Friday, 11 March 2011

Revenge is a dish best served explosively.

I had received two comments from our support artiste at our last gig that I really appreciated and helped make my evening.
The first was that I “didn’t have enough wrinkle to be old enough to be Aaron’s father” always good for the fragile ego that one.

The second was that we were a really friendly band and fun to perform with.

I have always prided myself as being easy to work with and I have tried my hardest, as have my band mates, not to be too precious and to make friends rather than bad reputations.

It remind me of all the bands over the years that I have been involved in supporting and even those who then in turn ended up supporting us (beware the old adage, be careful how you treat people on the way up as you never know who you are going to meet on the way back down again).

On the whole we have had a great time meeting loads of new bands and artistes and only a few stick in my mind as being a right royal bunch of jerks.

Sadly our last gig at a well known Bristol venue a few years back did end up with both Support bands giving us withering looks, that they were indeed way too special to be supporting a bunch of losers like us.

One of the bands even decided that they were soooooooo special that they went well over their allotted time and ate royally into our time slot. Believe me that hurt, especially as we had worked so hard to get an audience there in the first place.

Subsequently as the venue allowed them do this we shook the dust from our sandals and have not returned there since.

Unsurprisingly it was the same venue where we were booked to support a well known signed folk rock act that decided that they would continue to sound check until the very moment that the doors were opened. The venue then chewed our backsides off for not being ready on time.

I am also reminded of the time we were booked to support a local band in Bristol only to be told on arrival that the band had no equipment at all, and I mean nothing; the guitarist had to borrow a plectrum (pick) from Aaron.
The drummer then set about resetting CJ’s drum kit for a left handed drummer only to break it in the process. Of course we didn’t realise this until about a third of the way through our set when the whole lot began to part company with CJ and itself and literally fell apart.
The band that had inflicted the damage on our equipment and kit then held court in the next room drawing the crowd away from our set.
I have said it before and I shall say it again…why do we do this to ourselves?

What we really need is a personality like our former guitarist Matt. He was once incensed that the support band having played to our audience began to pack up and were preparing to drive home. Matt stormed outside the venue and frog marched them back into the building and having removed their van keys told them that they were going no-where until we had played. We had been good enough to support them and they were going to return the favour by boosting our audience in support. I would never have had the nerve to do that.
Mind you our tales are nothing as compared to those who have had the pleasure of being ‘Road Crew’.

I once knew a guy who went from being a sound man onto becoming a road manager for acts such as George Michael. During recording sessions he would regale us with his tales of the road.

The funniest were of his memories of being on the road with a Spanish Heavy Metal band in Europe. The funniest account gave me hope that there is indeed such a concept as ‘justice’.

This particular band did not treat their crew with much respect at all to the point that they didn’t really budget the tour with such frivolities as ‘food’.

Now they do say that an army marches on its stomach and this is even more so for a road crew.
After a couple of weeks of this the crew had lost all its good humour and patience and were hungry, tired and fed up.

Part of the band’s show consisted of large pyrotechnics which had to be constructed by the only member of the crew who held an explosive licence, Bluey.

One night, fed up to the back teeth and extremely hungry Bluey got completely wasted before the gig and decided to take his revenge on his inconsiderate task masters.

Now bear in mind that each flash bomb only needed a tea spoon of this industrial strength gun powder for spectacular results, Bluey walked up each flash pot and poured a whole tub into each one, yes a WHOLE tub.

Then Bluey, satisfied with his act of vengeance curled up behind the mixing desk and fell last asleep and was totally unarousable.

My friend and his crew were then faced with a huge dilemma. Bluey was the only one who held a licence to handle this stuff. If anyone of them had as much as looked at the gun powder let alone touch it they could have found themselves being prosecuted under health & safety.
So they decided to leave it as it was and go and warn the band.

“Listen lads, it’s the last gig of the tour so we have decided to make it a spectacular one so what ever you do stay well away from the front of the stage at the point in the show where the flash pots always go off”.

The band gave an off hand reaction to this. They were leather clad rockers, nothing would distract them from doing what they did best….rocking.

However; despite their bravado they all began to look a tad nervous as the song in the show arrived that was normally accentuated by a controlled explosion of flame.

As the drummer leaned into a roll of the drums that announced the arrival of the explosion the band’s demeanour was now one of naked fear. With that my mate hit the detonation button.
Apparently what resulted was a solid wall of sheer flame 50 ft high and about 50 ft wide.

The band literally fell backwards into their amps and speakers completely blinded and sun tanned and the drummer fell of the riser into the orchestra pit behind.

My friend said that it was the first time that he had ever seen an audience turn as one and flee.

The explosion was so fierce that one of the venues officials called the bomb squad as they though the Basque separatists had been at it again.

At the end of the show my friend went to retrieve the pots and found that they had been blown clean through the stage itself and were now firmly buried in the concrete floor below and were going nowhere.

And the band who had suffered such retribution?
Well, they were all grins and thumbs up asking if they could do that again the next time they toured.
I suppose that once a Pratt, always a Pratt.

But it was a valuable lesson to me “Be careful how you treat people on the way up as they may have a bellyful of Jack Daniels and a dynamite licence”.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

There and back again

The rock & roll life can be somewhat of a roller coaster ride at times. One minute you are riding high, heart beating fiercely, white knuckled as you race with the birds on top of the world and glad to be alive.

The next you are plummeting down towards the puddles of child produced vomit, loose change and pocket bric-a-brac that you lost the last time you screamed this way. Only to find yourself 30 seconds later hurtling back towards the stratosphere with the wind whipping through your hair and looking forward to another heady session of head butting seagulls.

I have experienced the rock & roll equivalent of this twice in one week.

The hurtling downwards experience was as we performed at the Louisiana last Sunday.

On the face of it all went well. The hard Core Punk outfit that had been supporting us had pulled out at the very last minute only to be replaced by the talented songster Julie baker who was a dream to work with and extremely friendly tuboot.

We also had a small but enthusiastic audience and they clearly enjoyed themselves.

However; for me my entire evening was back to front, upside down and yanked through a hedge backwards.

As we hit our opening chords of our first song something went horribly wrong and my bass nearly brought the back wall down. Clearly I have developed a technical fault with my guitar transmitter.

Anyway the sound engineer quickly solved the problem front of house and all was well. Sadly my onstage mix had been shot to hell. I was slowly being lifted off of my feet by a sheer wall of noise being produced mainly from Aaron’s guitar and my vocal in the monitor mix.

Being an old fart I normally wear ear plugs as I am becoming concerned at the long term damage I am doing to my hearing (it’s bad enough being as blind as a bat without adding ‘deaf as post’ to the equation). The trouble is with this level of volume the plugs were simply distorting the sound to an unusable mess and so I had to rip them out.

What I then experienced was the audible equivalent of leaping from a toasty warm bedroom window into the English Channel in January. Shocking.

My head was spinning and within almost no time at all I couldn’t pitch a note to save my life though saving my reputation at the point would have been of more value.

Now you would have thought that after 33 years I would have developed the communication skills to inform the in-house engineer of my dilemma and get him to ‘sort it out’.

Sadly this skill has always eluded me and in melt down situations like this I generally proceed like Bambi caught in the headlights of a forty tonne juggernaught on full throttle.

In the past my guitarists have wised up to my disability quickly and risking me look like a complete incompetent in front of the sound guy told him exactly what I needed on my behalf. This is a responsibility I have been more than happy to hand over to somebody else no matter how ‘retarded’ it may or may not have made me look.

Perhaps it’s time to pass this particular mantle on to the next generation and get my son and guitarist to communicate in that ancient language of ‘technical’ in that dark and mystical way to the shaman of sound and volume while I simply recite the time honoured incantations of “One, two, one, two, testing, testing”.

As it was I had to try and play, sing, pitch and remember all the words whilst my eyeballs were slowly being pushed to the back of my skull.

It was a losing battle and I began to get more and more lost in songs that I have been singing for years. This tragic outcome wasn’t helped by Aaron announcing to the crowd that ‘This is another song that the old boy wanted in the set, watch him mess this one up’. Maybe I need to have a gentle word with him at some point, preferably tooled up with a nice stout piece of two by four. You may not be allowed to smack your children any more for lack of obedience but there is nothing to say that you can’t beat them senseless at the age of 25 for humiliating their old man in front of a laughing audience.

Anyway, the long and the short of it was that as soon as the last chord had been struck I was off that stage as fast as my knackered old knees could carry me. Packing up was a daze and goodness only knows how I managed to drive home at the end of the day.

As I sat crashed in front of my television set with the tinnitus in my ears threatening to explode my head I pondered the premise that I may just be getting a little too old for this lark.

That was the bottom of the roller coaster ride. However; just as surely as you career downwards you normally whip straight back up the other side.
The slope back up came the following Saturday when my mobile phone rang.
“Hi Paul, this is “Gareth Chillcott here”. I instantly snapped to attention. I mean, this guy is rugby royalty.

Now from my blog stats it shows that the large majority of my readership comes from the US and South Korea (clearly you guys like your rock & roll down there) and so you would not have a clue who Gareth Chilcott is.

In rugby terms I wouldn’t say he is the equivalent of David Beckham (Lord no) but probably more of a Wayne Rooney (you’ve heard of him as he plays for Manchester United and it doesn’t matter what part of the planet you come from you ALL know Man United). Anyway, Gareth was a famous and much respected rugby football legend who played for England and who just happens to hail from Bristol and we are all very fond and proud of him.

Anyway to keep himself in his retirement Gareth purchased himself a music venue and puts on some of the best gigs in the South West and here he was phoning me and inviting myself and Aaron to support ‘From the Jam’ (made up of two of the original members of The Jam).

I was a big fan of The Jam in my teenage years and had rushed to get tickets when they had kind of reformed with a new lead singer. Talk about made up…..I get to play with my heroes and all the frustration and negative thinking of just under a week ago melted away.

The roller coaster at this moment has reached the highest point, the view is incredible and air is clear. For now at least I am going to stay there…….roll on the end of April.

“Now that’s entertainment”