The promoters Spinningchilli put on gigs which feature bands that recorded sessions for John Peel; this was my second visit to Brighton and I had been really looking forward to it. I love the Nightingales and was also really looking forward to playing.
Offsprog One was hanging out with me and we rolled up to the Prince Albert at soundcheck time; the band was setting up and we chatted to Robert. He was sure that (a) The Chefs had supported the Nightingales years ago (I couldn't remember it) and that (b) their bass player, who is German, had seen me play before. I was secretly sure that neither of these facts were true but I have the memory of a shrew and just went along with it all.
Downstairs, people were assembling, including both Chrisp brothers and their partners (that's Jonathan, who managed The Chefs in London, and Bongo Pete who is probably our number one fan and who wrote the Wikipedia entry about us). Simon Walker came along, he of the band The Simonics who only had members called Simon and Nick, and so did Simon Smith ((ditto) and his sister Sally, who was Helen and the Horns live sound engineer. So did Bruv and his partner, and so did The Punkdaddy himself. It was fantastic to see chums from way back, but also scary. What if I messed it all up?
Thankfully there was such a good atmosphere that the jitters shot out of the upstairs window. I was touched to see The Nightingales watching- gracious gig manners- and I had rehearsed 24 Hours, Records and Tea and Let's Make Up from The Chefs repertoire as solo songs.
Then The Nightingales hit the stage with a powerful wham- boy do they pack a punch! Their songs have evolved considerably since the beginning of time (sorry, punk days) and are complex, with several chapters of music and storytelling in each number. But they are incredibly well-rehearsed without that awful slickness that some bands acquire after gigging a lot.
Fliss their drummer drives them along, the top half of her body dancing behind the kit as she drums, pulling textures and feels and sounds out of an incredible repertoire. The bass player crouches over his bass, attacking its strings like a hungry wolf; the guitarist leaps from rockabilly to African licks with ease. And in front stands Robert, challenging the audience with his suit and spectacles, adventuring with the microphone stand and laughing at his own lyrics (I love it when people laugh at their own jokes!) and secretly controlling the band because it all hangs on his way with a melodic vocal riff. Oddly, I thought of Beyonce's claim to have invented a style of singing that controlled the backing music with its vernacular rhythms...
We loved the way that everyone in the band sang at different times, and the way Robert left the stage and stood in the audience like a proud parent, to listen to his fabulous band. I bought one of their CDs for Offsprog One, and thanked my lucky stars that the whole evening had more than exceeded expectations. We left everyone having a final drink in the bar, picked up a little gossip and drove back to London. I thoroughly recommend any of the gigs Spinningchilli put on- they are great promoters and bands and artists love 'em- so the atmosphere at the gigs is buzzing.
Naturally, today I have been knackered. But two puzzles were solved: the bass player had been at the gig in Dalston where Christy and Emily had played with Gina Birch supporting and me support-supporting. We talked about the gig and how good Christy and Emily are. I wonder what they are doing now? And the other- Bruv told me that The Chefs had supported The Prefects (the pre-Nightingales band that Rob Lloyd and half the staff from the University of Wolverhampton were in) in that tremendous city in the 1970s. So the doubts were unfounded and everybody else has a better memory than me. I'm not surprised.