quiet.
About ten miles outside Norwich - perhaps twenty miles from our destination - there is a faintly desperate rapping on the wall that divides the freight from the front.
"Where are we?" cries an audibly anxious Owen.
I reassure him that we are not far from our target, and indeed soon we are pulling up in the snow-covered yard of an enormous old wooden mill perched over a river in a remote Norfolk backwater, which turns out, as fate would have it, to be only three or four miles from the place where in another life I recorded "Cult of the Basement" and "Condition Blue".
The freight is released gratefully from the back of the Transit and we all waddle into the hotel's smart and attractive bar to warm up.
We are greeted warmly and hospitably by the gentleman who booked us, but there is a detectable note of - shall we say - flakiness in the air. When the hard-bitten touring engine meets the well-intentioned but inexperienced amateur odd little things like securing one's room or a mat for the drum kit can become the source of unexpected dilemmas, which can lead to confusion, even frustration. Nonetheless, with the invaluable help of our support band, Tumbling Dice, we get everything sorted and zip through an encouraging soundcheck, which we complete just in time for dinner.
Our table is huge and round. Somebody remarks that it's all a bit Arthurian. "Yes," says Owen, "And I know who King Arthur is."
He is looking across the table directly at George.
A top dinner ensues. The hotel clearly has a fine chef and we dine on all manner of good things, including the quite possibly the best chips to be had outside of Belgium. As we finish up, the dining room begins to fill with wholesome-looking families gathered in their best togs for a festive blow-out. It occurs to me that this might be a good time for the scary musicians to make themselves scarce, so I leg it up to my room and set about devising a list of tunes for tonight's show.
It soon dawns on me that it would be stupid for me to try and assemble a set list without consultation with the rest of the band, so I find myself obliged to go looking for them back down in the dining room. As I arrive I find Steve, Lynda, Anne and Baerbel sitting at a beautifully set table with George and bottle of Champagne. It immediately becomes clear that it is George who has ordered the Champagne.
Max and I slip away for a moment and construct a set list, which, we imagine fondly, will cause all manner of consternation among the rest of the band. We are wrong. They all think it's fine, the mad bastards.
midnight Champagne, snogging and shouting break
Now, the sensitive reader will have noticed that we are talking about a New Year's Eve gig here, and it is fair to say that there was some considerable debate about whether the band should include the Twin Towers Of Misery And Despair ( Diamorphine and Sister Death ) in the set tonight.
This debate ended up with everyone in the band saying "Naaah".. fuck..
At about 10:00pm Tumbling Dice take the stage. A duo with backing tracks of their own devising, they play a brilliant party set of covers from the songbooks of The Beatles and The Stones, with tunes by The Kinks and The Small Faces thrown in for good measure. They even do a Status Quo number! During this last I catch Claire out doing That Seventies Dance: you know, the one with the hands on the hips and the weird rhythmic spastic twitching at the waist.
"I bet they still dance like that round here," I tell her. Then I turn around and see a local couple about ten feet away - doing exactly that!
While the dice are tumbling I also note that George, who generally never drinks, is well on his way. He is shaking his head to the sixties sounds like there is no tomorrow. I have never seen George rock so hard.
Our set list is planned to break for the midnight shenanigans. We refuse to learn "Auld Lang Syne" and we don't want to ruin people's New Year party, so we have resolved to stop awhile for kissing and shouting at the auspicious hour. This entails our starting at exactly 11:10pm. We finally make it onstage to start at 11:18pm, but no matter we have found a clock that can be seen from the stage, so we fondly imagine that we are in control.
As we take the stage I essay a short speech to explain to the few natives gathered what exactly the fuck is liable to be going on. As you probably know, the JBC only generally play in places where people want to see them. (It makes life so much more pleasant for band and punters alike, we feel.)
This is clearly not the case tonight, so I give a little spiel about how.. well, you know how all the bands say they're different.. well, we really are different because different.
Yeah, nice one, Pat.
From the first number it's clear that the improvised sound system and the under-rehearsed JBC are both working as well as they possibly could. Within a couple of tunes dancing has broken out. A couple of tunes later I look up to see George leaping two-footed into the air. A few songs down the road and Owen's floor tom-tom collapses on top of his pint, shattering the glass and scattering beer everywhere. He mends the drum, sorts out a new pint and puts it back down. A few minutes later the drum collapses again, with more shattered glass and squandered beer. But we are having fun.
We arrive at the first Tower Of Misery And Despair.
Diamorphine goes off like a big mental bomb.
We cruise through some pop songs and a particularly sociopathic Wheeler and make it to the midnight break without problems.
Champagne is opened. Hugs and kisses all round. Everybody has made it into 2002.
We pick up again some ten minutes down the road with a nicely paced Spacemen and reel on through the rest of our show. People, God bless them, are going mental. Not even Sister Death can stop them. (My excuse goes along the lines of: "Well, you can't have a dance without a waltz, boys and girls, now can you?" To my astonishment, I get away with it.)
We finish with a typically vile rendition of Zombie Love, then encore with Roadrunner. By the end of it I am barking like a big stupid dog.
Everyone is astoundingly kind about our show. While Tumbling Dice return to play a couple more top party tunes we chill the fuck out with bottles of Champagne and the rest. A top soul DJ takes over and the party goes on until about 4:00am, by which time, thoroughly mashed, Kathie, George and I retire to our room with one final bottle of Champagne and a bunch of Rizlas.
We awake the following day to beautiful winter sun on the river beneath our window. Somehow, for God is great, we have survived JBC Vietnam.
- 1. Mr. Odd
- 2. She's On Drugs
- 3. Sweet Jane (Lou Reed)
- 4. Who Loves You Now?
- 5. Come on, Marie
- 6. Diamorphine
- 7. Rain
- 8. Soul Happy Hour
- 9. Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present