Friday, 28 November 2008

Todays the day

We have finally arrived at the date of the 'big gig'.

We have done all the publicity that we can all we can do is go and play...and play to the best of our ability.

As with every day on which we have an important concert I find myself clearing my throat a lot and thinking 'heck I've got a sore throat'...I now know that it is nerves (yes, even after 35 years I still get a little edgy on the day of a gig.....mind you, with some of the venues we play it's because this could be the day that I die).

Today could be fun as CJ (Drummer) is Snowdon, Wales with a load of telecommunications apprentices.

For those of you not familiar with the UK, it's a flipping long way from Bristol. So we are hoping that he doesn't a) Have an accident, b) Break down, or c) Get lost....well, he is a drummer after all.

Even then, CJ and I are going to have to take all the kit to the gig on our own as Aaron is working until the time we are supposed to get in (besides, being a Guitar God is hard work enough according to our won guitar hero and this is a belief that he firmly hangs onto...."being this cool doesn't happen all on its own you know").

The venue we are playing tonight is one of our favourites. It's a place called the Fleece and it essentially an old Victorian warehouse.

It's retained a lot of its original character with a stone floor and metal pillars running right through it.

Unlike most of the venues we play in now it has a large stage, an in house PA and a decent light rig.

The venue takes about 450 people and when full its a brilliant place to play.

However, the last time Aaron and I played there we performed t0 30 people and the only sound you could hear between songs was the gentle scraping of the tumbleweed and the crickets chirping in the bushes.

Tonight however, the ticket sales have been good and we are looking forwards to performing to a capacity crowd.

The band that is opening for us is called 'Mid life crisis', which fills me with a sort of dread. Judging by the average age of the musicians playing I suggest that they have defibrillator standing by.

The star of the evening is called Mark Venus.

He sadly lost his little girl to Leukemia about three years ago and he puts on this concert every year in order to raise money for the Hospice who took care of his little one.

Being parents ourselves, CJ and I are passionate in supporting this.

Anyway, as promised, you will be the first to know how the evening went.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

My Tone Deaf Mate Won TWO Ivor Novella Awards

My good friend Stephen (or Quick Sketch) from the 'How To Be an Inspiration' blog got me into writing these things, and so I thought I would return the favour by pulling down humilation upon him.

Actually, I would like to blow his trumpet for him and share with you an article I had previously written setting the record straight on a modern day tale of rock & roll success dreamt of by all of us would be rock stars....well sort of.

Oh be fair...and to set the record straight, Steve is NOT tone deaf. It was artistic licence and made for a more interesting headline...sorry buddy!

You all know what it’s like; you are 14 years old and you are going to become the greatest rock star this world has EVER seen.

There were four of us with that hard and fast belief. First off there was Gary. All the girls loved him, so he had to be the in the band even though he couldn’t play a note on any musical instrument of any kind. We might just attract girls by default if he were around.

Darren (Bassbin), as hopeless with the girls as I was, lanky with unmanageable hair but fancied himself as a bit of a drummer.

Me, face full of spots and mocked by all for being the ‘the preachers kid’ and yet I owned an acoustic guitar and I was known to be able to hold a note in tune and so I was going to be the singer.

And then there was Steve, or Dylan as we all knew him (yes, just like the rabbit from the Magic Roundabout). He actually owned a ¾ length bass guitar and an amp and speaker to plug it into so he had to be in. From this unholy rabble ‘Phaze One’ was born upon an unsuspecting world.

It wasn’t that we were crap; it was just that we didn’t have a clue.

I was the only one that could play a single chord at that point. Well, when I say single, I mean about four and it would take me the best part of a week to get from one to the other.

We didn’t have a drum kit, so we used Steve’s mum’s sofa, no PA (that’s probably where my ability to scream my head off came from). Gary used Darren’s black Les Paul copy without any kind of amplification and not even an inkling as to what to do with the thing.

Steve was able to make the most noise because he was amplified. The more power, the more volume, a concept I grew to lust after over the years. However, he barely knew which way round to hold his bass guitar, and in that his favourite bass player of the time was Paul McCartney from Wings (and he plays a left handed bass) confusion rang.

The only thing that we could bang out (and I use the word ‘bang’ advisedly) was the opening riff of ‘Satisfaction’ by the ‘Rolling Stones’. And I belted out the only lyrics we knew “I can’t get no….Satisfaction” over the top of that riff. We didn’t know any more than that and as not one of us owned the record in any shape or form we couldn’t even consider what might come next.

To say that we were truly awful would have been an understatement. Even the early Punks would have turned their heads in disgust as we polluted Darren’s mother’s garage with a row that could wake the dead.

It didn’t last long, mainly because one of Darren’s neighbours called the police. As Steve had the only amplification, it had to have been down to him; even I couldn’t make that much noise without a PA.

I don’t think that the officers that arrived were particularly narked by any of this, more wildly amused by the sight of these lanky, scruffy and acne riddled teenagers making more noise than a cat being stuffed through a garden shredder…slowly……!

By now we had been booted out of all our practice spaces for crimes against domestic peace and quiet by our parents and had even tried the school music rooms. Trouble is at that point the head of the music department was heavily into Swing (the music not the sexual activity) and our particular brand of unpolished rock & roll was an anathema to him and so we were duly and unceremoniously kicked out.

By this point I think it became transparently clear that we were going no-where fast.

Gary was going out with way too many girls to be able to spend the time and commitment to take our band stratospheric and we discovered that although he was becoming a mighty fine writer, our suspicions were being confirmed that Steve was probably tone deaf. Apart from that he had aspirations of becoming a literary giant as opposed to anything as crass as a rock star (writers command a more refined and educated groupie…….I didn’t care at 14 years old, all they needed was a pulse and be into scruffy, skinny, spot addled preachers kids……and before you say it, no none of them were).

So musically we went our separate ways. Gary did one last musical leap and played the lead role of ‘Tony’ in the schools production of ‘West Side Story’ (damn his good looks). Darren and I went on to be those rock gods we dreamed of…….hang on a mo, I mean we continued to DREAM of being those rocks gods…and still do.

However, our tone deaf pal went on to much greater things, if only by accident.

Steve went to London (being the only one of our group that could actually string a sentence together he went to University) and he became of all things a playwright. And a damn fine one too I might add.

He was involved in writing the script for a production that contained several songs, and in order to fulfil a particular point within the production Steve took and old classic pub song, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and put the biblical words of the ‘Lords’ Prayer’ to it’ (you have a sense of where I am going with this haven’t you).

Well the production was a great success and nothing more was thought about it. Until that is, Steve got a call to say that one ‘Sir Clifford of Richard’ wanted to take this song from the production and make it his BIG single of the decade, his Christmas No1 that would ensure him a hit in Lord knows how many decades.

And that was it. Cliff Richard released the ‘Millennium Prayer’ at the end of 1999 and as you know the outcry was massive. Cliff parted company with EMI over it. Radio stations refused to play it and George Michael described it as ‘Vile’ (coming from somebody who was caught in the gents in the same year, a bit harsh really).

There was litigation over rights, the lot (I think that by the end Steve had begun to wish he had stayed with trying to play the bass guitar).

Steve (Dylan) Deal, Cliff and Paul Field.

However, good Christian people everywhere went out and bought it by the truck load (I did, but only because my mate had written it). Anyway, once the dust had settled, there were enough writers’ royalties left for Steve to buy a shed for his son to keep his push bike in…..what a rock and roll life style.

Once the dust had settled even further it was discovered that ‘Millennium Prayer’ had become the biggest selling single for 1999 and Steve won two….yes ..TWO Ivor Novella awards and flippin heavy beggars they are as well. I have often sat in his living room cradling the statuettes, day dreaming of what might have been.

Steve doesn’t write so much these days as he is not in the best of health, he suffers with a condition called Muscular Dystrophy, which has left him in a wheel chair and very dependant on the care of his wife and carers.

I certainly do not mention this in order to get Steve the sympathy vote, blimey no! Steve doesn’t do sympathy and he is as determined (and bloody minded) as ever he was. The mark of a good writer.

The reason that I mention it is that Steve is helping to raise the understanding and often plight of the disabled community in this country by writing a blog about his day to day life of living in a wheel chair often at the mercy of bureaucracy and quite often morons.

If you want an informative, but often hilarious read then go to.

Not bad for a kid from Whitchurch who couldn’t hold a note if his life depended on it.

Paul Field singing the original Millenium prayer in the original production

Moi in the one of the lead roles in West Side Story.....and not the one in the dress either......she werre luverly, but wouldn't look at me twice!!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Rock God Humbled

I must apologise for my mealy mouthed rant yesterday.....that was how I was feeling at the time, and one of the beauties of a blog is that you can keep it real.

Anyway, following some words of encouragement from friend and former band member Bassbin, a cheque for four tickets arrived in the post this morning, and I have received promises of more who will attend...confidence restored.

I have to be real and honest to myself, it is not an easy time to be a live performer at the moment. However, we are not in it alone so.....chin up and live the dream.

Rock & roll dudes.

Rock God

Monday, 24 November 2008

D-Day approches

The 'Big gig' draws ever closer (this Friday to be exact...and today is Monday).

The set has been chosen and rehearsed...the equipment has been prepped and checked.

the costumes have been ironed (I've decided on a three piece suit and flip flops theme).

the last minute publicity has gone out.

How many tickets have we sold to date....yup!, you've got it...just the one...just the one!!

For those of you that are local to might be a good idea to check us out before the end of December as you may well not get another chance!

Yours miserably

The Rock God

Friday, 21 November 2008

"Just go for it"

The life of a Rock God isn’t all about partying hard and fighting off the attention of adoring fans, at least it isn’t at my end of the field.

The life of a rock god is spent promoting, rehearsing, promoting, travelling, and even more rehearsing and sometimes you get to the point when you wonder if it really is worth all the hassle.

Let me explain.

One of the joys of performing in venues where they sell alcohol is that you often get approached (at speed) by people who wouldn’t normally even talk to the man reading the gas meter they are so shy. However, after three or four glasses of the good stuff they will talk to absolutely ANYONE!

That usually ends up being the band.

Of course most of these good folks have been raised on a steady diet of ‘Fame’, ’High School Musical’ and ‘Britannia High’. They have grown to firmly believe that when some wide eyed student began tapping the edge of their soup bowl with a spoon in the school canteen that indeed the whole place did erupt into a crescendo of musical excellence simply plucked from thin air; with singers and musicians performing unknown songs to a studio produced perfection as if it were spirit born.

With this firm and unyielding belief grasped firmly in their grip, they don’t half get the hump when you confess that you “don’t know how to play ‘Sweet Child of Mine” by Gunz & Roses or something similarly complicated

“Yeah you can” they slur “Just go for it”.

Just go for it!! How many times have I heard that phrase.

What these connoisseurs of all things heavy metal don’t see is the rush that all three bad members have to make on a Thursday evening to get to CJ’s where we have our own little rehearsal studio, to spend hours, days, weeks even months learning the songs that we perform.

We are far luckier than most bands we know as the norm is to ‘hire’ some rehearsal space in a local studio. This involves loading the van at one end, unloading it at the studio, setting up, practicing…taking it all back down again and loading into the van and probably unloading it into the bargain. Oh! And you normally have to fork out 40 to 50 quid into the bargain.

As I said, we are extremely lucky as in between bands, CJ built himself a rehearsal studio in his double garage and the hardest thing we have to do is plug in the guitars and open a beer (we are also blessed that CJ had the fore thought to add a fridge to the whole equation).

One draw back to this blessed rehearsal space is that it is sound proof. Now to those of you that have heard us this may seem somewhat of a blessing. However, in being sound proof it is also air tight….we have used a test meter in there to read the air quality but have found that the surest indicator that we need to open the doors and fast is I begin to sing in Klingon.

Anyway, this weekly ritual happens every Thursday come wind, hail or snow and we spend hour upon hour debating (arguing) about what songs we should consider and then week after week learning them and perfecting them.

Some songs are easier than others. Believe it not, the more badly written a song, especially lyrically, the harder it is to learn. A song by Billy Bragg or Sting, not a problem….Jacko? I’m stuffed….even now after about 5 gigs performing it, I still can’t get the words to ‘Beat It’ in the right order. I am beginning to develop a new respect for soap opera actors who have to learn HUGE chunks of script week after week and get it right!!

Even then probably only about 1 out of every 3 songs makes it beyond the first or second gig.

This represents an immense amount of time and emotional energy, so when some lager fuelled impresario demands a song by the latest X-Factor victor, you will understand me when I say that something inside me dies just a little.

I have learnt to refrain from making sarcastic comments as it doesn’t always go down very well.

When one ‘well oiled’ traveller of life traversed the length of the bar as if a sailor walking the deck of a sailing ship in a heavy wind and asked “Do you know any Donavon? My response of “What? Jason?, was perhaps a little ill advised.

Ah well, as the great CS Lewis once wrote “Upwards and Onwards”, but woe betide the next idiot that tells me to play some ‘Puff Daddy’ and to simply “Go for it!”

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Country Pub

My apologies that I haven't written anything for a few days....its the joy of getting old and responsible.
My wife has had a major operation and so I have been the dutiful husband....and spent time with her rather than at work typing up this blog! (when I of course should have been working)

However, as there may be those that are hungry for more tales from the Rock God (I've even had people from Pakistan reading this about global) I thought I would quickly submit something that I have previously written for Bristol Rocks for your interest and edification.

The article was for the 'Worst gigs'section...and was taken from a terrifying night at a hostelry in Midsommer Norton near Bath, England.

Read and shudder.

Every so often, you get a few clues as you arrive at a venue which should, if you are on the ball, encourage you to turn the van right around and drive on home. Last night, we saw the signs, and ignored them….totally.

The first sign is when you start driving down a long dark muddy country lane to get to the pub….warning!.

When the only sound that you hear as you arrive at the venue is the hum of a generator that is supplying all the power…..warning!

When, as you enter the pub, the punters re-enact that scene from An American Werewolf in London, when the two American hikers walk into the Slaughtered lamb and every head turns to stare them………warning!

When the first person who greets you looks like an extra from Mad Max 2 that they had to let go as he was a little too over the top and a little too scary, and he turns out to be the barman……..warning!

When the band that you were supposed to be supporting and who have played there before, pull out just a few days before leaving you to cover the whole evening……warning!!

All these clues and more were evident as we arrived at the Iron Fist * in deepest darkest Somerset ready to perform for the first time. And yet, as I have already mentioned, we failed to spot any of them until it was too late.

The audience, such as it was, would not have looked out of place on the film set of The Hills have eyes and were totally pissed, probably on a combination of Scrumpy and sheep deep. Of course, as all gigging musicians can and will testify, drinking three times your own body weight in a liquid owning the quaint moniker of ‘Bishop’s old Scrotum’, or something equally enticing gives anybody the unshakable belief that they can sing like John Lennon, play guitar like Hendrix or worse still, play the drums like Cozy Powell. Years of experience has taught us that you keep your sticks and mic's in your back pocket until they are needed and the guitars remain firmly in their cases. However, you have to take the things out at some point and it was at that point when three of the most plastered caught sight of our instruments and descended upon us with glee.

Not upsetting the punters is a pre requisite for not getting glassed and for being asked back for a second time, other than to apologise. So untangling ourselves from these boys was not an easy task, especially when one of them grabbed me from behind in an attempt to get his hands on my guitar. However, I had no idea what form of entertainment these lads indulged in to get their kicks. Put it like this, we saw some particularly worried sheep on the way to the gig and so I was taking no chances and managed to wriggle out of his bear like grip. CJ our drummer wasn’t having a much happier time as he endeavoured to keep a wanna be drummer away from his kit!

By the time we were ready to play we’d already had enough and were dreading the prospect of two hours playing to this lot.

Now you know it’s going to be a tough night when the audience start chucking things at you. Aaron, our guitarist soon found out how tough it was going to be when somebody threw a drunk farmer at him and nearly sent him flying. Aaron’s girlfriend who apart from looking after the merchandise, was trying to get on with some college work wasn’t going to be left out of this free for all and once the drunk had been retrieved by his mates, then had him balled at her knocking all the tables flying. Fair play to her, she hardly missed a step, raised her eyebrows disapprovingly at him and returned to her studies.

To say we felt like Gareth Gates on an oil rig would be an understatement. The pub was quite clearly catering for every serious Punk rocker this side of Birmingham. When I say Punks, I don’t mean the kind that listen to a little bit of The Boomtown Rats or the Undertones. I’m talking about guys that drank their own vomit if they had run out of funds for scrumpy. One of them became totally pissed off with me as I took a leak during the break. As I was one of the only ones in the building that wasn’t covered in tattoos, chains and studs he had assumed I was the old Bill on a raid (he had come from the other bar and had not seen us playing) and flushed his entire stash down the bog! Things were not getting any better.

We didn’t go down well, at least, not to start with. We were giving it our all at one point to a single person!! The drunks had run out of money, potatoes or what ever the hell they were buying their brain killer with and left during the first set punching and kicking the crap out of each other as they went. This was not a particular disappointment to the band I can assure you. However it did leave us playing to just one 80-year-old punk who probably would have legged it as well if he had been able to get his legs to move.

We didn’t play particularly well, mainly because for the most part we were in fear of our lives, but also because the pubs stage lighting was connected to a sound to light system, which meant that any break in a song resulted in us being plunged into total darkness. This meant that both Aaron and myself ran into, mic stands, each other and the drum kit.

If only the generator had packed up then at least we could have gone home.

However, we survived it. Two hours later and a desperate urge to return to civilisation saw us packing the gear up in record time. Not least because another aging Punk (who looked older than my grandfather) had arrived and was intent on convincing us of the virtues of Internet promotion despite the fact that he didn’t even own a computer. “You see them Artic Minkees”, he slurred “they did it, and their crap!. But you guys rock!”. We thanked him profusely and legged it…..straight into a rain storm that soaked us and the kit as we tried to get it in to the van………great!

We’re sticking with The Bunch of Grapes. You get some real characters, but they’re our own kind of people. We feel accepted! And understood……and they don’t throw people at our guitarist.

* Names changed to protect the innocent………well……us!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Respecting your roots

After my last little moan I thought I really ought to write about something a little more positive.

I was reminded that we all need to not take what we DO have for granted when I walked past one of our local pubs recently. It’s a venue that The Mudheads have refrained from playing as it would probably end up being a little more hassle that its worth (yup, it’s a rough house).

A poster in the window told us that the band performing that weekend was ‘The Glitter Band’. Yes, THAT Glitter Band.

Talk about your boss dropping you RIGHT in it. I admire their courage for hanging onto the name. Old Gary’s crimes weren’t theirs but you know how the British like to hang people on association.

Mind you here was a good example of treating people well on the way up, because sometimes you don’t even get the time to flap your arms on the way back down.

The last time I saw the Glitter Band was with Mr Glitter himself performing to a thousand or so students at Fresher’s week at Bristol UNI. Now here they were playing in a pub that even I wouldn’t play in.

But hey, massive respect to them for sticking with it.

Now, there is one venue that we The Mudheads call home. Not that we will ever become the Rock Gods we dream of being, but even if we did, we would still play here, even if it meant playing under an assumed name because of the crush that would be caused by adoring fans (I can dream, I can dream).

That venue is The Bunch of Grapes situated in the dead centre of Bristol.

The Grapes and I have history, and it has a secure place in my heart.

Firstly, three generations of Loader have now played there if legend is to be believed.

My father, that would be Aaron’s granddad, played jazz piano there when he was a teenager (not that he claims to remember doing so…but I suspect he did). I play there now, as of course does junior.

I used to go there a lot with Bassbin when we were teenagers. Not because the beer was great, but in the vain hope of meeting somebody famous. You see the Grapes is right next door to the Bristol Hippodrome and it used to be the favourite haunt of every star that graced the boards there.

Not that they did once me and Bassbin started going there of course, but you know what kids are like, we didn’t give up hope.
Anyway, many years passed and Aaron and I who were performing as a duo at this point managed to persuade the music promoter there (Alfie Kingston) to give us a 20 minute show case at the beginning of an acoustic evening.

We went mental…I don’t think that they knew what hit them.

We were subsequently booked again on the spot, this time a little higher up the running order. The next time we played we were again re-booked with the headline spot at the end. Not because we were better than the other acts mind you, it was just that nobody would follow us. A trend that has followed us “ I ain’t following that bunch of ruddy nutters”.

Alfie decided that he would try his hand at putting on electric nights and we pulled in CJ who had already begun playing for our acoustic set up and persuaded Alfie to give us a shot.

This was the very first gig of The Mudheads as it is now.

We only got to play for about 20 minutes as the opening band went well over there allotted time and so we got cut short.

The audience was almost non existent apart from one man of distinction. Bassbin. He had been in so many bands with me before this and now he was encouraging me to go for it again.

Well one thing led to another and we became one of the Grapes most requested bands, and we became very fond of the place.

Run by two ladies, who shall we say, ‘wear comfortable shoes’, they always made us feel at home and encourage us to perform to the best of our ability.

Of course being a city centre pub you get all sorts in there. Like the guy who stood infront of the packed crowd (and us) and got his dick out, confident in his drunken knowledge that every girl in the building would REALLY want to see it.

The guy that insisted on telling me at length about his ‘Barrel Organ’ collection.

Girls that are so hammered that you spend most of the gig praying that they will keep their clothes on (well, I am in the band with my son after all).

And a barman that has so many tattoos and piercings he made the cast of Mad Max 2 look like a bunch of fairies, wandering around proudly in his Mudheads t-shirt.

Sadly, like so many music pubs, the attendance began to dwindle and the landladies could no longer shell out good money on bands that couldn’t fill the place (which was sadly becoming most of us).

We haven’t played there for over a year now. That is until this Christmas…hoorah!

We really do hope that it won’t be for the last time, but The Mudheads will be returning for a proper right royal Christmas bash on the 20th December 08…and yes, we are REALLY looking forward to it!

I wonder if MY grandchildren will get the opportunity to play there.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Use it or lose it!!

I have been asked to write an article for Bristol Rocks based on the old Post Office campaign of, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Its something I have written on before as the live music scene in the UK is dying on its backside (or at least it is, as my good friend Quick Sketch calls it, ‘at the bottom of the barrel’).

However, I am finding this hard to do as all I want to do is have a ‘damn good whinge’, which probably wouldn’t produce a fine, unbiased piece of journalistic text.

The reason for my wish to vent bile is that The Mudheads have been asked to support a gig at the end of this month, which is in aid of The Jessie May Foundation a children’s hospice that cares for sick and dying children and their families.

We are to perform as part of a benefit concert, which is to be headlined by a chap that lost his three year old daughter to Leukaemia.

Sure the tickets are £10 a pop, but I thought that in light of this amazing cause, people would be flocking to purchase tickets to enjoy an evening of live music and support an extremely worthy cause into the bargain.

Do you know how many tickets The Mudheads have sold……yup! ONE!

I am utterly gob smacked at this.

Despite pushing it everywhere and anywhere, we have achieved the promise of one sold ticket….and that is to the bloke that often roadies for us! To be fair, he should be getting in for free anyway.

Could it be that the need to sit and watch television on a Friday night has captured people into refusing to leave the safety of their sofas?
Could it be that reports of the rising crime rate has frightened the good folk of Bristol into not leaving their castles after dark (at least not without the support of an armed guard).

Or could it be that people are all ‘good caused’ out. There is no compassion left! Nothing left to give.

I don’t know, and I do have to remind myself that I too will probably be sat on my backside with a glass of wine of Friday watching ‘Children in Need’ as opposed to being out there, actually doing something about it.

However, I was inspired by Quick Sketch’s good lady wife (Polly) who despite many MANY other responsibilities ran the London marathon in aid of Muscular Dystrophy. If she can do it, then I am not giving up….perhaps it might be time to start mugging people.

Oh, and you will be the first to find out how we got on!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

"Remember, remember the 5th of November"

It has to be said that it is a sad factor for any band when one of the highlights of their annual itinerary is a gig at a children’s fire work party, and yet that is just the case for The Mudheads.

CJ does a lot of the practical work for the band, building cases, restoring the trailer etc, so in gratitude of this the band perform once a year, free of charge, at the primary school, at which both his daughters attend.

For some reason CJ has never secured us a gig at one of their ‘summer’ affairs. No, it’s always on firework night, and it is ALWAYS freezing.

That being said, it is a highlight for the band as we normally perform to about three hundred enthusiastic kids and parents.

The whole idea is having a live band (of hopefully high enough quality) prevents the punters from legging it as soon as the last firework has popped, and keeps them around long enough to drink all the beer and polish off the hotdogs, thus raising more funds for the school.

As always, it’s a bit of a rush as we are on at 6:30pm and Aaron in particular doesn’t finish work until gone 6:00pm. This leaves him about 20 minutes to get all away across town in the rush hour!

I managed to get there early and CJ and I got all the gear up (although to be fair, poor old CJ had emptied the trailer and put everything up in place...on his own...he is a diamond). Although we had to scale the PA down, which was a bit of a shame, as everything including the lights were running off of a single 13amp plug. CJ who is a lot more knowledgeable about such matters assured me that by using the ‘full’ PA, we could take out half of Bristol…or at the very least….the bandstand in which we were playing.

Aaron (who doesn’t drive….and anybody who has tried in one of the UK’s major cities wont blame him) had his erstwhile chauffer at the wheel (his girlfriend) and they found themselves endeavouring to re-enact the scene from the Italian job with the three minis through the back streets of Bristol.

Against the odds, he made it to the gates of the school at bang on 6:30pm only to be halted by a bit of a snag. The bloke on the gate.

“You aint coming in here mate unless you've got a ticket”

“But I don’t need a ticket, I’m with the band”.

“What band?”

“The band that is playing over there in the band stand”

“I don’t see no band”

“That’s because one of them is stood here talking to you, you twit”

Thankfully, the chair of the Parent Teacher Association” heard what was going on and came and rescued Aaron who made it to the band stand just as I was going to plan B and getting the old acoustic out!.

Now bear in mind that most of the music coming out of the speakers until that point had come from ‘High School Musical’ we could have been in for a bit of a long night. However, it would appear that the majority of people from South Bristol like their music loud and fast, which is just as well as this is exactly what we specialise in.

The fact that we must have looked like the Teletubbies we had so many layers of clothing on didn’t appear to deter anyone and we performed as per plan and thankfully on form and had a great time.

Thankfully the electics held and the only bangs and flashes came from the fireworks and not from any of our equipment.

After about an hour Aaron’s fingers started turning blue and the crowd were beginning to disperse, and so we decided to call it a day.

It was then that somebody bounded up and asked CJ if we could play in somebody’s living room for a surprise 40th birthday party…and CJ said yes!

Now that would be hilarious! We turn up with a couple of tonnes of amplification and drums…and somebody has a heart attack!

I think we had better get the acoustics out!

Hey, but at least it will be warm.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Release the hounds of hell!

As the lack of an audience seems to have captured people’s imagination I thought I would reminisce about one of the many gigs that I have played at that might bring back a few memories for at least one person.

We were young, we were hip, we were cool, we were stupid that’s what we were.

The band was called ‘The Stand’ and was made up of myself, the boy Bassbin and Goodbin on drums.

We had been invited to perform at the annual British Legion dinner dance in Pill near Bristol, England. Don’t ask me why, but we had.

We arrived, van crammed with gear to be greeted by the administrator of the BL a nice (yet eccentric) old lady called Darcy, who was bedecked in her purple rinse, tiara, pearls and a fur coat, with a yappy little dog tearing around her ankles.

I think she’d had the great idea of putting on a rock band to try and liven this annual octogenarian shin-dig up a bit. However, at the first sight of speakers, amps and especially the drummer her courage suddenly failed her.

We dutifully put the equipment together as quietly as we could, yet even the strumming of unplugged electric guitars appeared to elicit a sense of panic amongst the pensioners.

Darcy approached us looking nervous. “Look lads, we won’t be finishing our meal for an hour or so, here’s ten pounds, why don’t you pop off to the local hostelry and get yourselves a beer”.

Bassbin and I have never been those that would turn down a free beer so we grabbed the money and ran.

Goodbin was driving and so we drank his share, and after about an hour and four pints, we tottered back to the hall where we discovered an open bottle of wine by the stage. I like wine…..especially red wine.

Darcy could hold off the inevitable no longer and we were introduced.

Now normally I am respectful of most situations and endeavour to perform accordingly. However, four pints of what ever, and half a bottle of wine had helped to dampen what common sense I had in those days and I went for it.

Amp on 10, yelling my head off into the microphone, I was having a great time.

The aging audience however were not.

Most of these dear souls had done nothing so strenuous and so quickly in many a good year as to a person, they rose from their seats and fled!!!

Quite literally, by the time we had reached the end of the first number we were playing to an almost empty hall. I say ‘almost’ as the single individual that remained was Darcy’s Dachshund called ‘Domingo who was going absolutely bonkers, he clearly hated the music as much as the audience did.

However, fuelled by falling down juice we were not perturbed and continued to play at our usual break neck speed. That was until the hall’s caretaker walked in and simply turned the lights out.

I promise you, you can’t make this stuff up.

Packing the kit up in the dark, Goodbin kept putting his head in his hands and I could distinctly hear him asking himself “what the hell am I doing here”.

I have only played at a British legion twice (the other time we got hijacked by an aging drummer who insisted on playing with us, and then insisted that we pay him….but that’s another story). However, I honestly don’t think that there will ever be a third.

They say never work with animals or children….I think Goodbin may have added a third to that list…!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Never Work With Animals or Children

I have never been a great fan of Halloween. Its not that I am against it on a major religious conviction even though I am a Christian, its just that I think the whole concept of ‘Trick or Treat’ is a polite way of mugging people on their doorsteps; and in that we are being expected to tone down Christian festivals the concept of Halloween niggles a bit……..and there he goes, he fell off his soap box.

Anyway, The Mudheads were asked to perform at an alternative gig to Halloween in a huge old church in Bristol, and thinking that it might be fun we accepted.

We knew that all was going to be hard work when we arrived and the place was crawling with small children all dressed as witches and a variety of demons and monsters.

The look of horror on Aaron’s face said it all “were not playing to this lot are we”?

Thankfully we were not playing to the ‘little horrors’, but it did mean that we had to set up two bands in total silence without the aid of the partition we had been promised.

The Mudheads were also responsible for supplying and setting up the PA, something that we were happy to do. That was until the other bands sound guy arrive and on shaking hands pronounced his professional credentials “I of course spent two years being professionally trained on a PROFESSIONAL engineering course, not one of these crappy ‘Music Tech courses’. I could sense Aaron’s hackles rising. Not only had he gone to University to study ‘crappy music technology’, but this usurper looked like he was 12 years old.

From that point chaos ensued, mainly because nobody knew who was in charge and the 12 year old was marching around and announcing to everybody that he was ‘professionally trained’ and not actually doing anything and this was creating a little tension amongst the troops.

Oh, and had I mentioned that we were setting up in the dark? (Or as near dark as I can cope with as I am as blind as the proverbial bat in poor light).

All in all we struggled to get the kit up, and a job that normally takes us an hour, took two and a half!!.

We were still sound checking as the doors opened….and I hate that.

Mind you, we needn’t have worried, only 25 people turned up.

Picture this, a HUGE gothic church hall…..echo that would have made Brian May envious. Months of active promotion from the poor old promoter who had put his heart and soul into this gig, and two bands prepped and ready to rock…and 25 people.

Sometimes I ask myself why we do these things!!

Ah well, the show must go on, and we went for it! And I have to say, I really enjoyed myself as we performed to the void (the 25 hugged onto every bit of wall space they could find). It was a nice big stage area that gave us plenty of room to rock!....bless the man that invented guitar transmitters.

CJ’s two young daughters enjoyed themselves happily, as they ran around the room in their funky t-shirts that said “I’m with the band”.

Perhaps we should have played to the kids party after all.