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Thursday, May 25

Just Listen To The Rhythm Of My Part

My car is not in the best of condition again. The problems come and go. I suspect that it's something to do with the brakes (them's the breaks). In addition one of the tyres on the front is not looking in tip-top condition either. As a result, I either get a vibration in my front wheels or a sense that the car is holding back - feels a bit brake-related to me. I have an increased belief in it being a brake-thing due to the fact that the garage told me that the brakes were a point of concern last time I had the car serviced. So, it's going in for service again. I have to wait two weeks before they'll see it, though. This is a nuisance, as I have a fair bit of driving to do before June 7th. I do about 50 miles a day commuting, and gigs add maybe 200-300 miles to that. There aren't a huge number of gigs before June 7th, but each drive could potentially make the problem worse.

I should have booked the car in sooner. However, I'm an idiot. I kept delaying it because I had gigs. I foolishly believed that I would find that they could take the car in within the week and that I would find myself having to put it off because there would be gigs in the way - ideally, I don't want to use a garage-courtesy-car to drive to a gig. I'm an idiot. Did I mention that? Yes? Good, because I am. I should have avoided the prevarication, procrastination and utter laziness, and sorted this out sooner. The car will, as a result, be in a worse condition when they come to fix it than it should be. Indeed, some parts may wear out more as a result. D'oh!

Lowestoft was a giggle
I had the opportunity to spend a fair bit of time listening to the rhythm of my car's wheels yesterday as I did a gig in Lowestoft, which is all the way over on the east coast of the landmass we call Great Britain. I've used the phrase "listen to the rhythm of my..." twice in this post because I'm trying to be funny and quote the band The Darkness. The Darkness hail from Lowestoft, indeed they went to school within a few inches of where I did my gig - those are map inches, so in reality it was more like a few hundred yards.

Being a musical comedian with material spoofing The Darkness, I decided to research Lowestoft's musical heritage. Gene Simmons visited there to do a "School of Rock" (I bet I can guess the porn-film-spoof of that movie) style band-making exercise with the kids of Kirkley High School (alma mater of 3 of the 4 members of The Darkness). Benjamin Britten was also born in Lowestoft. Sadly, this town also gave the world Tim Westwood (Tim... you're not black!).

With research complete - thank you Wikipedia - I drove to the gig looking at the landscape and odd Stars-in-their-eyes place names. The place names are definitely strange round there - they're like names of more famous places, but with subtle differences. My favourite was the "Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be wishing that I was on Cat Deely's lap, but I shall be impersonating Oxford" - the town was called "Yoxford". Brilliant.

I arrived at the gig in plenty of time. This is good, considering I'd been driving for over 3 and a half hours and needed the toilet. The sound check was somewhat fettered by the lack of a suitable hole in the sound-desk into which I could stick my guitar. However, we found a separate self-amplifying speaker and the balance of nature was restored - the guitar sounded quite good coming out of it. I also felt very effective and technical as I managed to twist every single knob on the speaker and most of the sliders on my guitar in order to achieve this feat. It probably looked really geeky, but I felt like I'd suddenly become some sort of sound-check superhero, quickly appraising the way to operate this sound equipment and optimise the sound coming out of it.

Sad!

The gig itself was great fun. Had the room been filled to capacity, it would probably have been one of the best gigs of my life. As it was, the room was sparsely occupied by about 50 people, but they were in clusters and were determined to have a damned good time. In that situation all you have to do is appear to be delivering them with the aforementioned good time and they'll do all the work. That might sound cynical or self-deprecating, but it's meant affectionately. Audiences that want to laugh are great. They keep their own energy up and they'll really go for something if it's delivered with conviction. I'm a cheery high-energy bubbly bugger. As a result, I think of these self-powering audiences a bit like petrol... all I need to do is lob some Ashley-sized matches at them and, even if my matches would fail to light a more discerning crowd, we all have a good time.

It was very good. I overran my spot, but the time flew by. I listened to a recording of the gig on the way home and I was happy with it. I can still see my faults. A lot of my improvised asides misfire slightly (though I'll admit that some of my improvised phrases amused me more off stage than they appeared to amuse the audience while I was on stage). I also have to learn to keep my stage persona up in between bits. I think I've worked out what it is, and I think I'm improving. I drop the energy levels in between sections in order to bring the audience down so I can lift them up with the bits that are meant to be funny. I think what I may be missing is a low-energy version of my stage-self. You can hear it in the tone of my voice. I'm not that good at a stage-confident low-key thing.

Anyhoo... self-appraisal/criticism aside, the gig went well, and I'm a happy chappy. It was my first performance for that promoter and I hope that good reports will get back to them. More gigs like that will do me no harm. I think it's probably one of the best crowds I've played in a while. That's more down to bad luck and sparsely attended run of gigs than anything else.

I feel quite strong at the moment. Losing some weight has given me more energy (not too much of a suprise) and the last few gigs, though not always easy, have been confidence boosting in some way. What I need to do now is write some new funny material and keep my eye on the middle-week of August, which should be an Edinburgh-based comedic frenzy.

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