Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fulham Greyhound: the Uncle Phil's Eye View

Fulham Greyhound was one of the happiest and stressful days of my life. I don't know if we had slept since leaving Toronto as we were rushed from one interview to another, from a photo shoot to a meeting of players and entourage, for what seemed an eternity.

Kevin Hunter, our tour manager/driver/roadie, kept us hopping and on schedule the whole time as we went from NME to Melody Maker to the next. I couldn't keep anything straight except my bangs which were Johnny Ramone length.

The club looked like nothing special, basically a big flat-black room with strips and remnants of silver duct tape interfering with the otherwise glamorous decor. Ahem. We loaded in but as we soon came to realize, Kevin and Carl were committed to doing all the work. They had agreed together that we would be calm and rested whenever possible and that the stage setup and sound-check was their job, their responsibility. That was a first for me.

Back stage was beer and wine and yes, a chutes and ladders game: one of about 5,000 we would wind up with. Sadly, I doubt any of them made it back state-side. The soundcheck was quick and functional. The opening act, "I, Ludicrous" was one guy or maybe a duo and a boom-box. I believe John Peel had played something of theirs on his show as well.

While I, Ludicrous played, we sat in the dressing room and I'm going to guess I was just shy of totally freaking out. Kevin asked each of us what we wanted on stage drink wise and made sure cans of ale, lager or H2O were opened and at everyone's respective station.

When we strolled out onto the stage the sound was deafening. Yeah, Dave, it was our Beatle moment. And not the last. The place was absolutely packed. I don't remember what we started with, how long we played or anything except that my hands were shaking the whole time.

On "Considering a Move to Memphis" I used to play a pentatonic riff using all harmonics on the guitar during the second solo. What I remember is my hand trembling and moving over the neck and not a damn thing coming out but clicks or ghost notes. My thoughts were along the line of "Me terrible. Them hate me. Me very bad."

But that wasn't the case. The Sheffield Lads began immediately with their chorus of "Absolutely More!" and the other word new to our ears being shouted out was "Brilliant!" At the time we didn't know that Britishers use "brilliant!" like we would say "great!" For a moment we thought "Damn! They think we're fucking geniuses!"

The Lads met us afterwards and introduced themselves explaining that they were prepared with the itinerary to see just about every upcoming show. As I stated before, they were fun to be around soon becoming a welcome sight for sore eyes at each U.K. show.

At the end of the night, once the van was loaded, Kevin climbed into the drivers seat and quieted us down with a stern "I've got something important to say to you all" tone to his voice. We hushed and he said "WHO WANTS A BEER?" We all cheered as he pulled out beers for each of us as we drove back to our hotel.

Maybe we sucked and maybe we were great. It really didn't matter. The show was huge, the crowd flipped for us, and it kicked off the tour awesomely.


david d. mcintire said...

Thanks for filling in a few parts that I could not remember, Phil. I, Ludicrous was a duo, I'm pretty sure. I seem to remember a beat-box, with one guy on Casio keyboard and the other on guitar. I don't remember you missing those harmonics on "Memphis," but I am certain that I made similar mistakes. I could barely hold on to my horns, let alone play well.

The other lasting image for me is from after the show, in the dressing room. Chuck was sitting with a well-deserved ale, and Barry Campbell from the booking agency was praising the show to the skies, but at the same time giving Chuck some energetic advice about "showmanship." He apparently felt that we should be playing from set-lists, and that key songs like "Memphis" and "A Different Bob" should be carefully placed in the whole set, for maximum impact. The whole thing was too loose for his taste (everything should have been planned in advance, including encores), and he urged Chuck to adopt a snappier approach. We all know how that turned out...

david d. mcintire said...

This is a most mundane addendum, but it reverberates with me, enough to mention it. One of the several amenities that was at that first gig, and many others to follow, was a small wheel of brie. Back in the states, and at that point of my life, brie was an unimaginable luxury. I'd only had it a couple of times. It was what very sophisticated people served; it was not a part of my own particular world. Here it was, at this show and many others to follow.

That small wheel of (to me) exotic cheese was to me a more sure indication that I'd entered a different world than were the BBC sessions, the photo shoots, or the interviews that had taken place in the days preceding the Greyhound show.