Playing a gig as a solo musician can be quite a strange experience. Rocking up to a dingy pub on your own with just a guitar for company can be at once isolating and liberating - you may miss out on the friendly banter of bandmates and friends but it certainly seems to make dealing with calamity easier, as I experienced last Tuesday night.
The pub in question - Leonard's on Northampton Road, EC2. Not actually that dingy and, luckily, full of nice people, though its unfortunate proximity to a former playground-cum-arson-practice-zone meant that my usually safely locked up bicycle (two locks!!) was cruelly snatched almost under my very nose as I sat sunning myself in the very pretty park next door. After hearing a loud snapping noise in the bushes over by the railings where poor Boris was chained, I saw a group of 5 or 6 spotty teens in hoodies cycling away, one of whom appeared to be pulling along an extra bike. He was, and I was left bikeless and bereft.
After making my first ever emergency 999 call (and hopefully my last) five police officers turned out within 15 minutes to take down the details of the theft and my insurance company had my replacement on the way the very next evening. So, no harm done to me per se, but I take back my foolish words of a couple of weeks ago, quote: "I don't understand how all these idiots are getting their bikes nicked, don't they lock them?"
Playing a set of reasonably angry (I prefer to call them "strident") songs after such an event was a cathartic experience, even providing me with between-song-comedy fodder such as "Please check out my My Space page - www.myspace.com/thegirlwhojustgotherbikenicked fnar fnar" to which the audience were kind enough to chuckle. Everyone loves an underdog, right? None more so than the very nice East End gent who gave me £20 to help me get home. And as for the sheepish man who watched the theft from the doorstep of the pub and did nothing about it? He kept apologising to me, insisting "I didn't know whose bike it was". Hmph!
So, an eventful evening in a slightly strange part of town, not quite in trendy Clerkenwell, not quite in the depths of Council Estate hell. A nice little venue with the potential to become quite busy, and already with an enthusiastic and supportive bunch of people turning out to watch their mates play. Not worth losing a bike for but an interesting start to a year's gigging.
The next evening - a Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution night at the Pool Bar on Curtain Road, Shoreditch - was a lot more successful. I didn't have anything stolen, I got to play a full set instead of being squashed between bands and I got to meet a couple of My Space acquaintances who turned out to be really cool girls. Gigs almost never go completely smoothly though, and that night I discovered the importance of checking on a venue's stock of stools before turning up.
I usually prefer to play sitting down when I do acoustic gigs but didn't factor in the shiny dress versus shiny stool scenario that unfolded. The first song was fine but during the second I felt myself starting to slip slowly but certainly forwards on the stool while at the exact same time my guitar slid away from me down my dress, causing a few stop-starts interspersed with lots of loud swearing down the microphone while I tried to find any kind of pose that would let me carry on (I am too stubborn to stop mid-song, whatever happens). In the end I managed to jam my guitar between my left knee and my left shoulder while using my right leg as an anchor underneath, wrapped round the stool leg and propping up my left shin from the back. Again, much audience hilarity (my career as a standup clearly beckons) but as I hobbled off with a dead leg after 20 minutes of strumming and screaming I felt happy that I had brought my music to London's trendy regions and triumphed against all sorts of adversity.
This Week's Five (The iPod Shuffle Edition)
1. Standing On My Own Again - Graham Coxon
2. Moonshiner - Uncle Tupelo
3. Four-Fingered Fisherman - Modest Mouse
4. Small Flowers Crack Concrete - Sonic Youth
5. A Love Like Ours - Elastica (from The Radio One Sessions)