Aug 25 2008

Duke Special, Dublin, Dorchester and the Downfall of Aunty Lil…

Well it’s been a busy few days here in the Little bass world….

On Friday night I performed with one of my all-time favourite artists, the sublime Duke Special at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. I’ve been looking forward to this show for quite some time now. Myself and Tim Weller were drafted in from The Divine Comedy to play with Duke Special’s band and the RTE Concert Orchestra, under the baton of conductor David Brophy.
Tim and I met up with Peter on Wednesday afternoon to have a quick run-through of all the material. I was recording a charity song with Clare in the morning at Air Studios (watch this space) and had to rush across town to make the session. The next rehearsal was to be in Dublin at the RTE building. Our flight was, surprise surprise, so early in the morning from Gatwick that I had to stay up all night again in order not to miss it (I left my house at 3.15 in the morning!).
The rehearsal with the orchestra went pretty well, although the room wasn’t ideal acoustically for our setup. It was a big hall and we were set up facing a big wall so everything the band played at the back of the orchestra bounced back a fraction of a second later than everything else. And we couldn’t hear Peter or his piano.  So we came away having no idea what this was going to sound like, but did manage to ascertain that the various parts worked (Luckily I’d spent all day Tuesday working out parts for myself).
We spent the rest of the day strolling around Dublin. I really do love Dublin and it was great to have the time to take a look around again. It’s not often in a gig/touring situation that you have any spare time to actually see anything of the town you’re in. Having said that, our hotel was up in Rathmines and it was a bit of a schlepp to get right into town, but luckily we had quite a long time. We ended up in Whelan’s twice (!) and got some food on the way into town. Incidentally, we came across a fantastic Chapman Stick player in Temple Bar. No idea who he was but he was great to watch. Hopefully our paths will cross again sometime so we can have a chat.
We soundchecked and ran through the set again on the day. The show was sold out (I think the venue holds about 1200, but I can’t say for certain). 
It can be quite a tricky situation when a band goes out to do a show with what is essentially a pickup orchestra (in other words, one which does not tour with the band and hasn’t necessarily seen or indeed even heard the material before). I’ve done a number of these kinds of shows with The Divine Comedy and to be frank, they were a mixed bag. The whole show really does depend on the attitude and motivation of the orchestra and the conductor (if there is one). TDC have had a few issues in the past with some rather stuffy orchestras and orchestral managers. We were so lucky with the RTE folks and David Brophy. They were so enthusiastic and energetic. It makes such a huge difference when the orchestra really get into the music and they did a great job, both in rehearsal and at the performance.
The show consisted mainly of tunes from the Duke’s debut album Songs From The Deep Forest 
with five brand new songs from his forthcoming album. Let me tell you, the new album is going to be amazing.  It’s due for release in Ireland in October. At the moment, since Universal bought up V2, Duke Special only has a record deal in Ireland. This is a bloody travesty folks. Peter is one of the best singer-songwriters to have emerged in the last decade and deserves much better than this. Still, we’ll all just have to buy the album from Ireland; that’s what I’ll be doing the moment it comes out!
The show was a resounding success and one of the best gigs I’ve done in a while. The new songs were incredibly well received and the audience were fantastic. Really hoping to do more shows with Pete some time soon.
I had to fly back the following day and peg it down to Dorchester for a little function giglet. When the bandleader called me up for the gig during the week, the call went something like this….
“Yeah man, it’s gonna be great. It’s in this swanky manor house, loads of food and free drinks all night. We’ve all got hotel rooms for the night and there’s a big swimming pool so bring your swimming gear. It’s gonna be great fun”.
Well, the wedding was indeed held in a manor house, which was indeed swanky. Sadly, at some point in the 50’s or 60’s, the estate was bought by the police who turned it into a training college and threw up (literally) a selection of hideous yellowy utility buildings (including the aforementioned swimming pool) all around the back of it. Let me tell you, if the planning consent had been applied for by anyone other than the police it never would have been approved. Absolutely putrid and horrifying. And guess where we were staying? Yep. I’ve stayed in swankier Travel Lodges.
As usual in these wedding gig situations, everything was running rather late. About an hour late. We were just about to go on when the father of the bride (a rather portly Scottish gent in a kilt) came up to us and asked for the mic. He wanted to make an announcement…
Apparently Auntie Lil (a lady in her late seventies) had slipped down the stone steps on her way out and had been quite badly hurt having bashed her head. The ambulance was on it’s way and could we please have ten minutes of quiet time? O my god. Needless to say, that killed the mood at the wedding in an instant. And we were about to go on. Couldn’t believe he’d just announced this to the whole party over the mic. Neither it seemed could the bride and groom by the looks on their faces. Neither indeed could Aunty Lil who I discovered earlier had insisted that nobody tell the bride as she didn’t want to spoil her big day.
Well as you can imagine, the gig was a bit of a challenge after that. We did somehow manage to drag the mood back up again and by about halfway through the first set everyone was having a good time once more. 
Anyway, enough of that!
I will be performing with Duke Special again this Friday with the London Gay Symphony Orchestra at The Roundhouse in Camden. Let me know if you’re coming along and I’ll come say hello afterwards. Really looking forward to it.
And just before I go….
I’ve mentioned to several people over the years about the funny signs at Dublin Airport. The ones about unfamiliarity with escalators or lifts. Nobody has believed me thus far, so here is the proof…. (you might have to zoom in a bit!)
How anyone who was unfamiliar with either escalators or lifts would be perfectly happy jumping on a plane is utterly beyond me.