The longest day (even if it was in April)

Three gigs in one day.

Surely enough for anyone, right? So it started with a lunchtime gig at a golf club playing a 70th party. This was a combination of folk, blues, drinking songs, rockabilly, early rock and roll and then a Fleetwood Mac medley lasting around 15 minutes. During that period I moved from guitar, to mandolin, to piano, to woodblock, to acoustic guitar and then ending up playing guitar and piano at the same time.

The crowd were great, as they generally are (dare I say it) at that time of life. Dancing because they genuinely don’t care what they look like, drinking because they are retired and a work-day hangover hasn’t bothered them for some time.

Minutes after finishing on Rock Island line (and after being given a lovely slice of cake to take away in a napkin) I packed away the gear in readiness for its onward journey around the motorway to Kings Langley, the venue for that evening’s show with another iteration of the same band – ‘alt country’ this time.

Meanwhile I was off to Bar XLR in Epsom to play for this mob at a charity ‘do’ for the Princess Alice Hospice – a charity both close to my heart as they do so much good work in the local area, and physically close to me as I work above one of their shops. One blistering set of indie rock later and we gave way to the next act and a well-earned J20 (much driving yet to come, you see)

And so on to King’s Langley for a student ball held in a very grand old country pile. I’m fortunate enough (again) not to worry with equipment as I’m yet again borrowing gear (that I could never afford) from people with houses big enough to store upwards of 15 guitars. So I head off with nothing but a service station coffee and a faint recollection of having visited here once before (turns out I had, yonks ago)

And so after navigating the mile-long driveway I was met at the staff entrance by the groundsmen who took me through a seemingly never-ending series of bolted doors to where the party was already taking place, at each door producing a jailer’s bunch of ancient looking keys. The sounds of the support acts getting ever louder signalled that sooner or later we would be entering the ballroom, conveniently right behind the drum riser. I could sneak in almost unnoticed and just ‘appear’ on stage. Quite a neat trick I thought.

Sadly though, the last door proved a little tricky. No key in the bunch would open it, and as the last strains of REM’s Shiny Happy People faded into the DJ we had to turn around, and retrace our steps, not only out of the building, but up onto the main road and then into the house from an altogether different entrance entirely. And so it was that 25 minutes later I found myself approaching the same room, this time through the crowd as the rest of the band scanned the scene hoping to see me approach before they edited the set list assuming I had gotten lost.

Two and a quarter hours later, 2 broken strings, three requests and an encore (hooray) we came off stage, sweat-streaked but very happy. The DJ set then kicked in for another two hours (quite how these kids manage this sort of stamina every weekend is beyond me) but at 05.00 am we called it a ‘night’ and headed homeward.


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