Monday, 3 August 2009

Our night out with the Army

We set off last Saturday morning. A minibus, a van and 4 cars in convoy. Pit stop half way, toilets and breakfast. Breakfast was disgusting, some kind of Burger King meal. A wholemeal bun like wet cardboard, a circular reprocessed meat product, smothered in pink mayonnaise, a square of processed cheese and what might euphemistically be called 'salad'. I ate it anyway :(

We were met just outside the base and escorted to the arena!

It was a huge, flat sports ground. Cricket pitch with nets, rugby field with posts up, and some 5-a-side football goals. There was a massive tent for catering, with a hog roast, two marquees and the clubhouse, wherein the bar! And parked next door was the generator the Army had provided for the stage...

But no stage yet. So we twiddled our thumbs, and I read my book, and eventually it turns up. By now it's about 2pm. Then they have to level the truck with blocks of wood, no joke, and then swooosh the hydraulics kick in to stabilise everything and the side unfolds into the stage with a canopy above. A couple of hours pass. There are lights and speakers everywhere, a spaghetti of cables slowly unraveled into organised chaos. Were all using the same back line and drumkit to save time swapping over and it did keep things simpler. Mixing and lighting desks were housed in a little tent at the front of the stage. It looked a bit like this but with a lot more wires and lights. This was us (ABandinurHead) on the same stage last May outside Mead Hall. As usual, I'm lurking at the back.

So we're all ready to go. Just need some power, but the generator's a hundred yards away. "No problem, there's a Bedford coming to tow it round" we're told. Another hour or so passes, then yay, a huge truck arrives and pulls it to the back of the stage. The generator is size of a small tank! Flaps opened to reveal two computer screens and the fact that the standard three-phase fittings of the stage were not going to mate harmoniously with Army issue kit. Send for an electrician. Luckily one was available and the necessary adjustments were made. "Now", says the guy in charge of the generator, "just hope this works. I've only had an hour's crash-course on it this morning".

But work it did, and the stage came to life. Then the endless 'testing of the mikes' began, and a few guitar licks here and there. I was sat in the minibus thinking "that sounds awfully muffled, and nowhere near loud enough". Then I realised all I was hearing were the stage monitors. They hadn't turned the main PA on yet. Phew!

Jarred got up for a soundcheck, they were headlining after all, and by now people were staring to arrive. All in 60's and 70's fancy dress, it was amazing. I was glad I'd brought my bright red, Sgt Pepper's style, Chinese dragon jacket to wear onstage. I'm not usually so flamboyant, but we were all pulling out the stops. Time was passing though. ABandinurHead (us) were slated to kick the night off at 8pm. I wandered backstage, where we had a tent for the instruments and our free communal beer etc, and tuned my bass. Green Room it was not, apart from the grass. I was carrying old bassy to the side of the stage to be ready when...

"Right! We're on!"



I didn't even get time to change, let alone a soundcheck. So we were a bit rough at first but soon they got the sound right and we did our ass-kicking set of Stones, Alex Harvey, Animals, T Rex, Black Sabbeth etc to a few hundred people spread out over this vast field. Some folks seemed to like us and by the end we had a bit of a mosh pit going at the front of the stage. Ace! That was our job, warm things up for the rest of the night.

Renegade Lizzy took to the stage with their first class Thin Lizzy covers set. It was only just after 9pm and we were anticipating a lot more people turning up. But, no one did. This was it!

Amoren went on. These guys are good friends and play a great set, whether original stuff or covers. It was covers tonight, that was the remit, and they were shit hot. They do the best version of War Pigs ever. But the audience were beginning to drift away. "Oh they do that", someone told me. "They'll be off clubbing in Newcastle". Then I realised that the catering tent had closed! I settled for crisps and peanuts from the bar.

By the time Jarred came on there were just the other band members and maybe a another dozen people down by the stage, and twenty or thirty by the clubhouse. With true professionalism Jarred blew us other bands off stage. They even got me dancing! Everything begins to blur after that. I remember having a couple of drinks in the clubhouse and kipping down in the minibus. Quite comfy actually. And then it was morning, we had to be off by 8am to get the hire vehicles back. We stopped on the way for some kind of McBreakfast, and I thought the day before's had been bad. I was presented with a burger, two halves of a toasted bun and a rectangular yellow thing. I assembled and ate the burger.

We were home for 11am, just in time for a hair of the dog in The Wickham, our local.

What a day :)


NobblySan said...

A bit of a bugger about the turnout, Andy.

But it sounds like you :

a) enjoyed it anyway
b) was too drunk to really care
c) both of the above

Andy Holroyd said...

Cheers Nobbly, it was lots of a) a bit of b) to give the right balance of c) for me.

What bugged me was the area we were given, at the side of the sports fields, it could have held 2000 people easy. Given the set up that's what I was expecting.

So were others. I know the hog roast chef, he's a local landlord back home and he went up to do his cooking job. I heard tonight that most of the roast went in black bin liners for the trash. He's livid, he'd have brought it home for free sarnies in the pub but he never got the chance.

I also learned that our lead guitarist did a streak from the clubhouse to the stage and back at 4am. Thankfully I missed that, but it all counts as an a).

yorksnbeans said...

Well, at least you guys got the biggest crowd, being the first! :-)

Andy Holroyd said...

Y&Bs that's very true. And we had the biggest bunch dancing at the front.

I'm hoping to have more photos for the weekend.