So, we set off. We agreed to meet at the last services before Glasgow. Off we set, in separate cars. Had we been in the same car, the issue of meeting at services would have been awkward. There we would have been, sitting side by side, not talking to each other because we'd agreed, arbitrarily, that we weren't to meet until some services. We'd be doing our best to avoid meeting in the confined space of a Volvo 440. It just wouldn't have been practical. No. In this case we were in two cars, which drive at different speeds and in different ways by different drivers.
I arrived at the services first. It wasn't a race and I felt no sense of pride in getting there first. I was, in fact, feeling a sense of slight confusion. As I'd been journeying to the services, I received a text with some hotel details. The text came from the person whom I'd hired the Glasgow venue through. I assumed that he was texting the wrong person. I hadn't asked for a hotel. In fact, I'd bought, on Wednesday lunchtime, a new sleeping bag and I had arranged to kip on someone's floor in Glasgow. I certainly wasn't able to afford a hotel on the show's meagre budget. I texted him back questions about this hotel.
When my colleague arrived at the services I was able to proudly announce that we'd just scored ourselves free accommodation in a Glasgow hotel. I didn't quite understand the deal, but it was a deal nonetheless. Basically, the hotel was giving free accommodation to performers in the comedy festival. I can only assume that they were expecting to make their money on the bar from the late-night culture that comes with the performers. Or perhaps it was their way of buying into the brochures that the festival promoters put out. It didn't matter. We had a twin hotel room to share and I wasn't disappointed at all.
I had to break the news to the person we were to be staying with that his services were no longer required as host. However, I insisted that he come along and join us at the show. This insistance, proved to be rather important.
Arriving at the venue
Once out of the services, with coffees and breakfasts consumed, we headed to Glasgow in convoy. I'd bought an A to Z of Glasgow at the services and this proved to be most useful. I had an idea of where we were going, but Glasgow's one-way-system is something of a bitch and a pig. We did some jiggery pokery, then some poddling about... eventually we got near the venue. Everything, so far, had been running to time and I was quite pleased about how things were going. The venue staff showed me the room we were going to use. I started to feel a little less pleased and excited. It was going to be hard to make the show work in the space... hard, but not impossible. Then I was told where the best place to unload was. We weren't parked in the correct street.
One more wander through the one-way-system later, and we were unloading. The lighting equipment wasn't expected until 1pm, so we started to assemble bits of the set. Then we discovered a problem. There was no wobble board. The back of the shelves were missing. I don't know where they had dropped out of our packing list, but they were not in our possession any more. I assumed that they'd be waiting for me at home and contemplated going back to get them on the way to the North West shows. I didn't do that, which was probably a good idea as they proved not to be there on my ultimate return. Weird. Where had they gone?
With cars that needed moving around and parking paid on them, and with a wobble board that needed a replacement, and with a hotel room that needed claiming, there was an obvious plan. My colleague was to become the runner and sort out all this small but important problems. I was to be the techie and get the show set up. We couldn't swap roles as my colleague would not be able to do the technical stuff. That's the honest truth. He had a pretty miserable day of negotiating the one-way-system, not being accustomed to doing much driving, and certainly not in foreign and unforgiving streets. I had a very challenging (and ultimately rewarding) day in the basement of a pub.
Turning the cellar into a fringe theatre
The venue - 13th Note - is a great place for bands to play. It has minimal lighting (but you don't need it) and a good P.A. There's an obvious stage area (though not very wide between the front speakers) and there's a reasonable sized area for people to dance in. It is not a theatre. I had paid for the hire of some stage lighting equipment. This consistuted several lanterns, some stands, a dimmer rack (thing they plug into) and a lighting desk (which controls the dimmer rack). This alone does not turn a cellar into a theatre. A bit of know how and a lot of luck might.
I wanted the mirror ball to work. I like the place it has in the show. I had nowhere to hang it. I eventually improvised and attached it, with its motor at an odd angle, to a metal beam... I had to clamp it into place with a piece of wood in there to give my motor clamp something to bite into. It was probably most unsafe. Since the motor was at an angle, the ball turned rather oddly, but it worked. I had to be careful, though, not to let the erection of the mirror ball take too high a priority. After careful consideration, I got myself into a routine where I did things in the order they were most needed and with the highest risk stuff first.
I had to be sure that I could understand how to make the lighting stuff work. With no lights, the show wouldn't work well. I wasn't totally convinced that the equipment was all present and correct, so I did a test to see if I could make it all work. I had luckily been provided with a copy of the manual for the lighting desk, which proved to be totally useful. It wasn't the hire company providing the manual, nor the venue manager. No, it was someone else, who was getting the benefit of that equipment, who emailed me a copy of the manual to print out. I couldn't have done the show without this manual and I was foolish not to think of sourcing it myself. However, luck was on our side and the manual quickly got me up to speed on how to work the desk.
What the manual didn't mention was that plugging in all the lights and turning the desk up to max was going to lose me power for about half an hour. I accidentally set off the breakers for the main power circuit and had to work in the dark for a while. I mean I had some light, but overall, I was working without the lights I intended to use. This gave me time to set up the chairs and relocate the lighting desk to where it belonged - the technical area at the back of the room. As I set it up there, I started to realise that I needed two techies, not one, to run the show. I only had one techie, but perhaps I could persuade my now-no-longer-needed-host to act as the other. Like the friend of mine of the previous evening who had done the lighting, my chosen ad-hoc techie was an IT expert who had never done lighting before. I reckoned he'd be up to the job. I wasn't wrong.
We got the power back on and did a sound-check of the instruments. One good thing about the venue was that they had a great sound system. It did not require very much of our equipment to make our instruments sound their best. We just left it to the techie. Everything sounded good, the CD played in the house CD player (though I had my DVD player of the previous night on hand anyway, just in case) and we were all set. One small problem, though. The technical operator was going to be someone different. The guy who helped us set up wasn't staying. So, we were still going to have to wait until the last minute to do our technical run through. This was a bit stressful, but didn't seem like the end of the world.
Making the technical stuff work
It should have been easier than it was. We had the set looking good:
Plus, in a spare moment, I had worked out how to program the lighting desk and I'd written, on a technical script, all the details of how to run the show from the desk. Largely, it was a case of pushing one button to move to the next lighting state (at the right moment) with an occasional twist of a knob to control how quickly the lights did this change. It wasn't too complicated and it was to be the most reliable and straightforward lighting we'd have on this mini-tour. The best lighting we ever had was in Edinburgh during the Fringe.
I'd used a fair number of lanterns and, despite the angles being quite wrong, I think we got a good looking show. I don't think it could have been done better with that equipment. I was happy. Things should have been going well.
I'd already prepared my newly-appointed techie that his duties were to change. I rang him to see how he was doing. He wasn't really headed in the right direction and was due to the venue after 7pm. The show started at 8pm. I got him to change his plan. After 6pm, I rang him again, worried about the show (there was no sound guy at that stage either). The help we needed was stuck on a train. So, while he sat on the train, I explained to him all he needed to know about the lighting desk. I reckoned that this explanation would, in some small way, make his transition from IT expert to lighting expert possible. It helped me feel like I was doing something.
I think we got into costume early so that we'd have as long as possible with our techies when they arrived. I'd marked up a sound script with the cues for the CD player. Everything was ready on paper.
We didn't get access to our techies until 6.30ish. At that point, we split into two groups. There was me briefing my friend on the subject of lighting. He'd seen the show in Edinburgh, so had a reasonable idea of what was going on... but seeing a show and running it from the technical box are two very different experiences. He was helped a little, but needed to learn it from scratch. Simultaneously, my colleague was telling the sound guy what to expect to see on stage around the location of each cue.
Things were going well... until the CD player suddenly started refusing to play my CD. The office, in which our spare equipment was stored, was locked, so we ran off to get the key and then darted in to get the DVD player and leads. After a bit of messing about, the DVD player was installed and working. Aaagh. Time drizzling through our fingers like cheap olive oil. I had friends coming to see the show - they were upstairs eating, unaware that my world was collapsing down below.
However, put pressure on good people and they can deliver. We did a technical run through. It didn't work first time. But it was close enough. A bit of polishing and rebriefing and the tech stuff came together in record time. We got the doors open about 15 minutes before the show.
Well, the relief of getting the technical stuff ready and the problems solved was shortlived. The stress my colleague had endured had gotten to him slightly and I was quite tired. We had to get ourselves into the right frame of mind. We had a set. We had an audience... there were even extra audience members in the form of our techies at the back. It was going to work. For some reason, the sound guy decided to play weird techno-trance stuff (not really music, though perhaps a cousin) which put an odd mood into the room, but never mind. We were going to do our show!
The time came for the off and we went in there and did our thing. It worked. It was an audience of about 15 - maybe fewer - and they laughed in all the right places and had a good time. Result!
After the show, there were instructions to put me in a taxi and send me to O'Neills on Sauciehall Street where I was to perform a gig. Having made sure my colleague was going to be okay with this (he seemed to need a rest - lightweight... just kidding), I agreed. We first of all cleared the set from our show. There was a stand-up show due in after ours. I made sure that he had suitable lighting and that we did as quick a changeover as possible. I also made sure that our costumes were laid out in the office so that they'd probably dry, ready for the next day.
Then I jumped into the taxi and was sped across town. I arrived at a weird gig. The audience were being whipped into a mob-like frenzy by the compere and there were two acts I knew, getting ready to go on. I was told that I'd be closing the show. Fair enough... well, not really. The audience were pissed and lary and the other acts felt that they weren't really being listened to.
I went out there, with a borrowed guitar (my colleague having tidied mine away to the hotel... not realising that I'd brought it because I might need it to do stand-up) and did my shit. In places they listened (and laughed), in others they sang-along. It wasn't too bad. I had to work for it... but I like working for gigs. I got off stage before they sussed out what I was up to. Good stuff.
Immediately after this gig, we were shepherded to another one. This other one wasn't ready to start. I left my stuff and went off in search of company. My friends in the audience (which was, I think, most of the audience... probably all of the audience) had largely made it to the other gig. I got to thank them for their efforts in supporting the show and spend a little time with them. One of the friends of a friend who came to see the show was most quiet and star struck... but then she had just seen my arse and the show had been on her favourite (and my favourite) subject - musicals. We chatted, quietly, about musical theatre and everyone was a winner. It's a good subject to talk about.
For this late night gig (my third performance of a tiring day), I was asked where I wanted to be on the bill. I opted to go on later on on the bill, giving me more chance to spend time with the folks upstairs. My musical colleague, having rested, managed to wander directly from the hotel to the bar where I now was, without even planning a route or knowing if he was going in the right direction... it just happened. I spent a little time with him upstairs, enough time to witness a fight and then get out of its way (big men like me can be fuel for fights). Then I went downstairs to see what sort of a crowd the promoter had rustled up for the gig.
It was looking like a bloodbath. The audience really ripped into the first act. He was immediately followed by a newish act whose stuff went over their heads completely. They were too stunned to heckle too much. Then another act went on and, while he was on, I was told that I'd be sent on straight after him. I wouldn't get chance for a soundcheck and the audience wouldn't get a break either. Several acts in a row with no break can wear an audience out. In particular, this audience were showing signs that read - "it's late, we're drunk and tired and nothing seems funny anymore"... well, they read that to me.
I went up there, bursting with whatever energy I could muster and did my stuff. Some of it worked ok. I discovered the thing which did work. Giving a damned big performance. The bigger I played it, the more I got. I didn't have much energy left. This had been a pretty big day. I'm only human. An improvised song about the woman on the front row, which descended into un-Ashley-like-filth, seemed to get a lot of laughs. I wasn't really impressed with myself, but what the hell... you play the audience you've got.
Post shows party?
After the gigs were over, I was confronted by several men chanting "Titty Bar" over and over again. I couldn't be doing with that. I've no desire to go to such a place. I don't want ladies to wave things at me that I'm not allowed to play with. I do want the attentions of a lady and to have her wave things at me, but not in a public place. Basically, I don't get titty bars and wanted no part in one. Anyway, why would I want to pay money to some strange girl in a bar to do rude things when I could spend time with a non-strange girl and exchange intimate pleasantries..?
All these arguments only excited my antagonists all the more. I remained firm and they went away - to the titty bar - without me.
Late night food
My colleague, our technical non-hosting friend and I all went to a Chinese takeaway style diner. We ate good food. We were merry. We dropped the technical dude off at his home. We went back to the hotel and I got to sleep after a late night shower. It had been an exhausting day. It wasn't going to be an easy ride from this point. Pre-sales had been disappointing for the Saturday night, so we needed to do some promotion... and, oh yeah, our cars were parked for free outside of the hotel, but needed moving by 8AM - yes, 8AM the following morning. No rest for the wicked.