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Friday, July 14

The Lead-in

Life is all about events and the things which lead to them. When I'm gigging, the few hours of driving are an easily identified lead-in to an event. But looking back on a week where I can remember only the gigs as highlights, the days between gigs also lead between them.

I remember watching King Kong at some point over the weekend just gone. King Kong was a few hours of my life that are now forever invested in watching the over-blown underwritten special-effects festival which Peter Jackson was able to thrust upon the world because he is who he is. It was alright. It didn't drag that much and Jack Black was very watchable (as always). However, if I had the choice of King Kong or School of Rock, then I'd watch the latter again.

Some tidying up of my girlfriend's room was performed, in anticipation of the impending move-in which I'm going to do when all my Farnborough-based possessions are transported across to Reading.

The photos, taken on Monday, were reviewed as was the poster for the show in Edinburgh:


oooh - brooding!

The dog was a lot of work.

The gig
It's amazing how much blurs into non-memory. However, at some point in the melee of activity which is my life, I got into a car and started driving to Huddersfield.

Getting 211 miles into the North West is not an easy exercise from this part of the world. There are a lot of counties to traverse (I'm always impressed that I can cross from Berkshire through Surrey into Hampshire on my usual trip to work) and there are lots of nasty roads. If I could cite any roads that I would like to avoid, they would be the M3, the M25 and the M6. Listen to traffic reports, you know I'm right. My route to Huddersfield seemed to have two options.
  1. Take the M3, M25 and M1
  2. Take the M3 for a little bit, then work through the M40, M42, M6 and M62 and go an extra 30 or 40 miles into the bargain
The horns of a dilemma. The M1 route seemed the straight route to Huddersfield, but the M25 was not a nice section. However, the M6 could be useful with the M6 Toll road providing a neat shortcut (in time, not distance) but could also be a big risk, being further AND also coming up on traffic reports as a hot spot.

So, I took the shortest route.

It was not an easy journey. I had to be at the venue for 8ish and it was getting tighter as I went along. The overturned truck on the M3 was on the opposite carriageway - that could have been a stop for my whole route. The M25 was horrible, the M1 had roadworks at regular intervals, killing the road. Then the country lanes from the M1 into Huddersfield were blocked with some Sunday-driver types who couldn't drive even close to the speed limit. These weren't even country windy lanes, just non-dual carriageway A roads, which happen to go through green bits.

I was unimpressed with the whole process.

Though the sat-nav guided me directly to the venue (bar some complicated one-way system renegotiation which was easy enough with my common sense and its maps), I couldn't park there directly. I got slightly disoriented when I found a nearby carpark (free!) and then tried to find my way back to the venue on foot. Local people hadn't heard of the venue or the road. In fact, when I found the road and asked some people on a bench if they knew which way the venue was, even they hadn't heard of the road, despite being on it.

Getting to the venue, I found a few problems.
  • Very few audience
  • More acts than the bill could support
  • Nowhere obvious to plug my guitar in
Slightly frazzled from the journey, I wasn't in a mood to worry about it. I wasn't in a mood to bow out of the gig either. A couple of guys decided to take one for the team and step down. One had only come because he wasn't certain that his cancellation had been processed - he went. Another was fairly local and wasn't in the mood for a gig. I wasn't exactly on top form, but I had invested over 4 hours in my journey and wasn't going to make it a waste of the effort.

The guitar problems were solved with a couple of bits and bobs from my bag of tricks. Nothing clever - just enough lead extension to get me a line from the stage to the DJ desk, which had the right connection in it. The sound-check I did was cursory and good enough... though sound wasn't that good.

I was on in the middle.

The compere turned a small audience into a good crowd for comedy, though not the easiest of crowds. The first act did a good job and I really enjoyed him. However, this audience weren't able to laugh very loudly unless they were worked.

I went on and did my thing. My mp3 player had run out of power, so I don't have a recording. I'm not that keen to remember what went on, though. It wasn't my finest hour, nor was it my worst... just somewhere in between. At a couple of points I remember racking my brain for something to do which would be bigger than what I was doing. It felt like the difference between the material I needed and the material I had in my arsenal was obvious to me as I stood in front of an audience that needed firebombing with Ashley to get any laughs to explode from them.

Still, they stuck with me and the other acts spoke to me after I'd been on.

Not doubling up
When I planned the gig, I was told I'd be on in the first section and that the show would start 8.30. I envisaged being offstage by 9.30. Another gig in Liverpool that night was being organised and I'd suggested doubling-up and hot-footing it to Liverpool to close it after the Huddersfield performance. That would be fun to do and would make more of the journey.

As it happened, the Liverpool gig didn't need me and so I wasn't planning that hotfootage. I had, instead, told my girlfriend that I'd head back when I had finished performing, so it wouldn't be as late a night. This I did. However, the delays in the show's start and the messing with the running order meant that I didn't leave Huddersfield until 11. It's good that I didn't have a double-up planned. Someone would have been let down and I would have been very pissed off.

Some things kind of just work out... like the fact that I've no gigs next week, when there's an airshow on and I'm not going to be able to travel easily.

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