Jubilant indeed was I when I floated out of The Grove on Thursday 4th August.
Admittedly, I had been worried. Only a few days till the gig and only one of the performers I’d contacted had said yes. Everyone seemed to be swanning about in Ibiza, or Dubai or some other far flung place….
40 Celsius in Dubai it may be, but I can attest I was sweating more than my apologetic fellow singer songwriter.
Some organiser I’d turned out to be. Would I have to admit failure so soon? Was the first incredible night nothing but a fluke? Beginners luck?
Imagine my relief when my phone pinged the day before the gig & I read the message from Veeraj Lutchman, whom I’d briefly met over a year before. Here he was, out of the blue, asking if there were spaces left..
I felt like kissing the iPhone.
Two in the bag at least. Thank god for that.
Then a text; Adam from The Grove had a few guys lined up too. Phew.
My lungs began to function normally again. 18:00 on gig day, as I’m walking to the station, another happy “ping!”. Maria Hernadez Osso, (Maria Moss) another performer met Eons ag& not seen since. I couldn’t believe it! At this rate we’d have to turn people away! I was smiling, gloom forgotten.
An hour later at The Grove, waiting for the performers to show and I was panicking afresh. Where was everyone.
Performers were coming a long way and the place was empty. Deader than a Dodo.
By 19:30 I was seriously considering messaging them to say don’t waste the journey. But I held back. To take my mind off the desolate surroundings, I resorted to my usual coping mechanism; food.
For the record: the salads at The Grove are to die for (and I am a fussy customer.) A pleasant distraction from the looming threat of a crowdless night.
As I anxiously chewed my haloumi a few people drifted in and ordered drinks at the bar. Hardly a mob, but still. Better than nothing..
Then a girl wandered in looking lost & asked who was running the show. Rather sheepishly I confessed to being the guilty party. I couldn’t believe it: another surprise act! Anika, who’d spied the ad in Gumtree. I was half delighted and half dismayed. If only she’d come on the first night when there was an audience! As I fluttered idiotically about, making nervous introductions, offering beverages, Steven from the first gig showed up. All singing, all dancing Steven, remember?
A beer for her, a pint of water for him, and no I didn’t think it would be possible to learn his original (dance) song on the guitar before the show started in 10 minutes time (for goodness sakes!) but I would try for next time and…
Oh my word; what is that? A trio of customers arriving at the rear patio doors and another couple wandering in the front. Yes! Saints be praised.
“Better get started!”
I played my set with a gradually lifting heart. People were arriving.
Panic over; we had an audience.
Steven took the mic after me and gave us a slightly less exuberant version of his first night’s performance. He couldn’t let rip with quite the same wild abandon since the stage was set up in fhe narrow walk through section, opposite the bar instead of the huge space by the patio doors. At least we still had the fan….
Anyway, the crowd loved it and clapped along enthusiastically. Meanwhile Maria arrived with Ben, her guitarist. After hugs and excited greetings, I offered drinks and received an order for two pints of water. Honestly, you can lead a performer to an alcoholic beverage but you can’t make them drink….
Anika played next. Flitting between the bar and the performers I only had one ear on her set but what I heard was impressive. She has a good strong voice, pleasant to listen to and the songs were good. A self produced original and a cover, both of which the crowd loved. I noticed the landlady Kate singing along loudly. This made me (and a few others) smile.
Veeraj arrived with a friend and I was struck anew by what a genuinely lovely person he is. This quality always makes a person shine I think. Soon afterwards, another friend not seen for ages, Atul, sauntered in with his guitar and a big smile.
As far as good old fashioned reunions go, this gig was delivering the goods!
Again I proffered free drinks. Again I placed orders for pints of water. I know, right? Rock & Roll.
One of Adam’s friends, George, launched into a lively acoustic set to the wolf whistles & shouts of his group of friends.
By far the best thing about this gig was the almost instant rapport between the performers, friends and supporters. Maria, Ben, Veeraj and some others were huddled round one table, talking nineteen to the dozen, thumbs jabbing rapidly at smartphone screens, swapping Facebook details. Steven and Anika had been thick as thieves right from the beginning. Atul moved about talking easily to everyone. The bar bustled and the drinks flowed. Friends of performers turned up to join the increasingly animated group at the performer’s table.
“Excellent” I said, rubbing my hands together like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
George wrapped up his set to much foot stamping, and made way for Maria and Ben. A little Spanish flavour, very subtle albeit, adds spice to Maria’s Indie folky acoustic rock set. I was surprised to learn she and Ben have only been playing together for a month. Two strong performers, totally in sync, bringing a youthful summery vibe to the night.
Up next, Veeraj. Full of surprises this guy. Within the small frame and behind the modest smile lurks the voice of a tiger. Not only is his voice huge, it has a warm, resonance making it a pleasure to listen to. In fact, his performance is so honed, if you close your eyes you could be listening to the radio. The EP is coming very soon by the way; watch this space for a review!
Atul brought a wave of positive vibes to the stage playing a fast paced, energetic acoustic version of the original rock music he usually plays with his band. One of them, “Crap Day” had everyone singing along. I guess it’s a theme everyone can relate to!
Adam and Ed wrapped up the evening nicely with some classics, old and new. Much to the delight of the other performers and the audience, Ed behaved in his usual off the rails fashion, twirling the mic stand like a baton and letting rip with some frightening semi operatic Tenacious D. This, and the spectacle of Adam, Ed and Joe from the kitchen sharing one mic, had people rolling about. Comedy aside, these guys are super talented. Pitch and note perfect every time.
So a happy ending, despite shaky beginnings. There was such a brilliant vibe around the musicians table, so much to talk about… I didn’t want to leave.
But trains wait for no one, and it was time for me to dash.
As I left I was pleased to note something else; not a drop of water in sight.
Yes, the vibe was definitely merry enough to imply that a few free drinks had been wholeheartedly accepted after all 😉
Next show Thursday 18th!