We were booked to play at the Cricketer’s Inn in Southend-on-Sea on Saturday 18th August. The original plan was that Russ would pick up the mini-bus, we’d meeting him at the Cherry Tree around 5, get all the stuff loaded up, get to Southend fairly early and do our set up and sound check and chill for an hour or so before playing. But you know about the best-laid plans of mice and men!
I was at home at 5:20 and had not had the call that we had the bus, so I phoned Russ, who was at the Cherry Tree packing up the bus already! I said I was on my way! But I got only as far as the bus stop outside Barking station, where the stubborn refusal of a number 5 bus to arrive, coupled with the caterwauling of a God-botherer who wrongly thought that her Lord had given her the gift of song, gave me 20 minutes of torture before I phoned Russ again, who by this time had packed the bus himself, and came and got me.
Missing Mark Mayhem!
I apologised profusely, as we went to get Chris who had gone to another Gladstone brother who was coming to see us. Chris got in and gave us the bad news: he had been phoning Mark for hours, phone was off, no reply to texts or repeated messaging. We went to where Mark lives in a room in a shared house. Another tenant, a young woman, came to the door, and tried shouting and bashing on his door before concluding that he wasn’t at home. We drove off in a panic. Up the road a little, Russ stopped the bus and I got Facebook up on my phone and started leaving messages. In particular with Paul, our friend who was also coming to Southend with us in the van. We spoke on the phone and he said that he had heard from Mark much earlier, he was tired and was going to get his head down for a few hours.
So we went back to the house, and this time I asked the girl if I could try to get a response from his room. For some reason I tried the door-handle and he hadn’t locked it. Mark’s impersonation of a drawing pin was not a pretty sight, and the young woman ran back to her room giggling. This was 6:50pm and Mark woke with a start and I told him it was 7, which was the time he emerged from the house. So off to Cranham to get Paul, his wife Sue, and their grandkids who happen to have the surname Weller and are our biggest fans! Kudos or what?
Eventually we got in to the pub around 8:10, and set up. Mostly Russ to be fair. It took us to about 9pm when we were supposed to start, we did a soundcheck. Fatboy-Cliff (skinny compared to me, but, hey, that’s what he likes to be called) advised me that my bass was too loud, so down it went and from there we got stuck into our set. First number, David Watts and my strap decided to detach itself from my bass. The one song where the G-string (stop sniggering!) gets used a lot so I had to hold the thing by the pickups! At the end of the number Cliff helped me out but from then on it went well. There were a few mistakes here and there, I can tell you that it is almost impossible to stay focussed when you are sweating in 30 degree heat!
We finished our first half with out first ever performance of Small Faces’ “Tin Soldier”. It went down a storm! It seemed from that point we couldn’t do anything wrong. After a much needed break (which I spent outside the pub in a vain attempt to cool off), we returned with Substitute. The crowd were really enthusiastic, it’s the first time we’ve been applauded at the false ending! Another new song (for us), Over Under Sideways Down, resulted in people trying to improvise a Cossack dance. We got an encore, for which we had set aside The Seeker and Parklife. Then another encore – we decided to repeat The Modern World which we’d not done too well first time around – this time we kicked it! And then, we did an impromptu version of That’s Entertainment. Chris took his acoustic guitar, I switched off my bass amp and Russ left the drums to join me at the backing vocal mic. When we’d rehearsed this we hadn’t been able to totally co-ordinate what the bass and drums were doing. I camped up the “la-la-la-la-la”s, and the crowd were great, we left that stage feeling like giants. Knackered, worn-out, sweat-soaked giants, but giants none the less. My clothes wouldn’t have been wetter if I’d gone down to the beach and thrown myself into the sea. When I finally got home I had to peel them off, and when I looked at them in the morning they were covered in salt stains.
I must have sweated off a few pounds too, as my jeans threatened to fall down as I lugged my bass amp back to the bus and I had to pull my belt in a couple of notches. Without telling you what a state I was in on Sunday, what I will say is that, given the chance, I’ll do it again and again. The only downer on the evening is that the battery on the video camera packed in before half time. I’ll look at what we’ve got soon, but for now, signing off!!