Saturday, 14 June 2008

Inside the record company cauldron...

"We'll know tomorrow. They're reducing all the EMI A&R teams..."

On Wednesday, a friend of mine from EMI and I sit outside in dappled Kensington sunlight eating cake on a bench in the park behind the church. It's an idyllic scene - and the cakes are unbelievable, mine a chocolate one oozing with Bailey's cream - but the conversation is shot through with dread. My friend will be OK, we think, but there will be more people out of work and those that are left will be multi-tasking and cutting corners.

Just before this, I had a cup of tea with another pal who works over the road at Warners. Truly, Kensington High Street has become record company mile: with Sony BMG moving into the old Derry & Toms building above Marks and Spencers, the full major line will be complete with EMI/Virgin at one end, leading to the Universal Building (or Death Star, as it's widely known), then Sony BMG, then Atlantic in the Electric Lighting Station just past the old Kensington Market (now decimated into a branch of PC World). But left on the High St and a short walk up Church St, is the other Warners building, housing most of the old WEA group.

I drink tea with my Warners pal in his office, plastered with the artwork trophies of a successful music industry fella. He tells me how he used to be based at the Electric Lighting Station, working for Atlantic but has been moved to the Church St office to work for all of the labels. He rarely gets out of the building until 8pm. We were going to go out tonight but he needs a night in - and frankly who can blame him? He very generously gives me a pile of Warners CDs, we say goodbye and arrange to meet next week instead. As I walk out I look around the open plan office and sense something different... what is it? It dawns on me as I'm standing in the lift going down: there was no music playing.

If there is one thing that every record company office used to have in common, whether it was Creation or Interscope or Fierce Panda, it was that everyone who worked there loved music and was excited about the roster - there was a sense of possession over the artists that were currently being developed. Even artists who were not particularly popular with the staff were supported because everyone felt part of the team. It's a cliche but like all cliches, it's true: it wasn't a job, it was a lifestyle. I worked at East West (now rebranded Atlantic) in the 90s and the excitement over a new Simply Red album wasn't that the staff were that keen on hearing the Ginger Prince's new material (although some obviously were) but rather that it was going to sell in bucketloads and it's exciting selling records, being popular. Plus, there would be a party and and everyone would benefit in some way at the end of the year; we all felt a part of it, whether this was mistaken or not. The faces on the members of staff I passed on my way out today seemed disengaged and kind of, well, disappointed. They were all attractive, young people and had probably punched the air when they landed a job at a legendary place like Warners - many of them had probably got in via the Warners Graduate Trainee Scheme. Yes, Graduate Trainee Scheme: working at a record company is now just another career option, somewhere between accountancy and retail management. When I first got my job at Warners my mum had the classic "but when are you going to get a proper job?" reaction, and that was just how I wanted it. Working at a record company was something you did for the love of it, not for the career, not for any fiscal gain - it was an extension of your hobby.

My friend Andy who's worked at record company's longer than me, was looking to take on a junior member of staff a few years ago and had amassed a number of CVs from enthusiastic fanzine writers, club promoters and DJs. He took these to his HR department, who by return gave him a pile of CVs from candidates who had applied through the Graduate Trainee Scheme. These applicants were all finishing their degrees, possibly Media Studies, and were looking for their first job on the media career ladder. "But, what about taking on someone who is already out there doing it, someone with life skills, someone who may not have a degree but has a degree of swagger and originality?"
"We'll consider it, but we'd really rather you employed a graduate, Andy."
I can't remember what the outcome was, but it doesn't matter. The proof of who won the argument was in the faces on the graduates sitting in front of computers today. They were probably all thinking: "Wish I'd gone into the film industry, this is rubbish."

Next day I found myself back in Kensington seeing a friend at EMI Music Publishing. Unbelievably, they have finally moved from their old Tin Pan Alley headquarters on Charing Cross Road and shacked up with Terra Firma in EMI headquarters in Wrights Lane - adding further evidence that there really is only one remaining address for the music business. Frankly, I was amazed they let me through the door after the Guardian article, but soon I found myself sitting next to a 8 ft high replica of a Gibson Les Paul in the reception area. Say what you like about Guy Hands and co, they know how to do reception - all the latest magazines, a water cooler, comfy sofas in bright surroundings. In the Warner Building the day before, I sat in the cramped, murky reception with it's apologetically small plasma screen on the wall and picked through dog-eared copies of Billboard and Variety. Eventually I thought I had found something - a copy of the NME. It turned out to be from February. It was like being at the dentist.

Simon and I had lunch in EMI's canteen. Actually, to call it a canteen does it a disservice. It is a splendid place to have lunch. The other EMI Building at the Hammersmith end of the road has a canteen, which is much more like what you imagine: functional, a bit lived-in. Actually, if you ever find yourself having a snack in it - and let's be frank, who knows how much longer you'll have the opportunity - make sure you have a good look at the balustrade which runs along its upper level - it was taken from the old EMI building in Manchester Square and is the very one that four young lads from Merseyside leaned over on the cover of their first album.

The canteen in the Wrights Lane building is ultra modern; an open quadrangle or piazza between the interior sides of the glass tower, it offers three choices of lunch all at very reasonable prices. I'd happily have lunch here every day, but sooner or later Guy Hands would catch on, I'm sure.

Simon's office was like my friend's at Warners only it was virtually wallpapered in 7" single sleeves from the 70s, 80s and 90s. By way of explanation, he told me how he'd been charged with procuring singles for a jukebox that the company were going to present to Mr Hands as some sort of welcome gift. Each 7" single had to be a song or artist that had been number one for EMI publishing or records - Wuthering Heights, Summer Holiday, Country House etc.

He had scoured Record and Tape Exchange and Beanos (he got paid to do this! I would have done it for free - possibly even paid some cash upfront.) and noticing that some of the singles didn't have the big holes in the middle that you need to make them jukebox-compatible, discovered that Beanos have a hole-stamping machine especially for this, which they oiled-up for him. I don't know why this warms my heart me but it does.

Anyway, the singles were loaded onto the jukebox and the staff lined up to present their new leader with his trophy. Hands walked in, expressed gratitude and proceeded to randomly select a 7". It plopped onto the turntable and Terra Firma and EMI staff alike were greeted with the dulcet tones of Mick Hucknell's voice singing his well-known choice from EMI/Windswept Pacific's catalogue, Money's Too Tight (To Mention). The Ginger Prince strikes again.

Back on the park bench eating the cake with my other EMI A&R pal, I mention the Scottish Band to him and try to tell him how well they are doing. He smiles indulgently but I sense the same slightly wistful look that I saw on the graduates' faces at Warners. He cannot care about any new music until he knows there is a point to it, until he knows if he can out there again and get something signed and make a great record with them. Until he knows he still has a job.

And maybe that's how the whole record business feels right now - do they have jobs? Is there a business? Let's hope so, for the Sb's sake.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

A night in, please God, a night in ...

Gigs, gigs, gigs. So many gigs. And I'm not even on tour. Here I am at 1.30am, half drunk, sitting on my third night bus home, listening to the Fleet Foxes album on my iPod and wondering if there's dad-related activity to do once I get home.

Frankly by the end of last week, I almost hugged the television. A night in! Come Friday, mouthful of After Eights, caning the Sky Plus, I would have been in heaven, had I not had to balance my screaming five month old on my knee. At the moment it appears that Esther is auditioning to be the next Clare Torry. A friend of mine who is now horribly senior at Sony BMG had his first child before me and I remember him telling me, when she was first born, how he'd had to go through the pain barrier of exhaustion: you come home from a night of gigs, you get ready for bed and just as you hit the pillow, the weeping starts. Your wife, who is annoyed at you being out all the time having fun at gigs ("But it's work!" "Work?! You're standing around drinking and watching bands. Call that work? Don't make me laugh!"), expects you to deal with it so you're up in your pajamas, walking like a zombie around and around and around, muttering consoling words and trying not to fall over with exhaustion. Eventually, the child will go to sleep but you will be wide awake and probably feeling a bit peckish. Before you know it, it's 5 AM and you're on the sofa, eating Marmite on toast and watching The Sopranos on DVD. Multiply that by five days a week and it's no wonder pop music is so full of broken marriages.

Still, I must say, the gigs have been great. If you read last week's blog you'll know about the Glasgow shows - oh yes, by the way here's a bit of film of that punch up I wrote about - even watching it back, I still find it surreal.

Anyway, the band headed South after this. They played in Liverpool, Stoke and Manchester. In Manchester somewhat inevitably, they met Mancunian comedy institution Frank Sidebottom - William said he caught a glimpse of skin and hair through the famous paper mache head and "he was really old". Reminded me of Julian Cope's story of seeing The Residents live and catching a glimpse of hair poking out from under the mask - he could never take them seriously after that.

By the end of the week the Scottish band were properly South - in leafy, quaint, stockbrokerish Guildford, no less. As far as I can remember I think I've only been to a couple of shows in Guildford. I think we once drove Elastica there when Michael (now the exhausted father/Sony exec I wrote about in the paragraph above) and I were hoping to release their first record on our label Scared Hitless and we were playing at being tour managers. They was already a buzz about them for obvious Suede and Blur reasons and we wanted them to play some shows out of the spotlight. It was decided that the best way to do this was to book them as another band - a band with a really off-putting name. Someone, I can't remember who but probably Justine, came up with 'Onk'. Amazingly, we still got plenty of A&R people prepared to have a sniff around Onk.

The Scottish band don't have a big A&R buzz around them yet - although people are beginning to come out of the woodwork. In Manchester, they had their first meeting with a scout. Interestingly, they were surprised at how little was actually on the agenda for this meeting. They didn't fully understand the reason scouts want to meet bands: scouts are not going to do anything - not unless there is already an almighty buzz. No, they are chatting you up, making friends, forging relationships. Then when it's important to sign the band, when the rest of the company is galvanised, the scout is at the vanguard with his or her own special relationship. That's why so many A&R people are so charming - they have spent a long time honing the skill of making you feel like you are the most important musician they have ever met.

It sounds like I'm being cynical about A&R folk but of course I count myself in this camp - I'm a bit rusty but on a good day I can still just about find the necessary charm when I have to win people over. But the relationship between A&R scout and unsigned band is mutually beneficial, because it's just what you need when you're a musician playing to an audience of three disinterested, drunk people - a sparky young A&R person comparing you to the bands that you've always thought you were inspired by. Most bands will recognise the deal that is going down prior to signing - it is a courtship, a romance. And once the deal is struck and the marriage starts, very often it all ends in tears, recriminations, mutual lack of respect. BUT, maybe, just occasionally, lovely beautiful children are born.

The Scottish band - I wonder, shall I start calling them by their name? If you have any thoughts on this add a comment - in fact, while I'm here talking about comments, if you have any stuff to say about the blog please put a comment below. I get so many mails and Facebook messages about it but not that many folk leave comments here. It would be good if you did because that would of course make me look really popular... Anyway where was I? Ah yes, The Sb at the Guildford Boileroom.

The Sb play a show to an audience of about twenty. I sense the crowd are not fully in the mood for indie rock though. Not when members of the opposite sex are drinking for Surrey outside the venue. This massive crowd of 18-year old girls in oversized heels is in the beer garden due to the balmy weather. The Boileroom is situated at the end of a cobbled street, flanked with pretty cottages. Because of the residential area, the venue has a bizarre traffic light entry/exit system to stop noise leaking from the bar/venue into the beer garden. This took some working out for me and is clearly a rite of passage for all young Guildford residents. When the light is green outside you can pull the door open. Once inside, you find yourself in a small lobby - like a decompression chamber - looking up at a red light over a second door. Once this is green, or indeed the door opens up, you can enter the bar. Simple enough, but try adding three or four people to every decompression wait, any two of whom might have consumed one too many Bacadi Breezers. It certainly breaks the ice.

After the show, we drank the rider in the dressing room which is situated above the venue and appears to double as the kitchen for the hapless student residents who live above the venue. True to the name of the venue, there was indeed a very large old boiler smack bang in the middle of it. We were in the epicentre of The Boileroom. This cannot be ideal for the residents and indeed we met several of them as they were heading upstairs. They were all Chinese - the first, a smiley man whom we asked if it was OK that we were sitting in his kitchen. It didn't look like he understood so we asked again. "Ah..." he said, the light of comprehension in his eyes, "twenty past eleven." He showed us his watch with a flourish.

After doing Southampton and Coventry, the band arrived in London. They had never played in the capital before and despite being booked second on the bill on a Tuesday night, this was the most important night of the tour. The gig where influential people and industry types who can make a difference can see them. It was in every way THE BIG ONE.

I'd booked them into a hotel near to the Buffalo Bar where they were playing - the temptingly-named Costello Palace. Like me, the band rate Elvis' early work so this seemed appropriate. But when I met with them at the soundcheck they were less than enthusiastic - apparently the bedrooms were not exactly Imperial, each being furnished with its own condoms and 'lube'.
"And there's not even that much lube left in my room," deadpanned William, the keyboard player.
"You should send down for some more, bro." suggested Andrew on bass.

I had a bite to eat with the band, then popped out to get some money out of the cashpoint, leaving my mobile phone on the table of the cafe. While I was outside, my mobile went off. William saw 'Lamacq Mobile' flashing on the screen but didn't answer it. When I came back he said to me whilst raising an eyebrow, "Steve Lamacq called".
"Great - told you he was coming tonight!" I said triumphantly.
"Odd that he calls you just as you're out at the cashpoint - bit of a coincidence," William makes inverted commas around the 'out at the cashpoint' bit.

He's joking but it would have been an excellent managerial ruse to appear important in front of my band: to pop out on a vague pretext and phone myself from a prearranged number that comes up as a famous DJ, thereby making myself look like a hero - the great Radio 1 indie champion himself is phoning me personally. I am indeed friends with both movers and shakers!

Of course the truth is far more prosaic, as you know. I've known Steve for a long long time - I once guested on his pirate radio show back in the 1780s on a station called Q103. I still have a tape of this somewhere. He was interviewing me about being an A&R scout and I described it as being like a traffic warden - everyone hates you but you're just doing your job... Bit of work needed on that analogy I think.

Despite being, as everyone knows, married to his music, Steve is an incredibly loyal friend. He will come and see friends' bands and crucially - and this is what friends don't do normally - he won't tell you he loves it when he doesn't. We had gone to see his friend Simon 'Fierce Panda' Williams' band the week before who were being primed by Simon for rock stardom. Incidentally, Simon's band Capital were on the same bill at the Dublin Castle as a band called Ham Sandwich, which surely must be evidence that the world has finally run out of band names. Anyway, Steve will be frank with both myself and Simon, I'm sure. Obviously, I hope he likes both but COME ON - my band are far better!

And indeed in London, they didn't disappoint. Alongside Steve there were radio, press and other members of the PR and radio team and the show was absolute proof that a couple of weeks on the road really sharpens up a band. There were even a couple of posh St Trinian's type girls down at the front who apparently Myspaced the band the following day with obscene promises for the next time the band come to the capital.

By the end of the evening I was on a high, made sweeter by Artrocker promoter Paul telling me that he wasn't going to charge me for the extra guest list. Again I've known Paul for years. Don't get me wrong, when I say I know people I don't always mean they've been coming round for Christmas or we share amusing anecdotes over bottles of Merlot, it just means that we have met occasionally and said hello during the eons we've been in the business. And when I say a long time... well, I'm old enough to remember Paul Cox coming into my office at East West with a cassette of PJ Harvey, Too Pure Records a mere twinkle in his eye.

As I stood at the bar drinking with the band, a short grey-haired man came up to them
"Are you XXXXXXXXX?"
"I thought you were great! I'm Andy Gill from Gang Of Four..."

It was a lovely end to the evening and one that consoled me as I sat swaying side to side on the nightbus as it weaved along the Lee Bridge Road. Now for that night in.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Punch up in a hotel room

I'm standing in a hotel room drinking a bottle of Becks, watching a man and a woman fighting on the bed. The man looks a bit like the guy out of the 118 adverts and the woman is attractive but looks like she could do some damage. She pulls the man's hair from the behind so he is forced back down on the bed, whereupon she straddles him and slaps him hard in the face. The other witnesses in the room, standing alongside me and around the foot of the bed all cheer. What the hell am I doing? We'll get to that, but all in good time.

It's Bank Holiday weekend and I'm in Glasgow. That's dedication for you. Or stupidity. One of the two. Or maybe both. Yes, both; this is what being a manager is about, I think. It makes no financial sense to book a band to play in a far-off town for £50 and yet, if two, or perhaps three people, see them and think they're good, tell their mates ... Anyway, the band are playing their hometown this weekend and it's a good opportunity for me to spend some time with them, talk about the rest of the year and perhaps share a couple of air-punches over the fact that we've GOT GLASTONBURY! The holy grail of live bookings is ours, my friends! It would be nice to be able to claim that it was my own managerial prowess that snaffled this but the truth is, the band are making friends.

They were put on the Radio 1 Introducing Stage shortlist by Radio 1 Scotland's Vic Galloway and his producer (apparently called Muslim). This of course didn't guarantee anything. Every regional BBC show nominates its favourite acts for the stage and then a select panel of voters at Radio are given a USB stick full of 100s of bands to vote on. This latter bit of information was relayed to me by Steve Lamacq after I got back from Glasgow (a very amusing evening was had in his company, which I'll tell you about in another blog). He told me that alongside all the luminaries like him, Huw Stephens and the usual folks who work in Specialist (the evening shows are called Speicialist in case you didn't know - as if the DJs have no idea about pop music but could tell you a few things about Cheeky Cheeky And The Nosebleeds), alongside these people is Gary Lightbody - you know, the singer from much maligned but does-my-face look-bothered-with-all-this-cash? Snow Patrol. It would be nice to think we got the Scottish vote from Gazza but somehow I don't think he's heard of us yet. No matter, Steve definitely voted for us, as did Huw Stephens so I suspect that these two votes were enough to secure us our place in Pilton on the Sunday.

All this seems a long way away as I find myself at Prestwick Airport again, with its ludicrous purple decor and cheap scrawly logo with the slogan Pure Dead Brilliant written in six foot high letters on all the walls. What is that about? It's a popular Glaswegian expression from the 70s apparently and used in various TV shows. By this logic we should give Stanstead the slogan 'I Don't Believe It!' Apparently PDB sounds better if you pronounce it with the local burr - so 'brilliant' sounds like 'brulliant'. Well, that's that sorted then... Didn't anyone in the marketing meeting reflect on it being an airport so a large number of people there will be tourists who wouldn't know Big Ben from Ben Nevis, let alone any regional accents, and secondly, it sounds just as rubbish with or without adopting a Shrek voice. That's what Maddy now calls all Scottish accents by the way. Thanks, Mike Myers. Actually, let's be honest, the main reason this slogan is terrible is the use of the word 'dead' in conjunction with air travel - surely someone must have pointed this out to the Prestwick marketing people. Prestwick Airport: Your Life In Our Hands! In fact, someone needs to focus them on the Presley thing - how about Prestwick Airport: Fly The Mystery Plane! Now that would be pure dead brilliant.

I arrive in Glasgow after the 40 minute train ride, a route that includes a stop at the brilliantly named Troon. Not only is it the loveliest word but it also looks like the residents of Troon (just say it to yourself!) have a pure dead brilliant time playing golf the whole day. Cheers!

Tonight I'm staying in the Merchant City which is where the band are playing on Sunday night. Saturday they are booked to play at The Barfly and soundcheck is not for a few hours yet so I wander around town enjoying the perfect weather. Again, I marvel at the fact that I've discovered another previously unknown-to-me area of Glasgow - The Merchant City, who knew? Beautiful nineteenth century buildings, scrubbed up and sleek, full of boutiques and coffee bars and very stylish people. Why have I never heard of this place before? They need Preswick's marketing team. They'd probably give it the tagline 'We're All Doomed!'

Actually what it needs is Stonehenge's PR people. I remember once driving down to Wool Hall recording studio in Bath with Alex James and Stephen Duffy in the mid '90s. For some reason we were taking a scenic route, possibly the A303, which passes right by Salisbury Plain. Over on the right was the monument, so near that we could even see tourists looking at it. None of us had seen Stonehenge before and we all felt the same thing at the same time: it's SMALL. Alex, sparking up another Camel, flicked the Britpop hair out of his eyes and said, "Who does its press?". Whoever does it needs to do Glasgow Merchant City's too. My hotel The Merchant Lodge was just under £50 a night, situated in a lovely old tobacco baron's house, and literally around the corner from the main shopping mile Argyle street (with all the pleasure and pain associated with HMV, Marks and Spencers and Argos), whilst being deep in the peaceful sandy-coloured Merchant City. For all this, I still find myself in Fopp, ogling the racks of £5 albums, hypnotised by the temptation of endless cheap classic rock whilst mourning its loss in value.

The real meat of the weekend was the band's show on the Sunday night. They were playing as part of - and pretty much headlining - an event called Get A Room. This is something that has been going for about six years and is essentially a one day festival with the twist that all the acts are playing in the Brunswick Hotel in the Merchant City. Actually, there's even more of a twist to it that this, because the Brunswick is a boutique hotel with all the space restrictions you'd expect from 'contemporary minimalist accommodation' . So the main stage is on a mezzanine looking over the bar, there are acoustic acts playing up in the Penthouse Suite as well as more acts in the dimly lit basement. The audience are similar to the people who turned up to the band's Warehouse launch: all the women are immaculate in heels and strappy dresses, all the men have facial hair and look like they just got out of bed. Both sexes probably spent the same amount of time getting ready.

As I arrive, the band are seated nonchalantly outside. "Alright, Bro?" says Jack. It's an in-joke, one that even as I write it, I find myself laughing about. And like all in-jokes, especially on-the-road band in-jokes, it loses much in translation but basically the whole group now call each other 'bro' because it's a favourite word of their tour manager, the redoubtable George. George is a rangy, bearded man but has a voice in a register that seems slightly at odds with this demeanor. I can't describe the way he utters the word 'bro' other than identifying a little rolled R which is possibly an Inverness thing. Suffice to say, like any tiny observation, once pointed out it becomes magnified and thus funnier. The band are now exploring the other possibilities of the 'bro' word and are currently calling each other Broseph.

Tour banter always produces one or two catch phrases as well as games - Let The Bass Player Order First was one a band I worked with always played, based on the fact that their hapless bassist always chose the dish on the menu that looked least appetising when it arrived. Another game involved guessing band names from cryptic clues such as James Juggles Chickens. This is the only example of this game I can remember (maybe someone out there remembers more?) because the clues were so impenetrable. The answer to the James Juggles Chickens clue, by the way, is Jimmi Hendrix. Why? Jimmy Hen Tricks. See, easy when you know. I remember asking the band member who guessed this how the hell he managed to get it,"I've got nothing else in my brain." he shot back.

George is inside the hotel being important. The Studio Warehouse, which he co-runs, are doing the sound for Get A Room and he's been all day setting up three PAs in small rooms. We go in and watch the first band on - Ming Ming and The Ching Chings . Our Scottish promoter has recommended them to me but it's hard to get over the name. They're another example of the death of the good name (something I've written a piece about for The Guardian) and despite the fact that she's right, they would sound good on a bill with The Tings Tings and Joe Lean and The Jing JangJongs, it doesn't make them that interesting. Better are Sonny Marvello who are playing up in the Penthouse - they are doing an acoustic set and showing a healthy display of songwriting ability. It's good to hear some finely written tunes at events like this, where you expect most acts are going to exciting for other reasons - looks, quirk, performance. One of the acts in this latter camp are Lux who are up next in the basement. The female singer from Lux spends about 20 minutes before she goes on wandering around the venue in a figure-hugging gold lame jump suit. She looks amazing but this aesthetic success turns out to be inversely proportionate to the quality of Lux's music, which is a experimental keyboard dirge made by her and her shouty partner. Someone says it's their last ever gig tonight and it's not hard to think they've might the right decision to knock it on the head.

As I walk up the stairwell, Jack beckons me onto one of the floors of the actual hotel. Hello, I think, at last a crazy rock and roll sexy drugs party, here we go! "Have a look in there!" says Jack and directs me to Room 105 along the corridor. The door opens and I'm transported to another world, Mr Ben-style. We're in a tiny room, made tinier by the fact there are about a dozen people crammed into it. On the bed is the 118 man I mentioned in the opening paragraph with his sparring partner. There are several photographers crouched at the foot of the bed and assorted folk jostling for space in the doorway behind us. We are at an 'installation', a 'happening'... a live exhibition.

Once you get over the novelty value of watching two people pretending to have a fight, your mind starts wandering. What are we doing here? Why are we all so interested? Why are we being so quiet? It's all very strange and possibly pseudo-intellectual because after all, we didn't question why we were watching a shouting girl in gold lame five minutes before. The slapping and yanking continues. A couple of times they both fall off the bed and it becomes a comedy caper. You can even see that they are finding it funny. Then it's heads down again and the fight continues. Jack's mobile goes off as the couple slog it out. "Hello" he answers, "I'm in a meeting." The room erupts with laughter - more the laughter of relief than anything else, it is now beginning to feel weird. Suddenly, the couple stop and lie next to one another on the bed, panting. The crowd don't know what to do. In the end I start clapping and everyone joins in. Still the couple don't move so we start filing out. One of the festival organisers shouts from outside "There'll be another event happening in one of the other rooms on this floor in ten minutes!" I never find out what this is.

Back down at the bar, another band called Pooch are playing. They're pretty good but by far and away the main attraction as far as I'm concerned is the drummer - she's amazing. Best female drummer I've seen in years. She's helped by the fact that the mezzanine stage is lit from the back so the light falls directly on the drum riser. This makes her look like the focal point of the band and in many ways she is. She manages to absolutely play the heart out of the kit whilst looking immaculate complete with a triangular design on her cheek - a motif shared by the singer. The Swindon girl band have got a cool-looking, great drummer too but this Pooch girl is dressed like something off the Mighty Boosh, all 80s hair, silk dress, leggings and heels. Frankly it's a riddiculous costume that anyone else would look stupid in, but she manages to pull it off. If I had met her before and been asked to guess which instrument she played, drums would be down on my list next to dulcimer. After the show they claim to be massive fans of the Scottish band and ask if they can support.

By the time the Scottish band hit the stage, everyone is reasonably well oiled. Apart from me - the night before is beginning to take its toll. After the Barfly show, we had gone for a 'quick drink' and ended up having a odyssey sponsored by Tenants. It's all a bit of blur but I do remember doing a lot of walking, Jack getting approached by some girls to have his picture taken with them, someone falling over in a chip shop - not one of us, I stress - drinking pints in a converted church next to someone's half-eaten birthday cake and ending up at William's - where earlier he had cooked us all supper before the show - talking about Queen. Or at least I was talking about Queen. Not the Queen like last time - although I think we touched on her - but Queen the pop group. I think I may have said they were my favorite band of all time just to grab some attention. I got back to the Merchant Lodge at about a million o clock, went to bed, then got woken up a couple of minutes later by reception telling me I had slept through the check-out deadline. Why hadn't I booked for two nights? Don't ask, it's too tedious to go into.

Anyway, the band had carried on drinking after I left them and now fast forward to Sunday night and they're doing a show and are on searing form, whilst I am leaning against the bar and adopting a managerial frown. Because of the position of the stage we're all looking up at a 45 degree angle which is bizarre but seems to work for them - you can really see Robert on drums and Jack is pulling all the shapes in the book. Once again I feel suffused with pride at how good they are.

By the time the show is over and we've had a chat and another beer I am finished. I can't look at any more attractive people, I can't consume any more lager, I can't say anything of any interest. Also, it occurs to me, I am ravenous. I had a massive lunch at breakfast time and haven't eaten since. Fortunately there appears to be the best takeaway in the world just around the corner from the Brunswick so I say my goodbyes and wander off in its direction. I am tempted by the Haggis and chips but in the end plump for chips accompanied by a deeply red saveloy.

Down in London it's been raining all weekend, whilst up here it's 1am and still balmy as I meander back to my hotel. I am glad to be alive, pure dead ebullient.