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GIGS 2011

Wednesday 6th April 2011

The Crown Inn, Theale, Reading

Open-mic hosted by Roger Watson

"First False Start"


Notice me in front of my name on the CD cover of "At The Water's Edge"? Well, that's supposed to symbolise me getting in the way of myself.

When I was a kid, I was a reasonable competitive swimmer. I wasn't any great shakes to be honest and I think I only became relatively good when I started teaching swimming and swam for pleasure rather than having to. But I was good enough to be the Alton (Hants) Butterfly 100m champion at one point. "Big Deal!" I can hear some of you say. It's a bit like me saying that one year I was the Hampshire Bronze Medallist at Judo and "forgetting" to tell you there were only three in the competition. (That's not meant to be a disservice to my fellow competitors: just trying to put it into perspective.) In those days it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to "walk" the school's 25m Butterfly Final, and I might just as well have done, because although I got off to a great start, when I surfaced from my dive, I started doing Front Crawl for a couple of strokes which resulted in me being disqualified. Yes folks, I have been a bit of a dipstick for some time. This is what I mean about getting in the way of myself.

It's been a long time since that kind of thing happened (that I'll publicly admit to at least) until last night. I went to The Crown Inn in Theale for their open-mic Night, with the intention of playing three songs. I thought Theale was a nice place to start this next phase, as my grandparents used to live there, and indeed my grandfather used to frequent The Crown all those years ago. I initially left my guitar in the car, as I just wanted to "suss" out the format. Also, I guess I was a bit nervous, which is ridiculous since I'd already played a full set two and half years ago and was well rehearsed to play just three songs. It got towards the end of the evening, after what I must say were some really great performances, and I was pretty pissed off with myself for lacking the gonads to do what I had intended. So when the MC asked if anyone else wanted to perform, I volunteered. I went to the car, collected my guitar and quickly got set up.

Ideally I would have liked to have started with "'Magic Back", but I seem to play that better after I've done a couple of other songs, so I started off with "It's Just Not There"; a good song, easy to play, ideal, in my judgement, for finding my feet and getting in the "groove". And do you know what? I don't think I got through the first verse. I was getting chords wrong, forgetting the words; I was all over the place. I started again, slightly better this time, managed to get through the first verse but then couldn't remember the second. It was hopeless. Really terrible.

I suspect this trick would only work once but I did notice the audience were captivated; I can't thank them enough for their support and willing me to get through last night. I even remember the lovely Melinda Messenger (who seems to be even more gorgeous in person than on TV) being quite vocal in her support. At one point, I had six or seven musician s playing "It's Just Not There" back at me, to encourage me, just to get me going. I've got to say it sounded great though it was a bit disconcerting when everyone was getting the chords right except me, on a song that they had probably never heard before and that I'd co-written. So, we stopped that. I thought I'd try "Silent Valley", another reasonably easy one to play - same chaos again, couldn't even get through the first verse. I then, in despair, tried "'Magic Back". It was clear this wasn't going to happen for whatever reason. It was strange, I was confident of these songs; I didn't even bother bringing the lyrics or music, though in hindsight that may have helped just to get the ball rolling. Anyway, I didn't want to waste anybody's time anymore and gave up. The subsequent warm applause was undeserved and very generous and if anybody from the audience is reading this, I thank you.

There were some positives from last night. I witnessed some really great live music and met some very nice people. Also, I realise I'm not castigating myself for what happened last night which I (actually, not only me) would've done when I was a kid. I'm not even embarrassed. It's just one of those things that happened, something to learn from. It's not something I want to repeat and will do my best to make sure never happens again. I'm not making any excuses but I'm doing some fairly intense, "close to the bone" writing at the moment and maybe I need to be less "in my head" when I've got to deal with the outside world.

There's another open-mic in a month's time, if they'll let me play, hopefully I shall reward everyone's patience and generosity, and entertain them in a slightly different, more conventional way. Thanks again.