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Saturday, April 2

So many things were not quite to plan

Where do I begin with how today threatened to go wrong, but didn't? Well, apart from spoiling any sense of tension in the story by telling you that it all came out in the end, I'll start near the beginning.

I ran late this morning, which was a frustration and set my plans for an easier morning rather aback. Then I had to go to the estate agent's to discuss some stuff. I found the testosterone and youth-fuelled shiny suit wearers to be as irritating as I'd expected, but the overall experience was fine. I even managed to buy something in advance of tomorrow, which means I don't have to buy it tomorrow. So far, a win.

The afternoon proved that the thing I was going to try to fix was beyond easily fixable, and even though my strategy for applying improvement in a stepwise fashion will work, it was not going to be easy. Damn. I like it when a little ingenuity solves a big problem without the drudgery of doing hundreds of little changes.

I left early, because I only had half the details of tonight's gig in my head. I reckoned that I should be able to get there for 7 and then be nice and relaxed and read my book. This plan was immediately scuppered by an additional 30 minutes of near standing traffic en route. Then I arrived at the venue and went to scope it out and find the start time.

To say that nobody at the venue knew what was going and who was organising it would be unfair. They didn't have this information in the front of their minds, but I kept going from one person to another until, between them, they worked out who was doing what and when. Then I asked about the PA system - they have one - the lighting - they don't have it - and the microphone stand - no to that too. This wasn't looking good for a gig.

We got a microphone working while people rang around to see about a microphone stand. I then got onto the texts and formed about 4 options for how to get hold of a microphone stand if I needed to. Options included:

  • Someone I knew, who's in a band - he doesn't have his own stand
  • A friend of mine, who's brother is in a band and who MUST have a stand - he was out on tour
  • Another person I know in Southampton, whom I know does some home-recording - he didn't answer quickly

We got to option 4 and I rang up a venue called The Talking Heads. I know they have bunches of kit, and I asked them if they'd mind lending me a stand. I'm a terrible negotiator and offered them, up front, tons of ID, deposit and whatever it would take to make them say yes. I even tried to suggest that I wasn't a total stranger, having gigged there a few times, and knowing people they know. Despite my cack-handed method of asking, they said yes, reasoning that my suggested deposit of double the cost of a mic-stand was pretty much a win-win situation for them.

I headed out to get the stand and while I was gone the other acts arrived. I got ID checked by the nice lady, who took my mobile number and rang it just to prove my phone would respond. Neat.

Then back to the venue. The other acts tonight were Paul Ricketts and Vikki Stone. Normally I don't mention other people on this blog by name, but tonight was a night of camaraderie and bonding, and they deserve a positive mention.

Vikki plays piano in her set. We then hit the problem of the fact that the DJ could only give us one channel in total through the house PA. You need two for a piano and a mic; I wanted to use my guitar also. I had a lead long enough to get us to the stage, and Vikki piped up that she had a PA system in her car. Off we went to fetch this, and then it was used as a sort of mixer to get the sound into a form where it could enter the PA.

Paul was unhappy with the lighting; the whole - "there's no lighting" situation, so he went off with someone from the venue to see what sort of stuff might be lying around that we could use as lights. He came back down with a couple of dodgy, exposed-bulb, up-lighters. These were falling to pieces. Does anyone have gaffa tape? Vikki does - it's in her car, of course. The lights were up to chest height and the top bulbs didn't work, leaving illuminated knees. We fixed this by moving bulbs, and found power extensions enough to plug both lights in on stage at the front corners, giving us a focal point. I had an extension lead in my car, but we didn't need it.

Now everyone had rolled up their sleeves and set up the gig, we could actually go ahead and perform. As a joke, I suggested the run in music of "Let Me Entertain You". It's not that I like that song. It's not that I don't like it, either. It's just THE cliche for run-in music for a comedy club, and I thought it would be funny to use it. As I crouched beside the stage with the domestic dodgy lights on the corners, currently not plugged in, the music struck up. As the first electric guitar hit came in during the intro, I plugged the lights in and they came on, causing a laugh from the people who realised how both showbiz AND shit that effect was. I giggled to myself too, and then set about compering the gig.

We got through the gig. Paul was excellent. Vikki, whom I'd not seen before, was lovely to see. The audience were up and down, as is to be expected, but they were supportive and even moved into the best position they could move into, when I asked them to.

We got paid and left. We also congratulated each other on a job well done. It was our, biased, joint opinion that the three of us, with our collection of components and our attitude to problem solving, were the right sort of trio to take on a gig like that, where things weren't set up. We'd each spurred the other on into finding the right solution to the logistical problems, and then we complemented each other as a line-up.

That's nice to agree on.

I drove back to the Talking Heads, via a shop. I gave back the mic-stand, had my deposit returned, and gave the nice lady a box of chocolates as a thank you. It was amazing that she agreed, with no offer of payment, to save our bacon by loaning us the stand. It's nice to show your gratitude.

I drove home via a petrol station where I accidentally entered the HGV only area, tried to get across to the car bit, didn't see that there was an actual kerb between the two areas, which then crashed over, surprising myself. I did no damage to anything, except my credibility, and slinked off home.

Nothing actually ended up going wrong - it just seemed that way during the problems.


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