Friday, 26 November 2010

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue......

It was the best of was the worst of gigs....

I was invited to spend the weekend at the home of a much loved, mildly eccentric, very dear friend who, pre-empting the rush for tartan blankets, has bought a house in Worthing.

'It's called the Dylan Project,' he said, 'In Shorham, we've got tickets, you must come down, it'll be great.'

And why not...... I bought my ticket to the gig online and, in order to avoid the vast sums demanded at stations, I bought my train tickets ahead of time too. Then my dear friend announced he was sick and being a bloke he wasn't just ordinary sick he was super-sized-dying-almost-dead-sick.

And so it was, I found myself alighting at the railway station in Shorham-by-sea. Alone and in the dark, I trundled my weekend-away sized wheely case down the deserted road. We weren't in Kansas anymore. Despite it only being 6.30 I was panicked on the streets of Shorham. Freezing cold, I found a pub and, resisting the urge to shout, 'I'm from London, I'm just visiting', to the six locals who'd tuned as one to stare, I ordered a whiskey and ginger ale, for medicinal purposes, the price of which would barely buy you a coke back home. Result. And waited for my dear friend's lovely girlfriend to rescue me.

And she did, whisking me away from the hinterland and into downtown Shoreham's heady nightlife. If not by the sea exactly we were definitely near water and the strip was buzzing, they even have a shop which sells fine chocolates and fancy clothes. Together. In the same place. An interesting and bold move I thought. They have a wine bar, and a woodeny-looking gastro pub and a lighting store that sells giant disco balls. We ate delicious crispy whitebait and triple-cooked chips in 'Chambers', housed in the former Town Hall and were waited on by possibly the friendliest, young staff I've ever encountered. Honestly, if ever you're in Shorham go there. Then it was off to ........ Ropetackle.

It may sound like a Dutch nightclub but Ropetackle is an arts centre. Getting in was our first challenge as the front doors had 'no entry' stamped across them. Interestingly, once inside I noticed they had 'no exit' stamped on the other side. But that was not the only odd thing about the evening ahead. Uncharacteristically for a gig, the 8pm start time appeared to have been diligently adhered to and as late entrants we were told, by the octogenarian who took our tickets, we would have to wait till the end of the song before we could sit down. Sit down!?! Once behind the closed door we were greeted by the sight of a sea of gray-haired couples sporting fleeces and high-waisted jeans, sat in the brightly lit room, enjoying the band. Struck by an attack of nervous hysterics, I stuffed my scarf into my mouth while my friend steered me towards the trestle-table-bar-facility, nestled at one side of the room.

And the band played on.....

An avuncular crew, dressed in relaxed fit denim and with only the keyboard player sporting sunglasses, but they may well have been prescription, they were all men of a certain age. Indeed, at one point the guitarist suggested they do a song they'd already sung. The lead singer, dressed in regulation rock'n'roll black, came with more than whiff of past excesses, as all good lead singers should. A wiry gent, one Steve Gibbons, late of The Steve Gibbons Band of the 70s, (think one of those blokes from a Never Mind The Buzzcocks line-up) and who, according to wikipedia, would most definitely have a few tales to tell about the glory years, blew with confidence into his array of harmonicas. They were indeed a competent team and a good deal more coherent than Bob ever is, choosing, it seemed, songs mainly from his back, back-catalogue. I'm a fan of the great man and I only new about half.....'Signore' I shall single out for a special mention. But if Dylan had become a wedding singer I think this is what he'd sound like.

To add to the Twin Peaks meets Spinal Tap: the sequel, experience, we noticed a handsome youth with streaky blond hair and a wispy goatee, sat centre front, his eyes fixed lovingly and not a little alarmingly, upon Mr. Gibbons throughout the performance. And after, he leapt to his feet, clutching his vinyl collection, requesting autographs and photos. He can only have been about 26. I blame the Internet.

The band certainly seemed to enjoy themselves and the packed house loved it, despite being told to stomp their feet and rattle their dentures during, 'Everybody Must Get Stoned', and even gave them a standing ovation....well, those of them who could stand. Surprised I may have been, and closer in age than I like to think, at how old these revellers were, lest we forget, these over-sixties, with their flowing gray-locks and M&S hippie-summer separates, were at the coalface of the festival scene. These were the naked, dancing peaceniks with flowers in their hair, the pot-smoking, afghan-coated students of the summer of love that spawned the Glastonbury's, Latitudes and Big Chills that we now take for granted. We owe them our festival fun.

Despite the on-site bar facility, during the interval, an elderly lady with a large badge bearing the title 'Volunteer', came around the seated audience selling tubs of ice cream. She sold out. The times they are a changing......

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  1. Flipping brilliant! What a night, surrounded by high waisted jeans wearing grannies resplendant in fleeces. You are hilarious. xxx

  2. Ropetackle is such a great name. Sounds like an evening to remember, anyway.

  3. Great post.I was imagining balls of tumbleweed blowing past at first,but sounds like a fab night.Very funny!

  4. I would have loved that surreal night out - what a brilliant post. xxxx

  5. I love your posts.
    It reminds me of a concert I was at recently by Crosby, Stills and Nash. They had to wheel Crosby on stage with an oxygen ventilator, which sort of made me feel a little less old and decrepit

  6. Love it - brilliant reporting!!

    Legend - my friends saw CS&N in Glasgow and said it was 'so boring she wanted to shoot myself purely to escape the tedium'

    I'm geared up for Celtic Connections - Justin Curry (of Del Amitri) and Seth Lakeman. Hestia may comment, if she can stay sober enough to remember much of either gig!

    Ali x

  7. "A wiry gent, one Steve Gibbons, late of The Steve Gibbons Band of the 70s"
    I remember saving-up my meagre wage-packet to see him live in the 70s.
    Alas, I can't remember a single thing about the concert.
    And I can't blame the drugs (I can't remember them either).

  8. LOL...I can so relate.My Hubby was an original Woodstocker and never stopped going to concerts. But he's still seeing the same people as 40 years ago. We always have a good laugh looking at the age of the audiences, and better yet, at the condition of the performers. Some have aged pretty well, and some have aged SO bad. But it's always great to see them!

  9. BTW...thanks so much for stopping by :)

  10. Dear Jo, brilliant and very funny post. I love the denim descriptions! xx