Sunday, 1 April 2012


And suddenly we’re into June… 

 Grant is definitely not going to make the gig because of his leg and although he’s had the operation to repair the damage, any thoughts of standing on it or even resting on it are currently not to be encouraged.
He’s in re-hab’ and that’s the way of it.

On the day I actually asked my boss if I could have the last half hour of work off so that I could change and transport some of the gear to the event, and he’d given a very gracious green-light (mind you, I’d peppered the depot with posters and flyers so nobody could actually miss the fact it was coming up).

It had helped that word had got around of the Mayor’s interest although we still had no idea whether she’d be staying for the whole event or just for the first half ?
See bottom left for details...

When I arrived there was nothing there…
It was as if we were not expected.
Hmmm… Something has obviously gone pear-shaped ?
Apparently Grant has told them something but unfortunately neglected to tell me, and me, trying to fine tune and tweak ‘Rhythms’, has neglected to open any e-mail from anybody else that’s not directly connected to it…
(It IS my usual practice at this time of year, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse…)
A quick chat to some of the staff to find the problem, and then try and undo the crossed wires.
Another hour before showtime would have been perfect, but we managed it with minutes to spare as the punters had started to come in.
The thing about the staff at Stevenage Leisure Centre is that they are all pro’s.
If something has gone wrong then so long as they have all the facts then they can get it fixed, and their team were absolutely brilliant on the night.
With about three minutes before the whole thing was due to begin, we’d got the band soundchecked for vocals and guitars.
Everybody else was only going to be using microphones, but sorting levels for a band does tend to take a little bit longer, especially if you have two or three vocalists and three guitarists, so definitely a bit of credit where it’s due.
We’d played the Ellen Terry suite previously on a few occasions.
It’s a lovely room and the acoustics aren’t bad either.
It also, and this is usually a bit of a ‘draw’, has it’s own small bar which obviously helps some groups who use it, as you don’t have to move outside the room to get a drink and it keeps the punters within the room.
As far as Parnassus goes, we like the room.
It’s about as big as we like, and it keeps the event reasonably cosy and you can’t really ask for any more than that, especially bearing in mind some of the ‘rooms’ that some of us had played in the past.

A word or two about Parnassus, or Parnassus Performance to give it its official title.
Basically it’s a loose-knit collective of people who just like doing what they do live to an audience.
Within our current ranks we have poets, magicians, rappers and occasionally a musician or two.
I hesitate to add comedians because so many of us use humour in performance anyway.
Formed in the late 1980’s by the late Margaret ‘Betty’ Pickersgill as a poetry collective, it came into its own in the early nineties and has basically tried to hold with Margaret’s ideals ever since.
It’s members past and present have played at some of the most prestigious events on the calendar, and include appearances at the Edinburgh Festival, Glastonbury and Knebworth House, as well as music and poetry festivals and pubs and clubs around the country.
So that’s us…
Still crazy after all these years to quote Paul Simon, but it does tend to sum us up, somewhat.
Tonight’s performance includes Graeme Lloyd, Sarah Power, Percy Weston, Murray Weston, Joy T. Chance, Jon Falconer, Floor 9 (the band) Nick Brown (appearing as Smokin’ Dick Burns) Taye Fagborun (appearing as BlackKat) and me, and I’m going to have to compere the night in Grant’s absence.
Hopefully it will all go according to plan ?
I have been told by Percy, that this will be his last performance with the group as he feels that being ninety years old puts him at a slight disadvantage with some of the younger performers ??????
You can’t help but laugh, as he’s one of the most natural performers I have ever met.

Is everybody sitting comfortably ?
Then we’ll begin…

By the time the interval comes around we’re doing fine.
Graeme has opened with his dry and witty observations of a forty year old who knows they are not getting any younger, and although that description may sound a bit trivial he has a very sharp ear for dialogue so they are never less than entertaining.
Graeme Lloyd of Parnassus Performance
Each and every one is crafted individually so that all the nuances and insecurities are there for anybody to see.
But you keep finding yourself laughing despite it all.
It’s real, it’s honest and occasionally quite brutal, but it’s bloody funny !

 Sarah has followed him with her highly personal observations of life as she sees and knows it.
A young housewife with two teenagers trying to find a permanent job which would fulfil her as a person before she turns into the local version of ‘Catlady’, and which, are in turn, objective, thoughtful and humourous or sometimes all of them at once ?
As for the outfit ?
Sarah Power of Parnassus Performance

Well I’ve deliberately gone for the picture that shows the most cleavage.
Call me sexist, call me what you like, but a reasonable shot of a young lady with her tits hanging out ?
Bring it on…

Percy has done his last ‘public’ magic show, or at least he says so…
Personally I think he’s probably got a few more in him, not necessarily with us, but they’re there.
Percy Weston of Parnassus Performance and The Magic Circle
If he does retire then I know we’re going to be missing one of the best and most amusing magicians on the circuit.

Murray has entertained as only Murray can.
In turn thoughtful, amusing and very, very droll.
Murray Weston of Parnassus Performance
One true story I’ll tell you about our Murray, our secret weapon…
I booked her a few years ago for ‘Rhythms of The World’ back when we were situated in Hitchin’s Arcade and not on our ‘Priory’ site.
I’d had the usual moans about her being too old (early seventies at the time) and won’t appeal to the youngsters, but had managed to diffuse them and she’d finally consented to appear.
She had a twenty minute spot and did precisely two poems.
The first one was long and involving, basically telling a story, and the second was probably the closest thing to hard-core porn I have EVER heard recited on stage ?
Needless to say, when she’d finished there was stunned silence amongst the audience until the teenagers started the applause rolling.
The twenty minutes had flown by and so she graciously accepted the by now thunderous applause, stepped back up to the mic’ and said
‘Us oldies know a little bit about sex, you know…’ 
Which of course, got her another ovation.
I have a complete recording of her set in the archives, should anybody be in any
doubt ?
So that’s our little ‘rebel’.
Everybody thinks it’s me, but compared to Murray ?
No way !!!
She has an unerring sense of where the jugular is, and she always goes for it with a wicked twinkle in her eye...

Joy followed Murray, and as usual made us think.
Think about what it’s like to be a ‘Black Woman’ making her way in a white world (and yes, the capitals are there for a reason) in a society that still, despite all the anti-racist laws and rhetoric, still treats black people as inferior ?
Yes I know… It’s contentious isn’t it ?
Well think about why I wrote it, think about why I’d say it, and think about what YOU are going to do about it ?
Just don’t give out with the usual patronizing platitudes, because if you do I’ll rip your fucking lungs out.
Joy T. Chance of Parnassus Performance

The girl knows.                    
Know what I’m saying ?
The girl knows… And what’s more, she’s right. 
She’s also righteous and right on…
And sometimes exceedingly funny about it, too.
Which is just one of the many reasons why she’s my favourite co-conspirator on stage.

Jon Falconer followed Joy and tried out some new things that he’d written for ‘Rhythms’ and stuck in a few I recognised from the last time I’d seen him perform.

Jon Falconer of Parnassus Performance

Angry, committed and downright entertaining with it, that’s Jon.
As far as Parnassus goes, he’s of the same ilk as me and Grant.
Not frightened of using whatever words he needs to get his point over.
Up front and ‘In yer face’
Nice !

Floor 9 are on next, and they can either use the interval to play through, therebye extending their set or just chill like the rest of us ?
They decide to play half the interval too…
I like Floor 9.
I’ve booked them now in a couple of their incarnations for ‘Rhythms’.
They can all play, know what a melody line can do, and their songs are ‘interesting’ if a little ‘off the wall’ sometimes.
But the thing is, it works for them and besides, they are getting a fair bit of work locally around the pub scene, so that should tell you something about their musicianship and their ability to entertain.

The Lady Mayor meanwhile, has been sitting there seemingly enjoying herself ?
Sean of Floor 9. Haddy (in purple) and Councillor Carol Latif (far right) Mayor of Stevenage 2011)
Actually, it’s not gone too badly.
The paying audience has not got drunk and has stayed reasonably attentive throughout the first half so all in all, not a bad first half.
Of course the band might turn a few off just by nature of the fact that they are obviously going to be using a little more volume, but we’ll see ?
Their members have been around a few years…
Sean, Mark and Ade' of Floor 9 (2011)

They know what’s what.
And they played a damn good set…
Everything seemed to gel perfectly ?
The melodies were there, the harmonies were there, and the two lead vocalists had the audience working with them.
Councillor Carol Latif the Lady-Mayor of Stevenage with Chris Ripple (dressed inappropriately as usual) of Parnassus Performance
So when the interval rolls around I start my compere job of ‘mingling’ with the audience starting with our Lady Mayor…
Councillor Carol Latif is actually one of my councillors and represents the ward I live in.
We’ve met occasionally whilst I’ve been at work, and she knows that for varying reasons I don’t hold our council in a very high regard.
Carol I trust to do the best job she can for the ward she represents, ie mine, but that is more than I could say for some of her other colleagues on the Council.
Unfortunately what can only be properly referred to as The B.A.E. Mafia still occupy seats on the council and until they are voted off, then this town will never go forward.
Anyway, enough of politics and all that shit...
There's enough of that coming through on stage tonight.

Tonight our Lady-Mayor has picked Parnassus...
Out of everything on the programme tonight she has picked the one where anything could be sung or said.
Her husband has picked the gig on the main stage, but our Carol basically said… ‘Bugger that… I’m doing the poetry gig…’
And for that, she has our heartfelt thanks... And that’s the truth.
Ok, there’s probably a bit of paraphrasing there, but the attitude is sound.
I have it on very good authority from our Stevenage Arts Guild representative who is sitting at the same table and who is probably praying that one of us doesn’t come out with a anti-council rant while she’s there...
But we haven’t, well not so far anyway.
Yes, she’s definitely enjoying it.
You couldn’t ask for any more, could you ?

And then that bloody Neil Young song that he hasn’t released yet but performed at Live-Aid blew into my head…
‘Nothing is perfect in God’s perfect world
Just look in the shadows to see…
He only gave us the good things so we’d understand
What life without them could be’ ?

Nick is next on stage and he’s forgotten his guitar lead…
So Nick, being Nick, demands to use one of the band’s.
Was demand the wrong word ?
Actually, no…
The band are packing up to leave because all three of them have rushed home to change clothes from work, grabbed their gear and hotfooted it to the gig.
None of them have eaten yet, and by now it’s half past nine and they’re beginning to drool over kebabs and such, so Nick’s demanding to use one of their guitar leads has pissed them off somewhat.
It is patiently explained to Nick, that sorry, no way, we’re out of here and so he goes off into a rant getting more and more belligerent…
The thing is, he could have cut all the crap and we could have mic’d the front of his guitar anyway ?
Christ !  It’s what he used to do before he got this guitar.
Now the epithets are flying and apparently the band are ‘fucking unprofessional cunts’ ?
Ok, time to go, guy’s…
‘Ade’, I’ll ring you in a couple of days, go get your nosh…
Cheers mate, thanks for coming and sorry for all this… ‘Bye…’
The Leisure Centre crew are alerted and supply leads.
I told you they were pro’s…
And finally Nick does his set.
Nick Brown of Parnassus Performance and The Magic Circle

Which, I’d been told, he was doing as a magician…
Nick however, has other ideas.
First a poem, then some magic, then a song and then some magic and another song to finish off…
We’re now running late.

Sarah Power having her head cut off...
I know the last magic trick was quite intricate and involved cutting off Sarah’s head (serves her right for volunteering…)
But I think that was really out of order and totally selfish in the extreme.
We’re all supposed to be in this thing together, it’s not a frigging ego-fest…
But it’s happened.
Move on…

Taye’s ‘BlackKat’ persona is up next.
It’s his first ever Parnassus gig and he’s raring to go.    
Taye (BlackKat) Fagborun of Parnassus Performance
I’ve got him for ‘Rhythms’ this year and I know he’ll be using backing tracks when he plays it, but tonight he elects for just voice.
And it works.
He fluffs a couple of lines when he speeds up, but he’s pretty impressive.
Another guy with something to say from his own perspective and using the street vernacular to paint pictures that, to be honest, we all have nightmares about.
The guy is good and all he needs is to get back on stage a few times and it’ll all be there for him.
How to describe it ?
Rap, but adult stuff.
The ‘guns and pussy shite’ that seems to fascinate most of the so called lyric writers of the genre are lacking and therefore the raps work on an adult level because the ‘gang mentality’ persona is just not there or is just alluded to without being specific.
This guy can write ‘mos’ def’’
Ok, bad pun, but I’m not charging you for reading this stuff, you’re doing it for free…

And then it’s me to finish the night.
I’ll tell you upfront, I don’t like closing.
If you’re reasonable and can work a crowd (and I can… I like to think I’m reasonable, too…)
then you always know that the audience will be getting restless so their concentration will be all over the place, and tonight I can’t do what I was going to do because the set is going to have to be cut by at least three otherwise we won’t finish on time.

Oh well...
Chris Ripple and Joy T. Chance of Parnassus Performance
Get Joy on for the counter-vocal in ‘The State (Of The Nation)’
and then Haddy to do the Wolof bits in ‘Ebou’s Song’ in the middle of four African influenced things that I wanted to try out for ‘Rhythms…’

Chris Ripple and Haddy Jatta
And finish…
Make the closing announcements, thank everybody for coming, try and mingle a bit with good grace…
And split.
Mainly because I want to throw up.
Was I any good ?  
Who knows ? 
I used the event to try some stuff out and some will be used in the same ways and some won’t. 
That question is always a bitch to answer.
By my terms of reference I was ‘Alright, but nowt special…’
But some things leave a bad taste in the mouth and tonight had definitely left one.
Were we ‘professional’ ?
Well that’s down to the audience and our co-workers obviously, but some attitudes do tend to get on my tits, somewhat.
If anybody is going to accuse the band of being ‘unprofessional’, then how ‘unprofessional’ is forgetting to bring your fucking guitar lead in the first place ?
It’s always somebody else’s fault.
Yeah, right ?
That’s the word.
It’s not a bad word providing people know what it means ?
This country thrives on refusing to let people take responsibility for any action they take, and if this is going to be the result then quite honestly it sucks. 

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