This was easily the most fun gig I’ve done in ages, and a whole new experience for me too.
Mayhem Underground is a new weekly metal night, showcasing three local bands and trying to unite various scenes and enterprises – there are bar promos, free entry to the Cathouse afterwards, a bottle of Jager to be won every week, and collaborations with Marshall Artscene Photography and Total Biker FM. The night is hosted by a comedian-cum-compere: Grant Gallacher for the first three weeks and (due to him emigrating to Germany for a week) me tonight. I went down two weeks ago to see the format of the evening, and I like it. So too, more importantly, do the punters. The night is promoted by Chris Clarke, whose ethic is admirable as he also strives to encourage bands to stay for the duration and not bail early. It was always a problem at Broken Oath gigs (see page link above) – they were the headline band who never wanted to headline (i.e. play last) because the first few bands would disappear with their fanbase until, come 10.30pm, there was hardly anyone left. And less by the end of their set when the remaining people had left to get buses. Chris’s mantra is, the night starts and ends early enough to allow people to go for their trains etc, and while he doesn’t demand the entire band stick around for the whole night he does encourage that a number of them do. It generally makes it fairer for everyone, and you have to admire his principles and his aims. I have a lot of respect for what he’s trying to do, and hope he succeeds.
Following Grant’s lead, I was prepared (technically a little underprepared) to do a ten-minute welcome with some material, then roughly ten minutes before each of the next two bands too. He also goes onstage straight after each band to plug the drink promos, competition, etc, which serves to link the evening together fluidly. I was excited and nervous for this gig – I knew I could do it capably (maybe even well), but I also knew I had to be a lot more confident than I was at the Uberbyte gig. I had to win them over straight off, keep their attention, make them laugh, say what needed to be said regarding the format of the night, and interact with (potentially) a room full of hecklers. Glaswegians and metal fans are rarely backwards about coming forwards, and this was a crowd of Glaswegian metal fans. If you’re shite, you’ll be told.
Of course, the great thing I’ve always found about the metal scene in this city is its overwhelming senses of humour and camaraderie. They’ll tell you you’re shite, but they’ll be smiling at the same time to see how you react. There’s a thin line between performer and audience – the performers often ARE part of the audience the rest of the night – and so the banter between songs flows from stage to floor and back again. The guitarists often walk into the crowd to play, and the moshers are equally likely to walk straight onstage and bounce off. Broken Oath used to point mics into the crowd and encourage people to gather round to scream along with the choruses. It is, and has been for as long as I’ve known it, a great scene to be part of (albeit on the outskirts for this talentless guy) – friendly but forceful, everyone coming together to have a good time and looking out for each other too. I remember Quzzy at one Co-Exist gig – so long ago he was still both drummer and vocalist – sitting behind his kit and offering swigs of Buckfast to the crowd between songs. These were fun times, and tonight was a distinct reminder of that.
Having ascertained the running order and the mentions, I jotted down my opening set. I was borrowing Grant’s device of getting the audience to “let their negativity out”, not by asking for insults as he does but by telling them to shout “fuck off” on the count of three. I did this twice (pure pantomime, but it gets them warmed up), then tried for a third but “dressed as someone you can hate”. This was my plan to wear a hi-viz vest, whistle hanging round my neck and holding aloft two glowsticks. I thought it would wind up the devoutly metal crowd, but it didn’t get the strong response I’d hoped for. Well, it got them to shout fuck off, get tae fuck, and other similar expressions. There was some banter with one guy standing directly in front of the stage, singer with the headline band as it transpired, and then I did some of my oldest material (hair jokes) and some of my newest (handcuffs and the broo). It went down really well, and set me up for a good night – now that the first step had been taken I was more confident with the rest.
First band on were Psychotropic System, who were good but I have to confess that I spent their set jotting down my next bit and so can’t review them in any way that would do them justice. They do all have dreadlocks though, and I made a joke about that in opening my second spot. I did my “Glasgow Music” bit, which gets a mixture of groans and laughs, and even nearly a round of applause from two people, then followed it with a badly under-rehearsed retelling of the time I opened for Mortiis. It’s been ages since I told that onstage (two months), and the notes I had with me were written for a lay audience. I’d barely noted the salient points before it was time to get up and deliver it, and it was pretty weak as a result. The final punchline bombed pretty spectacularly, and after introducing Insomniac to the stage I checked my notes to see that I had told the bit as written, which suggests it needs reworked or removed before I try it again. This is still a learning experience.
Insomniac provided me with two jokes, one prewritten (I wish they had a song called Faithless) and one that addressed their guitarist who looked more rock boyband than metalhead, but who played an impromptu, note-perfect rendition of Slayer’s “Angel of Death” riff. He came through the crowd to shake my hand for that one, haha. I had written jokes for headliners Cemtex too (I hope they don’t bomb, and I’ve heard they’re explosive), doing my Random and Gladiators sets between them. In theory. The “Random” set was hit and miss, as it was in my SCOTY heat and in Liverpool – some consensus, some laughs, far too much silence – and I curtailed it and didn’t even get to my “Gladiators” bit as I could see Chris at the back of the room waving his lit-up phone at me. This is the universal signal to wrap up, to cut and run, and so I abandoned the “Random” set before getting to the good bit, and got the band onstage.
Chris then went onstage to do the final thank-you of the evening, since he was going on anyway to judge the Jager competition. It has previously been an air-guitar competition, or a dance-off, and tonight he combined the two. Those not competing were in hysterics watching all these fully grown, hairy guys trying to combine dance moves with air guitar playing. It was pretty funny, funnier still as they tried to outdo each other. And that was it, the end of the night.
In terms of style and confidence, I was far more forthright and confident than I was at Uberbyte – partly because I had to be, and partly because now I’ve done that and the Combichrist gigs and seen Grant play this one. It all adds up, in terms of experience, and if offered I would do this gig again in a second. There are, by way of cheering, a number of regulars as well as newcomers who come to see their pal’s band play, and the overall atmosphere is upbeat and one of entertainment. There is headbanging and moshing, excellent musicianship and stage presence, a lot of passion for the music and for the scene, and an overriding sense of fun. If you like your metal and your comedy, this night should be right up your street. Find out more by joining the facebook group.
I noticed someone filming part of my set tonight, and passed on my details with a request that he sends me or uploads the footage. So that might happen, it won’t be much but it’ll be something. I also had a short conversation with my initial heckler/foil, the singer in Cemtex, who told me he couldn’t do comedy as he’d be too “rapey” (I still hate that word) and finds music a better outlet. I reciprocated that I have no ability to sing or play an instrument, and thus find comedy works for me. He said it’d be interesting to see how my material (which he liked) would compare next to Frankie Boyle’s – which I actually found out at my last Stand gig, when I was onstage right before him. The audience laughed with both of us, but they definitely cheered far louder at the mention of his name.
Finally, plugs for comedy gigs my friends have set up recently:
99p Comedy – Thursdays, Retrospect, Bath Street, 99p entry. Pay-to-play but with a good and fair chance you’ll get on, compared to the lengthy waiting lists at the Halt and the Stand. Mostly newcomers/new material tryouts, compere and headliner. Definitely worth a quid.
Fresh Meat – Sundays, The Butterfly and Pig, Bath Street, free entry. RNT Comedy – Cassidy, Connell and Gibson – host six acts and a headliner. Excellent quality of acts booked, let’s hope this one takes off.
Banter In The Buff – First Wednesday of the month, Buff Club, £5. RNT Comedy present three established acts and one reputable newcomer. Your chance to see Stand regulars for a bargain price, while supporting rising talent.
The Shack – Friday/Saturday nights, Rose Street, Edinburgh, £9. JoJo Sutherland hosts an array of reputable newcomers and established acts, with the emphasis being on their ability to be funny. I’m booked for the third weekend in November, and you can read an article/interview here in advance of it opening this week.
That’s it, compering The Halt on Tuesday for Pop-Up Comedy and hope it will be as enjoyable as this evening’s gig was. Free entry, 8.30pm, the more the merrier.