Thursday, 26 April 2012

Canterbury Fails (and Other Stories)

"Le Tissier, Le Tissier, Le Tissier!" 
- MPH's opening quip during a colourful performance at The Hobbit, Southampton, April 2011.

It seems like I caused a bit of a stir with my last piece. Unfortunately, but IMPORTANTLY, I was merely having a lot of fun with language, possibly too much fun, but still, I would rather keep this thing alive with controversial words instead of just saying nothing (of interest) or failing to pack a punch. Inspiration comes from strange and unexpected places in these bizarre times we're living in. Trouble seems to follow me around, who knows why? Am I doing something wrong? I am doing something so SHOCKINGLY DIFFERENT? Well, maybe I am, but who cares? You're reading this filth and loving it. Face it, you are nothing but a tragically disturbed loser of some sort, probably riddled with angst, morbidly consumed by bitterness and hungry for tales of self-destructive hilarity. OK then, you filthy sadists, you spiteful little bastards, let me spin you a couple of short tales derived from gigs during that bright, yet vicious, April of 2011. The following is a dodgy roller-coaster ride through a crazy time, a darkly euphoric period which saw the fabulous Miss Halliwell playing her final shows in the most unlikely of places.

At one point, late on in the night, standing alone in the war-torn gents toilets at the back of The Hobbit, feeling slightly concerned about what might happen to me once I set foot back inside the main bar area, I found myself urinating onto my own website. Some of our flyers had fallen from above the urinal trough and landed with the web address facing upwards. I found this fairly amusing, tainted with more than a hint of painful metaphorical truth, but then, I was fairly drunk, not out of control, but well oiled to say the least. Miss Halliwell, that dirty, mischievous, transgender, post-modern-rock bitch, had put in the kind of insane performance you would have expected from her at that stage in her career. The post-fight mood was that of triumph, unexpected praise flooded in from surprising angles and the whole venue seemed to have livened up due to our best efforts. It's true that we had come a long way to play at this less than inspiring rock club, but our friends and fans from The South were grateful and thrilled by the show, surging into a frenzy of drink before and after our atmosphere creating set. But it seemed that conjuring up a truly buzzing vibe, travelling all that way, even bringing a little crowd of crazy drinkers with us, was not enough to deserve being paid, or even earn a couple of free drinks. As I stood there, pissing directly onto my own name, I remembered a conversation I had with one of the barmen just after I came off stage...

"Not even a cheap lager?" I bitterly questioned the barman.
"Nope, as I said, you can have a free coke, but that's it," he grunted, disinterested.
"That's pathetic," I snarled, "I've just ripped my heart and brain to shreds on stage, it was a massive performance, and you can't offer me one measly pint of lager?"
"We can't give away free alcohol," he sniffed.
"Fuck's sake, give us a coke then," I conceded, my thirst for any kind of cold fizzy drink had taken over. I went back outside to smoke a cigarette, taking sips of pop, feeling the slump rising, that nasty feeling of being unloved, unappreciated...disrespected.

A good friend of mine, let's call him Ronaldo, had managed to round up his troops and bring a decent little crowd of supporters along to the gig. They gave us loads of praise, congratulating me on the development of the group's sound and applauding the fresh comedic elements. One of the lads, however, decided to point out that even though we had a moderate crowd, the band who came on after us (a cock rock band), currently on stage at that moment, had got loads and loads of people watching them, "loads more than you guys," he said.
For some reason I launched into a restrained, yet relentless, twenty minute rant into this guy's ear. I was saying stuff like, "stop being so bloody pessimistic," and "why won't you just suck my dick?" but, sadly, nothing seemed to hit home or ring true.

Earlier in the day, after watching The Grand National at a chain-pub in the city centre, we (the band) found ourselves happily walking along the pavement next to the huge road which leads out of town, headed towards the inevitable Travelodge, when, out of nowhere, a huge monster of a skinhead bloke on a push bike came hurtling towards us, forcing the group to jump out of the way. Fiboard came the closest to being hit head on, she stood up to the rotten beast and he seemed genuinely shocked. He launched himself from the bike towards her and looked ready to throw a punch, as did Fiboard. In this crazy moment of unexpected violent confrontation my mind went into an almost perfect calm, a slow motion effect took control of my vision and I knew this had to be resolved with efficient grace and sharp psychological manoeuvres. I stepped in, sent the rest of the troops off in the direction they were headed in the first place, and then, like some kind of criminal psychologist genius, I successfully managed to get inside the mind of the thug. "I've just got out of prison," he said, implying that we should have known better. By the time I had subdued this tragic scum-bag the rest of the band were about fifty metres away. "You would be good in prison," the monster grunted as he peddled off, which left me feeling slightly confused. Did he mean I would be good working AT THE PRISON or actually IN PRISON?

There was no such thing as "efficient grace" or "sharp psychological manoeuvres" at the end of the night, things ended up running more along the lines of TOTAL INSANITY. Someone, possibly me, knocked a small glass over on the floor in the large beer garden. I bent down to shift the worst bits of broken glass, dropping shards into the remains of the base, as you do, when I looked up to see the same barman who had previously refused to grant me even just one free pint of fizzy alcoholic piss. He was looking down on me, literally and metaphorically, his eyes were snake-like and he seemed to be filled with hate. Just as I saw that humourless fuck staring at me I cut a tiny slit in the end of my finger on the glass.

"Move out of the way," he snapped, "I've got to clean this up!"
"Alright man, there's hardly anything there," I replied with a surprising amount of calmness, "I've cleared most of it up."
"You're not supposed to clear it up!" he blurted. A few seconds must have passed, I saw Sarah making her exit, some sort of premonition, no doubt, she knew there was about to be some fireworks.
"Excuse me, mate," I said quietly, "why are you such a depressing little wanker?"
"What? What did you call me?" he sounded hurt.
"I didn't call you anything, man. What I asked you was, 'Why are you such a depressing little wanker?'"
"...Oh...OK then," he mumbled, stared at the floor and then walked swiftly upstairs into the bar.

At this point I was glad that we had already packed our gear into the van and parked it a fair distance away. I knew that whatever happened from here on in wouldn't be too much of a problem as long as we only had ourselves to worry about. This turned out to be true, to a certain extent, because when I returned to the bar area upstairs I was seized, within about thirty seconds, by two giant sized versions of "Cousin Itt" from The Addams Family. I can't really remember what happened between being hoisted up by those two monsters and finding myself outside the venue, slamming my fists in a rage against the wall, trying to push myself back inside via the front door, surrounded by my band, my friends and my fans. I stopped abruptly. I heard sirens. I saw lights. Those miserable fuckers had called the fucking police.

"Whoever best acquits himself, and tells
The most amusing and instructive tale,
Shall have a dinner, paid by us all,
Here in this roof, and under this roof-tree,
When we come back again from Canterbury" - Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Prologue.

We were, possibly naively, billed as the "Alternative Wedding Band," on a day of national royalist celebration, in a historic English cathedral city. This is a place where you can easily provoke the conservative locals by doing or saying pretty much anything, shirtless, with a mildly confrontational Black Country accent adding extra zest to the proceedings. Also, if you're wearing a seriously strange rubber mask, peeling with bright green and yellow acrylic paint, sticking your tongue out through the mouth hole while standing on a chair in the corner of a vaguely mainstream town-centre pub, shouting something along the lines of, "I'm a skeleton! I'm a SKELINGTON! You ignorant SCUM. God SHAVE the Queen," with a small group of sweaty girls and boys making a glorious rock n roll noise behind you, don't expect to be found amusing. Instead, expect the usual, condescending, mind numbing, soul destroying, utter bollocks, from those who should be thanking you. But who needs thanks, right? Fuck "THANKS". "Thanks" is WANK. OK? I prefer a full force punch in the stomach.

The bar 'manager', known as "Bobby", seemed pretty dislikeable from the start, with his mop of milky hair and his four-eyed humourless face. After lugging bits of our drum kit, amps, guitars etc. around the cobbled streets, we finally arrived at "Casey's", greeted by a wooden sign outside which said, "LIVE MUSIC TONIGHT, MISS HALLIWELL, THE ALTERNATIVE WEDDING BAND!". This was no doubt thanks to Rhiannon, our contact in that dubious neck of the woods, a wild young lady who seems to have dropped off our radar almost completely since then. We were allowed to leave our gear upstairs in an office which smelt like RAT SEMEN. We did our best to locate the source of the smell, the closest guess I had was when I found a Terry Pratchett book hidden underneath a plastic folder. After dropping our tools off we decided to go out and see the sights. It was a very mild, peaceful day, and we did our best to behave like sensible tourists for the majority of it.

Once again, the crunch came after we had finished the show. Our crew had dismantled the 'stage' and were piling stuff out the back. Sarah came up to me and quietly said, "Matt, they're saying that we're not getting paid," and then sadly continued to pack up her leads. I said nothing for a moment. All I could think about was the £200 which we had been promised as payment. "Leave this to me," I said reassuringly, "get the rest of the band to take as much of our equipment back to the van as they can right now, you stay here and guard what's left." I went back inside to inspect the stage. Everything was in order, I thanked the friendly sound-man but apologised in advance for the awkward scene that was about to unfold before his eyes. "They're going to try and not pay us for tonight," I told him, "I'm going to have to sort this out with the manager and it might be a little bit brutal," after which he was surprisingly supportive and didn't make a big deal of anything. Just then, right on cue, "Bobby" (the manager) turns up...

"Oh, hi Bobby," I blurted, "my guitar player just told me that you aren't going to pay us what we had agreed. Is this true?"
"Well, the thing is," Bobby mumbled, "I was going to pay you AN EXTRA £50 on top of the £200, but when you took your shirt off and started going crazy..."
"Hold on a second," I interrupted, "did you just say you were going to pay us an extra £50?"
"If you would let me finish, I was going to pay you extra UNTIL you started going crazy, people were leaving, we can't pay you what we had agreed now."
"OK. Here's what you're going to do, you're going to pay us £250 now instead."
"No, I can't do that."
"Yes, you can. You can go upstairs and tell the owner that you just offered me an extra £50 on top of the original payment. We're all packed up now, we're sorted and we just want our money."
"It's a sshame," Bobby stuttered nervously, "I was really enjoying the performance until you got out of hand, that's why I considered giving you extra money."
"Listen, you four-eyed FUCK," I snarled, "DO NOT DANGLE EXTRA CASH IN FRONT OF ME. I want my money here in ten minutes. It will be best for all of us if you can sort that out ASAP."

That milky little fart ended up bringing me the cash, £200, no "extra payment", but at least I made him count it all out in front of us on the table. Apparently, a couple of days later he ended up quitting his job as venue manager and he even left Canterbury altogether, running away from his shame like an infected albino rat escaping from its cage.

So that was it, other than playing our final show at "The Bull's Head" in Moseley, another venue I very much doubt that I will be invited back to for a while (is there some sort of a pattern emerging here?), Miss Halliwell was dead, lovingly executed by her master...
"What the fuck is wrong with this guy?" I'm sure you're asking. Well, let me see... whoa, shit, that's a long list. Look, no matter how much of me is clearly unhinged, unsavoury, or just plain difficult, please remember, I will still be violently clawing my way up this dangerous artistic ladder when most others have grown old and lost interest. Unless I die soon or get assassinated (both highly likely given my sick mind, plus I'm going to be twenty-seven in four months time), you had better get to grips with MPH and everything that goes with it. We are all sluts now.