Friday, 28 March 2014

Two Premieres

We were stood outside The Cube in Bristol, the last of the instruments crammed into the van, a couple of groupies loitering on the nearby curb. I approached my bandmates with the brown envelope of the night's takings clasped in my hand. They looked up expectantly; half in hope, half in fear. I cleared my throat and, "We made a loss of £75 boys!" There was a huge, heightened cheer and all 5 hands came together in celebration. How NOT be in a band! It was a perfect moment, I only wish the film camera had caught it.

As it happened the film cameras had caught enough; the evening's premiere was very well received and raucous laughter rolled about the old microplex cinema. The film had been completed only hours before it's red carpet release, and in true Odd Folk style, in the wrong format! meaning half an hour before the guests arrived we were facing the prospect of a 100 people cramming around a laptop on the middle of the stage. Luckily, the filmmaker and the projectionist found a stray wire that enabled us to transfer onto the big screen and Oh what a lovely experience it was too; to see our endeavours played out in high definition with cinema surround sound to a beholden room full of our friends and fans.

We were warmed by the response and indebted to our friends at Construct Creatives, who'd followed and filmed us the autumn before and then crafted their pictures into a delightful little snapshot of life in a band. And all as a labour of love. We'd done little handmade thank you cards for the filmmaker and editor with hastily scribbled messages of praise and gramercy and then put the wrong cards in the wrong envelopes! Everything that can go wrong does go wrong! 


A week followed before leg-two of the promotional campaign; the homecoming; the Penzance premiere, adding family to the friends and fans. Bigger pressure. A bigger audience. Would we pull it off as we had in Bristol? Would it go smoothly? Hardly! The night before the event we had no venue, no stage, no chairs and no PA! We had two newspaper articles, two dozen posters and the radio all telling people to go to The Union, we had tickets printed with The Union, but we didn't have The Union anymore! We'd pulled out after a barny over the bar and were facing the prospect of 200 people cramming into my mother's front room and watching us on the laptop! It was as close to a catastrophe as we've ever come! Which considering some of the mishaps we've had is saying a lot. 

The night before the event in the driving rain I approached the PZ Gallery in my hometown. All I had was a DVD and a croaky voice. I had the hopes of hundreds on my back. We thrashed out a deal which included the whole gallery, the projector and a fully stocked bar. Deal done. Now all we gotta do is get the message to the masses (word of mouth, posters scribbled over, notice boards at popular watering holes around town), build a stage ("Dad please!"), get a PA (drive 30 miles north to re-hire the one we'd returned the day before) and post a sentinel outside The Union to re-direct the traffic ("Mum, you wouldn't be an angel and stand outside in the rain with a sandwich board on would you!?). We accomplished it with seconds to spare, the guitar player who had been stuck in traffic from Bristol, just slipping through the door as the lights went down in a packed gallery . 

It was as warmly received, and as much-loved. We had all pulled together and made a bonfire out of an ember. Earlier in the day when the stage had arrived - when I say stage I mean a van load of pallets and some off-cuts of chipboard from a nearby building job - we all donned our yellow hardhats like Bob the Builder and fashioned it as best we could; the result was a 3-tiered podium; no tier with much room on it!
The drummer set his drums up on the largest level, the gold place, but had no room for his drum seat so had to sit on a highchair on the floor behind, which just bought him level! The piano player, on the lowest level, the bronze place, had barely enough room to swing a kitten and his pallet wobbled under the wood chocks and books. The final level, the silver place, housed myself, the bass player and guitar player, but little else, meaning the mics were balanced on an ironing board on the floor at the front. Space was at a premium, the structure was precarious, but it was our stage, our creation, and it worked. Just! We'd muddled through, calling favours from far and wide like The reverend Joe Gray lending us half a dozen church pews and John Voogd finding that stray wire that links the Laptop to the Projector! And giddy with gratitude we stood outside the gallery, the last of the instruments crammed into the van, a couple of groupies loitering on a nearby curb. I approached my bandmates with the brown envelope of the nights takings clasped in my hand. They looked up in total trepidation, teeth gritted, eyes skewed as though a firework had just been sparked. I cleared my throat and, "We made a profit of £80 boys!" The celebrations were wild, we roared to the moon and danced around the cobbled streets like kings and madmen. The band was £5 in the black! It was joyous feeling. 5 whole pounds. What we could do with such money? A latte and muffin from Starbucks!? A single trip on the London Underground in zone 1!? We were getting lost in the possibilities when the proprietor poked his head from the gallery window, "Err... before you get too carried away; I'll need £20 off you for the cleaner tomorrow morning!"

How NOT to be in Band!


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Red Carpet

poster by mae voogd
It's 10 days till the premiere. Or 9 more sleeps as people chirp excitedly. The Bristol-leg & debut showing of our film, How NOT to be in a Band, and we still don't have a red carpet! We've been looking; asking all our friends who deal in costume and curiosities. I know you can buy them for a small fortune, but we're tugging on the favour wagon. We've run out of cash!

The big night is a week on Friday, March 14th, at The Cube in Bristol; a 100 seater mini multiplex, a retro tardis with a whiff of shabby chic. The space is full of character due to its many guises; it started life as a gay avant garde art centre, before becoming a chinese restaurant, a girls school, a deaf and dumb institute and an illegal gambling den. And now it's home to the premiere of one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, screw the Oscar's, this is what it's all about! How NOT to be in Band; a madcap adventure in an old renault 4 that we can't reverse, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong, where microphones are fashioned out of branches and bass player's sleep in piano cases! The film is complete, it's even been sent to London to be graded and mixed (how very posh) and now it's waiting for its big day! 9 more sleeps people, 9 more sleeps!

We've been trying to practice for the event - not our film watching faces obviously, cause that would be daft! Can you imagine; 'Fancy a pint tonight?'
'I can't mate, i'm practicing watching films!'
-  we're playing live after the viewing you see, so we've been dusting up on our set. We drove high up into the forest of Dean last weekend, to the drummer's log cabin, and this time we went the right way; we didn't horseshoe it, we went direct; crossed the bridge with the sun on our faces, feeling very proud of ourselves, and then took the wrong road and drove into Newport! An hour and 40 minutes later we finally arrived, the old Renault seemingly more overloaded than when we were on the aforementioned tour, and struggling on the hills. We set up the gear and sat down to practice, doubled back, grabbed wellington's and coats and bounded off into the spring sunshine. Rehearsing could wait! We scampered down the steep valley, winding through the tall trees, sharing tall tales and squinting when the sun flashed through the foliage. We came out into a clearing at the bottom, beyond that was the River Wye. We bounded the fence, checking that the animals that grazed by the river were cows and strolled through boggy grass towards the water.

"Err, there's a bull!" said the drummer. We peered over to the grazing beasts. 
"Which one?" said the bass player.
"That massive one over there that's walking towards us!" he replied. "Don't run just walk purposefully and don't look back!" We walked purposefully alright, striding like soldiers before breaking into what can only be described as apprehensive skipping, throwing careless glances over our shoulders while trying to navigate a widening bog. The piano player, the only one of us in trainers was in a spot of bother so I hoisted him onto my back and stumbled on as best I could, but it wasn't long before I sunk deep into the mud under the extra weight. Stuck fast. I couldn't move, we were doomed, the bull would spear us, it was only a matter of time. I closed my eyes and waited for the horn to pierce my side! Waited to be impaled and raised high above his steaming nostrils with the piano player throttling me as he clung from my neck for dear life. But the next thing I heard was the drummer.
"He's moved away" he said "he doesn't like the bog either. You're safe!" 
"I'm not safe, I'm sinking" I yelled, "Now take the boy off my back!"
The piano player was peeled off me and I was pulled free. We scrambled up the bank and began the long hike home. "I don't remember walking up this hill on the way down!" complained the piano player as we fashioned walking sticks in an attempt to propel us up the valley. It took us an hour and 40 minutes to get back!

ghostly goings on....
The rehearsal commenced in earnest, we buzzed through the set before becoming stuck on learning a song for someone's wedding, then fled to the village pub. Later, inspired by the surroundings we skipped out into the night, walking along the river to the derelict and gothic Tintern Abbey, up-lit looking like Dracular's liar. We spooked ourselves. Made scary photos by flooding our faces in the large lights that circled the abbey. We tiptoed inside, the piano player sold a paintball session to some ghosts and we went merrily on our way.

The next day was a wash-out, like a damp and dirty dish cloth. The filming we'd planned was shelved, as was the photo shoot. We recorded a few slide solo's with the guitar player, who'd been absent the day before, due to buying his first house! We put the bass player back on the train to London, waved goodbye to the drummer and went our separate ways; having spent most of our rehearsal weekend stuck in the mud or spooking ourselves out.

But it's all go now, we're working to deadlines, the bass player's on overdrive with all the post production work he's doing for the film. We're editing a trailer for ITV news, an audio-trailer for BBC radio while writing a variety of pieces for the papers. But we still don't have a red carpet!

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrring! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrring! it's the piano player.

"Hello, what do you want?"
"Nothing, just seeing how you are." he asks.
"Well I'm stressed, trying to organise this premiere, my tux has got a hole in the crotch and i can't find a carpet, all i've got is a turkish rug!"
"That'd look cool!" he chirps.
"Anyway how are you, you sound cheerful?"
"I had the best day selling paintballs, 7 sales!" he boosts.
I quickly did the maths, 7 x £60 equals a lot of cash. hmmm...
"I wonder, could you lend us some money for a red carpet!?"      


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