This was the culmination of an eventful week, a week filled with various landmarks and notable dates: Alice Cooper played on Halloween and I got so far down the front I could have touched him (I didn’t); I compered my first comedy show, at The Halt, the day before the first anniversary of my first gig; and then, to round things off, I went down to Sheffield for the first time to compere/host the Uberbyte gig in their hometown. It was good fun.
I’d been invited to open/host this gig a while back, when they also agreed to let me host the Glasgow show (the blog’s on here), and after looking into travel and accomodation I decided it was only really financially viable if I could coerce someone to come with me. My first choice bailed on account of the interminable skintness that pervades the nation, but the man they call McGovern stepped into the breach. I’m skint too, but I have a credit card and am not afraid to use it. I wish I was, I use it too readily and the minimum repayments are now skinning me a quarter of my gross monthly income. On the plus side, I do have happy memories of dozens of gigs and adventures as a result.
I hadn’t had final confirmation as to whether or not I would actually be onstage, and in the week leading up to it I’d barely slept (for no real reason other than my continued dalliance with insomnia) and was happy to just go down and appreciate an excellent live band playing to a home crowd. I decided to take my notes with me just in case, and on the morning of the gig as I was preparing to leave for the train I got a message on facebook asking if I would be doing my comedy that night. Of course, I took the opportunity to say yes. Two trains, a taxi, a third train, and a second taxi later, and we were standing in the venue. It was a small, compact room, with a stage that stood five feet off the floor – meaning much of the audience were at chin height to it. I’ve never experienced that before, certainly not from a comedy perspective.
After they cleared it with the other bands on the bill, the promoter, and the sound guy, I was introduced to Lee, the stage manager, and given a quick soundcheck. All pretty straightforward, and there was no resistance from anyone – there was general enthusiasm for, and possibly slight bemusement at, this gallus Glaswegian’s role. I’d prepared my notes on the train first thing, drawing from my previous gig in Glasgow and from the experience of hosting the metal night at Pivo Pivo the previous week, and opened tonight as I had then – encouraging people to step forward, to move away from the bar and into the main thrust of the room, drawing them in with a few jokes, an introduction to myself and my role, and some humour reliant on stereotypes. Using a joke I’d thought of half an hour earlier, I told them it was my first time in their city. “All I know about Sheffield is steel, and The Full Monty. I really love that talented local actor of yours, Robert Carlyle.”
Expanding on my experience last week at the metal gig, I invited and encouraged them all to shout “fuck off” at me. They willingly complied, and I threw in some impromptu asides about it being their one chance to tell a Scot to fuck off and not get stabbed/headbutted as a result. My introductory material comes from my original five-minute sets, jokes about my name, hair, Scottish diet, and lovelife, and all went okay – with the exception of one girl’s sole digusted exclamation at my “Brazilian” joke. I’ve never previously had any negative feedback on that one – but let’s face it, you can’t please everyone. Method Cell went on to open the show musically.
I discovered that Uberbyte were on second, and not headlining as I’d expected. The gig was billed as them “Vs, Eisenfunk” and I’d already established that this merely meant headline-length sets from each. I’d planned to use my “Gladiators” set in my intro for them, as I feel it is my strongest material and best left to the end, and contemplated using my planned middle bit (“Handcuffs/Broo”) in its place. That meant juggling from the existing script to extract the opening jokes (relevant to Uberbyte’s image) and the closing ones (specific to this band and their intro music) and replace the middle bit. It seemed like harder work than necessary, and so I just did the bit as written/rehearsed/previously told. There was a good-sized crowd in by this point, and most of them listened to at least some of my stuff, and even laughed.
Uberbyte played an excellent set, complete with two new numbers that can’t fail to get people dancing and smiling simultaneously – “Sheffield’s Finest” is a tribute to their city, and “Jump Into Hell” is a Jumpstyle number firmly in keeping with their progressing sound. Over the course of the next hour the temperature in the room rose rapidly, as the audience (now inclusive of McGovern and me) passionately danced and sang along with the fast-paced dance/industrial crossover, glowsticks a-go-go. Great fun, and good to see so many people happily bouncing around to the death toll of the Iraq war (during the song “135335“). The band have really come on since I first saw them in (if memory serves) 2007, and now hold their own as a distinctive and powerful live act – every one of their five members contributing to the music, the atmosphere, and the energy in the room. The new stuff especially sounds even better live than it does on CD. They are touring England this month opening for Aesthetic Perfection, if you want to see them play before they take a year-long sabbatical from the live scene.
Footage from this gig:
Having barely slept, travelled, and now jumped around for an hour, I was suitably knackered by the time it came to introduce headliners Eisenfunk, and tried to keep my intro as short as possible – a reminder of who I was and why I was there, my tale of the way I used to dress (handcuffs and wallet chain) and a curtailed version of my experience signing on. While I’m only vaguely familiar with their music, it’s very enjoyable live – a pity that I was so tired I watched them while leaning against the back wall. only able to muster the energy to blink my appreciation. I left during their set to give Uberbyte a hand out to their car with some gear, because old habits die hard (that’s how we met, when I was crewing in Edinburgh), and then sat and shot the shit with them for a bit. Really cool, friendly, funny and approachable folk, and it’s always a pleasure to be in their company. Just a shame they’ve announced a live hiatus for 2012 right at the point when I’ve introduced two friends to them, and both Sarah and McGovern have discovered they really like them. Doh.
Headliner du jour:
After a brief foray into the city streets to obtain food, during which McGovern lost his bank card in an ATM and we got some good banter from a couple of locals who wanted to use it, we returned to the hotel and crashed the fuck out. Thankfully, despite confusing myself with which company my reservation was with, we were staying round the corner from the venue. I’d definitely go back to Sheffield: the audience were passionate and vocal, the locals were friendly and funny. A bit like an English Glasgow, really. These two guys behind us in the queue at the ATM summed it up, when McGovern told them it had swallowed his card. “You can go first, mate, I insist” one said to the other. “No, it’s fine, mate, I’m in no hurry – on you go, I don’t mind.”
The trip home was uneventful, save for a forty-minute delay to our second train, which has made me despise Warrington Bank Quay, and the gig itself was a worthwhile excursion. The fact I got to go onstage to introduce the bands was just an added bonus. Once home, I went down to see RNT Comedy‘s “Fresh Meat” night, a free comedy night that runs weekly on a Sunday night. The gig was packed, and the bill hand-picked to provide only high-quality acts. Definitely recommended if you fancy a laugh of a Sunday evening. It’s held in the Buff Club (via The Butterfly and Pig on Bath Street), and hosts new acts every week with a compere and experienced headliner. Future line-ups.
My next gig is this Saturday, the 12th, at The State Bar on Holland Street. It’s £3 entry, helluva cheap for Saturday night comedy, and will feature eight acts, compere, and headliner Obie. The booze is ridiculously cheap too, and the gig needs support so please come along. I’ll be doing ten minutes of new(ish) stuff, so I might go and write it now…and hopefully see you there.