On Saturday, 7th June 2008 I held the long-awaited launch gig for my new album: Ragged Valentine. And it was spectacular – definitely one of the best nights of my life! :o)
I have loaded a couple of songs onto MySpace, from the video Mac recorded of the night.
Deciding to put on a show
It was at the end of March, sitting in a peaceful garden, letting the stresses of work ooze from my mind; that’s when I decided to put the wheels on this gig. I couldn’t let 6 months pass from the date I finished the album, that would have been a bit poor. I also reckoned I was ready for a bit more stress. I wanted to put on a proper night, in a nice location, with a similar set up to the album (i.e. with the variety of musicians playing on each song). The insanity of the proposition didn’t really register. On my mind was the offer of assistance from my newest friend, from music scene, and I was thinking that it might even be fun…
Note to diary: without the organisation and encouragement of Marc Weide – said “newest friend from the music scene” – arranging this gig would have killed me. He is a star and I am very much in his debt. :o)
Putting it all together
Having seen a couple of friends’ gigs at the 21 South Street arts venue, I knew that is where I wanted to play. Between the availability of the venue and that of a core set of musicians I wanted to play, we were tied to Saturday, 7th June. With five-and-a-half weeks to go, and a “how hard could it be?” attitude, Marc booked us in.
I very quickly discovered that the 7th June was the busiest night the year. I started lose the plot as more and more friends, who regularly come to my gigs, told me: that it sounded like a great gig…they really wished they could be there…but…
How many weddings, musicals, charity walks, 30th birthday parties, even visits to see the prime minister’s kids (!), can you clash with on one day? Fortunately not enough (thank goodness)! In the closing couple of weeks, direct ticket sales and sales through the Reading Arts website shot up and we sold out. This was great news, and meant we’d actually break even.
Planning the music
My set was ambitious but I knew that I had a bunch of great musicians with me. I was also keenly aware that there would only be opportunity to arrange one-on-one rehearsals. I was confident though, especially when Carlos and Stu gallantly agreed to cover the bass guitar parts as Eric (bass guitarist on the album & in Static Rain) was going to be in Russia.
I had a band:
- Rikk Smith – percussion
- Stuart Clark – guitar
- Gavin Taylor – saxophone
- Carlos Chadderton – guitar
- Marc Weide – violin
…and something like a train time-table for a set list:
|The Emerald Trees||l|
|The Midnight Lake||l|
|Handle with Care*||l|
|Late Night Blues|
|A Day in the Life**||l||s|
|Always the Falling Kind||s||l||s|
All songs written by me apart from: * by Carlos and me; ** covers (Pinball Wizard [Townshend], Summertime [Gershwin] and A Day in the Life [Lennon/McCartney])
Much of the day was spent running around in small circles, flapping my arms. I panicked about pizza, lost snakes and the time. Happily though: Steve and Mac saved my life with the sound engineering; my sister found some fairy lights and Colin caught the snake.
And then she said: “…it’s 8 o’clock. Are you ready for me to let the audience in?”
(How do you spell “gargh”?) I said: “yep, that’s cool”…I made a quick effort to get tarted-up…and then loads of people started to pour in. Not just people though, they seemed excited, happy, eager…I knew some of them, I shook-hands, hugged, said “hello”…I started to realise that, with all of the panic of the day, I hadn’t thought about the set in over 24 hours. My thoughts were brown.
I guess it is a bit like a fireworks display. All the effort, passion and planning; and then, with a match-strike, it leaps into life, shines wonderfully; then all-to-quickly it is over, just leaving you smiling at the memory.
The musicians were excellent…as always. It gives me so much happiness playing with them. They also massively boost my confidence so I can really lift what I am doing. All of the combinations were great. The variety was great. And the shear joy of some of the live improvisation was brilliant: for example in the rhythms that we bounced along in Lorraine’s Song and the harmonisation in Higher.
The audience were mind-blowing for me. I have never felt such attention and warmth. It made the whole gig really special and really lovely. It was magic: they even, nearly laughed at my joke about the fish! :o) Being asked for an encore was particularly touching, especially as I really hadn’t prepared one (even more thanks to the boys for a great off-the-cuff version of Indiscreet that a couple of them had never heard before!). I will never forget the applause at the end – it made me feel like all of these years of music really have been worth it. Thank you.
And that was that: the end of a very special night and, I hope, the beginning of a new chapter in my musical life…
Chris, 15th June 2008