Thursday, 7 May 2015

May Day 2

My band is spread widely over Norfolk and Cambridgeshire so I try to arrange it that I arrive first with the p.a.  Then my drummer generally arrives, since he has the next most onerous set-up.  Finally, with about an hour to go before the dancing starts, the guitarist, keyboard player, bass player and violinist arrive with instruments, backline and effects pedals.  This works out quite nicely and we usually manage to avoid tripping over each other or jamming each other in doorways.  On Saturday I arrived to the sounds of my keyboard player playing in duo with the amazing sax man.  The amazing sax man is a legend in our local music community.  He repairs wind and brass instruments, teaches, has a big band, any number of small bands and a fearsome reputation for firing players who don't come up to scratch.  As the duo finish one of the standards that form their popular and jazz repertoire I look round to say my hellos.  They have been hidden in an alcove (in this long, narrow, converted barn the alcove is really more akin to a transept in a church) where they are invisible to most of the guests - not that the guests seem to be listening, normal for weddings.  As usual on these occasions there is no applause after each number.  The keyboard player points out the current state of play with the meal.  Main course, desserts and speeches to go.  I have arrived with two hours to set up.  I estimate I have arrived two hours too early.  I leave the hall to bring my van to the porch which is quite close to the stage where I unload and wait and decide to try out the Blogger app on my phone.  So I write:

"It is now Saturday night my own band is playing a ceilidh for a wedding reception in a big, posh function room. As is often the case with weddings things are running late. The room where the dancing will take place is presently rammed with tables and the tables are packed with wedding guests.  I like to have two hours to set up. With just over an hour before the dancing is due to start the guests are just starting their main course. They will not be dancing at 7.30. I've unloaded my equipment as close to the stage as I can get. I'm sitting next to it in an drafty porch."

Drummer in waiting
That is as far as I got using the blogging app before the drummer turned up.  I'm quite pleased that the app seems to work and it saves the draft so that I can pick it up later on the computer.  I was in two minds about whether to add it to the diminishing space on my phone after reading a lot of disgruntled reviews from users.  Miserable bunch!

The drummer and I haul his kit into the porch and it is beginning to look quite cosy.  The curtain over the big window from the hall flicks open, just a crack, and a little face peers out.  I wave.  He waves.  An adult closes the curtain with what appears to be a determined swish.  This game is played out a lot over the next two hours.  What are the adults seeing that I'm not seeing?  From where I stand it seems quite rude.  From where they sit - in the warm, with their food - maybe they just don't like being near people they don't know?  Disco man arrives.

Bass player in waiting
Disco man is another local legend.  I have been in this part of the world for thirty years and he has always been here.  I have never really been sure if the name of his entertainments agency is his real name.  He has a very unlikely name.  He also has a team of disco men on the books and they all go out under his name.  Even the keyboard player isn't sure and he knows everyone on the local music scene.  I have spoken to Disco man on the phone and he told me he was doing this booking himself.  I know where he lives and ask him how the house sale is progressing.  The house is on the vegetable roundabout and has been on the market for eighteen months.  In that time he has had only seven enquiries.  Maybe it is time to look for another estate agent?  Maybe he doesn't really want to move.  Disco man set up on the stage in the morning and before the wedding.  He slips through the door and disappears into the curtained hall. He has final preparations to make and mutters something about "background".  I don't really catch what he says so the drummer and I continue our lonely vigil and deep discussion about musical heroes.  I love being with my drummer.  He has an extensive musical knowledge and is of my generation.  We talk like enthusiastic teenagers, not bad for two sexagenarians (well, in my case I have two weeks to go).

Guitarist in waiting
We agreed that Disco man would have the stage in our telephone discussion.  He, however, saw the state of play with the number of guests and the arrangement of tables and has kindly only taken up half the stage.  There is no room for the band to set up on the floor, as discussed, while the tables are still in place.  However, using only half the stage does now mean that the drummer can have a drum riser and he becomes quite animated at the idea.  We don't have a riser for the drummer very often.  It means he will be seen by anyone with a mind to look and he will no doubt be looking out into the crowd. Drummers have a reputation to manage.  Gradually other members of the band arrive and we form a plan to get in without getting in each other's way.  Disco man re-emerges and after some further waiting he mentions the background music he has thoughtfully provided.  "What about the live music?" I enquire knowing that my keyboard player and the amazing sax man will feel a degree of professional slighting at the sudden introduction of yet more "background".  Disco man claps his hand to his mouth (yes, people really do that!) and says, "Oops, I didn't realise!" (yes people say, "Oops!" too).  He scurries back into the becurtained hall and kills the "background".  Immediately a plaintive rendition of something poppy or jazzy strikes up from a transept far away.  I amuse myself taking photographs of the band members on my mobile phone.

We are finally set up and ready to go two hours after we were due to start.  

Violinist in waiting
Disco man strikes up the music.  He is playing the bride and groom's choice for the "first dance".  Clearly something very meaningful, which I don't recognise.  Disco man is going to play five songs and then he will hand over to us.  The floor clears as we take the, er, floor (drummer excepted).

We normally take a whole evening ourselves, but sharing with anyone else, particularly a disco, always changes the dynamic and the shape of an evening.  As usual, the disco is much louder than we shall be.  I have to put in my earplugs while we await our turn.  This will play havoc with the tinnitus.  My bass player gets into the party mood and gets on down with the boogying guests.  The flow and spin of his moves is a little hypnotic.

Eventually we play.  The alcohol has been flowing.  It is going to be a tough night.

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