Very Frightening but surprisingly fulfilling.

In these blogs I do not usually name the venues I am writing about because the laugh/rant is at their expense. This blog strays from the norm.

Last night I was employed to perform my Human Jukebox act at Smoque at the Coney.  It is a favourite gig of mine as I am kept on my toes there. The crowd are much, much younger than my usual audience but surprisingly are really into the set I put together, they dance, they applaud and say nice things. The guv (this is another bit where I stray from convention and give a name) Gael, is a cool looking French guy who just oozes personality and professionalism,
So that’s the background!

30 minutes before I was due to leave for the gig I realised that I had a problem, I could feel there was something wrong with my voice, I knew it was not going to work properly. It was far too late for me to try to get a dep, the venue advertise (and the punters expect) music so I could not phone and cancel. I have a pre-prepared play list (in case of this happening just before a gig).
My emergency set list is made up of songs with the keys dropped, and includes a number of songs usually performed by growlers. Although Lee Marvin is not included, Jonny Cash and Tom Waits are.
Obviously I was not happy about having such a limited play list, however I knew that the crowd at Smoque are generous and accommodating so I hoped I would get by.

10 minutes into the set my voice went completely (F2 was too high for me to sing), I morphed the song I was singing (Ring of fire) into a guitar instrumental, as it ended I  faded in recorded music.

Quite a few of the crowd come over to ask what was wrong with my voice and what was going on. I explained and apologised to them, I then went to find  Gael (the guv) to apologise to him and tell him I was going home (I did not expect a fee, and I expected the possibility of a slagging off).

Instead of anger, Gael smiled and put me at ease. He said don’t worry it cant be helped, I could hear you were suffering so thanks for trying. I told him I would keep my recorded music playing until he could sort his house music out.

When I returned to the performance area a few of the young women who usually ask for Human Jukebox requests were by my mic and asked could I play some “Old school”. I told them I didn’t know what old school was, they said just put on something like “I wanna dance with somebody, Whitney”. I actually had that song on a “wedding break” play list so obliged. They young women started dancing and were joined by their friends on the dance floor. As the track progressed I was getting more and more requests.

Two hours later after the cheesiest wedding playlist ever I had run out of suitable songs. The crowd at Smoque had kept dancing all night!  I said my goodbyes.

The crowd at Smoque are amazing, beutiful, generous, nice  young people,  they forgave the appalling attempt of mine sing when  I had no voice, they persuaded me not to run away (when I realised I could not sing) they danced, they applauded and we had a party.

To put the cherry on the cake, Gael insisted on paying me.

Thank You Gael / all the Smoque clientele for being such nice people and a special thank-you to my son Lyndon (a DJ) who had previously given me so much “wedding break” music.

I will be back performing my Human Jukebox act (with a voice) at Smoque on the 7th December.





Honest, but tinged with a little envy and resentment.

Last nights acoustic gig was great fun, small venue, but really cool vibe with nice people, 70% (or more) were there for the music. No noisy drunks, nice compliments, good requests (I knew the songs) and free drinks sent over. I was performing on a platform very close to the bar which was being tended by a trendy, leather trousered good looking Johnnie Dep wannabe. At the end of the gig he put my beer on the bar and

I said “thanks, this is a great bar, did you enjoy the music?”

He replied “ it’s been too busy and I wasn’t listening”.

ME “ oh well never mind, hopefully if I come back you’ll not be so busy and can let me know what you think”

BARMAN. “ I did actually hear some of your set, but I am a professional trained musician. into jazz, funk and really far more progressive material so I switched off when I heard you”

ME. “Well that told me, are you in a band? I’ll look you up and have a listen” (I don’t really know why I said this, as I had no intention of doing so, I also don’t know why I wanted the barman to like me).

BARMAN. “Yes I have a band but I don’t think you would be into the jazz funk thing. Being honest with you I don’t know how you got the gig here tonight, you don’t have any equipment and they still booked you. I have been working here for years and she won’t give me a gig. I think the only reason they employed you is because you’re English”

ME. “ you’re probably right, and she has asked me to come back! Thanks for the beer”

Your curry tastes of toothpaste !

For some time I have had the privilege to work in a very wonderful Michlin starred Indian restaurant. Part of the deal is that I get a take-away meal at the end of the evening, I love (and have been to) India many times so have tasted authentic Indian cuisine, the food from this restaurant is much, much better than good.

The gig is always nice, the people appreciate the music, the tips are good and I have had plenty of spin off gigs (including my Wednesday night wine bar residency which was given to me by one of the restaurant’s customers).

So it’s not really accurate to say I work there as up until my last outing there every evening’s performance has been without incident and purely delightful.

I was about to start my first set when a group of 5 arrived, an elderly couple, with a middle aged east Asian middle woman and a couple of kids. The elderly man chose the table for his group and it was the table closest to me. As they sat the elderly man said, “I wish I had known there was music here tonight”. His wife relied  ” why have you forgotten your hearing aids again”  to which the elderly man looked directly at me and said “no I have my hearing aids but I should have brought ear-plugs he is going to be terrible”. I politely  smiled, he scowled then looked away.

As the evening progressed the women and the children appeared to enjoy the music (they were tapping their feet and singing along to some of the songs), the elderly guy had no reaction what so ever. When they finished they had to walk past me to get to the door and the Asian woman said to me “thank you so much for the music it was lovely” I replied “I am pleased you enjoyed it, I am here every Monday please come back”. The elderly man chipped in “well you weren’t as bad as I thought you were going to be, but the food here is rubbish, your curry tastes of toothpaste”.

I wonder if he really believed that in-between songs I was the chef?

I run nightclubs,,,, well I don’t actually run them.

I arrived at a local pub gig and I was a bit dubious because there were lots of kids running in and out of the garden (the door to the garden was right next to where I was to set up). Thankfully by the time I had set up the kids had either gone home or were sitting down with their families behaving nicely.
The punters made requests for songs that I knew and then applauded lots so I was very happy (although I am a confident singer I want lots of reassurance and praise. If accolades are not forthcoming on the way home I throw Aldi trollies into canals, and, when I get home I kick the cat (well I would if I had one)) anyway back to the story…..

Break-time arrived, a rather over refreshed man thrust his hand in my direction and introduced himself, I asked if he was enjoying the music. He told me that he had come especially to see me because “I run nightclubs, and I am going to book you” I asked which nightclubs, he replied not with nightclub names, but with a local street name. I said I didn’t know there was a nightclub in that street. He replied that it wasn’t really a nightclub but more of a social club located in a pub hall. It did not sound like The Hippodrome, so I asked for his number and said that I would “google” the club, if it looked suitable I would call him. He then told me “well I don’t actually run the club but if I tell the guv to book you, he will give you a gig”. I thought oh well that was a waste of 3 minutes of my break.

Before I could get away he continued. “You work at Assos, and I know the owner there he thinks you are the best singer in the Southeast” I told him that I have never sung in Assos so it wasn’t me, he told me “yes it is you, Assos in Eltham you are there every week, I’m coming to see you next week”. When the man said Eltham I knew that he meant Rixos. Rixos is a really nice restaurant where I used to work but have taken a break until the autumn. I told him that I used to sing there every Wednesday night but stopped working there a few weeks ago, they still have a singer there on Thursday nights so he should go then, he replied quite assertively “I know it’s Thursday night, and it’s you! I’ve seen you on the Rixos Facebook page, but when you are singing there you shave your head and use a different name”. The customer is always right so I said “OK, see you Thursday” and made my retreat.

Depreciated in Deptford.

Not too many years ago Deptford was a hive of musical activity. Although many of the pubs were really struggling and some were pretty run down, they recognised the need and benefit of hosting live entertainment. Those musicians just starting up could cut their teeth performing in the pubs for slightly lower fees while those established musicians could earn a good fee for a good performance. Some of the pubs would do a deal paying 10% of the till. However, a fixed fee or percentage of the till both types of gig were profitable and worthwhile.
Tonight I was in Deptford and in a very positive mood so thought I would get myself a solo Tuesday night slot. Most of the old pubs are no longer pubs but been converted into flats or boarded up, but a whole new type of establishment has opened, gentrification has brought investment that has allowed the renovation buildings/spaces and the opening of trendy bars. With the extra money so apparent I was so confident that it was going to be no trouble to secure my Tuesday night solo slot.
My M.O is that if I have not got an introduction to the venue, I volunteer to turn up on a quiet night, I will play an acoustic 20 minutes set. At any time if the manager does not like what he is hearing he can stop me and call it a day with no hard feelings, but if we get to the end of the 20 minutes and he likes what he is hearing he can pay me to continue or we can book another series of dates. This method of getting new venues works for me almost everytime.
Tonight was so different, the conversations went as expected with the mgt teams, all was agreeable and seemed good until we got to the part where at “if we get to the end of the 20 minutes and he likes what he is hearing he can pay me to continue”
At this point of the conversation each of the managers looked really surprised/shocked/horrified/mortified and told me that, if they like me performing they would allow me to continue to perform, but….. they could not pay me anything because “we don’t pay musicians we allow them to showcase their music”. One of the venues actually had 1 band setting up and another band waiting for the opportunity to “showcase”. I explained that I am dependent upon gigging to pay my bills to which one of them replied that if I brought 20 people with me he would give me a couple of drinks.
I still have warm memories of performing in Deptford, sadly they are going to remain just that ……memories.

Can you play Peggy Jane?

Work-wise 2017 has been a very good year, the vast majority of gigs have been in pleasant surroundings and performing to nice people so, (although even a really good gig involves a work and can be very draining) it’s been another year that has reminded me how grateful that I am in a job I love so much….. but there have to be some lows so that the highs are appreciated.

I was asked to perform a gig at a pub where previously I had experienced a horrible night because there was a tv showing a boxing match right behind where I was to perform, the publican would not allow me to turn the TV off, he thought that so long as he turned the sound off all was OK. The first set was bad, in my break I complained to the guv, he refused to switch the TV off but agreed that he would pay me my full fee and I could go home without performing the second set.  This was one event that helped me decide to only take gigs in pubs where I knew music was appreciated by the manager as well as the clientele.

When I got a call from the same pub asking to book me, I reminded them of my previous gig, I was told it’s a new manager and he has promised no TV during the performance, so I took the gig.

I arrived at a pub with 3 customers and 2 bar staff and lots of TV’s showing a darts match, there posters, blackboards and flyers on every table advertising live music for the following evening, I had sent posters to the venue one was on the wall hidden behind the optics, I was told the other was in the toilet corridor. When it was time to start, reluctantly the barmaid agreed to switch the tv (directly behind me) off and I commenced my show to pub with 3 punters.
A little later the clientele tripled in size. Two of the new customers were scafolders who were coked out of their brains. As one approached me the guv mouthed “he’s ok he’s a singer”.

“Ok mate is it alright if I sing a song”, I thought that the evening couldn’t get much worse so I’ll let him sing “sure but leave the mic in the stand and don’t fall over the cables, what do you want to sing?”    the reply was “I am Sailing” so I played an intro a few times, he looked puzzled so I sang the first line and he took over. He was a very small man before he started to sing but with his first note he contorted himself into a twisted and deformed dwarf, his face shrivelled up and a fry (laryngealisation) noise came from his mouth. It was like something from the exorcist. After the initial horror, I wanted to laugh but the tiny man looked like he would probably punch or glass me if I did so I kept a straight face, it really was a ” Bigus Dickus and Incontinentia  Buttocks” moment, every time he lifted his demon face I had to stifle my smile.  He sang the first verse twice and then repeated it a third time, he wanted to go for a fourth repeat but enough was enough so I had to upset him and end the song.
I thought that was it but instead, he said “another song mate, play “Peggy Jane” (I guessed he meant Peggy Sue) I replied that I didn’t know Peggy Jane, he told me “everybody does it’s really easy just hit the top two strings”  I was amused now, so I followed his instruction and hit the top two strings,  and asked “what now?” he told me  “just keep doing that,  it’s really good, I knew you could play it”. I thought that at this point I would take a break so muted all the channels and went to the bar.

As I got to the bar, the grimacing dwarf demon who was standing behind the switched off mic, broke into shouting
“Peggy Jane, don’t leave me bangin’ on your door, I knew you when you had no one to talk to”  to a tune that  in parts slightly resembled the Rod Stewart song “Baby Jane”

The second set I refused to let the scaffolder sing so he stood about 4 foot away from me and shouted along with every song I sung. The guv disappeared upstairs. I shortened my second set from 50 minutes to 20 minutes as I knew nobody would notice (they didn’t).

The guv came downstairs to pay me and got his diary out “it was a good night tonight let’s sort another date out for you” I said that we would have to wait until December when I get a new diary, the guv told me that “it is December now” I explained that I meant next December as 2018 is already fully booked……… my nose started to grow as I left the pub.


Rixos keeping it fresh

For an singer one of the good things about a regular solo in a restaurant is that although week by week the clientele changes, the staff don’t so to keep the act fresh and interesting new songs are added eery week. My son usually nominates appropriate tunes however I have now invited the team at Rixos to challenge me with songs for the following week. Last weeks challenge was from my friend behind the bar Robin. I enjoyed recording it although the video got me a bit emotional. I hope you enjoy.