Venue: County Cricket Club
Event: Tom Hall Memorial
Location: Wantage Road Northampton England
Cricket for all knockout trophy 2004 Wilson will be playing in The Ken Turner Room.
It's an overcast Sunday afternoon in Northampton. At the Cricket Club they are staging the first Tom Hall Memorial Cricket-for-All Challenge Tournament. In Abington Park there is a Gay Pride knees-up with bands and stuff. I am sitting in an otherwise empty Racehorse bar, my Burns in my lap, struggling to free the ball end of a broken 10 string from the body of the guitar. Normally this is a process for which I would employ the tiny allen-key in my gig bag, but right now my gig bag is at the Cricket club, helping to set up the PA. So, in need of some other slender but purposeful pokey item, I seize a 46 string and start to push away with that. Ninety seconds later, the 46 is trapped in the hole every bit as irredeemably as the 10. I'm sitting in the middle of a pub at two o'clock in the afterbloodynoon with this guitar in my lap, with wayward bits of wire poking out of it in all directions. Looks like it's going to be one of those days.
Misery collects me and my kit from the pub and we drive up to the Cricket Club. Inside Bot and Jamie Jab have made a marvellous job of setting up the PA. Everything is in readiness. But where are the drums? With Agent Cooper on holiday in Turkey, we had understood that Mr. Fletcher was keen to seize his opportunity to play with Wilson. We'd been a bit nonplussed when he didn't show for rehearsal on Friday night. "A bit cocky" was the general verdict at the time; but Mr. Fletcher is a proper musician, and we figured that as long as we were ready, he would hardly mess things up that much.
We hadn't figured on a no-show. "A bit cocky" is swiftly revised to read "Bottled it." Stevie G makes threats of violence, as is his way. I'm left pondering the point of saying "yes" to something when what you really mean is "I can't." I don't think I'll ever get my head round it.
No. N-O. Only got two letters, only takes a second to say it.
Thanks, Chuck D, for putting it quite so well.
So we have a large, empty space in the middle of the stage area. This corresponds in a rather sublime manner with the vast empty space that is the rest of the room. Outside a game of cricket is taking place. Occasionally a voice breaks out of the PA system - commentating!
Something else we hadn't figured on. The man who invited us to play said that we could play any time that suited us. We had figured on 4 o'clock as being as good a time as any. The event is supposed to stop at 6 o'clock, so that seemed to be pitched about right. Gratifyingly, as 4 o'clock nears, a small crowd gathers in the room.
Trouble is this: it has become clear that there is to be no noisy old music while the cricket is being played. Can't be distracting the players, you see, even if we are about a hundred and fifty yards away from them, inside a building. So we are going to have to wait until the cricket is done. The final doesn't finish until six o'clock. When I finally do enter the room to see about playing, I see that 90% of that small crowd has given up in despair and gone away again.
Never mind. At the last the cricket players will be there, keen to celebrate their winning the final, right? Well, yes. The trouble is this: the team that has just won the Tom Hall Memorial Cricket For All Challenge Tournament is a team from the Police. (Yes, indeed, that does explain why Curtis was out there on the rainy terraces, cheering desperately for the other side.) So we have perhaps twenty-five people here to see the band and perhaps potentially as many Police. And we have been waiting hours. We've waited in the toilets, we've waited in Curtis' car, listening to - uh - opera, we've waited in the special "Umpires Only" room (backstage dumper! "Hey, Bot - we should do a gig here some time!"), we've waited like proper waiters. Nuff waiting already, let us play.
The backing track begins to roll, with - appropriately enough - snatches of Police radio. I'm wondering if anybody here recognises his voice. I'm wondering if we're all going to Guantanamo. We start with Play It All Night Long, and there is venom. The programmed beats are coming back at us so hard that my monitor is cracking up. It's a good, solid start. Critters is introduced as a song about nature. I'm sure that no animal noises of any kind were made by anybody. At this point.
We bash our way through Quality People, then Curtis runs on to join in with Istanbul Connection. He's brought his own beer crate with him so that he can reach up to share my microphone, and makes a point of getting down off it between lines, then getting back up again for the next one. He's a proper nuisance, but he's a lovely set of pipeys on him. By now there is a small posse of cricket police sitting at a table at the back, about as far away from the band as you can go, looking well miserable. I have no idea what they can be making of the ensuing Secret Government (you ain't seen me, right?), but then comes the time to play Police Chief.
We set off at a fair old clip, guitars fizzing as MC Bot delivers our touching tribute to the boys who protect and serve. As things warm up, the proud new father takes to the keys on his bullhorn and - behold! - the thing can make police car noises! Naturally enthused, Bot continues to nee-naw his way through the entirety of the tune. As we are happily shouting "You've got it. We want it. What? Your currency", a small crocodile of victorious and yet somehow strangely subdued officers make their way out of the room. One of them, noting with his eagle-eyed detective skills that MC Bot might conceivably be taking something resembling the piss, mutters something along the lines of "cults" as he leaves. Mind how you go, now.
Wilson rattle on through Buffalo Sniper and Dark Agenda. Just to make a point, like.
With those who are there at the death, it goes down great. Lusty cries of "You whores!" greet the intrepid Wilson Four as they slink away from their amplifiers.
Andy Shaw, The Man from CAN, loved it, I'm told. He is a very nice man. He bought me a bottle of Pils and let me shout at the Police at some length and at considerable volume. He also gave us a lovely big bottle of Scotch with our wages. CAN is a charity dealing with drug and alcohol addiction issues.
Yeah, I know.
Thanks to Andy, though, and thanks to Jamie Jab for all his help, and thanks to those who came out to one of the weirdest gigs we've done in a while.
So, chop-chop, ladies n gents - what's next?