The Violet Signs, Ivory Blacks, 10/2/23

Can you really review your own gig? Maybe we’ll just get the story of it all from the perspective of the fella on stage right.
That’s me btw.

I was really looking forward to it, at no point did I have nerves despite it being such a long time since I was last on stage with a guitar. There’s some human condition stuff at play here though. I’m old now, I play like a play, I’m not going to be a pop star, I’m really just here for the banter. Knowing all that is like having a free ticket to Calmsville, stopping only at Funston and Yay I Get To Play A Flying V Really Loud City.

I’m not belittling the event in any way with that, we worked hard to get ourselves in shape for this. It’s important to get it right for us but especially for the folk who paid to get in and I was taking it completely seriously.
I know the songs inside out, I had admined my gear meticulously and I couldn’t have been better prepped. But I’m just one part of a whole and I have to trust the other parts as much as I trust myself.
Mind you that’s a flexible parameter because I know I can screw up quite easily. Still, wasn’t worried.

Going to a gig is very different to playing one, a musicians day is a lot longer and a lot less fun than a ticket holders. I was there first and at a time when most folk were still looking at the clock and wondering why they weren’t on the way home for their dinner yet.
Once inside time flew past though and it turned out that everyone was rather nice to us. The headliners Rattlesnake Tattoo were very friendly and chatty, it probably helps that they’re also of an age and consequently free of pressure too.
Gordon the promoter passed on a message from my buddy Rosie in Texas who he also knows which I won’t forget in a hurry and Gordon also kept us all fed and watered through the evening. This is a rarity in my sporadic experience.

As the er, Special Guests we soundchecked second so that everything was set up ready for us to go on first at 8. As we got into it the soundman immediately started wanting the guitar louder and then pretty soon, louder still. My gear is vintage, but it’s 70’s theatre sized backline and consequently I could feel the air moving past my legs when I was playing if I stood in front of my amp. It was hilarious and actually a bit disconcerting, I can’t remember ever being that loud on stage.
I wonder if I’ll lose control of the guitar and descend into howling feedback, I’ll try… No I won’t, time up. Doors opening soon.

The doors did open and not a soul came through them. I checked on that constantly, up and down the stairs from the dressing room like a puppy wanting out to pee. I would have gone onstage right there and then and happily played to the empty venue, I just wanted to play.
But folks did start filtering in soon enough and in amongst them a lot of folk very dear to me, friends and loved ones from now and also then.
I often feel like an uncharted island and when someone lands on my shore I’m always surprised. Pleasantly so. It was a joy to see you all.

Smiles and laughter, hugs and hand shakes. Actually no, no handshakes, I think I just hugged everyone, probably why we all came down with the same cold bug the following week. Anyway, I was running round hugging and shouting over the DJ into folks ears and time just disappeared. It was suddenly ten to 8.
I hopped on stage and started tuning the guitars. The band sorted their own respective corners and then we were ready to go. I stood with my favourite guitar hanging from my neck and peered past the lights to a healthily filled venue.

Yes please.

I just stagger around, I can’t help it, maybe it’s “my thing”. Ach, it is what it is.
It came to my first solo and I kinda fudged it, not because my hands were suddenly disconnected from my brain, but I was worried the volume was going to overpower all the single notes and I’d lose control of the guitar so I held it back a bit too much. It was in key, but not my best work. I didn’t hold back again though, it turns out I can get used to that volume. Oh yes. Not going back in the corner now.

Big cheer, grins all round, into the second song. This is where I nearly kicked my pedalboard off the stage when I went for my wah pedal. Duct tape the corners of the board onto the floor next time I guess.
More cheers, some banter from Laura and on we went into the set. We never lost a song, one was pretty close due to I shall say a discrepancy in key choice between performers, but when questioned later, folk didn’t seem to really notice. That’s probably more worrying than reassuring though.
I saw a familiar wee face and waved back, don’t think I saw Linda bopping away at the front until near the end. You can’t see a thing with all the lights.

I strangled a couple of notes here and there, but when we got to the end of the fastest 40 minutes of my life I hadn’t disgraced myself and I’d had an absolute blast. That’s a win.
And the trust I mentioned, everyone did their bit and let the others do theirs, any slack was absorbed by the rest. That’s a band right there.

Guitars away, more hugs, more shouting into ears, so many unexpected compliments and then helping Letty sort out the CD’s we were selling. Too late btw, all gone.

I always saw the gig as a defining moment, a crux, a test for the band. You can play in isolation all you want, record and release music, but those minutes you spend on stage are where you can’t hide from yourself, each other or anyone in the room.
We have recordings of various qualities of most of the set and we all have different favourites which I suppose is funny and awkward in equal measure. We’ve had different thoughts and conclusions and ideas about what to do next. Exactly what I was expecting. So we shall see.

From the view on stage right there was four minutes of Big Muff into vintage Laney that took me to the place where I get a tingle in my chest when I play.
I won’t be letting that go, time to come home.

First though, I’ll be letting my er, hair down with They Theory in the 13th Note in Glasgow this Friday. Can’t wait.



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