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Tuesday, May 17

Today was a gig I was looking forward to. When I rang the promoter to ask for the booking, he echoed my own sentiments that it had been far too long since I last played XS Malarkey. That gig is always a pleasure to play. No matter how good you think the audience are going to be, they always surprise you. This is a good thing! Oh yeah! I'd celebrated my 30th birthday at that venue, with that audience, and they'd been wonderful. Then, just under a year ago, I did another gig there. The crowd were great that time, though my performance (I listened to a recording I had of it) had been variable and a bit off. This time, with my new found confidence and bunch of new bits of material, I wanted to raise the roof. However, there was a problem: recently, the audience numbers had been dropping off and there had been, apparently, some quieter nices and less enthusiastic responses. I lowered my expectations accordingly.

Apparently, I also managed to lower my understanding of how to get to the gig. Having played there a few times, I assumed that I just "knew" the way there. This was not correct. However, the drive was, for the most part, a good one. I didn't realise that I'd be taking a 10 mile detour at the end of the journey when I enjoyed the first 90% of it. I had The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy playing on the radio - the new series, which I really must find some hooky copies of, so I can enjoy it in full sequentially (the one episode I heard sounded good). I was off to do a gig (which still gives me a buzz) and I had my new guitar in the boot. This should have been a good start to a good night.

And boy was it a good night?

Yes. Yes it was.

The bill started with a couple of newer acts. Bizarrely, both of these new acts were fully grown men who should know a lot better than to force themselves to trot many many miles around the country being silly in front of an audience of kids. The first act did very well. I'd not seen him before, so I assume he did well in his own experience, rather than just in my judgement. The second act, whom I have seen before, did ok. I'm sure he was happy with the response, despite it going a bit flat in the middle.

After the opening two acts, there's a section-closing act (in this case, a very solid and enjoyable performer - I told him that he did stand-up the way it should be done, and I agree with myself on that. Then there was supposed to be me in my own section as main support and the headliner in his own section as... well... headliner. Unfortunately for me, the bill was oversubscribed, and I had to cut my set down to 15 minutes in order to accommodate an act on before me. Not only that, but the act before me was more experienced and, dare I say it, really really good. So, I had to work against the clock and follow a really good act. I wasn't sure I could do it, but I wasn't going to let myself know that. I had an audience to entertain!

I got a nice introduction from the promoter/compere/smashing stalwart of the manchester comedy circuit (now I'm sounding all luvvie, but this guy really is great to work with and I like him a lot). Then I was on stage. I did more than 15 minutes. Some of the time was spent waiting for the audience reaction to calm so I could move on. They gave me the best response I think I've ever had. It didn't get to me, like the first room which lit up when I did my stuff (Bolton, October 2003). I've been entertained by the hilarity in the room and even found it infectious before, but on this occasion, their responses to my stuff, which were, in places, rapturous, didn't break through my performance and make me laugh. In fact, I was nearer to frightened. At one point, they were calling for more and I hadn't even finished yet. Here was me, feeling like I wanted to cram as much stuff in as possible, and the audience were going mental and slowing me down... of course, they were enjoying it and I didn't feel frustrated that they were going mental - that was, in fact, the best reaction I could have created... but it was, in places, just a bit weird. At one point, as the applause was dying down after a song, a cheering started and I felt (at the time) that it might never stop. I didn't really know how to handle an audience that were going mental.

How do you deal with the best audience. On that occasion, I acted in much the same awkward way I think I might react if I found myself in bed with a really enthusiastic partner who was unknown to me (this hasn't happened and will not happen, but I think is a good analogy nonetheless). The other person might be making all of the right noises, and some, and I would wonder what the "etiquette" would be in that situation. I'd ration that one should "talk dirty" but what should I say? I think my resulting actions in that situation might be similar to what I actually did in front of the whooping XS audience. I rather awkwardly shouted at them - "Yeah, you love it!". Still, it seemed to give me control of the room again.

It was a good night. My cousin, who had been in attendance with a bunch of friends, and had been worried that I might not be able to follow the preceding act, was satisfied that I am "the shit". He didn't put it like that... perhaps he said something similar. I don't know.

I shall be asking for another gig there. Gigs that good don't come round very often. Perhaps I'll be able to get in there around the time of my 32nd birthday! Maybe I'll even have a new set by then!

One late night drive home and then I had to get a few hours' sleep in preparation for work the next day. I actually managed to avoid the late night naughty eating. I'm almost a saint!


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