Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Sunday in Stockton

It could have been a disastrous journey, if I hadn't checked the Transport for London website half an hour before I was due to leave and discovered that there were no tubes at all running on the Northern Line branch from High Barnet that I needed to travel on to King's Cross. I hopped on bus to Arnos Grove, that 1930s-splendiferous tube station, and travelled without incident all the way to Eastcliffe, where the promoter Stephen Harland picked me up and drove us to the venue. The NE Volume Bar is small and perfectly formed, and was just perfect for a socially distanced gig on a Sunday evening. Charlotte Grayson and Steve McCormick were the other artists playing, and after the soundchecks we tucked in to Wendy's vegan hotpot and (wait for it) Blue Ribands! I didn't know they still existed.

Charlotte is 21 years old and has a worldly wise way with lyrics. She is already recording her second album and she is confident, with a classic Sixties-style voice that will take her far. Steve is a self-confessed stomper, singing sunny good-time songs that warmed up the room no end. Good job- the dressing room was chilly, and I was a bit worried about having a repeat performance experience of the St John's gig where my fingers were so cold it was like playing with Twiglets instead of fingers. By the time I went on stage the audience were well-lubricated, but not so much that they weren't listening to the lyrics- there were a couple of guffaws at points in the songs that people don't always get the twists of. And of course, there was the burp that I mentioned in yesterday's posting! It was a very friendly and lovely crowd, and I was massively flattered by Saskia Holling and her partner Russ Wilkins, two Medway scenesters, travelling down from Dumfries in their camper van for the gig. Of course we had a bloody good distanced yak, partly about Kevin Younger's monthly cover versions gigs, which we all do.

There could not have been a better gig to emerge from lockdown into. Stephen and Wendy are so interesting to talk to- they have promoted so many different gigs, often people that I really like: the Nightingales, Vic Godard, and of course Pellethead, the local heroes. I couldn't stop smiling. It could have been difficult- at one point I thought I was going to lose my voice because of all the chatting but all those months of four-seminar Tuesdays saw me through.

The green Goddess also behaved, and did not give me too many bad chords. If I don't treat her right, she sulks and throws the spanner in the works. I have realised though, that she is bloody heavy to carry around to gigs if I'm travelling by train.

Anyway- Steve and Wendy very kindly put me up, and I met their two rescue labradors, the boisterous one and the quiet one, before conking out entirely. It was a long way to travel for a gig but it was so worth it. The gig the night before in Beverley had been cancelled because the venue wasn't ready to open, so it was a bit of a punt to travel so far just for a one-off but I'm so glad I did. I am still buzzing today and had to go for a long walk to come down to earth again.

Heading home... after spending half the train journey listening to a distressed woman describing her boyfriend's cocaine-induced seizure at the wheel of his van, fighting the staff at A&E, being constantly drunk, borrowing money off her friends and relatives, and spending the money she was working 15 hour shifts as a nurse to save for their holidays on taxing the van he'd just crashed, I decided to take earplugs next time. She was travelling to see him after taking a day's holiday from work, and it was so tempting to tell her to turn round and go home immediately!

Suddenly being social is intense, isn't it?

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