January is one of my favourite months of the year. It gives you a chance to breathe after the holiday season, which can be a chaotic nightmare for most. Festivity as a rule should signify time off to share good food with good people. However, as a musician playing non-stop to people who have constant access to alcohol, the reality of festivity tends to resemble something more along the lines of how my Mum must have felt working as a carer for all those years having to deal with aggressive clients in psychiatric units!
The new year brings new beginnings, although by this time most people have already made and disobeyed their usual resolutions, and are back into the daily routine of the beautiful rat-race.
Following a relentless December, playing a double band gig on New Year’s Eve was a hilarious accomplishment. We started the night at Soho O’Neill’s (former Flamingo Club), with the early slot between 8.30 – 10.30pm. The venue was half empty when we started, but with 2016 fast approaching, the crowd began to multiply towards the end of the first set. We played a few of the songs from the EP which is still technically under-going production. Although nobody knew the words, “Sometimes” (as previously blogged here) was the turning point that got people dancing in the early stages. This was very exciting to watch. It’s one thing to get a good reaction with a cover song, but to experience an original song getting people revved up is really something else! In customary O’Neill’s style, the atmosphere was explosive, the crowd-to-band interaction was exuberant and all in all a perfect start to New Year’s Eve. As soon as we finished, we threw the guitars into their bags and began our comical voyage to the Tube!
Leicester Square tube station was closed, my heart began to sink when Piccadilly station looked completely shut from afar. I had invited quite a few people to the second gig in St. Christopher’s pub, London Bridge. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than the thought of letting people down, but as we drew closer, you could see an entrance manned by police who were cramming people into the London Underground like little sardines in a tin. Thank Yoda that I wasn’t playing on my own this year! The sheer amount of people was disorientating and would have been brutally claustrophobic without Charlie and Phil.
We now had an hour to get to London Bridge and set up to start playing at just after midnight. Luckily I had the opportunity to stash the equipment at the gig venue the night before (at my usual Wednesday residency). By the time we got there, we had only 25 minutes to drag the gear out of the store room and start playing. There were quite a few familiar faces, which is a sign that you’re doing something right! Midway through the set, a few old friends randomly stumbled into the pub who I’d met whilst playing the ski resorts a few years back with my brother. We did start a little late, but nevertheless the management had cracked open the champagne and everybody was dancing. It was a pleasure to play in such a small space. A small valve amp sounds so good in an old pub with wooden flooring! We played a lot of classics, throwing in the odd original tune when necessary. It felt like a real blues gig.
After the gig finished and the pub had closed, we hung around for a few beers before venturing out into crazy town. Although I would have happily stayed in St. Christopher’s drinking with the boys for the rest of the night!
Since New Year’s Eve, we have finished recording the drums, bass and guitar for the EP title track “Sometimes”. The last session had to be re-scheduled due to engineer availability, but after a last minute date shuffle, the track came together nicely. Everything ran a lot more smoothly than “A Beautiful View”, which was a challenge to record, being a ballad at 58 bpm.
This month’s gig average is 3-4 per week, making recording time more manageable. I’m using the time to finally finish the promo recordings that we started last summer. These are a string of medley arrangements that can be used in making video’s to rack up more function gigs.
As much as I love the London residencies, they do take up a lot of time. Most of my life has been predominantly about finding the perfect balance between earning a living from music and having the time to be creative with music. The more time you spend learning/playing covers, the more it stumps musical creativity, but you need to play covers in order to pay your way. This is before you even think about shelling out for studio time, video production, website development, digital distribution, marketing, an appropriate place to make youtube video’s, rehearsals, equipment, travel blah blah blah… the list goes on forever. Now that I’ve managed to build myself a stable source of London gigs, I need to double the pay in order to half the time. In theory, two functions/weddings/corporate events per week could cover everything. Then I wouldn’t have to spend every night being the sober guy in boozy atmosphere’s having people dancing in front of my mic stand, knocking the microphone into my teeth. It’s amazing in your early 20’s, but not so cool at 29.
So New Year is once again all about change. There has to be change in order to progress. The only way to progress is to work harder on the right things. For the next few months I’ll be locking myself in my bedroom to finish the promo recordings, lingering sound cloud recordings and unfinished band videos for youtube. Boxing, mountain biking and all fitness related activity is getting put on the back burner until a good chunk of recording is done, then I can finish the EP! As soon as the EP is done, maybe I can allow myself few days to do a little more work on the 1986 VW Scirocco rebuild.
But then again (cue generic Facebook-style quote), life is too short! As you can see from the unfortunate news of late, all the greats are dropping like flies. Pretty soon we’re going to be left with nothing but the disposable X-Factory generation of zombie smartphone slaves. And of course, Keith Richards, who would undoubtedly survive a nuclear apocalypse!
Catch you later Bill and Ted
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