“I promise it’s not normally like this” she said as the entire pub erupted in a mass violent brawl. Women spat venomous words at each other whilst slapping and shoving each other. Brutal, drunken hulks (and one suited businessman) knocked lumps out of each other over some irrelevancy. It had been hands down the weirdest gig of the tour.
I made my first mistake as we knocked on the venue to load in. A young man opened the door and after he introduced himself as Lee, I quite accidentally opted for perhaps my worst ever conversational opening gambit “ah I was hanging out with your sister last night”…
Actually a girl at the Dundee gig the night before had just mentioned that her brother Lee ran the next venue we were playing and said to say hello. I got it totally innocently wrong, and it wasn’t a good start.
As Stevie the lovely soundman explained, no one turns up to this night and if they do they’re all pissed. Basically we were getting paid nothing to play to an empty room, or to several drunk people. OK…
All this while I’d lost my wallet earlier in the day, my boots had almost disintegrated, and a million things were swimming round my head.
At 10:40pm we decided to get on with it and play to our empty pub room. The soundman and the barman seemed to enjoy our first couple of songs. By the third a few of the young drinkers in the next room had come in, and whilst we played our fourth song a girl came right up to me and shouted “can you play some Amy McDonald?”. Another guy was shouting for ‘Save Tonight’ by Eagle Eye Cherry. This was not a good turn of events.
As I’ve described in an earlier post, the best way to handle drunk, confrontational Scots is to be directly confrontational back. So I explained to this rabble, extremely impolitely, that I was the one with the microphone, I’d play any damn song I chose and if they didn’t like it they could shove it. John hesitated.
After that they got into the spirit and even danced to one or two songs. Me and John had to dig deep, and present a united front. We actually played pretty well in the end.
The set finished and John packed away the gear faster than he’d ever packed before. I sold a CD to a young fella who seemed to be carved out of stone and covered in sportswear. He shook my hand and bought me a shot, which I took as a sign that I had earned respect in his eyes. He had the look of a man who had seen a lot of trouble in his life, but had a good heart.
A middle eastern man in a suit who had come in for the last couple of songs asked me if he could play me a song on guitar. It was quite a nice song actually, but he seemed alone, lonely and maybe looking for answers in the wrong place.
There were people in the crowd who stuck out more than him tho – three genuinely lovely, non-violent, interesting, intelligent women had come specifically to see us play. Two midwives and a marketing exec. I actually felt embarrassed that they had – this gig was hardly a good advert for how great my career was going. But they became an oasis of cool in that place and I stuck to them like glue while I drank away the memory of the gig. I thought about how I’d love to come back here one day and fill the place out, banish a few ghosts of this night. Dunfermline is such an attractive city too, I’ll be back one day.
By 1:30am every character in the pub, from the guy who bought the CD to the guy wearing the suit and everyone in between became engulfed in a massive barroom brawl. We watched as sports tops were ripped, blood was spilled, police were on the scene. Now it was the turn of my new midwife friends to feel embarrassed, “I promise it’s not normally like this” she said, again.
Next postcard to: Ashley McGregor
Postcard sent to: Kate
Thanks to: Ashley and her friends for turning a difficult gig into a really great night, Stevie (why are soundmen always so sound?), Lee and Darren.