Paul Jackson Music

Paul Jackson Music

Saturday, 6 July 2013

#11: "Live on stage at the Pav"

This is a little story of a ‘gig’ that should have been. By the mid nineties I had performed either in a number of different line-ups or solo under a number of different guises. By 1995 I was singing in a soul band around West Yorkshire, playing background lounge piano at a couple of dinner parties, performing ‘cover versions’ in lightly attended pubs sat behind a piano with a rack of backing keyboards and sequencers, standing up behind a keyboard with the same rack doing my own material as ‘Production’, and also using the same set-up without a microphone performing electronica music as ‘S-cape’. A keyboard set-up that has filled many a car boot of a friend or the back seats of a taxi when I’ve been ferried around to various venues. In fact at one pub, after I’d delivered two sets of keyboard based cover songs, an audience member praised my efforts while also delivering the never forgotten line ‘usually when I see lots of keyboards, my first thought is Heavy Metal’. To this day I’m still confused by the line as I’m sure he meant the music genre whereas literally, and ironically, ‘heavy metal’ was more accurate.
In hindsight I was probably spreading myself too thinly when I should have really focused and mastered one of the various forms of presentation. However it kept me busy programming, arranging and rehearsing a variety of tracks, be they my own dalliances with electro pop, ventures into ambient house music, reworkings of pop hits of yesteryear or a piano medley of James Bond themes. I guess I was really trying to find the right avenue by trying different ones.
Although it was fun to perform other people's songs, it was in writing and arranging my own material either under the ‘Production’ moniker, or its instrumental electronica brother ‘S-cape’, where my main passion lie.

At university I found opportunity to try out my music in a live setting in the form of the ‘Afternoon Gig’ which bands could sign up for. I started doing a few of these as a solo act for a little while, surrounded by a mess of wires and doing my best to sing and play a little ditty or two to a little gathering. I had also started performing outside the university at club nights hosted by the Manchester collective BoomBooom at venues such as the Night and Day Café and the Roadhouse.  However, trying to get gigs on my own continued to be a struggle no thanks to my naivity, so I was grateful for any invitation and opportunity that came my way.
In January 1995, I spotted a poster on a noticeboard at the university asking for support bands for a series of gigs at the Pavillion. The Pavillion, or ‘Pav’ as it was commonly known, was one of the student union bars situated at a campus some distance from where I was based and so wasn’t a venue I had visited or was familiar with. The poster said that support acts were needed to suit the following styles of bands that were due to play there including one that said ‘techno rock’.  Now I was a bit removed from ‘rock’ but was quite a bit closer to the ‘techno’ side so I immediately thought my ‘S-cape’ set -up may just be the thing. Or rather, being a support act to a ‘techno rock’ band might be just the thing for me. I found a phone in a room somewhere (in the days before mobile phones were in common use) and rang the number on the poster. I offered my ‘techno’ services to the manager at the ‘Pav’ who said the band were performing the next night and told me to turn up to soundcheck at a certain time. The idea of performing as a support act at a student union club gave me a vision of a ready assembled audience of punters keen to hear some loud, pumping,exciting music of a ‘techno’ flavour.

I spent the evening programming and rearranging some of the more uptempo dance and techno driven tracks in my repertoire into a segued set of about 30-40 minutes as required. I mentioned it to what friends I could find on the day (in the days before Facebook, Twitter, email and the world wide web were in common use) and then headed up to the ‘Pav’.

I walked through the large bar area and through to the live room which I remember being quite big. The band I would be supporting were a London based band called Fat. Fronted by an American rapper/singer and backed by a guitar based band featuring samples. I watched them soundcheck where they delivered a mix of hip hop and rock and sounded great. It was incredibly loud, energetic and very exciting. I was up to soundcheck next and I clambered onto this high stage and set up my gear in the middle. I had never before heard my music pump out of the speakers in the way it did. It sounded immense and gave me quite a buzz. I looked out to the audience area and thought of how great a gig this could be when it is full of punters bouncing, jumping and dancing about. After I had finished soundchecking, one of the sound engineers, who seemed very pleased and enthusiastic, said he could project some visuals behind me on the screen that would go well with my set if I wanted. I said that would be great and I retreated to the bar. There I was approached by AD who was the frontman of Fat who complimented my live musical endeavors and we chatted at length about music and gigging and so forth. I also chatted with other members of the band including the drummer known as Woody. (There’s a reason I’ve mentioned him which I’ll come to later).
Four of my friends from university showed up to give me some moral support which pleased me no end.
And then it was soon time for the gig to start.
But something wasn’t quite right. Or at least not what I expected.
With the exception of the four members of Fat, my four friends, the two sound engineers and maybe another two people…. The place was empty. I played for 30-40 minutes and then Fat took to the stage and performed an amazing set. But it was to just a very small group of people. In fact, Fat played to less people than I did because they were half of the audience I had played to, and then I swapped with them to be in the audience myself. I was so gutted and totally baffled.  I couldn’t work out if it was a case of zero promotion, or if the ‘Pav’ was always this poorly attended. For such great music in such a great looking and sounding venue, it seemed such a great waste.
My friends and I were invited by Fat to join them for a beer or two in their dressing room and we continued chatting. I think my main topic of conversation was how much I couldn’t believe how empty the place was. That shows how naïve and presumptious I was at that time to expect there to be an audience waiting. You live and learn.
We said goodbye and I jumped into a car with my gear packed up and crashed out at a friends flat nearby.
Fast forward eight months and I’m watching ‘The Chart Show’ on ITV on one Saturday morning and who should appear promoting their debut single but Fat. ‘The Chart Show’ used to feature bits of text on the screen giving you extra info on the band. I’ll never forget the one that appeared saying ‘Members of Fat include drummer Woody who is also a member of Madness. I couldn’t believe it. Madness were a group I loved and had grown up with and it never clicked that it was the same guy I had shared a beer and a stage with earlier in the year. I bought the single and I also had a demo tape of the group that I had been given at the gig. Both serve as a good reminder of a great band I had the pleasure of supporting at one time, albeit to not many people.
I later learned that Fat had continued to release a couple of albums and had successfully toured to a packed houses around the UK and the US. I nearly saw them again when I read they were to support Catherine Wheel at Manchester University a year or so later. I bought a ticket and went to the gig only to discover that Fat had broken down somewhere on a motorway and wouldn’t be turning up. So I couldn’t ‘support’ them that time.
Very recently I did get to see Woody again when I finally achieved a long awaited goal of seeing Madness live in concert. And I have learned that AD has forged a successful career in the US as a TV and radio host.
And while the ‘Pav’ gig wasn’t successful in terms of entertaining a large crowd, it holds enough good memories to warrant me blogging about it some 18 years later.