Beware the Full Moon
A week ago this evening I took my P.A. over to Norley Village Hall in Cheshire where me and The Folded Arms, Duncan Reed, and The Lewinskies had a fabulous gig just over a month ago. Kieran (Folded Arms guitarist) plays in a number of bands, one of which is the Cathouse Ragtime Blues Band who were playing the middle set of three, sandwiched between Rob Poole and Kent Duchaine. I had offered my P.A. for the evening, and it worked out pretty well – a great evening of blues music from some truly fine musicians.
The previous evening a Volvo had hit my rear passenger side wheel arch, so I was in a hire car collected that morning. I could have claimed whiplash, emotional distress, shock and a whole range of other things, but it wasn’t a serious bump, just very inconvenient. I wanted to support the Norley gig, and especially to give Kieran and the two Simons a decent sound – not that I know the first thing about sound tech!
Two evenings on and I was with The Folded Arms rehearsing for a trial gig on Wednesday for one of the North West’s circuit folk festivals, and one I used to go to as a teenager, not that I can remember much of that. The beer was too good. I arrived back in Manchester at midnight via the usual diversions due to the endless installation of a smart motorway system on the M60, and was up at 5:30am the following day to play a number songs with Peter Robinson in Hull (Pete played some percussion on The Breeding Ground Of Vile), where I also had a work meeting early that morning.
Because I have boycotted the M62 motorway apart from very early morning drives (it runs between Liverpool and Hull and is forever gridlocked), I then drove coast to coast via York, Harrogate, and Skipton to Fleetwood where I arrived just before 7pm, meeting Kate in The pub where we were scheduled to play our trial set. There was a big screen at the back of the stage because it is the World Cup, but there was also a much clearer if smaller screen in another area of the bar. We were reassured that the open mic session would go ahead on time as soon as the PA arrived. Sadly for us, not my P.A.
It eventually did, 2 hours later. but we were told they only had two mics because “we weren’t expecting a band”. Somewhat aggrieved, Kate then drove home for her own mic so we would have enough to get through our set. The pub then reneged on the football and its single fan was allowed to watch the big screen as we twiddled our thumbs. At that point, I was about to pack my cittern back in the car, but both Kate and Kieran had worked hard to get this gig so I bit my lip.
The football duly over, we went to set up our gear. The house P.A. was crackling on both mic and my cittern and it took sometime for us to get going. I eventually started proceedings with a solo song before the band joined in. One of the mics we had been given was so poor that Emma and Kate shared. It wasn’t just unsatisfactory. It was downright insulting. When our very difficult set was over (thankfully shortened by one song), the house band could play their delayed set, promptly taking out mics that worked and somehow getting their dysfunctional P.A. to work perfectly.
I haven’t been doing live music for very long, but I do know there is an unwritten musicians code, which is that you do what you can to help other musicians. That’s what I did at Norley on the Sunday because I know that other musicians will do stuff for me. We have enjoyed two collaborative tours with my son Duncan, Matt Steady, The Lewinskies, Sam Jefferson, and others, and we have all helped each other out. I got back to Manchester again around midnight after an 18 hour driving day feeling like we had been shafted. Because we had. The Folk Festival lady could see what was going on, but it may still have jeopardised our chances of playing this year. In the end you put these things down to experience, learn from them, and move on.
It must have been the full moon.