This one didn't start well.
I had totally failed to book the day off work to get down to Plymouth, and the powers that be had decided to send my entire office on a 'team building day' in the city. The upshot of this was that I wouldn't be able to get away until 4:00pm to get down to Plymouth. Which is a bit of a long way on the train. Time was against me, but not quite as much as it would be against Speed 'my entire life was in that car' Harris. More of that later.
These 'team-building' exercises were being carried out largely in a basement underneath the Slug & Lettuce on Wardour Street. When I surfaced at lunchtime my mobile phone revealed a worrying number of missed calls from Adrian 'bit of a problem' Swift. Knowing something must have gone wrong (it always does in this band, somehow!), I frantically tried to call him back to no avail. In lieu of Swifty, I called Bruce 'fancy learning the bass?' Dugginson who would be sat next to Swifty in the Van of Wonder and Safe Arrival in Plymouth. Duggers informed me that Mister Harris' motor had decided to throw a wobbler about 40 minutes from home, and that it was unlikely that he would be able to get to Plymouth in time for the gig.
All the equipment was in the van, so it was a matter of finding a bass player just in case. I ran through the songs in my mind to see if I could find any black holes where I didn't know what the bass line was. Having played the part of all three Maiden guitarists (and, on one faithful night, stood in for the singer!), it seemed only right and proper that I should have a go. Thankfully the news soon reached me that Speed was on a bus headed for Swansea, where he would join a train for Brizzle and then another for Plymouth. The sight of Speed Harris on public transport is a rare thing indeed, and the image gave me some giggles for the rest of the day.
I was released from our team-building event (after a bit of haggling with the boss) a little early and found myself on the 4:00pm train out of London Paddington to Plymouth. Four and a half hours, and a few phone calls later, I arrived. A short walk to the venue saw me arrive just as all the gear had been set up - splendid! Eddie 'I hear you're having trouble' the 'Ead was in fine form at the bar as I walked into the venue, which was going to be a rather intimate affair.
The stage is about the size of a postage stamp, surrounded on all sides by a banister-like contraption. Even with myself, the drumkit, Swifty and Duggers on the stage there was no more room. Most of the night would be spent rooted to the spot! Not that this bothers me as I'm not really one for legging it about the stage (unless in spandex....it's just so freeing!).
After checking everything was working alright, we retired to the cellar which doubled as a dressing room. Nicko 'soul brother' McBrain Jnr entertained us with some rather amusing videos while we twiddled our thumbs and waited for the arrival of the bottom-end of the band (as it were!). During this time, Mr Dugginson and me went back upstairs to briefly entertain the crowd with our acoustic machinations. I had made the mistake of playing a Marillion riff in soundcheck, and one fellow prog fan in the audience was rather loudly requesting some more of this. Maybe next time!
Speed eventually arrived with the entire contents of his car in a rucksack. The poor bugger had been cooped up on a train like a battery hen, and didn't look too pleased. Unfortunately we didn't have time to lament, so we quickly wigged up and got ready to hit the stage. Against all odds we played brilliantly. Being restricted in movement has it's positives in terms of your actual musical performance, with no tripping over cables, or being thwacked in the face by errant bass guitar headstocks to worry about you become a little more focussed on the task at hand. The punters seemed to be having a whale of a time, though my thickening dark facial hair provided some amusement when framed by the light blonde wig!
After the show we ended up having a few beverages before packing down the gear and heading off to the Travelodge. Delighted to be back on the 'Manic Cushion', I had a splendid nights sleep. In the morning we were all dropped at the train station, with Mr Speed leaving first while Nicko and I waited patiently for our train back to London.
Thanks Plymouth! At time of writing we're going to be back visiting you for two nights in February 2011, and I for one can't wait. Thanks also to Eddie and Mrs Eddie, along with the friends they brought with them whose names have yet again escaped me!
Until next time...
Dave 'all the beer in the cellar....for me?' Hurry