What would be the most enjoyable gig I could possibly do?
This is what I was thinking as I was having lie-down and a snooze before driving to the third Improvizone gig a week or so ago... mmm... everything packed neatly in the car, good fast-moving traffic, somewhere to park, plenty of time to set up, check things over, people start turning up, lots of people waiting for the playing to start, walk on, applause, begin something exciting, everybody watching, visibly interested, applause from the whole audience when it sounds like we've stopped... snore... TING-A-LING! Bugger, it's 4 o'clock, I'd better get going...
Of course, what I was really thinking before I floated off with the zeds was, how can I make Improvizone the most enjoyable gig I could possibly do?
Plenty of the standard delusionary rock star trimmings would not work for me. You can forget the Wembley-sized hoard of tens of thousands. Forget the huge entourage of roadies, managers, chauffeurs, PR liason officers, image consultants, fitness instructors, dieticians, manicurists and all the rest of them. I can lift my own amps out of my own car boot, carry my own equipment, stick it where I want it, and wire it all together. I kind of like doing it myself. It's all part of the ascent. I quite like playing the drums as well. Almost forgot that.
In what way could Improvizone become my ideal gig? Sadly, I didn't find the answer at Imbibe on Tuesday 24 April 2007. Not to say it was a duff evening. We certainly played a good gig, thanks to the bold efforts of Mike, Jeremy (right), James and Simon, all of whom did great stuff that night. Not to say that I'm no longer convinced that Improvizone could be the most enjoyable gig I could do. It's just maybe not quite there yet.
How does Improvizone compare to my mid-afternoon dreamy assessment of the great gig, man? The answer is, pretty good at the beginning of the list (see above), going off completely in the middle, getting back on course towards the end. When looking for the venue, the whole car/traffic/parking/setting up thing was taken fully into account. This is why we're not playing in the middle of Covent Garden. Also, I'm fully aware of the need to be prepared for these gigs, making sure the gear works, sorting out a few new sounds, the subject of a whole blog by itself. It's the other end of the list, the important end, where Improvizone isn't quite measuring up. While I don't need an arena-sized audience to get me really going, I need perhaps a little more than I'm finding the average London bar has to offer.
Take the following two possible settings for a gig like Improvizone.
Yes, as the word count suggests, we're in the second option. I'll admit to searching long and hard for a venue without quite having that distinction clear in my head. If I had, it would have taken me even longer to find a place and I'm glad we just got on with it, but now, after gig three, it's beginning to settle in what I've done. What I've done effectively is organise a gig of potentially experimental music for a collection of besuited mid-20s drunkards. The cheese entertaining the chalk. Or maybe the other way round.
It's important not to dismiss the suited audience. I have been known to wear those things occasionally myself from time to time in the throes of gainful employment, and have bitched and whined far less about having to do so than others forced to adopt similar vestments. And anyway, clip my cufflinks if about 15 minutes into the MB/AB opening set, one of them didn't come over and ask us to turn it up! Awesome!
While Improvizone gigs don't clear the venue when the playing starts, typical Imbibers do not usually look as if they are paying attention. This is not as bad as playing to nobody at all, but it's not as good as having an audience. We do get an audience of course, those are the people sitting in front of us watching what we're doing. Trying to hear what we're doing... which is where this idea of playing in an open bar might have gone wrong. If people wanted to listen to us, there'd be too much noise from everyone else who didn't. Maybe this is not a serious problem yet, although the polarisation of listeners and babblers was definitely there at the third gig.
Had you come to listen to us on 29 May 07, here's a quick rundown of the musical sections you would have (almost) heard.
Musically, as well as a two-headed audience, another set of polar opposites found themselves under the same roof at this gig.
The idea with Improvizone is that we're a hybrid of these two. An amalgam. We throw both into the mixing pot and getting an interesting blend out of the oven. But it this gig, it felt like the Moulinex had conked out. The blades had jammed, and lo, there were lumps of jamming... and lumps of weirder stuff. I reckon it works best as a more of a soup than a salad.
All good and well though, doesn't really matter what we do so long as we have a few people to make it obvious whether they like it or loathe it. The guys who come and play the gig will always do good stuff, I'm confident of that now. It's mildly amusing to have witnessed thinly-concealed panic on the faces of seasoned musicians as they turned up to a gig that they were about to complete wing. I'm the opposite. I don't seem to have been born with the part of the brain that worries about improvised gigs. To me, worrying is about having to do something correctly, to play songs and arrangements as they were written. But what is correct improvisation? Correct just means good, and good is something that should come as naturally as talking to someone without offending them. Beyond some idiots, I know.
I guess what I really want from a gig is not to have to worry, but right now, I'm a bit uneasy about the audience thing. As a pure body count, this gig was pretty good. It's the give-a-toss-ometer reading that was poor. All it needs is more interested people to come and see it. Simple as that. So in a couple of days, I'll stick up another post about what promotion I've been doing. (As usual, as much for my benefit as for your interest.)
It'll all work out eventually. Ha! I get ideas for this stuff in my sleep.