I miss them terribly and I don’t miss them at all.
I’ve been unable to gig since Boris Johnson declared COVID to be over by decree as part of the Tory party’s ongoing War On Reality, and - what with various health issues I shall not bore you with - it stopped being safe for me to do them. But the truth is that that I’d stopped playing nearly so many Fit and the Conniptions gigs in the few years beforehand.
Over and over again the same cycle: the brief burst of excitement at getting something in the diary. Someone taking an interest! Or at least feigning interest!
Flurries of emails to musicians trying to see who was free that night and sort out a line-up. The great thing about Holly and Duncan is that they are fantastic musicians, but the problem with them is that they are fantastic musicians. So they are in at least seventeen other projects each at all times, generally in high demand and have very full diaries. I’ve a list of other friends I call after that; all fantastic musicians also, and also - as such - always busy. But there’s always a band.
The band is the best bit, to be truthful.
After that, all the social media nonsense, busting a gut trying to get people to attend or at least say they will, designing posters, drawing cartoons, making flyers, managing the occasional mailing list post even though hardly anyone on it lives in the same country, generally flailing wildly, the anticipation, the runthroughs, making the set list - again - and then finally, all too often…
Turning up to find the PA is two empty coke cans suspended from a piece of string held up with gaffer tape in a cardboard box propped up on a piece of bent scaffolding plugged directly into the mains with a plug marked ‘Do Not Use’ in purple felt tip pen, all running through a desk looking like something salvaged from a collision between a submarine and a disused lighthouse - some of the channels work! - you are told, no, not that one, and the mic smells funny because last night was Comedy Night. There’s another mic but it doesn’t work. You can set that all up can’t you? Bill said he was doing the sound but he can’t make it.
Spending the evening pretending I’m having an absolutely fantastic time playing to four or five people, two or three or all of whom are in one of the other bands anyway, with one guy - always this one guy - talking loudly not quite through the entire set, but waiting for the quiet bits and talking then.
The blank, bored faces of excruciatingly London hipster bar staff tragically doomed to be trapped in the room by forces beyond their control, hating you with every fibre of their being not already devoted to hating everything not you, wishing they were dead or somewhere else, or that you were dead or somewhere else, or that everyone was dead and somewhere else, or that maybe the place would suddenly explode, or sink, or melt, or something.
The constant stream of messages through the evening from people wishing you well for the gig and so sorry they couldn’t make this one.
The heavy merch case that half the time I would be too embarrassed to open, it being painfully obvious that not only would no-one be buying a CD but there was no point trying to give badges away either because no-one would want them.
The rush of adrenaline from playing as if the room was full anyway counteracting the effects of shitty, overpriced and now pointless beer. Then the adrenaline crash after the set, more shitty, overpriced and still pointless beer, and the long, lonely, empty journey home.
Not every gig was like that, of course, but too many were. Way too many. Thankfully hardly anyone came to those ones ;)
On an entirely unrelated note, here’s me, Duncan and H (from the Stolen Band) playing Chez Tina at the Harringay Arms in Crouch End in 2018.
As you see in the video, they put bands on in a sort of corridor / storage area sectioned off from the rest of the pub as if they wanted live music but were also embarrassed by it and hoped it didn’t disturb their regular customers. Duncan’s playing is great and H makes it all groove like a bastard. That One Guy gets his oar in early but thankfully wanders off. The bar staff there hated me so much. So much. I don’t know why. I’m always very polite.
Didn’t get asked back, but I’d have said no anyway. I’ll play almost anywhere once, because you never know. But life is too short for shitty gigs.
What I miss are the good ones.
Meanwhile, until COVID is no longer a thing, the next Fit and the Conniptions gig will be online.
You’ll be the first to hear of it.