The first Hi-On Maiden gig of 2010 was the rescheduled and long-awaited return to Riff's Bar in sunny Greatfield / Wooton Bassett / Swindon (one of those, I'm not sure which). The previous visit to this venue had featured one Simon "Sausage Monthly" Bradley in the place of your humble narrator, who was gigging elsewhere that fateful Thursday night prior to a trip to Nijmegen. By all accounts a splendid time was had, despite a late arrival by Ed Farce One. Hopefully everyone would be a bit more timely this week!
My journey to this gig was via another gig (with the superlative Lee Abraham Band), so no tales of road and rails to be had in this entry folks. I simply sat on the bench outside the venue, scoffed a sarnie and waited for Selectadrive's Selected Drive of the Week to arrive bearing a bandmate or two. I was not disappointed; not twenty minutes later came the familiar sight of orange text on grey van. Adrian "I'm glad I'm a bastard" Swift had been flying solo this week as the other half of Hi-On's Yorkshire contingent had been gigging 'dahn saaf' the night before. Thankfully cabin fever didn't appear to have troubled him too much. Mr Swift had spent the last ten weeks in the good ol US of A, and was looking half refreshed and half jet-lagged. We were let into the venue by the kind proprietor Andy and sat about waiting for the rest of the band. A short while later the cavalry arrived in the form of Bruce "waiter! There's a fly in me blancmange!" Dugginson, who had hitched a ride with young master McBrain and family. After fondly greeting each other, we unloaded the van.
Mister Swift on the pink piano:
Nicko "do you ever have to get your wang going before you have a pee?" McBrain Jnr started setting up his kit, while Duggers and I retired to the back room to run through our acoustic set. You may recall that in Nijmegen last year Mr Dugginson and I opened each night's entertainment with a short set of acoustic numbers featuring Maiden tracks and Bruce Dickinson solo tunes. In light of the coming trip to Eindhoven and Antwerp, Duggers thought it would be a jolly idea to resurrect this tradition and give it a bit of a trial run on the British crowd at the same time. This week's choices were Still Life, Tears of the Dragon, Journeyman and Children of the Damned (Bruce's Jerusalem was also rehearsed but dropped for time). While we were rehearsing, we heard the familiar voice of one Speed "half man, half biscuit" Harris who had just arrived with his lovely wife in tow. It's been four months since we all got together, and it really was like a family reunion. Well, a family reunion without all the drama of Aunt Betty snubbing Aunt Mavis in 1963. Something like that.
Swifty had very kindly done a bit of sound manipulation on my set up, and we had a further play about with lead delay while we soundchecked. Apart from an abortive attempt at Seventh Son (which fell apart when we got to the middle and Speed, Nicko and myself realised we couldn't remember how it went!), the soundcheck songs were tight as a button and put a huge grin on my face. Sometimes you have to be away from something musical for a long time before you remember just how much you love it. If we could gig every weekend, I'd be ever so happy. We could really do without another certain Iron Maiden tribute band (who shall remain nameless, in order that I may preserve the higher moral ground) nicking our gigs in places like Camberley, Wales, India....etc. Still, bygones are bygones, and contracts remain out. As far as I'm concerned (and as far as the fans I talk to are concerned) venues who get them instead of us are being cheated out of the better band. Fuck 'em.
My rig, I missed it:
After soundcheck I retired upstairs for a bit of a lie-down. An early morning and an afternoon gig (and a spot of afternoon drinkies, if truth be told) had left me in need of a bit of a recharge. In no time at all it was ready to go and rock, but first the acoustic set. This went down extremely well; if I'm honest, it went down a lot better than I expected. You really have to play the crowd by ear on things like this - if the venue had been full of bikers (as it so nearly was, given our proximity to Wooton Bassett and the ride taking place there the next day), it may not have gone down so well! However Duggers (being the masterful frontman that he is) had the punters singing along and engaged in the whole show. Feeling very accomplished we left the stage to wig up.
The intro tape rolled, and we were off. I had a bit of a mare with tuning as my new strings were not quite broken in, but by and large we all played a blinder. Speed in particular was very much on the ball this gig, going at the songs like a man possessed - he must have missed it as much as I did. A couple of potential trainwrecks went off with complete success - there's always the danger after a long break that something like Rime of the Ancient Mariner or Infinite Dreams with their slightly unusual structures might throw us off course. Both went smoothly and apart from a dodgy cable on stage left, the gig was unblemished. The punters had an absolute blast - you know it's a good one when the soundman leaves his desk to be at the front of the crowd!!! Highlights for me were Infinite Dreams (which I think we played better than we ever have before), and Hallowed Be Thy Name. It was simply magnificent to be harmonising with Swifty, playing the crowd with Speed and Duggers and locking in with young McBrain on the tubs once more. Absolutely fantastic to be back.
Duggers learns to spell...:
After the gig I packed me gear down and enjoyed a pint or two. Swifty, Duggers and myself had been umming and erring over whether we would take Riffs up on their kind offer of kipping in the caravan out back. Mr Dugginson as ever was keen to get home without losing too much of his Sunday, whereas Mr Swift was very keen on staying and getting absolutely blotto. Happily the lure of the ale got to Duggers and we ended up sat at the bar until at least 3 in the morning. Of particular enjoyment were the pork scratchings and the singing lessons which Duggers and Speed were giving out. Some very kind words were said by audience members as they departed, and we all had the strong sesne of a job well done. Eventually we crawled to our beds, awakening in the morning to an absolutely splendid and generous breakfast from the wonderful owners. Thank you kindly!
On to the next one!
Dave "salad spew!" Hurry