I'm in a band. They told me we were going to have a gig on January 16th. But in the lead-up to this date, we haven't had any practices – nor did I receive any information about what time the gig starts or anything. So I thought, "Maybe the gig is cancelled – and they forgot to tell me."
This was confirmed in my mind when I scanned the street-press where all the gigs are listed, and my band's name didn't appear. We were supposed to be playing at the Armadale Hotel, in Armadale. But the street-press said that the three bands playing that night were Cipher, Infinity Jones, and Mandala. And none of those is my band.
"Well", I thought to myself, "Maybe I should go to the Armadale Hotel that night anyway. Infinity Jones is a very good band to see. And as for Mandala, well they should be well worth a listen, if the rumours are true. Thursday night I will go out and enjoy some live music."
But that didn't address the main problem, which was this: with all the anticipation surrounding this gig, I'd developed an itch to perform on stage, and if I didn't get up on stage very soon, I'd become extremely edgy.
So, that very same day, I decided to go to the "Laundry", which is a band venue. Normally they have bands playing there, but on Wednesday nights they have karaoke. That's where people get up and sing along to backing-tracks – anyone can have a go. I'd never been to karaoke night at the "Laundry" before. I wasn't sure what to expect – maybe it would be too intimidating and I'd chicken out. But I decided to go anyway, if only to observe.
I arrived somewhat early and there was nothing much happening so I sat in the corner. Then, after about half an hour, this lady came up to me and she was really friendly. She asked me some questions like, "Are you going to sing tonight?" "What are you going to sing?" "What's your name?" By and by I realised that this lady was actually involved in the running of the karaoke night and she wasn't just making small-talk, she was taking down names for her list.
The song that I picked was called "Wish You Were Here", by the band Pink Floyd.
It was a good song to pick, for someone who's intent on taking lots of pictures of themselves, because it has lots of long instrumental breaks in which to set up the camera. I was the second man to perform that night. I took out my camera and set it up during the intro of the song. When the Laundry lady saw what I was doing, she came forward and offered to hold the camera for me. But I said, "No, it's all right." You see, taking photos in low-light is very hard to do – the camera has to be perfectly still, as well as the subject. So it's best if no one holds the camera. But perhaps she thought it was a video-camera – it's so hard to tell with cameras these days.
I sang my song with no major problems, taking more pictures throughout, and the audience clapped me. Afterwards, the MC said into his microphone: "Thankyou Stephen! That performance will be coming out on video sometime soon..."
My singing voice is okay. For the rest of the night I sat back and enjoyed the other singers. Karaoke is not always about singing well – sometimes the most entertaining songs are the ones that are sung a little bit badly. For instance, that Laundry lady got up to sing the song "It's Oh So Quiet", by Bjork, and she made a complete mess of it because she didn't really know how the song went. But she got the most applause of all, because she was so cute!
There were many other fun things that happened, too. I thought to myself, "This is surely not the last time I come to this karaoke night. Maybe I should come here every week, and sing some more songs. People are friendly here. And I don't even have to pay."
The success of this outing made me all the more eager to get out there and go to more live performances, including tonight's gig at the Armadale Hotel. I turned up at the hotel around ten o'clock. But that was a little late – the first band were already near the end of their set. "Oh well", I thought, "I missed most of the first band. But that's all right, I'm really here to see Infinity Jones anyway. And then Mandala."
So I sat and waited. I didn't really pay attention to the next band during their set-up period, but when they started playing, I noticed some startling things about them: that their line-up included both a trumpet player and a mandolin player. "Wait a minute", I thought. "That doesn't sound like Infinity Jones. That sounds more like – –"
My mind did a back-flip. "Mandala! But if that's the case, then that first band must been Infinity Jones, playing extra early for some reason. Am I so out of touch that I don't recognise Infinity Jones when I hear them?"
I tried to appreciate Mandala, but I was bothered by the fact that I'd missed the band that I'd really come to see. Mandala play jazz-funk music, mostly, and sometimes they slip into 6/8 mode for a bit folk-style stuff with the mandolin. There was something not quite right about them. It wasn't their playing. Maybe it was something to do with the sound-mixing, or their equipment.
The bass player had a few technical problems, causing the sound technician to come running up on stage occasionally to fiddle with the wires. Anyway the crowd was happy. It was a very good crowd – not too many, not too few, and several of them were ready to dance to anything.
I was thinking, "This gig was a bit of a disappointment." But then, at the end of Mandala's set, it became increasingly obvious that the night was not over. As they moved their equipment out, another band moved their equipment in, and it was unmistakably Infinity Jones. And I was thinking, "This gig is maybe not going to be a disappointment after all."
You see what happened? Someone must have decided, at the last minute, to switch the order of the bands so that Infinity Jones were the headline act and Mandala were the support act. It was surprising. And yet, it made sense in a way. If they hadn't made the switch, then it would have been a classic case of the support-act "outshining" the main attraction. Infinity Jones are just superior in every way.
My camera battery went flat so I was only able to get one lame photo of the band. But that was all right – at least it meant that I could forget about photography for a while and just focus on the music. Infinity Jones are a funk band. They're young, they're exciting, and their music is edgy. It's like they've taken the traditional funk style, cut it up into lots of little pieces and put the pieces back together in ways that no one has done before, and that's what makes it cool. They're not afraid to play odd time signatures like 5/4 and 7/4, and then they change mid-song and play stretches of straight 4/4 just so your dancing feet don't get too confused. One thing I really like about them is that they have a beautiful girl out front on vocals and clarinet – I would've got a decent picture of her, if my camera battery had lasted just a few more seconds.
One technical problem they had was that the elaborate lighting system went dead in the middle, leaving the whole stage in darkness. And because it was so dark, someone decided to turn up the house-lights. But that was a blessing in disguise really, because it meant I could see the crowd clearly. And they were a good looking crowd. There were at least twenty people dancing wild at the front. And I was one of them. Which is good, really, 'cause I need the exercise.
I'll have to be fit – and healthy – and alert – and able to keep up with the rhythm – if I'm going to play a real gig with a real band. And someday soon, that's what's going to happen.
The TV program "Quads!" is a cartoon for adults, all about this group of disabled people who live together. A wheelchair guy, a blind guy, a guy with hooks for hands, and one guy who's just a head. It's very "politically incorrect", and contains a lot of "adult content". This program makes fun of all kinds of issues that other comedies are afraid to tackle. Some people would complain that it's offensive to disabled people. But it isn't really – it was created by a guy who's quadraplegic so I think he has the right to make jokes about it.
"Chicane" is an electronic music act, also known as Nick Bracegirdle. He wrote my favourite piece of techno-dance music ever – it's called "Saltwater" and it's on his "Behind The Sun" album. The good thing about Chicane's albums is that they start off with slow dreamy soundscapes and then move on to chilled beats and then move on to full-on high tempo dance music. So it's like an epic journey through different moods. And no one does it better than Chicane – he's like, a master of the musical texture, with the perfect combination of organic and electronic sounds. When I hear it, and dance to it, I feel it reaching deep down into my soul and transporting me to a higher plane of bliss and positive energy. And after I finish listening to it, I'm in a state of ecstasy because my whole body is filled with... I don't know the technical term for it, but it's those positive chemicals in your body which make you feel good.