The run up to my Antipodean expedition…
On the last day of February I went down to the Blues session at the Goat in St Albans. This jam is run by Doctor Ika, an eastern European blues guitarist of some local repute, who plays with the Grapevine Blues Band. It was quite busy, but I managed to do one song and do one jam number. The Goat used to be the venue for the St Albans Folk Club which helped kick start the career of Maddy Prior and company so might at least partially responsable for the formation of one of my favourite bands – Steeleye Span. The folk club was still running in 1985 when I moved to the town but closed down a couple of years later when the club organisers retired.
This club is where I originally met Graham Goffee with whom I later formed the band Innocent Bystander. Apropriately enough I performed Forty Days of Rain, which I originally wrote for this band. I didn’t really recognise the venue from my previous experience there, I think that many of the interior wall have been knock out. However a good session and one worth visiting again sometime.
The Royal Society of Musicians
On Sunday 4th of March I went down to London to be ‘read in’ to the Royal Society of Musicians as a full member. The society is actually Britain’s oldest musical charity was founded in 1738 as the Society of Musicians, with a ‘Fund for Decay’d Musicians’ which sounds pretty appropriate to me. I’m rather chuffed to have been accepted into an organisation which has been running longer that my country of birth.
I had the whole thing planned out as I wanted to go to the Safari Club gig later that same evening so I was going to park the van at Finchley tube station and then nip down to London on the Northern line using my Oyster card, then get back in time to listen to some amazing jazz while eating some great Indian food. The only trouble was the trains weren’t running. There was a replacement bus service but I was damned if I could find it. In the end I drove down to central London and managed to find a parking space just outside The Wigmore Hall (appropriately) which meant I was about 10 minutes late for the meeting. Thank god I don’t have to rely on public transport. The Sarfari gig later was excellent as usual.
On the 10th, the Hoedown Band was meant to be gigging at a local hotel. In the afternoon before the gig I got a call from someone who was coming out to check us out for their wedding who had checked with the venue and been told there was “no band on that night”. Concerned, I called the duty manager who told me that they ‘only did gigs at the end of the month’. Unfortunately the manager I had negotiated the gig with was not available so I had to hurriedly call the rest of the band to say the gig was off, before they started to travel.
This is a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing. To be honest, the management didn’t treat us very well at previous gigs we had played there, and it was only the enthusiasm of the ‘other’ manager that kept us going back. This is a problem with gigs like this at pubs/hotels, especially if they are owned by one of the big corporate breweries.
This particular cancellation was annoying both because of the lost gig/fee, but because it may have scuppered a well paid function gig as well. So that’ll be the last time we play there. However, since then I’ve had discussions with another local owner run pub to move this regular event to The White Swan in Dunstable.
In the week before St Patrick’s night my band enQ had a four day gig at one of the corporate venues at Cheltenham Racecourse for the Gold Cup week. This is the second year we’ve done this and we managed to iron all the technical issues that plagued us last year. I was quite a long day and I had decided that we should stay at Bloxham which is about an hour’s drive away.
We were doing a programme of about 60 songs and tunes every day which were a mix of celtic (Irish) and country songs and instruments, mainly dance tunes. The music went down pretty well and we got a number of tips but the main event for the punters was the racing. I guess that this was an example of how live music can raise the profile of the event. There’s something very classy about having a live band making the the background music that recorded music can’t compete with.
St Paddy’s Night
The last gig before I headed ‘downunda’ was a St Pat’s gig at a golf club. This was a long standing gig through a particular agent who’s pushed a small number of gigs towards us over the last 3 or 4 years. The last one was the Burns’ Night gig we did in January which I had a few problems with due to the agent. This one was put on the contract as a St Patrick Night event but what the agent did not convey to me was that they wanted a ceilidh / ceili rather than the more usual mix of tunes and songs. Luckily our fiddle player could call enough dances to get us through, and ably assisted by Dawn, we could give them what they wanted. I don’t think I’m prepared to use this agent again…
Sunday was mother’s day so we treated her to a traditional Thai Sunday lunch at a local restaurant. After this it was just a matter of packing and heading off to the airport for my flight to Australia.