The Gig: Showcase Live, Showcase Cinema, Coventry
The Date: March 26th 2011
The Line Up: Myself MCing for Matt Price, Vikki Stone & Tony Burgess
It had been almost four months since the night I’d pulled into the snowy car park of the Coventry Showcase cinema. Nearly four months since it played host to my first ever full-on Christmas gig. That had gone rather well and, in typical fashion, I wondered if the place had something of a receipt in store for me. I’d gotten off rather lightly across the entire festive season. Knowing my luck there would be a hugely delayed night club staff Christmas party taking up half the audience.
I was shown up to the green room next to the projectors. Last time around I’d managed to fight the urge to peer through one of the little glass windows. This time I watched about ten minutes of Battle For Los Angeles in the hope of seeing some explosions. Annoyingly I seemed to pick the only ten minute stretch in the film where nothing happens. So much for freeloading. I wondered whether I’d be able to blag myself some free popcorn but decided to make do with a good, strong coffee instead. Matt Price and Vikki Stone were already in the green room when I arrived. I’d not met Vicky before but had managed to time my arrival just as she was putting on her make-up. As a result there was a momentary social awkwardness as I tried to decide whether social niceties warranted interrupting her mid-application.
I’d not seen Matt in years and rather unusually for my rain-man esque memory I couldn’t honestly remember the last time we’d gigged together. I could readily remember the first time though at a Laughing Horse gig in London during my first run of gigs in the nation’s capital. After a soul destroying run of poorly attended open-mic nights I was absolutely heartbroken. Fortunately the final gig went pretty well and Matt, ever the gentleman, bought me a pint out of the blue. His rationalisation was that I was on holiday and should be enjoying myself. It was a gesture of kindness that I’m unlikely to ever forget. A reminder that there’s no shortage of decent people on the circuit. I should probably get him a pint back sometime.
The gig was pretty much full, just like in December. There were a few fairly big parties dotted around the place but I was relieved to see that it was mostly small groups and couples. The bar closed and it was showtime. I walked out to compere and found it a hugely enjoyable experience. Typical big room gig. A few cheerleading type games, a bit of banter and a bit of material and everything was going according to plan. A particularly fun group of ladies on a birthday night out occupied the front table and provided some fine moments to bounce off of. Their alpha female, Lorrain, was especially entertaining. A table of lads to their right was a bit more hard work, especially as some of them had forgotten to bring their inside voices. I had to put them down a few times but they settled in time to bring Matt on.
I’d used my west country material in the opening segment. This included the true story of telling an audience in Cornwall that I was from Somerset and being heckled with the uniquely charming “Northen Bastard!”. Matt, Cornish himself, wove this into his set where he said he’d started comedy after he’d gone to a gig as a punter and heckled some ginger comedian on stage. During the course of his set Matt found himself chatting to Dean, a massive guy at the head of our previously disruptive table of lads. It transpired that Dean was a tattoo artist by trade, certainly cooler than the average answers you get when asking occupations at a gig. One of his mates shouted out that Dean had been “black-bagged” the previous week which Matt took to mean that he’d been laid off. Lorraine headed over from her table specifically to give him a hig at this point which was a nice moment. Matt had a really good set, dominating the massive cavern of a room without effort. He also offered to get Dean a pint in to make up for taking the piss out of him slightly.
During the interval we retired to the green room for a chat. Matt, much like Josh Howie in Brighton, told me that he was an avid reader of my gig diaries. It’s still bizarre to think that people actually read these things, especially folk whose paths haven’t crossed mine in quite so long. Vikki, Matt and I chatted for a while about promoters and exchanged stories about our dealings with a few of them. In particular it was interesting to compare notes on the bookers that were keen to keep acts at open spot level for as long as possible in order to squeeze as much out of them for free or token sums as they could. It’s a slightly cynical approach albeit one that can help a thrifty promoter put solid bills on for much less. I still think it’s somewhat shady when acts work for little or no money in the hope of progression that never comes. Still, it’s a buyers market.
Vikki absolutely stormed the middle section in spite of the fact that the sound system seemed intent on making her keyboard all but unusable. During the break she’d talked about some of the rather sneery attitude some folks on the circuit have taken to some of her material. For an artform that’s supposedly about doing whatever you want on stage there’s an awful lot of snobbery. I’ve had it myself a few times for my rather juvenile closing segment (Currently barred by one promoter as being not the sort of “material” his audiences would go for in spite of how it went the last few timesa I’d worked for him..) and it continues to mystify me. Specifically it continues to mystify me from a promoter’s point of view. If an act will do the job they’re booked for, namely make the audience laugh and want to return, then does it matter that much what they say so long as they’re not actively leading a hate rally? Does it really pay to put one’s own tastes as booker ahead of what your audience enjoys? The audience will always be the final arbiter of quality using that unique “Ha Ha” noise.
During the last break I was harrassed by one of the other guys from Dean’s table. He explained to me that the term “black bagged” didn’t mean he’d been fired, it meant that he had been dumped. Dean’s mate then went on to say that they’d brought him to the comedy in order to help him move on. Furthermore he advocated a tough love approach by suggesting that the more I took the piss out of Dean, the more good it would do him. Specifically he shared the revelation that Dean, the tattoo artist, had his now former girlfriend’s name tattooed on his leg with the hope that I’d tear into him over that. With friends like these… I was full of sympathy for Dean and decided to rip the piss out of his mate instead for daring to suggest it. Matt had forgotten to get Dean the pint he promised him so I made sure to take one up for him at the start of the last section. As a bonus, when I went to buy the beer the bar didn’t charge me for it. Freeloading’s not so bad.
Tony Burgess was closing and seemed to really enjoy himself up there. It was, as mentioned, a huge and cavernous gig but it had a really nice atmosphere. Tony, as you’d imagine, closed the night off in style. It had been a great gig overall. To my mind the best nights are the ones with balance, with a variety of different acts that bring their own unique feel to the stage. With Matt, Vicki and Tony we’d had exactly that. Afterwards I spent a bit of time chatting to Tony outside before I headed back down the road to Rugby for the night. We talked about writing for a bit and I found myself wondering what I’d do when the diaries were over and done with.
Anything I want! One gig to go and then it’s done for good.
Gig Score: 7/10
Lesson Learnt: Battle For Los Angeles didn’t look like it was worth splashing out the best part of a tenner to see.