Miles Cookman is a singer/songwriter who moonlights as the lead-singer of rock band Kellys Heroes.
We did a gig last night, in darkest Faversham. A lovely little market town, just down the road. Up until about a year ago, we didn't play in Faversham at all. It was a real dead zone for bands. If anyone wanted to see a band, they had to drive out to Baddlesmere, which is about 5 miles away. There are lots of towns without music. It always amazes me because I have grown up in the musical surroundings of Whitstable, where there is a huge support base for musicians. Heck, I know musos who manage to make a crust by just playing the pubs of Whitstable.
Anyway, getting back to the story. This particular pub in Faversham used to have a wee bit of a reputation. The sad thing about pubs is, they tend to hold on to a reputation long after the 'trouble' element has moved on. This place is a case in point. We turned up and as we set up, we noticed that there were quite a few 'refreshed' people knocking about. Now this is 7:30pm on a friday. For most people, work only finished 2 hours ago so to be this far gone so quickly was impressive. As we sound-checked, several people offered to play our instruments for us or even sing in to our microphones. Sweet gestures but ones we had to politely decline.
This sort of thing always puts a band on edge. The passive/aggressive behaviour of a lot of drunks can be very hard to predict.
"Can I have a go on your drums?"
"Why not? Go on mate. I just wanna have a quick go on your drums?"
"Can I sing a song, then?"
"Because we've turned the P.A. off."
"I just wanna sing a f**kin' song."
"Well you can't."
(drunk persons chum wanders over. Looking just as inebriated)
"Don't worry about this fella, mate. He's pissed."
It always brings a bit of spice to the preceedings when you dare not turn your back on your equipment for five seconds, for fear of what might happen.
Once the gig started and the pub filled up, the band relaxed in to the evening. We were loud and stupid and full of the joys of a friday night.
....until the drunks started dancing.
A drunk person dancing is a very dangerous thing for a musician. It means that not only are you concentrating on your own performance (performance? Pah!) but you also have to keep one eye on Mr. McStumble in front of you. Most pub venues don't have the luxury of a stage so you set up on the deck at one end of the room. This means that all there is between you and your 'public' is the invisible barrier created by your microphone stands. This is usually enough but not when there are drunks dancing. Drunks have no spacial awareness. They twirl around, dancing like prats, never spilling a drop. They tend to be right at the front because they genuinely believe that they look cool and everyone is watching them. Bless 'em. After a while, the inevitable happens. They will loose balance and 'whang' in to your mic stand, sending your microphone crashing in to your lips and teeth. Thank you, Mr McStumble. You now have to spend the rest of the song wondering if you are going to have to go back to the dentist (see previous post) and if your gob is bleeding. Meanwhile, pissed-bloke is happily dancing away, unaware anything has happened.
Other things that happen with drunks include; drunken ladies trying to dance 'sexily' in front of you and mouthing the words to songs they obviously don't know. People trying to request things in the middle of a song (shouting in my ear while I'm trying to sing is not going to endear you to me). People trying to touch you for no apparent reason. Oh, and people telling me what songs I should know/do.
You get used to this sort of thing but it never stops being annoying. It turned out that there had been a couple of big funerals in town that day. Most of the drunk people had been on the lash since 2 p.m. so I'm not surprised they were a tad merry. I'm glad I didn't put my foot in it by making some badly-worded comment over the mic. That happens far too often as it is.
After the gig finished and we were packing up, we got a selection of well wishers wanting to shake out hand. Most of the band are polite but not indulgent. I say most because our guitarist feeds off the attention of middle-aged women so we leave him too it. He's a specialist in drunk women of a certain age and takes some pride in the fact. It's quite handy really. The rest of the band are quite shy so we can pretend to be aloof and leave the P.R. to the lothario in our ranks.
By the time we are ready to go, most of the crowd have departed and what we are left with is the VERY drunk people. The people so desperate to keep talking that they physically hold on to you. You have to peel their fingers off your arm and walk away while they carry on talking. Don't ever expect them to stop. They won't. They follow you out to the van, still rambling away. They watch you get in the van and then talk to you through the door. I'm sure if I were to go back to the pub now, they would still be there. Chatting away to anyone unfortunate enough to make eye contact.
So there you go. Another Kellys Heroes gig done and dusted.
Funny thing is, I wouldn't change any of it for all the tea in china.
...Well, maybe just the dancing.