Sunday, 22 November 2009

HI-ON Harlow - 18 September 2009


(apologies for the lack of photos...if you want to see this in it's full glory, visit where Swifty added some rather splendid photos of our favourite lady!)

A gig I can get to without sacrificing any time off work is a rare thing. Even for a close gig I need to get the train into London and then from there to wherever we’re playing, which means half a day gone. On this occasion, the nice people from our Ipswich office were stuck down in Dartford on training and offered me a lift to the gig on their way home, taking a slight detour. Top shelf!

I should have known something was wrong. The M25 was crawling towards the M11 turn-off, which I knew in my head was simply a typical Friday afternoon on what is the second largest ring road in the world. However there was a sense of foreboding, which I cast aside as the turn-off came and four miles of clear M11 lay before us. I don’t spend a lot of time on the road in this band these days (doing most of my travel on the rails) so traffic jams are thankfully few and far between in my experience. Not so for Speed '1/4 mile an hour' Harris, but more on that later.

I wandered up to the venue entrance and spied Adrian 'sausage squad up the blue end' Swift pulling up in this week’s Selectadrive van of choice, thankfully void of windscreen crack. As it turned out, I had arrived just as the load-in had finished. Bargain! I made my heartless apologies and took a walk inside. Entering through the bar I was delighted to note that The Square had a nice selection of ales! Wychwood’s 'Bountiful' was on the guest tap, alongside a couple of Adnams beers. Mr Hurry was in for a good night! Then it was off to the stage to find Nicko 'they only had the large ketchup' McBrain Jnr setting up his kit. I hopped onstage and did my set-up as quickly as possible. I have a couple of loose jack plates on guitar and amp, which is a sound nightmare onstage but which I’m sure Mr Swift will sort out before the next gig (wink wink, nudge nudge) as I have no access to my Hi-on gear between gigs. Once set up I retired to the bar with Bruce 'I don’t know the words' Dugginson for a cheeky pint and a punt on the jukebox. The folk who work at The Square are a lovely bunch, and so the usually tedious processes of setting up and soundchecking/tweaking were no trouble at all. Given the curfew at this venue isn’t until 3:00am we had time on our side. Quite lucky, really…

Just before we started soundchecking, we called up Mr Harris to find out how his journey was going. We immediately wished we hadn't. The M25, which I believe had been described as 'a car park', was a little bit jammed up. Still, he wasn't far away from the turn-off so we soldiered on with soundcheck with me standing in for Speed to get his volume levels sorted out the PA. We also had a nice jam with one of the staff members on bass, whose name escapes me (sorry pal – rubbish with names and worse with faces!). Perhaps an hour later, we called Speed again. He'd moved forward, yes, but only by about a quarter of a mile. Time was marching on, as we had been slated to appear onstage at around 9:15pm. We wandered off for some grub, came back after another hour and the update was just as bleak.

At this point, Brucey and I started sorting out a short acoustic set to entertain the crowd with for a bit in case the bassist didn’t make it. At about the time we were supposed to go on, Speed had just cleared the motorway (possibly by driving so fast he actually went through everything) and would be there in about 40 minutes barring any other spectacular traffic failures. Brucey and I went on anyway and entertained the crowd with acoustic versions of 'Tears of the Dragon' (a Dickinson solo tune), 'Still Life' and 'Children of the Damned'. Totally unprepared and almost completely unrehearsed, we were certainly both browning the insides of our unmentionables but enjoyed the time onstage. Always handy to have something like that up your sleeve, and with a bit of work it could be something quite special.

I had disappeared off to the bar to say hello to some friends in the audience when, lo and behold, I was given the news that Harris was here. What should have been a four-hour journey had turned into a ten-hour journey, and that, coupled with the prospect of driving back afterwards due to morning work commitments, meant that our Mr Speed was not the happiest of boys. No time to stand around contemplating our misfortunes, however, so we wigged up and legged it out onstage.

A pretty solid performance to my memory, apart from the end of 'Heaven Can Wait'. If music had a smell, that would have smelled quite rotten! It’s all well and good checking out a set list before you go on, but more often than not you find yourself on-stage racing towards a section of a song and suddenly realising you can’t remember how to play the bloody thing! Still, we received high praise from the audience in the bar after the show. Eddie 'metal please!' the ‘Ead was in attendance, and went to town on us with the theatrical blood – I think we all had our arms sliced up. He even threatened poor Sooty!

We didn’t have to pack down the gear until the next morning, so a few drinks were in order. Myself and Swifty found ourselves at the bar quite quickly, ordering a pint and a J├Ągermeister. I myself rather over-indulged in the latter, and as such from here-on out my memories are very hazy indeed. I remember waking up the next morning in the McBrain guest suite, eating a bacon roll and then the agonizing pain of loading the gear back in the van down a flight or two of stairs. Everything else is a bit of a blur!

An enjoyable gig that almost-nearly didn’t happen. Nothing seems to be going quite to plan this year! Thanks to the crowd in Harlow, thanks to Eddie and a special NO THANKS to the M25!

Until next time,
Dave 'Darth Gers' Hurry

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