So, I played the Royal Festival Hall yesterday with Smoke Fairies – it’s a rather large venue isn’t it, supposedly seating 2,500 or 3,000 depending which source you believe.
It reminded me of that magnificent chrome wave of a building that is The Sage in Gateshead, interior aesthetics that is, not exterior. Our dressing room was similar to when we were at the Sage too, in that it contained some tasty snacks and a bottle of whiskey, next to the antelope disposal unit. That whiskey served its social lubricant side effect rather well last night by dispelling all that awful self awareness. I mean, I can’t have any more of these situations where you walk on stage, pick up your viola and forget how to play the damn thing, with incessant thoughts popping into your head like:
‘how do I really know I can play this instrument?’
‘I mean, I’m holding a stick of wood with horse hairs on it’
‘and I’m expected to draw that across bits of wire made of cat gut’
‘and assume it’s going to make a nice sound’
‘seems pretty tricky, maybe it can't be done’
'I'm pretty exposed here on stage, are my flies undone?'
‘what if my fingers don’t move’
‘what if they just seize up’
‘oh god, what if I’ve got gout in my fingers’
‘can you even get gout in one’s fingers’
‘what if I drop it?’
....and before long you’re a trembling wreck of a man playing like a ten year old on their first lesson, then you get:
‘come on, don’t be stupid, you can play this’
‘there’s no need to play any different to usual’
‘move your arms properly’
‘you’ve played this umpteen times before’
‘come on, it’s easy’
'did I leave the gas on?'
‘move your arms’
‘shit, it isn’t working’
‘my arm feels like it’s made of rock’
‘it’s just not moving’
‘why isn’t it working properly ?’
‘what the hell is going on’
...then the show ends and you feel like a rotten plum. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen very often thanks to that wonderful invention alcohol.
Talking of ailments, I was sitting patiently waiting for my turn to soundcheck, my legs were crossed in an awkward way, like I’d tied and knotted them together. I sat there through relentless snare hits and "two", "two", "two", "one", "one", "two", waiting patiently, then, when it was time to stand up and play I discovered my foot had fallen asleep and I spent a good few minutes stumbling around like an old drunk. The thing is, my foot still hasn’t restored itself to the usual operational standards I expect from my foot, there’s still numbness there and I’m worried that I’ve caused some serious damaged. I’m afraid to Google the problem because I know what’ll happen, Google will say: “they’re definitely going to have to amputate” .
And here is a photo of a horse: