Comparing the effort to doing a gig in, say, Leeds, I would say that London is reasonably low stress. However, it's always more fuss than you'd think. The big problem is the fact that I have to get to work in Farnborough, but would rather arrive back home in Reading. So, either I have to get a lift into work and then take a train journey in and out of London with a different start and end, or I have to drive back to Reading and then take the train from Reading, return... or drive into London (which has never yet proved to be an easy option). Yesterday, I tried the bit where you return to Reading, get a lift to the station and take it from there. It wasn't hard, but it wasn't quick either. It feels like it should be easier.
However, a return ticket to London is a mere £12.50 from Reading station, and the 30 minute journey is an excellent opportunity to eat a 12" Subway sandwich and read Micro Mart, which has got increasingly superbly written content (I'm starting to feel increasingly inadequate as a result).
The result of yesterday's early evening travelling was that I found myself at Edgware Road Tube, a stop away from my train's destination of Paddington, at around 7.30. The gig was due to start at 8.30, with doors at 8. Perfect. Plenty of time to set up, relax, and prepare to be funny. I walked to the venue at a leisurely pace.
I arrived at the venue with my gig radar telling me that there wasn't much happening. In the room above the pub where the gig was supposed to be held, there was someone I knew, setting up the room. We had no sound system. This can simplify my setup, though I prefer to be plugged into a sound system and carry around much in the way of technical wizardry to make that possible. Still, plugging nothing in is always easier. However, I set about finding out whether we had sound, lights, backdrop etc. It turned out that we had a magic box of tricks in the cellar.
As we were carrying this stuff up from the cellar, with the landlord, he explained how the numbers for this new gig had been up and down, and the person who was running the gig on behalf of the promoter explained to him our threshold for whether the gig would go ahead. Six punters. It's not many, but it's more playable than 5. By explaining this up front we were preparing ourselves for the possibility of a pulled gig... the probability, in fact. However, I set about setting the room up anyway.
I got the sound set up, used my technical geekery to plug my guitar into it too and set a mini CD player on the bar playing a disc of "party hits" (lord save us from such things). The room was ready. We even had a mini spot light and a black cloth backdrop taped to the wall.
Other acts appeared. The original headliner was cancelled and I was appointed as his replacement. The rationale being that the original headliner need not bother with a gig that was so likely to be poorly attended, where I... had already turned up? or maybe was a lesser act, more apt for a lesser gig? I don't know. It didn't occur to me as insulting at the time.
Come 8pm, nobody came up, but I did a sweep of the bar downstairs and told people about it. Come 8.30 a handful of people came upstairs. Four people. That's two people less than our published threshold of six. We also had someone turn up who wanted a chance to go on stage as an act. We didn't know what to do. We couldn't go ahead under the circumstances. We considered doing a 30 minute free show, rather than take ticket money off the 4 people in the "audience". Then we considered not doing that. Then a couple more people turned up, but we'd announced that the show wouldn't go ahead, so it seemed too much of an effort to say that we'd changed our minds, just because two Norwegian students had arrived.
So we started packing away. We were about 2 minutes into unplugging and boxing things when another six people turned up, seriously hoping to see some comedy. By this stage, the wheels of pulling the gig were irrevocably in motion and the gig which might have transpired, had we reversed our decision, would have been one of those ones that you feel greedy for having snatched the opportunity to do. So, no regrets per se.
I found myself on a train headed back to Reading at about 9.30pm. At no stage did I consider whether my evening had been a total waste of time.
I knew it had been. There was no need to think about it. It was, however, easy.