Well, here come the what? The almost pagans? The killer gerbils? No - the two musicans known as TU! S and I played our first proper gig this weekend at a Pagan Halloween Festival in London.
Now I'd been to a few Pagan gigs before (having played with other bands in the past) and knew what to expect. S said she had been a 'virtual pagan' - ie an on-line pagan. Not sure how that works, but I guess it's just getting into the spirit of things without having to turn up and meet with anyone else actually face to face. I understand the Paganism thing - in fact if any religion actually 'attracted' me, that would be it. However, when I read Pete Jennings' 'The Pagan Path' I threw it out when it got to Gods and Goddesses. Not into that sort of thing - don't like the idea of 'worship'.
Anyway, off the point. Back to the gig! We were booked through serendipity - I just happened to email the organiser the day after someone had dropped out. 'Any gigs going?' - 'Yeah, what you doing on 21st October?' and it was a done deal. No dosh, but we wanted the opportunity to play a longer set (than the few we'd played at some folk events), so we were happy.
S and I were booked to play, B could not come with us, and S's partner was of course more than happy to come along. I asked a colleague, Z, to come too. So - four women, off on an adventure. Z aparrently didn't tell her children she was off to a Pagan feestival with us, just that she was going to a 'music thing'. Very wise.
Down the M11, then onto the A12 - and the car decided to behave very oddly. I was in B's car. We pulled over and discovered a nicely punctured front tyre. Now, four women, one tyre, TEN MINUTES! It was a record wheel change. We were already a finely honed pit stop crew thanks to the arrival of lots of flat pack furniture at the office we all worked in. So changing a tyre was easy. We had all the parts, all the tools and didn't need a translator for the instructions.
When we got to the venue, outside there were lots of people in strange costume - it was fancy dress after all. Though at some of these gigs I can never tell who's in fancy dress or who just fancies dressing up. That's the fun of these things - just be yourself, or the self you aren't allowed to be when you are a teacher, or bank manager, or whatever else you do when you are not being 'publicly Pagan'. I was wearing a long leather coat and I had my hat. Our dress style for the day was 'black'. Nothing wrong with the easy option, it's classy and slimming. Suits me. When we got there Z - who'd been a little worried about what to expect I guess - said "Oh, if you'd just said 'Goth' I'd have known exactly what you meant. Been there, done that."
The festival was not a large one, but there were plenty of people (including one large fairy in pink called Dave), lots of leather, lots of corsets (a woman at the bar told us that there was no cider because the barman had forgotten it, but he was in bigger trouble because he'd not told his wife her corset was on upside down), plenty of makeup and pointy hats. Red Indian, Goth, medieval - be what you want to be. All good fun.
We were set to play a half hour set in the afternoon. I was a little concerned our mixture of material might not be right, but I had nothing to worry about. We heard some of the other acts and knew we'd fit in just fine. We whiled away the time, wandering round the stands (me spending money on the silver stand), and had a chat to the backstage crew about our requirements: two guitar inputs, two vocals, one bass (amp supplied). One act didn't turn up, so we could play longer if we wanted. No worries. Before us were the 'Pagan Choir' - so an easy set up. We went back stage about 15 minutes before we were due to go on and heard the Pagan choir enticing the audience to join in. They had a bit of a battle on their hands, it seemed. Also, of their two sopranos (the group was only about 8 people), one of them had a little difficulty with the high notes. The choir went off and we set up - two mics ready, the bass had a line out to the PA. "What about guitar inputs?" And we got an "Oh yeah," from the engineer. He'd forgotten! Lines hurriedly put in, and we were, eventually, plugged in, live and ready to rock! Well, to pagan, or whatever.
Up go the curtains - semi-busy hall, loud, LOUD, PA. Off we go with our first number - not a whit of the guitar in the monitors. But we did OK. "More guitar in the monitor please?" Oh yeah.. And that's kind of how the set went. With frequent requests to the engineer so that we could hear what we were doing. But the voices were loud, we played well, and the audience seemed to like us (especially those two on the right - oh yeah, S's friends!).
After we actually sold a CD each! We've nothing recorded together yet, but were not averse to punting our existing material out. No enquiries for further gigs or desperate groupies asking for autographs - but give us time.
We were going to stay for the main act in the evening, Blue Horses. I'd heard they were good. So we wandered off around 5pm for something to eat. Walking down Mile End Road we came across a nice looking Chinese and went in. Table for four. We all had really nice meals, and the company and the craic were good. I felt more relaxed out and about at a gig, or festival, than I had in years. And no drink, either!
We had fortune cookies. Mine said you don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing. I like to laugh. I like to be happy. Though I can be a little extrovert, I felt completely fine in this environment - and not just the dressed up pagans. I felt comfortable with who I am, and what I was doing, and who I was with.
Afterwards we went back to the festival to catch Blue Horses. But before them was the Drum Workshop performance. A load of people who'd been practicing with a most wonderful conductor. The drums thumped, thrummed and hummed through the venue. I felt them deep in my chest, and at one point I heard what was almost like a 'voice' - the voice of the drums. Interesting. The conductor of this rag-tag drum orchestra was a skinnyoung black guy in suit, with hat. Voodoo drumming? I don' t know, but the obvious delight of the performers and the audience was wonderful. One chap at the back had a big floor tom strung round his neck, which also sported a small bow tie. Another very goth bloke with long hair and painted leather jacket had a snare - and these two very diverse looking youngsters - like the 20 or so others - were joined together in the joy of sound.
When Blue Horses started, they had to stop as the PA was compeltely awful. I felt very sorry for them. Then they started and they were good - not brilliant, but good. I knew that in their heydey, the band I'd been with was easily as good, if not better. I knew that it could have been me up there (and in the past frequently had been) with the big band sound and the lights and all. I felt frustrated. But determined. It would be me again - me with the right musicians, in the right combination, making the big sound and enjoying the musicality and - I must confess - the attention. Ego, moi?? Its one of the few places I feel I have impact - on stage. I feel right on stage, playing, performing - entertaining.
On the journey home we nattered away as women do. S told me a story about embarassment that had me laughing loudly, and I thought just how uncomfortable some of my previous band colleagues would have been in such a situation. She also helped me drive, carefully pointing out red lights, cars in front, and which lane to be in.
I dropped S and N off home, then Z, and then went back home to my family. "Good gig?" Yeah, it was. A good day altogether. B was surprised I was home so early, and he was planning to watch "Match of the Day", so I sloped off to go chat to pals around the world on the computer. Back to the real world? No, not just yet, please, not just yet.