“I don’t like cricket, oh no, I love it”
Pictures are here
There are many different types of nerves. There are nerves that come from playing in front of 400 people, easily our biggest ever crowd. There are nerves that come from knowing that the gig is for charity. Then there are nerves that come from playing in front of the rest of my cricket team and knowing that I’ll be getting stick for the rest of the season even if we’re good. Then there are the nerves that come from playing other people’s songs – we’d decided to add some covers to the set-list so that some of the crowd would actually recognise some numbers. The problem with that is that people know when you’ve gone wrong unlike with our own songs where no-one else knows how they’re supposed to go and so don’t notice any mistakes.
Added to that was the panic two days before the gig when Phil, the drummer from the headline act Crazy Ape, phoned me. As far as I was aware they were sorting out the PA so all we had to do was rock up and play. However, Phil said that he wanted us to get hold of our own mixing desk as they’d be using all 16 channels on theirs and they didn’t want to be messing around with the levels after we’d been on. Fortunately, I managed to convince him that, since we didn’t have a drummer, the easiest thing to do would be to use their guitar amp and the three microphones that they’d be using anyway. Phil agreed and I was spared having to spend the day before the gig racing round trying to get hold of a mixing desk.
With that sorted we got to the venue only to find out that the time we’d been told was too early. We ended up watching cricket for an hour while we waited for all of the kit to turn up. Normally, our soundchecks are really quick, straightforward affairs; doesn’t take long to do the levels for three voices and one guitar. However, the Crazy Ape guys lent me a bit of their kit to play with – an in-ear monitor. It’s a box, about the size of a Walkman that goes in your pocket. The earphones are plugged into it and then you hear everything through there rather than the on-stage monitors. It was brilliant but I had to decline using it as I didn’t like to be able to hear my vocals that clearly!
We the soundcheck out of the way, we took advantage of one of the benefits of being acoustic, that of being able to play anywhere. We ended up round the back of my car, writing a set-list and giving everything a quick run-through. In terms of number of songs, it was the longest sixth circle set ever:
She’s His Girlfriend
Turn It All Around
Honky Tonk Women
On Top Of The World
Everything I Do
Sasha Don’t Look So Blue
All I Want
I’ll Get By
While You Wait
So the covers were Honky Tonk Women by the Stones, Substitute by The Who, Help! by The Beatles and Torn, made famous by Natalie Imbruglia. Sarah waited in the wings until Everything I Do and then took lead vocals on Torn Help! and While You Wait. I let her have the stage to herself for Torn, returning for the start of All I Want, topless save for the Union Flag. Now, leaping down from the back of the flatbed that was being used as a stage in order to go strutting through the crowd was easy. I have to admit that I found leaping back up slightly harder.
The gig went down really well even though the crowd kept their distance from the stage and even though there was a conspicuous lack of dancing when compared to Crazy Ape. Everyone did enjoy joining in on percussion during While You Wait, even though the kids who were present seemed happier with the party poppers that I was throwing out from the stage. Actually, I quite enjoyed conducting the crowd while Sarah sang, it’s a lot easier than playing bass.
After that it was time for beer, hog roast and much back-slapping. Crazy Ape in their costumes certain lived up to their sobriquet “crazy” and also their definition as a party band. I was also accosted by my friend Simon who says that a fellow Guardian reader really shouldn’t be seen wearing the Union Flag. I’ve always thought of it as a hark back to the ’60s where a lot of the bands were happily dressed in the flag and also as an attempt to reclaim it from the right as a symbol. Maybe that’s how Morrissey started.
Anyway, after a fantastic evening, Sarah’s mum gave us a lift back to Melton. It was an honour just to be asked to play at an event for a cause that’s very close to my heart and for us to play one of our best ever gigs really was the icing on the cake. Top work by John and Jon to organise it and hopefully a lot of money has been raised for charity.