Saturday, November 21, 2009

Perthshire Amber 8

The Big Gig

On a frosty Sunday morning (and I literally mean frosty, it was -4 again & the world had turned silver & misty), four Súnas members took a caffeine & nicotine addicted Scotsman to Perth Theatre in their trusty steed Mick Jaguar. Not because we were pleasant company or anything, but because it was ‘fookin’ baltic’ outside & Dougie loved the heated seats.

Once we arrived it was all systems go rolling big carts full of gear onto the stage where the sound guys would plug everything in and ascertain a general air of order, which meant soundchecking would happen as soon as they had finished the subwoofer stress test (awesome, but not much fun when you’re right behind the stage!).

Then something happened that was unexpectedly wonderful –we were firmly told by Julia that as we were on the bill for tonight our role as backstage helpers was over & we were from now on performers who should relax in their dressing room.

It felt so weird. Wonderful, but weird!

The first thing that happened after this revelation was that, three hours before we were due to go onstage, Dougie grabbed us all and had a conversation:

Dougie: ‘I’ve finally cracked it!’
Paul: ‘What?’
Dougie: ‘You guys are gonna do Singing Land with me tonight! Ok?’

We glanced at each other nervously. Ok, no worries, but we had originally been asked to rehearse & perform Turning Away. But sure, Singing Land it was!

Dougie: ‘It needs a tune in the middle of it though. Something slow-ish that fits the rhythm.’
Bridget: ‘Sarah wrote a tune that fits!’ She explains to me which tune she is talking about.
Dougie rounds on me & commands: ‘Hum it.’
I, slightly shocked at this point, comply.
Dougie: ‘Perfect. Get your instruments, be in my dressing room in 5 minutes, we’ll rehearse it, then sound check it, then you’ll be ready to go. Ok?’

Not wanting to argue, we threw down some juice & egg & lettuce sandwiches & went to get our instruments. Thank GOD for iPhones. I quickly downloaded Dougie’s lyrics & pasted them into my notes as I knew he’d want me to sing a verse. 5 minutes later Dougie herded us into his dressing room to rehearse Singing Land. It was actually a lot less stressful that we had thought, Dougie makes a point of writing melodic yet simple songs and we had it up & running in no time. We ran through my tune a few times & considering it had never been performed it before it was pretty thrilling! Then Dougie & I had a conversation that went like this:

Dougie: ‘That’s a great tune! What’s the name of it?’
Me: ‘ “Tune for Bridgey” ’
Dougie: (pause) ‘Really? That’s the name?’
Me: ‘Er, yeah. It’s a fiddle tune, I wrote it for Bridget’
Dougie: ‘Can’t we rename it “Mist on the Loch” or something?’
Me: ‘Um, well … ‘

In the end it didn’t matter about the name of my tune, but I was still thrilled that we were debuting it at Perthshire Amber! We soundchecked easily, had a lovely ‘wow’ moment learning that Dougie’s stellar band would be playing with us on Singing Land and Tune for Bridgey. Wow indeed. I was also asked by the lovely Eliza Lynn to sing some harmonies on her fantastic old-timey bluegrass song ‘Apron’, to which I was happy to oblige.

And then the nerves set in. Not performance nerves, but shaking, cold sweat & stomach cramping to the point of throwing up kind of nerves. Which is odd in my case, because I very rarely, if ever, feel like this. I was so nervous I couldn’t finish my dinner (which hardly happens) or talk to anyone (which never happens) and just went downstairs to get ready to go onstage.

Dougie went on first and performed ‘Holding Back’. This song will always be synonymous to me of the time when the four of us were waiting in darkness backstage in a theatre in Scotland clutching our instruments and surrounded by friends who had become family over the last two weeks. Then, it was our turn.

I remember the lights blinding me and how cold my hands were attaching Bridget’s fiddle mic to her dress. I remember the audience laughing at our crap jokes and during our tuneset looking over to see that the rest of my bandies were having a fecking amazing time. Dougie came on with his didge & we played Travelling Man, then went straight into Singing Land. I remember singing Dougie’s verses and not making any mistakes. As we were going into my tune I will always remember the drums giving it a massive entrance and the rest of Dougie’s band joining in, including the amazing Ali on electric guitar and Chris on bass. And just like that it was over and the Swedish band Calaisa were performing.

I was so proud of my bandies

After Calaisa performed we had an interval and signed masses of CDs… and I began to realise that my nerves weren’t nerves at all, but food poisoning. I made my excuses, ran upstairs into our dressing room bathroom and proceeded to throw up so violently that I thought a boot would come out of me. After ten minutes, I fixed my hair & makeup, cleaned my teeth, chewed a mint and went downstairs to accompany Eliza onstage. There was no way I was letting her down!

Sarah Performing with Eliza Lyn and Duncan & Sorren MacLean

Francis Black followed Eliza and then we all assembled to sing ‘This Love Will Carry’ followed by 'Caledonia'. During soundchecking we were told that there would be some pyrotechnics but that we weren’t allowed to turn around and look! So coming into the last chorus of Caledonia, we could see the audience lit up by 12 fountains of sparks, and came offstage in rapture and excitement & ready for the final encore of Auld Lang Syne.

Only it didn’t come.

Dougie was literally on stage thanking everyone when the smoke caused by the pyrotechnics set off the theatre smoke detectors and they started shrieking insistently. The fire brigade was automatically called and the theatre had to be emptied immediately. The majority of the audience had handed their coats into the cloakroom –and they weren’t allowed to retrieve them, they had to go outside straight away. It was another chilly night, down to -4.

So what did we do? The girls from Calaisa grabbed Soren MacLean's guitar out and started singing ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ to the irritated waiting crowd. They went absolutely crazy and demanded more, so the girls gave their guitar to Paul & we did ‘Sylvest’ and we were in fear of getting mobbed afterwards. It was fantastic!

What a way to end a tour!

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