Monday, 25 November 2013

Birth of a Band 7

To say that Custard Cream’s debut gig was inauspicious is probably to hit the nail on the head.

For me, no matter how many times I perform – and I have been performing in front of audiences since the age of five – I get nervous. This usually manifests itself as a sullen, moody demeanour, but it can lead to flapping as well. Flapping, in turn, usually leads to me forgetting something. At a wedding gig the 3-fold Arts played, this was the mixing desk. At the Hope & Anchor gig it was the equally vital cables for the PA.

A high-speed drive home and back again (on both occasions) saw the equipment in place with seconds to go. Needless to say, this does little to help my nerves, but, as is so often the way with performance nerves, once the performance is underway, the nerves find their outlet and good energy levels are achieved.

The Hope & Anchor in Wokingham is a good little pub with something of a tradition for live music, which meant that, aside from the immediate family Nige, George and I brought along (totalling five people!) there were a few regulars looking forward to hearing some rock music.

We were, at best, a bit shabby that night. Some of the arrangements seemed to go out the window, almost all of the song endings actually broke the windows in order to escape and we found ourselves about half an hour short of material. We somehow muddled through and finished the gig.

The fee for the evening was £150, but we were allowed to ‘pass the hat around’, which Nige’s daughter did, with no little aplomb and earned us a further 50 quid. The responses from everyone were very positive – which was nice… So nice, in fact, that we soon forgot about how shabby we had been and we basked in the compliments and nodded sagely at suggestions of further songs we should add to our repertoire.

The landlord and landlady seemed happy and intimated that we should return – say, some time in August… Cool!

A couple of days later we all began to correspond again and agreed that some remedial rehearsals were needed in order to tidy up those endings. Even Angus suggested that he and I get together ‘some evening’ to tidy these up. Needless to say, I don’t think anything ever came of that.

Suggestions were also put forward that we should rehearse as a four-piece on the afternoon before the next gig on June 8th. For some reason, I felt that this was an excellent idea, although I was aware that I would have to take it easy on my voice.

Suggestions were also put forward for new songs. A couple of AC/DC numbers and Need Your Love So Bad. I’d never been much of an AC/DC fan, so I figured I’d see if we could cruise along and hopefully forget about them… A Rory Gallagher number was also suggested. It was a good song (Off the Handle) so I’m not quite sure why this never made it. I think, probably because it was George suggestion. For some reason, George suggestions didn’t seem to carry much weight. At the time, I didn’t know why.

I have to take some of the blame, though, as once again, rehearsals could not be organised and I was not willing to play songs for the first time at a gig – or with the help of a two-hour rehearsal on the same day. I’d had enough of that sort of shenanigans with Gez and I wasn’t about to let this band go the same route.

The endings were, however, a real concern and I convinced the guys to go for a three-hour rehearsal to make sure we tidied everything up. I still didn’t see what problem this might cause.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Birth of a Band 6

By April 11th we were all feeling comfortable with our new drummer, rehearsals were going well and the diary was starting to fill. The Hobgoblin gig had been postponed for a week (to May 17th) and this meant that our first gig would be at the Hope & Anchor in Wokingham on the 11th, unless I could come up with one before then.

I had been playing guitar in another band before the Custard Cream thing got started and that had a residency at The Chequers in Marlow. For several months we had played every two weeks, but then the band leader, Gez, had formed a Santana tribute band and (for the sanity of everyone concerned) had taken one of the slots, meaning each band played once a month.

With the onset of Custard Cream, I had been asking Gez for one of the slots, meaning each band would perform every six weeks – even better for all concerned… In fact, we had been discussing working as agents for the venue and getting different bands in each week, but, well, either the manager at The Chequers was lying when he told me no-one had been to talk to him, despite his requests, or Gez was when he said that the manager couldn’t make his mind up.

Either way, I kept telling Custard Cream that we would be playing ‘next week’ for about a month. Eventually I gave up. Let the first gig be the Hope & Anchor…

Then, Nige came through with the news that he couldn’t play the Hobgoblin on the 17th!

My reaction to George not being able to play was that we should play as a trio without George. George wasn’t having it and I apologised for my hastiness.

My reaction to this latest news was that we should play it as a trio without Nige… but George wasn’t having it. “all for one, one for all,” he said. I have to confess, I got a little angry.

To try to resolve the issue, Nige went back to the (grammatically challenged) Carly to see about switching the gig back to the 10th. Needless to say, we have still, to this day, never heard another word from Carly or the Hobgoblin pub.

When asked to give advice to young, aspiring musicians, Robert Fripp said: “don’t fly Air Iberia”. I might add to that: “don’t mess the venues about with date changing”. With those two priceless nuggets, you’ll doubtless go far!

The next couple of weeks were spent, privately, adding songs to the repertoire for the next rehearsal – necessary as we had less than two hours’ worth of material, which would not get us through most gigs.

Rehearsal on April 20th seemed to go down well and Nige kept on coming with the gigs for the diary, so the whole Hobgoblin scenario faded fast.

The first gig was now upon us, Things had reached the point of no return…