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Thursday, May 6

The Song That Goes 'Bong'

I've been to Glastonbury. They have bands. Some of the bands do songs that people like. Some of them do songs that people haven't really heard, but then like and go out and buy in the post-Glasto slump. Then there's the band about which you say "You know them. They're the band that does the song that goes 'bong'". And that's it. It's that easy to reduce someone's efforts to a pithy phrase that may or may not be appropriate.

It takes days of work, many many man days, to make a record. You have the initial writing, the experimentation, the demo recording, the fine-tuning, the rehearsal, the hours and hours in the studio doing it over and over again, the mixing, the mastering, each run through of which may take many times longer than the 3 minutes or so the song takes to listen to. But if it's the song that goes 'bong', then that's what it gets known as.

I don't know if it trivialises the work that goes into the experience if it gets summed up by the people who experience it. Maybe to them the summary is just an aide memoir of a whole complex series of feelings and delights. It amuses me greatly, though, that you can't really expect more than just a few glib words in summary of one's efforts.

Ah, now I'm making this personal. What's happened? Have I been reviewed? Am I harbouring some dismay of some sort? Did I meet a reviewer last night and have a slightly awkward moment? Well, yes... but that's not it.

I spent the last two evenings of my life in Brighton doing my show The Seven Deadly Sings (coming soon to a venue near you, or far away from you, depending on whether you're near any of my venues). The show is, in simple terms, an attempt to reduce all music down to 7 glib words or phrases. So, in fact, I'm doing a massive review of ALL singing in a pacy 45 minutes of a 62 minute (sorry for overrunning) show. So, I'm just as guilty as any reviewer who may or may not have said nice things about me.

I made the mistake of reading the review of night 1 before I performed night 2. I think the initial hope of it being a "this man's a genius" was quickly winked out and replaced with a concern that I may never get the show into the sort of steam-train-of-joy I'm aiming for it to be. This was later replaced by a grim determination to do my thing and see what happened. I'm pleased to say that I didn't think about the review for one second while I was on stage doing my thing. I'm also fairly aware that the review, while not exactly what I would have written, wasn't unfair. Three stars for an opening night of a new show isn't too bad... it's not quite what I hope the show can achieve, and I have some serious re-working to do (some of which seems like it might just be editing to get some momentum - reordering, for example).

I'm rather glad. I don't think I expected to have things perfect first time round. I'm doing shows to get feedback. The feedback isn't what I expected it might be, but I expected to be surprised. So when the audience members I spoke with gave me feedback - the equivalent of "I like the song that goes 'bong'" - I can use that feedback to make the whole thing stranger... or stronger... or perhaps both.

Despite my appearance on the radio on Tuesday lunchtime, the attendance at the show was, somewhat, scant. Owing to some curious happenings, I'm slightly confused at how four people had tickets when only two appear to have been issued through that particular channel. It matters not. People came and they liked some stuff.

I hurt today. The hurt is nothing like the feelings I had back in July 2004. Strangely, the show back then was probably better received than the one I did the last two nights. Strangely also, the highlights of the 2004 show was definitely the music and lyrics, where the highlights of this show seem to be favouring some of the bits between the music and lyrics. Typical, isn't it!? I write a collection of some of the best musical material I've ever written, from a musical and craftsmanship perspective, and it proves to be less of a big-laugh generator than the almost-pedestrian stand-up I weave between it. I am, of course, being hyper critical - an important part of my creative process.

I'm not feeling bad about the process, because it's only early May and I have three and a half months still to tune up my show before the zenith of the performing year: Edinburgh in August. I'm already ahead of the game...

The reason I hurt today, though, is more physical. The show involves a great big piano - this needed a lot of lugging around the streets of Brighton. I also performed in 3 shows in two nights and watched a fourth. All while doing a full day's work (remotely), sitting in a cramped position with a laptop on my knees. This takes it out of one, physically. I really need to get an exercise regime together, otherwise the show is going to destroy me. Luckily, the shortness of breath I was experiencing, which I think was actually a muscle strain in the shoulder area where I'd been carrying a piano, has gone.

And the cats are being very attentive, which is always nice.

Today is a nice day.

I haven't seen the other review yet, though (yes, show 1 had 2 reviewers in). It could all still go wrong. Or bong!


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