The following tales come straight from the mouth of our bass player, Jake.
Most of what follows, unfortunately, happened.
Date: The earliest days of The Underdogs.
Venue: Bedrooms and basements.
Crowd: Understanding friends and a mum.
Let’s be honest for a moment here people. You are never going to pull off a gig without rehearsing. It doesn’t how much raw talent you’ve packed into your plucking finger, stick-twirling wrist, vocal chords or whatever the hell it is that bass players do. You just won’t make it. So you rehearse. You get your ragtag band of musical wannabes and you wrangle a date out of them when you can all actually meet up and make some fucking noise. But where? You’re all broke, you aren’t famous yet. No fancy studio for you. You’re working with the bare minimum here; you need walls, a roof and electricity. And frankly, anything that ticks those boxes in one way or another is now your temple of sound.
The Underdogs have had our fair share of rehearsal spaces, by now you’ve heard about the ever-creepy and dank crypt under the church, but there have been some others along the way. Hold on to your mohawks punk-rockers and moon-stompers, it’s time for a trip down memory lane…
A Front-room Band
I guess like most bands, our first jam was just in a friend’s front-room. We grabbed some beaten up old guitars and thrashed out some dirty tunes whilst Graham warbled along about the girl that just broke his heart.. Or not caring about school. Something like that. And that would have been ok for one night, one golden night where a few friends got musical after a drink too many. But no, we came back to that front-room, to those beaten up guitars, time and time again.
So we moved a couple of amps into one corner, started cranking the volume like we had something to prove. And maybe we did. Before long it was like a true practice space, there were discarded pizza boxes covered in half scribbled lyrics and empty cans everywhere. We never managed to get a drum kit in there, our then drummer would sit in front of the sofa and just beat different cushions. I’m sure in his head the arm of the sofa sounded just like a hi hat, and him vigorously kicking the front was basically a perfect imitation of a bass drum. Somebody’s well-worn in arse mould was a snare,and the tasseled brown cushion the perfect ride. Of course to us the whole thing was just largely inaudible, muffled thumps. But not even magical sofa drums can last forever, we lost access to the front-room after an incident involving a 3am tuesday night rehearsal, a sleepy topless man and some “decorative” swords.
A Bedroom Band.
Eventually wee moved things upstairs… and into a different house entirely. It’s funny how quickly you can wear out your welcome when you play late-night punk at mid-day volumes. A wonderful lady friend of ours, Murph, offered to let us rehearse in her bedroom, it was right at the top of a house with no adjoining properties, so long as we didn’t go past 11pm… ish she was happy. We even managed to lug a drum kit all the way up the stairs. Our (new but still not Nicky) drummer was ecstatic. The bedroom was great, it always smelt quite nice… well, at the beginning of rehearsal, and there was enough clearance for some jumping.
And best yet it introduced me to one of our lady friends most incredible talents. She had a long wardrobe, all sliding doors. We’d be midway through rehearsal and she’d waltz in.
“I’m heading to the pub, just gonna get changed.” She’d say.
“Oh sure, want us to call it there?” Graham would offer, ever the punk-gentleman.
“Nah, keep playing.”
And with that she’d open one end of her wardrobe and step inside, the door sliding closed behind her like the beginning of the weirdest magic trick in the book. Minutes later she would emerge from the other end of the wardrobe in a completely different outfit. Total transformation. I think once she even did her hair in there. It became a game. She’d step in and we’d start to play and basically race her. She rarely lost. Unfortunately a few months later she had to move out and we lost another rehearsal space… but maybe this time it was for the best…
A Garage Band. Finally.
Yes. At last! We were finally a bona fide Garage Band. We found a garage with power that we could rehearse in, and no one cared, the place was insulated enough the noise didn’t bother anyone nearby. Rehearsal space jackpot. And it was free. And the owner of the garage, mum of a friend, was the flat-out nicest person alive. It may not be very rock ‘n’ roll to admit this, but we all like a cuppa. This lovely lady would periodically bring us tea while we rehearsed… and tell us we sounded good, not that she liked the music but she knew we were enjoying ourselves and she could hear the improvements. This was some sort of positive-reinforcement, tea-induced powerhouse of a rehearsal space.
We were there for about a year all in all and we came on leaps and bounds in that time. Probably due to the tea. Alas, all good things must come to an end, the garage needed to be repurposed for something else and were apologetically asked to move on. After being offered a home-cooked goodbye meal by the lady of the house. Seriously. It’s tough to be angry at the world when someone is being that unfailingly pleasant to you.
And now we rehearse in a church crypt. Swings and roundabouts eh? Or rather, bedrooms and basements eh?
The lesson behind all this? Anywhere can work as a rehearsal space if you want it enough. But try to find somewhere with free tea.
Photo by Soundof78 via Flickr.