Improvizone

Plough on

Andrew Booker 2007-08-30 13:10:12

Tuesday's gig at The Plough was really nice.

I confess I wasn't looking forward to it much, thinking I had made a mistake to book it and condemn us to play to an empty pub in the outer reaches of nowhere in particular, while far away in the centre of town stood street after street of bars full of people that would have loved us. I was much mistaken.

This was a totally different gig to Imbibe. Imbibe is a bar. The Plough is a music venue. It has a bar area and a separate music room on the same floor level. You can clearly see into it from the bar area when its doors are open. This immediately made a difference. As Simeon commented afterwards, because we were playing in a separate room, we weren't fighting the prevailing pub/beer/football atmosphere in the main bar. They could have their bit, we could create our own environment, and anyone watching us had chosen the gig rather than the bar.

The most surprising thing about the gig was that anybody came in and watched. But people did, and they kept quiet. This was clearly a much better situation compared to our other gigs, but it left me feeling a bit uneasy. When you're playing songs, the centre of attention is a good place to be. But to have got used to crafting together ambient bar music that will be half buried amid constant chatter and hubbub, and to now have to improvise really good stuff that holds the attention for two hours, with one less player than normal because the stage is smaller... erm, it was harder. Well, it was for me. The others revelled in it.

We played for just over two hours with an interval, with Nick and me taking a break in the first half while the other two played in all the pieces. I was much more aware of my own playing, and that it wasn't really happening some of the time. Normally I like to set up a couple of days before a gig and remind myself what the good drum patches are. I never got round to it this time, and struggled through almost an entire evening of picking the wrong sounds for the pieces. After half an hour or so I let the trio do something by themselves, and they were superb, especially the brilliant Achilleas Sourlas, who we met for the first time this evening. He was terrific, exactly what we want. Augmented only by a nice little delay unit, as Simeon remarked, his flute was a combination of textural, melodic and percussive, yet in a totally separate dimension to the other instruments. Also he had a lovely directional condenser mic attached near the mouthpiece, meaning it went down to disk crystal clear, and also picked up the nice audience applause. And the whack of my sticks clacking together.

I've got about half way through the recordings, but I'd say 60% of the gig will be usable. Maybe more so if I chuck out the drums in a few places. That is perfectly good ratio, and anyway there is nothing wrong with a few duff bits. If you're the audience, they don't stick and you forget them. You come away with an impression made mainly by the good bits, and that is what will bring you back.

Besides being taken aback by the non-zero audience quantity, another pleasant surprise was that we went down very well with the venue guys, Dave the gig organiser and Vitor the owner. As a result, though initially I had no intention of doing this, we will be back at The Plough in September (25th) and October (30th).

This will give me an opportunity to see if listings yield punters at this venue more or less so than at Imbibe, and will take the pressure off finding a Central London venue, though I still intend to. In fact, if the Plough series continues, we will probably become bi-monthly. Ook. Meanwhile I will enjoy the simple pleasure of now being familiar with this venue, so that hopefully I can get the setup time back down to about 30 minutes, and not well over the hour during which I faffed and fiddled and untangled and finally worked out what to plug in where. And that in turn will mean that I might be able to take the video stuff and set it up and tape the gig, rather than take the video stuff and leave it in the case all evening.

I'm wondering about charging money on the door for a gig like this. I've more or less decided not to, but I might share those thoughts over the next week or so. But first, time to get stuck into mixing down what we did.

Before I go, a hearty farewell and huge serving of thanks to the excellent Simeon Harris who, after making stunning contributions to four Improvizone gigs in succession, is now moving to Wales, and will thus no longer be within easy commutable distance to non-paying gigs in remote corners of London, to our considerable loss. All the best, Sim!

Where was my brain? << | >> M3M, Freedom of Expression with Steve Lawson/Lobelia, and audiences