Thursday, 21 March 2013

The piano player lives 300 miles away!

   We have a two-venue Easter tour! and this weekend we will be rehearsing with the band in preparation - this means summoning them all from the far flung corners of southern England and ferrying them here to Bristol. It's a rather unwelcome and costly activity I must say; the piano player living 300 miles away in a subtropical valley in the far west of Cornwall. He doesn't drive a car and owns the heaviest keyboard known to man, so heavy in fact that he can't even lift it! This is very unwelcome indeed. His journey will involve persuading disgruntled family members to drive him half an hour to the nearest town where he will heave his enormous piano onto the train (but knowing British Rail as I do it'll probably be a replacement coach service!) and spend 5 hours+ chugging his way to Bristol. Never one to travel light, he will, of course, have packed too much stuff and one of his many plastic bags (containing food he'll never eat and clothes he'll never wear) will have broken and he will be frantic and frayed on his arrival. The bass player lives 100 miles in the opposite direction (!) in the smoky plains of the capital. His journey will be sleek and fast, carrying only his bass and a good book, he will be here in less than 2 hours. Manageable. The drummer, who's not our permanent drummer and doesn't own a drumkit or a car (this too is very unwelcome!) will accompany the bass player on the same journey from the concrete jungle. He will read Shakespeare and dress very well. The guitar player, thank god, lives here at The Odd Folk HQ!

So we are due for a weekend rehearsal, and as we have a limited budget we can afford a rehearsal room for only one of the days, with the other being confined to our lounge. We chose the space for sunday, figuring it's best not to make an enormous racket on this holy day of rest. Saturday will see us squeeze into the bigger of our two front rooms; all 5 of us with our heavy piano and our drumkit that we borrowed from my mother! We will then play through our repertoire of songs, forget most of the structures and after a while spent arguing over them, we will huddle around the bass player's little dictaphone trying to hear the recordings we made back when we were good! The Sunday will be easier, despite the cross-city lugging of all our gear in our little french van, we will at least have space to manoeuvre and won't be driving our neighbours mad! We'll manage to play through the set a few times and then worry which waistcoats to wear for the video we are shooting that afternoon. After the costume hype has calmed down and we feel comfortable in our attire we will have most probably forgotten the structure to the song, or in some cases, which song we're even shooting! We'll shoot the track three times, playing it completely differently each time we do it, thus giving the cameraman an impossible edit, and then carry on rehearsing by ourselves. Evening will arrive by which time we'll be so infuriated with each other we'll call it a day. The bass player and the drummer departing back to the capital while the piano player spends another night kipping on the sofa before his 300 mile journey back to the subtropical wilderness from whence he came.

Throughout the course of the week we'll keep in touch via a web-based message board, discussing set-lists, relaying the structure of the songs and generally prepping ourselves. We'll keep checking the Event Page hoping that more than 28 people will turn up, and wondering if indeed those 28 people will even turn up themselves! We'll try to ignore the recurring nightmares of a largely empty arena and us performing the songs naked to a couple of bewildered on-lookers, none of which we know! The day of the gig will arrive, a Thursday, and the guitar player and I will organise all of the gear in prep for the evening and then spend the afternoon worrying whether or not the piano player will have missed his train and if the drummer will have forgotten that he has a lecture that evening and can't make it after all. We know the bass player will make it, he's punctual and on the ball. That gives us hope, at least the three of us can play naked to the handful that do turn-up!

The gig itself will surpass our expectations, they mostly always do. After the initial stress of the set-up and sound-check and the nerves of the opening number, we'll relax into it, buoyed on by the smiles of the crowd, far exceeding 28! There'll be a couple of wobbles, mainly unnoticed by the audience. I may well forget some of words and make a few up, we'll mumble a little between songs, but generally we'll pull it off, culminating in a euphoric encore of our best known song, Whisky Drunk. We'll be all smiles as we mingle with the fans, sipping a sweet rum and for a few stolen moments we'll feel like we really can make it after all! But then reality will dawn, the crowd will disperse, the liquor in our bellies will exceed the limit and we'll be left with a cross-city taxi ride with all our gear, having forgotten to sell any CD's and reluctantly forking out of our own back pockets! Yes, this is a long way from making it we'll think as we unload the gear in the rain and worry about where everyone is going to sleep! 

Next-up; the London leg of our two-venue Easter tour. Already the nightmares have returned and song structures are somewhat shady, the piano seems heavier today, we've forgotten the mandolin and the drummer can't even do this gig! This is how NOT to be in a band - but then this is all we know, and despite our frantic and ramshackle nature and our logistical nightmare of living 300 miles apart, it's somehow all worth it for those sweet stolen moments after Whisky Drunk, when the crowd erupts we feel on top of the world...