Improvizone

Gig ten A: Cellistica at the Union Chapel, 16 Nov 2007

Andrew Booker 2007-11-19 01:18:51

Last Thursday I joined Mark Jenkins to beef up the grooves at his first Cellistica gig, a synths/cello performance unit featuring Gabriella Swallow on acoustic and electric cello. Also appearing were regular Mark Jenkins collaborator Alquimia and the legendary Arthur Brown, both on vocals.

I like Mark's music a lot, though playing gigs with him often poses, shall we say, the odd technical challenge. This one was was the easiest and the best so far, not least because he give me a feed from his drum sequencer, without all the lush synths which are lovely to listen to but no help for trying to keep in time.

I was going to monitor Mark's drum machine through some earphones, but left the 3.5mm to 6mm converter at home. Does anyone know where you can buy one of these things in Islington? Not me. When I was a lad, you could depend on a shop like Woolworths for random bits of electrical hardware like that. Nowadays that shop is good for next to nothing, except maybe cheap DVDs, and a terrific non-stick floor mat designed for car boots (trunks, for our transatlantic brethren) that keeps my pedals where they are and is the best GBP 3.49 I have ever spent.

Back to the show, I managed OK with Mark's drum machine coming through my monitor, and I think some reasonably effective and controlled noises were coming from my area most of the time. I played during an improvisation at the end with everybody, and in a couple of rhythmic passages in the middle, and enjoyed it all. Everybody was sounding great, especially Arthur's spoken and sung poetry and passages.

The venue was the Union Chapel near Highbury Corner, and it was a lunchtime gig. For a drummer, a gig in London during the day means paying for parking. I now know what to do about parking around the Compton Terrace area, though it took a good deal of running around behind the wheel and on foot during the bits of the gig I wasn't playing in, pointlessly emptying my pockets into pay-and-display for a maximum of 2hrs, which ran out halfway through the late-running gig, before risking a little car park behind the church wedged between of Canonbury Road and Compton Avenue, where it was a quid an hour. I cannot explain how my car ended up smelling of cigarette smoke when I got back in it (I only smoke if I'm on fire), but nothing seemed to be amiss.

If you've not been to the Union Chapel, you may not know that it has a capacity of 1650. Divide that figure by 100 and you have a slight over-approximation of the number of bodies in the building during this gig. And only a slight underestimate of the the total number of minutes that made up my playing time. In retrospect I was a bit stupid with this. Apart from a gig being a gig, I wanted to do this for the experience of playing in the Union Chapel. These things look great on paper. Oh, the Union Chapel, yes, I've played there. But what does it mean, for example, to play at the Royal Albert Hall? What it means is you play to 8,000 people, not to eight. So right now, that's a second reason why I won't be spending too much time at posh cocktail parties mouthing off about how I have played at Islington's biggest (?) venue. The first being that I don't go to parties dressed as the tail end of a posh cock.

Gig ten B: Darkroom at the Norwich Arts Centre cafe, 17 Nov 2007 << | >> Gig ten