Venue: The Plume of Feathers
Event: Secret Government Mash-Up
Location: Weedon, Northants England
He's got a point. We aren't really the kind of thing that you see in village pubs a great deal. Yes, we do the odd cover version, but no, it's not Status Quo or Travis. We're also kind of loud. Despite the fact that we've been invited there to play for Guy Fletcher's long-awaited birthday knees-up, there is a detectable whiff of "Is that all you do?" on the breeze with this one.
For the first time in ages we arrive at the gig in the dark. E-Man having thoroughly explored the entire region, I finally persuade him to drive us into Weedon village itself, where we soon spy a small traffic congestion scenario as the other memers of the band load their kit into an attractive, flower-bedecked country pub. Not the sort of place we usually play. At all. I slip in through the door to discover that the pub is (a) really rather tiny, and (b) extremely loud. This is down to a pack of young village lads, average age about 19 (don't it make you sick, American readers?), who are already blind, screaming drunk at 6:30pm. As I struggle my amp into position on a skittles table I console myself with the thought that, by the time we go on, all these boys will be lying quietly in a coma somewhere.
With a great deal of help from Mister Fletcher we get ourselves installed and wired up in a tiny space at the end of the bar.
With the lads still howling all around us, we launch into a version of Hippy Shit for a sound check. We arrive at a reasonale balance and stop. There is a misguided smattering of applause. Then we watch, astonished, as all the drunk boys file quietly past us and out of the pub. One or two are shaking slightly. One or two say things like "Really good, lads. See you later." Stevie G fixes me with a satisfied beam and declares "Wel, THEY won't be back..."
It's round about now that the Hull City Ultras appear, 15 quid the lighter from their scenic taxi ride with a driver who took the time out to tell them "That Jazz Butcher - good little band." There, readers, but for the grace of God and a pathological inability to work a steering wheel, goes your correspondent. I don't spot any Brazilians, though. With everything in order, we sink a beer and stroll over to Mister Fletcher's house across the street, where hot food awaits.
MC Bot and I go careering into Mister Fletcher's rather lovely little cottage, bellowing in laughable Welsh accents about the decor. Stevie G's pal Maxine remains convinced that we are both Welsh. Next we are going to tell people that E-Man is Norwegian, Misery is Scottish and Agent Wilson was born in a boxcar on the Santa Fe railroad. Stevie G himself, of course, really is from Argentina. Mister Fletcher, being a pro musician himself, has thoughtfully laid on a top spread, which is gratefully mauled by the assembled. Then there is frantic rolling and smoking prior to our return to the pub and the Moment of Truth.
The bar is heaving. It's Friday night anyway, Guy's pals have all come out for his party, and then there is a surprisingly large numer of folks out from NN1 to see the group. All very gratifying, but it's more than Bot and I can handle, so we head back out into the car park. Around the back of the pub is a lovely wee garden. I am transfixed by an enormous and very beautiful willow tree billowing out over the lawn. I'm thinking how good it would look in the bright October sun. Bot says it looks like a Wookie. We pile onto the little kiddies' assault course erection, cross a precarious rope bridge and arrive at the top of a wooden tower, where we enjoy a panic attack.
Duly refreshed by our brush with nature's grandeur we take up our instruments and start Hippy Shit for real. Within seconds Bot's mic stand is on the floor in bits. It's a bit of an avant-garde design, honestly, and it stands no chance with the plucky MC. The room is full of people sitting at tables, all facing us as if asking "So why do you want this job, Mister Wilson?" The situation is weird, but the sound is surprisingly together. It's a bit like skateboarding (with my centre of gravity!), but we arrive gracefully enough at the end of this rather hostile opener to what sounds like applause. Onward!
It all went pretty sweetly. There were times when I was finding it hard to hear the backing track. For a while I tried seeing what would happen if I took my cue from watching Misery's fingers hitting the strings. Probably easier to follow Agent, honestly, but you don't know until you try. It all held together well, though, and went down well with the assembled. In fact the landlady asked for our phone number so that she could book us again! Good grief. We gave it to her as well. What were we thinking? We'd just got away with murder, after all.
After the show I enjoyed a pint with Pete Watkins from the Bareback Ryders, handed out a couple of CDs, heard a couple more Happy Mondays comparisons and one with Alabama 3. We've got no problem with that short of comparison at all. We find it flattering. Thanks. We got invited to play a party in NN1. We had another beer and packed up.
Then something rather strange came to pass. Looking out of the pub window I saw a large minibus, engine running, with members of the group climbing aboard. Instinct takes over at times like this. I had been told that Guy had laid on a ride home for us at about 1:00am. And yet here at midnight stood The Bus before my very eyes. Well, of course, that was me on board with all my kit. Turned out to be completely the wrong bus. Missed the party after the gig. Bah. Never mind - back to MC Bot's and from there to liquor-induced oblivion.
So we got away with playing the village pub. An away win, we all agreed. And, as I said to Misery, when I'm up there on the stage at Cargo with that big old Turbosound system and all those fancy lights and shit, I shall remember where it was that I played the gig before that.