People will often say to me “cor, I wish I could play in a rock & roll band like what you does”. Sometimes they even say it a little bit more eloquently than that. And for the most part they would be right, playing in a band can be one of the greatest honours there is and it is why so many of us are so utterly addicted to it.
However; life on the road is not always rock, roll, Guinness and groupies, far from it.
Let me relate to you a night in the life of The Mudheads, Bristol’s hardest working bunch of misfits.
The night is a Thursday and we have been invited to perform at our guitarists local.
It’s a great little venue and we always leave feeling appreciated and without fail get an invite back, for which we are both honoured and grateful.
We had originally been booked to play in June, however; the England football team were having some sort of soirée down in South Africa. I not sure what it was all about but we were assured that as the stage at the venue was slap in front of the video screen where the great event was being broadcast live our lives would most probably be put at significant risk if we attempted to continue regardless.
So we bumped the gig up to July, rather foolishly forgetting our own rule of never playing during the two hottest months of summer as nobody shows up.
The day approached and CJ our drummer groaned to discover that he had been given an all expenses paid ticket for an evening at the Savoy in London with his company, leading politicians and celebrities. This did nothing to improve his outlook of the gig that he was now obligated to perform at instead of wining and dining with the most influential suits in his companies employ.
Add to this the unfortunate consequence of missing the meal meant that he would have to be in Reading (that’s about 80 miles from where he lives in Bristol) at 7:30am the following morning and he was fast beginning to lose his normal sunny and cheery disposition.
As it was local to Aaron he said that he would meet CJ and I down there. What this actually means is that he would arrive a full half an hour later than us and after we had completely emptied the trailer into the venue on our own and put most of it into place ready for cabling up.
I have previously mentioned that July and August are Britain’s two hottest months. This of course is fanciful tosh and they are normally wetter than a rather rainy day in the Brazilian rain forest and tonight was to be no exception.
We were also delighted to find that the council had dug up the road directly outside of the pub and we had to park on the opposite side of the road and run the gauntlet of motorist skidding along the fast moving river that was beginning to take the place of the road.
It also had to be noted that expensive musical equipment does not go well with running water and so we both had the enviable task of getting approximately two tonne of kit out of the trailer, across the road (river) and into the pub before they got too wet creating the very real threat of electrocution.
This we did at considerable risk to our personal health & safety, aching backs and good humour.
Once in we then had to navigate two guys that were deep in the throws of an earnest darts tournament and were most disconcerted that their game was going to be brought to a sudden close by two dripping wet herbets lugging a mountain of speakers and amplifiers.
We then noticed a silence that was not a normal fixture of this particular venue. This was caused by it being particularly and horribly empty.
Normally we are sweet talking dozens of punters to move out of the stage area in order for us to set up and we are fielding requests from the hordes before we have barely entered the building. Tonight however; we were serenaded on our entrance to the chirp of crickets, the soft rustle of tumbleweed and the gentle swish and thud of dart leaving hand and making its merry way to the board.
CJ’s normal positive mood was finding nothing with which to elevate itself and was singer faster than the Titanic.
With all the kit in place and the trailer locked safely up, my son and heir and our esteemed guitarist bounded into the pup trailed by his girlfriend who looked as drowned as we felt and cheerily announced that it was time to “Rock & Roll”.
Ten minutes in to his time with us he announced “My we are all in bad moods this evening aren’t we”. The sound of CJ splintering heavy duty drum sticks with his teeth was generally the only response that we could muster at that point.
Anyway the kit was assembled and plugged in and it was time for a sound check. It was then that we became hideously aware of a major problem we had not had to encounter at this favourite of venues before………as it was empty the sound took one quick fling around the bar and shot straight out of the main door.
Normally our healthy volume is soaked up by the myriad of bodies standing in front of us. Tonight, whilst we sound checked, we played into a void and subsequently the band could be heard as clearly by those living in the local neighbourhood as the staff standing at the bar.
We reduced the sound down and down till in the end we might have been better off playing off acoustically for all the oomph we had left. However; we are not stubborn musos who don’t give a damn about anyone we are nice accommodating individuals who recognise that the Landlords would have to live with their neighbours long after we had offended everybody in a 20 miles radius of the pub. So we determined to give it our best and keep it as low as we possibly could as we launched into our first set
Even then, the landlord presented himself in front of the band with a hand full of cards, and doing his best Bob Dylan impersonation proceeded to spell out the phrase “Can…you….please….turn…it….down”.
It was funny and very much in keeping with the good humour that we always experience at this place and so to try and accommodate even further I almost flat lined my bass guitar volume.
Then nature or the council threw us a curve ball, all the power went out. Not for very long, but long enough to change all the digital settings on Aaron’s equipment and nearly killing his amp.
Also it left us with the extremely uneasy feeling that we were responsible for this disaster (we found out the following day that in fact the whole of south Bristol had experienced this power outage, and that despite the fact we have more equipment than sense, we weren’t responsible).
We tried not to let ourselves be distracted by this turn of events and ploughed on with Aaron taking every opportunity he could to reset everything to where it was supposed to be.
Of course, half an hour later it went and happened again didn’t it.
By half time I think all three of us were mentally calculating how fast we could pack up and get out of there to our beds on the conclusion.
Thankfully, the pub began to fill as we sipped our cokes wondering what we had done wrong. I was in a bit of a daze to be honest and at one point Aaron grabbed me and made me sit down as I looked quite lost as I wondered around the stage looking…..well, lost.
We tanked into the second set with a few more bodies to soak up the volume and joy of all joys a handful of Aaron’s mates (we like to call them the Mudheads Mob) arrived, which always guarantees an enthusiastic response.
However; I could tell by the expression on CJ’s face and also the tired lines under his eyes that this really had been a very long week for him and he needed to be in bed and soon!
This wasn’t to happen as soon as he would have liked though as come the last song, the Mudheads Mob awoke to a man, women and boy.
Bringing the rest of the now assembled pub with them they lined the space in front of us and demanded song after song after song for the encore.
I was re-invigorated and at that point could have gone through the whole set again. However; CJ now had the look of a man who would shortly be carried from his drum kit on a stretcher if we didn’t finish any time soon. We played one more mental rendition of ‘Land Down Under’ and we were off, pulling all the main plugs with us as we went.
I know that we had to decamp back into the trailer in the rain; I know it was late, and I know that poor old CJ had a VERY long day the following day, but come the end I felt that it was worthwhile. The venue enjoyed us, the punters enjoyed us, the Mudheads Mob were superb as always…and it is at the end of the day bread and water to us. And to be fair, this was a normal night out for a jobbing band on the circuit.
Maybe next time we will stick to our guns and not take a gig until September. It will probably be a whole lot dryer than a British summer that’s for sure.