A week or two ago I'd emailed some friends suggesting that they join me on my birthday weekend by going out to watch these gentlemen play a gig. Thanks to a slightly curious turn of events I was informed that there was room for me to play on the same bill: after the customary stab of anxiety, I agreed to do so.
I was a little bit wired on Saturday once I arrived at the venue - no doubt informed by a certain amount of nerves, but mainly due to having drank a lot the previous day. The kind of drinking which happens over the space of several hours, which means you don't get drunk or have a hangover, but it has a definite effect on your sense of being all the same.
So I was a little bit fidgety, not quite able to fully relax, tripping over my words a little. I was also slightly flabbergasted to be at the venue - a place I've known for years and years - and find that the area backstage is Tardis-like and labyrinthine. It felt like it took a good few minutes walk to get to the kitchen area where me, the promoters and the other performers sat and ate and had the odd beer. Also, the gig was originally going to happen in a garagey, basement area, which greatly appealed to me. In the event, due to all sorts of health and safety-based panics, it had been relocated to the main part of the venue upstairs. Which, considering I would be on my own in the middle of the stage, felt pretty bloody huge to me. Gulp.
I knew also to not to have the same expectations as the last gig, which was quite a unique thing and with its very own atmosphere. But having said all the above, I was looking forward to it.
I was due on stage at 8.30, though I was wandering round the main bar downstairs periodically before that, looking for some familiar faces as well as someone I hoped to recognise at least by his distinctive height. As is customary, I allowed a few doubts to creep in, and pictured myself playing to a near-empty venue. When I got back upstairs though I was instantly reassured by what felt to me to be a respectable amount of people (which was to increase further as time wore on).
I was also pleased to find Szwagier (he being of the distinctive height) and Nell there - though it was more the case that they found me - they had contacted me previously and managed to wrestle details of the gig from me, and I was flattered that they had turned up with a couple of other friends also. I sat with them and we chatted before I went on stage, and it helped to take the edge off any nerves I was feeling: it was good to finally meet more people I've been in touch with for quite some time now via the internet and blogging, and they were very good company too.
The stage was higher up and far more cluttered with leads and equipment than at the last gig, and my main fear was that of tripping over something and causing chaos and injury as I made my way to where my laptop was parked. Nothing of the sort occurred thankfully, so all felt well and good as I safely reached my station in the middle of the stage.
Normally I like to be somewhere near the side of the stage so that I don't feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights: it felt ok though, the spotlights shining down meant that I couldn't see the audience, and that didn't exactly do me any harm. I could just focus on the laptop and other equipment, and my beer.
Again once I got things going, it all felt reassuringly loud. It was a similar set to last time, albeit with a few adjustments and with one different track at the end. It went pretty smoothly and seemed to get a favourable enough response, I was happy with the reaction and with what I'd done. It was more reserved (the reaction) than the last gig, but I'd been prepared for that since most of the audience were there, of course, to see the headlining act. I did have a number of people come up and tell me what they thought afterwards, and the comments were positive.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, the main act were mesmerising and very intense (and loud), if you do follow the link near the top you'll get a flavour of what it was like. Thanks again to Szwag and Nell and their friends coming along, it was really good to meet them: we sat and had a further couple of beers and they met a couple of my friends too. After they headed their own way, I toddled over to a friend's house nearby for wine, pizza, and yet more music: feeling tired, rather tipsy, and very content.
I hadn't felt the need for any great plans for the following day - my actual birthday - but come the afternoon a bunch of us were out walking in the Clent Hills, followed by a rather fabulous pub lunch. All in all, a fantastic weekend: I don't think I've ever done quite so much on and around my birthday, and I'm really very happy at the way it all worked out.
Having listened back to a recording of my performance on Saturday night though, it's left me feeling like I need to push it in different directions, make it sound more fucked up, stretch it beyond recognition compared to where it's at currently. Which is par for the course, and so it damn well should be.