Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.
Date: Her Royal Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee.
Venue: A field.
Crowd: 60/40 split between humans and bovine.
“There’s no such thing as a bad gig. Only a bad performance.”
This was a mantra we adopted early on as a band. The idea that if any gig was objectively bad, it was due to deficiencies in performance as opposed to any fault on the part of the gig. The rationale was to focus on our ability as a group rather than apportion blame elsewhere. Shortly after, we played a show where the sound man neglected to provide any microphones (Which incidentally is a story for another time). Since that day we have been slightly more open to assigning blame where necessary.
On this particular blazing Saturday afternoon in June, the weekend of Her Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee, it’s hard to decide who’s more responsible for the veritable clusterfuck. But it’s approximately 30 seconds into our first song, titled something like but not necessarily “Gas Chamber”, that I stare into the eyes of a nearby toddler and realise we may well be playing to the wrong crowd.
You see, ringing alarm bells were initially ignored when we arrived at the venue. A field in the centre of England’s garden, Kent. Now, fields aren’t inherently bad venues, it depends entirely on how they are populated. However, this particular patch of farmland had a worrying percentage of families having picnics. See also: people that generally are offended by swearing accompanied by people that generally shouldn’t be subjected to it.
There’s no such thing as a bad gig.
It is shortly after surveying this scene that Jake begins stretching the theory to breaking point.
“I’ve forgotten my bass.” He declares, rather less apologetically than I would’ve hoped for, but at this point he’s probably distracted by the fact the crowd is in serious danger of being outnumbered by the cows in the neighbouring field.
For reasons I have never questioned to this day, Ritchie has a keyboard in his car. With that, Jake triumphantly assures us of two things: 1) That he is familiar enough with the general workings of a keyboard to know which notes he has to press in order to play his ‘bass’ lines, and perhaps most importantly 2) That his colour blindness doesn’t extend to the difference between black and white. With that, the keyboard is hooked up to the PA and a crisis has temporarily been averted.
There’s no such thing as a bad gig.
So, approximately 30 seconds into our first track is when I catch the eye of a nearby toddler. 31 seconds into our first track is when I become painfully aware of a pertinent fact. This song has many, many swear words. A plethora. A surplus. An overabundance, you might say. A metric fuck tonne.
Mercifully, the same thought has evidently pops into Jake’s seldom sensibly occupied mind. He frantically signals my attention and in the split second our wide eyed stares meet, we concoct a genius plan of improvised self censorship. Our lyrics are suddenly punctuated with FUDGE, SHOOT and POO. What was intended as a social commentary on teenage bullying becomes speckled by FIDDLESTICKS, DARN and SHUCKS. By the end of the song, those in the audience that have vocabularies developed enough, are left in no uncertain terms that we hate those MOTHER LOVERS. Our punk rock credentials may have taken a slight beating, but I’m pretty sure the five year olds found it hilarious.
The silver lining to this whole affair, is that we are now aware of where the bar resides with regards to bad gigs. We can make sure we never put ourselves in a situation like this one again. With our heads held high, we can look forward to the next gig on the calendar.
The day after. Another show to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee. In a small village green.
At least there won’t be any cows.
Photo by Richard via Flickr.