Wednesday, 10 August 2011

far from the madding crowd

The last station at the end of the District line on the London Tube is Upminster in Essex. Unlike some other end of line destinations on the edges of London, Upminster feels like the beginning of somewhere else to go. The character of the area is mixed and quite different from other areas around London. I think Essex is under rated as a county. There are some marvellous secluded spots a long the coast and even in the summer you can be alone on some beaches and in other areas near the coast.

I had just sat down on the train feeling quite pleased with my self as I was a bit earlier than planned which is always a good thing. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some one hand me a piece of paper and a voice said some thing along the lines of “ Excuse me. Does this mean any thing to you. I assumed some one was about to ask me for directions but it was a set list of my songs. I had just met one of the guests on his way to Robert and Nikki’s party. We chatted for the rest of the journey until we arrived and were met by Robert who I had not met before. It’s always different to play for folk who know me but I don’t know them and there is always lots to talk about. By the time we arrived at Robert’s House we had covered a fair bit of ground and I had an idea of where I was.
Nikki and Rachel

Nikki had prepared a lavish buffet and I was torn between nicking a cocktail sausage or two and tuning up like a good pro. The latter won. For those interested I plugged a microphone and my guitar into a lovely little Line 6 amplifier which served well as both vocal PA and guitar amplifier. I even had the benefit of a tiny amount of reverb from the Line 6. Sound check was over in about ten minutes and I began to relax and chat with the assembling guests. As usual the people arriving were an interesting and diverse group and easy to be with.
I was quite surprised when at around 5.30 Robert suggested it might be time for some music. I was a bit taken aback because I am used to playing between 8pm / 9pm. People were still arriving and I confess I span things out a little but was mindful to keep an eye out until it seemed every one had arrived. I was just about to suggest I started the show as Robert beat me to it. Excellent! Great minds etc. I retired for what I call my dressing room moment in an upstairs bedroom where I re-tuned my guitar, had a swift cognac and carried out a couple of other secret rituals that precede these gigs.
Minutes later I was sitting in the lounge singing and playing. I played a similar set to the one played at Tony and Monika’s gig in Lincolnshire. It works. My audience were very attentive until the third song when a group of ladies got up to leave. I think they had to get the tea on or they decided to get out while the going was good. Any way off they toddled and I carried on. Young people were well represented in my audience and there were times when I projected my energies almost entirely towards them. I do like them. I like their energy and earnest enthusiasm for life. I like their good manners and most of all I like listening to what they have to say. Also I have to admit I need some of them to like what the old guy is doing.

During the show I found that my fingers didn’t seem quite so flexible as they usually are. I struggled a bit with some parts and I don’t know why. In a band it is possible to hide a little bit during a performance while the other guys are knocking out the decibels. It’s even possible to wander off in one’s head during a gig for a while but when I am alone there is no where to hide. I like it but there are days when it’s a little more like hard work. Even though I am not quite as tied to a fixed arrangement and order in which I have to play particular parts of a song, I have to concentrate to remember any thing at all for split seconds.

Any way it all went well. I hope the recording is ok and the microphones were not too breeze blown. I haven’t had time to check it yet but I trust all will be well. I am very pleased with the high quality recordings from some of these shows.

People are very kind and told me how they had enjoyed it all and it was time for some sustenance and another cognac or two. As always the discussions that follow the show are fascinating for me. A woman expressed some surprise that instead of talking drugs and rock n roll there we all were putting the world to rights. People’s stories and potted descriptions of their history and roots all helped to make for a great evening. Once again I felt I was with good people in a good place.

The time flew by and soon it was time for me to leave to get back on the train into London. It all seemed to fly by but I find it amazing how quickly it is possible to get a good idea of who and where people are and what they believe in. Good people and it was a good night out in Essex.

Thanks folks. I loved it.

I’m off to the Beeb to do a radio interview for BBC York on Friday which will be aired mid morning on Saturday 13th. Then a few days off and rehearsals then I'm off to York for my show CASTAWAY at THE DUCHESS on Thursday 18th next week. On Saturday I'm off to the Lake District where I will be playing a FDPFAFDW gig for Alexandra and Nigel. I am looking forward to it all.


Anonymous said...

Nice to hear something cheerful after the chaos of the last few days. It is like two different worlds lets hope one day we will have one world. We need to ensure that something positive comes out of all the chaos as negativity like a cancer will spread it must be treated urgently with postive thoughts and actions. What is done is done today will soon be yesterday - make tomorrow count.


Anonymous said...

Well said Sally .......