Tough Crowd – part 1

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This was written with my friend James after a particularly pointless gig in Hackney. Some might say this gibberish is too weird to live, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. This definitely isn’t what happened. 

– It doesn’t really matter, man. Just leave it on, and if anyone sees, we’ll just tell them we’re in, like, a re-enactment society or something.

 

We staggered out of the flat, holding each arm and someone at his back and all the light of the morning coating Steve’s articulated bulk and leaving traces on the eye. It took nearly an hour to complete the twenty-minute journey to The Fox, and we had to turn him sideways to get him to fit through the door.

 

Surprisingly few people turned to look at this swaying man in what must have been about a six and a half foot tall suit of full jousting armour, and there was a point at which Steve flailed a lethal arm over the bar, destroying at least four quite full pints.

 

The barman considered getting angry, but we told him Steve was in there, and he’d always liked Steve.

 

Steve, in all his glimmering magnificence mumbled a word that sounded like ‘bollocks’, tripping over the noises like wires in his head. We all sighed in unison as a bloke in a shell-suit stifled his giggles as he attempted to feed our baffled friend a half-pint of bitter through his visor. Steve struggled to fend off the attack with his great steel-clad limbs like a beetle trapped in some mischievous little boy’s fingers.

 

–          Come on then, you metal bastard. ‘Ave a bit of this down ya!

–          Bloody … leave ‘im alone, yeah? You’ll make him drown!

 

Steve swung his body forward violently, attempting to purge himself of the dangerous reservoir that had built up in his helmet. The bitter was flung out in a great, fanning spray and he leaned, one arm on the bar for support and one gauntleted hand on his knees, retching with the stuff dripping from point of his visor.

 

–          Are you okay, mate? Just blow it out and don’t pay attention to him. Idiot.

 

Joe lately, the landlord, silently swung into the room from a point seemingly where there was no actual door. He was a hard man to work out at the best of times. He could tell you, with his dead-pan face and expressionless eyes, that Rizlas didn’t biodegrade for at least a thousand years and you’d never even question it – you couldn’t help but believe him. It didn’t help that you could never really even see his eyes, due to the oversized bowler-hat that he insisted on wearing while at the bar. I suspected that it was for this reason that it was worn.

 

–          You boys playin a set tonight, then?

–          Yeah, Joe. We thought that we might.

–          Well, it’s your own feckin funeral. It’ll just basically be buskin’ indoors.

 

It was true. The Fox during the rest of the week was a respectable, bohemian establishment – gloves on the walls, parrot on the shoulder of the barman, a hairy retro dog outside – but The Fox on a Saturday became populated by drinkers who had succeeded in rotting away the aural centers of their brains, never to politely listen to another single note of music in their lives. We would be wasted on them.

 

Steve uttered a metallic sound which I decided was probably pessimistic resignation, and we all agreed. It was one thing to play fruitlessly to the zombie-drunk, and quite another to offer ourselves over to the violent indignation that would surely result from towing an armour-clad behemoth onto the stage and trying to fit a bass in his hands. People would think we were a novelty act, and that would never do.

 

–          Ah, but the wonga!

–          The wonga?

–          The wonga!

 

Norm was a little bit of a creep, but we didn’t mind because he could play the bongos like nobody’s business. If anyone was going to galvanize the lot of us and give us a push onto the stage to blow this mob of dead-eyed drunks away, it would be Norman ‘Bongo-man’ Unclebutton; he insisted on a ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ stage-name, which we resented.

 

–          Fifty quid’s not bad lads, and if it means rockin’ out to this bunch while they raucously sing happy birthday to the  lady in the corner with the pink eye-shadow and double Ds and present her with a nice little cake, then so be it. I’m game!

 

None of us believed we would blow them away but we nodded in unison and put our hands, one gauntleted, in.

 

Eventually we managed, as a team, to balance Steve precariously on a wooden stool which seemed far too fragile indeed to bear twenty-and-a-half stone of knight-in-shining-armour. Once we were all set up with our various other instruments and had evaluated the noisy room with our eyes and our ears – there was much shouting and retching and clinking and clanking and…and – we decided that Steve should sit it out, bass propped up against his knee, and not do too much at all really. Maybe the occasional muffled ‘oh yeah!’ or ‘that’s what I’m talking’ ‘bout!’ – Theoretically, it would be fine.

 

We launched into Gaddafi Isn’t Very Nice, twice the speed we normally play it at. It’s our political number. I screamed every word like a madman. The girlies were struggling to wail their birthday chant over our noisiness, which was satisfying.

– Ass wha’ am tallin’ bow!

 

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