Sunday, 8 November 2015

The 100 Club

As bizarre as it sounds, we keep a database here at Odd Folk HQ that lists all the gigs we've ever done, all the musicians we've ever used and all the money we've ever earned. For a band as forgetful as us, that's pretty good going. The regularity with which we misplace leads, leave instruments or crucial wires at home is frightening. But when it comes to filing, we're on the ball. Just the other day while updating the spreadsheet I noticed we were approaching a landmark and hastily made contact with the guitar player.

Now this isn't gospel by any means. Due to unforeseen circumstances we may have to call it a day on 132. Or spurred on by an Indian Summer we may well get to 200. Or beyond! Bare in mind we average between 20 and 25 gigs per year so another 100 is another 4 or 5 years! Not impossible but unless we start earning some dosh from it, it's unlikely that we'll be able to keep steering this ship at a loss. And when I say earning money, I mean we'll need more than the £25,772 that this band has garnered! 25K! It seems nuts! It seems unbelievable! We must be rich! But then that's just an average of £257 per gig, not a lot really. Some we've earned £1000, some we've earned nothing, some we've lost money on. Indeed our 99th gig lost us £84. But the reality is in 5 years we've taken in over 25K. That's just over the average UK annual earning. So we've done a year's work in 5 years basically! Or taken £429 a month which divided by the 5 of us gives us £85 a week per person. Of course this is futile arithmetic unless you add all that has been spent on the band; travel, accommodation, instruments, leads, posters, flyers, promotion, publicity, vehicles etc... probably somewhere near to 25K in itself! Meaning we might just be breaking even! And that's NOT counting money borrowed for the first album and a fan funded second one, plus two professionally made films (as favors!). Those four alone would approach 25K. It's not cheap being in band

So, 100 gigs hey. Not bad. Look how far we've come? From our first performance in a leaky barn in Zennor to our 100th show at The Acorn Arts Centre, Penzance. That's not very far actually is it!? Only 9 miles down the road! But in between stretches a whole world of travel and tragedy, of packed arenas and empty halls, from snow and hailstones to balmy summer festivals, from the BBC to a village hall somewhere off the Flumpton Road. We've done churches, art galleries, the capital, the Peak District, even Europe! 14 weddings and no funerals! 10 festivals, 3 tours, used 5 vehicles and 15 musicians. Supported Nutini, Flynn and Tilston. Rather a lot in 9 miles!

Gigs 99 and 100 perfectly sum up our time here at The Odd Folk. One was under-rehearsed, under-attended and plagued with sound problems while the other was well organized, well attended and the sound purred like a kitten.
The landmark was reached in some style, a full house at our second home. Indeed The Acorn holds the record for our most appearances, last Saturday's gig was our 10th concert in the old chapel. Gig no.99 was less fluid however; on the outside the fans will have enjoyed it, they buzzed about The Fiddlers none the wiser. Only the seasoned ears would have heard the cracks in the armor, felt us force our way through some prickly moments. It was a hard task to learn 7 new songs, we hadn't been gigging the new ones over the summer so we they were rusty at best. The 3 old classics had no excuses, some like Franz Kafka were as old as time. Basket Man nearly made the first record and I Wonder had been gigged extensively over the last two years! But the new ones, they were as new to us as they were to you. Plus we were playing a kora and a double bass, a ukulele and a banjo and an electric tremelo. We had more instruments than we knew what to do with. That's why we'd roped in Louis Gulliver King to help us pick up what we couldn't. And he'd slotted in so easily it was like he'd been there for years. I remember on his first day of rehearsal, some weeks before, when we all yelled out notes...

"Sammy, crank the slide up!"
"Shelley, whatever you just played then, that was it!!"
"Hold on to the last note, Oscar!"
"Morgan, slow down!"
"Shelley, it doesn't go like that!"
"More cymbals, Andy!"
"No, Shelley!!!!!"

... nobody had anything bad to say about Louis, he had taken to it like a duck to water, he knew the songs better than us!

 At the end of no.99 we stood in the fire escape with ashen faces, while inside the place purred as per normal; on the outside it was all fine, 100 people warm with wine and whatever else; clapping, cheering, perhaps wanting to dance more and us maybe forcing it a little so they could. The film had gone well, good raucous laughter rolling about the old stone jail cum music venue. But on the inside we were deflated. We do have standards you see, so often it seems we don't, like when you see us prance around making as much racket as possible with 200 pissed up punters yelling 'All my friends they be Whisky Drunk!' But that's an isolated moment; what's telling is when you can begin Fred and the room is silenced until the drums roll in and the crooning begins. We tried that at no.99 and the chatter of voices went merrily on, as though the background band had piped up at a Christmas function. And that is our fault; we didn't 'arrive', we didn't 'own' the stage and the room. We skulked up unsure of what to say and play and then left the audience to make the atmosphere

The next morning, up early, van packed and the 6 of us set off south to our home. A good sound check that day and us being in the space together with time at hand focused us. We were ready. And so when the 170 fans piled into the old chapel and took their seats, we were calm and prepared - despite a madcap dash around town to find the correct wire to play the film while keeping the growing audience crammed into the bar downstairs as we worked on the projector! (But that's common practice for us; it didn't touch the sides!) The film opened, there was laughter and even tears by one nice lady. "Tears of joy!" she smiled. We took to the stage and played through the set, you could have heard a pin drop in some songs while others saw fans unable to keep seated and dancing in the corner. Some stage show was incorporated, Louis Gulliver King who had swapped instruments with feeling and dexterity like he'd been part of the furniture forever, was told not to play on a particular song and instead told to go the bar and get us some beers! Of course this was planned but the trick worked and the audience fell for it, feeling sorry for him as he trudged off stage and breaking out in howls of laughter as he returned after the song with a tray of beers and asked us all for £3 each. And we even had special effects too; during The Ghost the lights went black and then re-focused moments later on a ghost standing on the stairs. "Ooooooooo" chorused the audience as our friend Connie Crosby, in a vintage white number glided through the auditorium. The finale, Mother Goose, contaminated with chatter the night before, was "spell-blinding" one fan said, as no pins were dropped and we wrapped to lengthy applause. So lengthy in fact that fans began coming into the changing room and demanding "more" and so we eventually returned, asked them to name their tune and delivered a high octane version of Kayleigh Jane to finish with a bang. It was the most perfect gig, I can't think of many better.

"100 not out!" said the guitar player as he packed up his leads.
"Is it really 100?" asked the piano player, the other original member, "I thought it was more!?" Funnily enough so had I, but databases don't lie. There's 57 in Cornwall, 40 on the mainland and 3 in Europe. That's another fact that comes as a surprise, that almost half of our shows are away from home. And that Bristol and Penzance are neck and neck on 15. Another tie break is London and Zennor, locked on 8 apiece.
"What am I on? asked the bass player.
"58!" I memorized.
"And me?" added the drummer, polishing his cymbals.
"Only 43 mate! You've got a long away to go before you reach the dizzy heights of the 100 club!"