The author, avoiding dismemberment in the land of the midnight sun (left). His bandmate in the Twentytwos was not so fortunate.
The author, avoiding dismemberment in the land of the midnight sun (left). His bandmate in the Twentytwos was not so fortunate.
Playing in Norway with Whitticombe Faire, and yes thats a Simmons kit!
Playing in Norway with Whitticombe Faire, and yes thats a Simmons kit!

Bizarre engagements

SEATTLE — A funny thing happened on the way to the merch tent ...

This week I'm going to take you through some of my more bizarre, err, engagements over the years.

My first professional gig of any duration was playing in a cabaret (hotel) band called Whitticombe Faire in Leeds, England. The singer boasted that I was the 37th drummer to grace "his" stage when I won him over at the audition. From then on every other show with them was screwed up in some way or other.

I should have seen the signs when two of the band quit the first night I went to watch them on New Year's Eve in Scotland. My first show would have been miming on guitar, had I not refused to do so the next day.

At any rate things, started to get really hairy in Norway. One show at the Batsfjord Royal Hotel, took place a week after a menage a trois gone awry. The wronged party proceeded to commit a double beheading on the steps of the establishment making national headlines. The atmosphere seemed tense in what looked like a roadside cafe and, sure enough, a never ending brawl took place during our third of four sets that night.

More Scottish mayhem ensued on the Tennent's Highlands and Islands tour with the Hollowmen. We entered the small town of Forres, home of the cult new age community Findhorn. Choque, our guitarist, noticed a rather nice looking Shell gas pump on the way in and disappeared right after soundcheck. The rest of us retired to our guest house, built for a family of midgets in the fifteenth century.

Consequently, Brian, our other guitar player knocked himself out on the ceiling while descending the stairwell. On arriving at the gig he took solace in the arms of a Findhorn runaway, who proceeded to attach colored metal plates to his torso with duct tape. So on we went, with Choque missing and Brian reading from his own hymn sheet.

The set started disastrously, and Brian seemed to be suffering some kind of amnesia, and at the back of the crowd I saw this pristine glass antique Shell sign, bobbing over a pair of shoulders, like a Frank Sidebottom headpiece: Its Choque! He bounded onstage, proudly rested his prize on top of his amp, slung his guitar and started playing.

In Spacehog we've played on boats, in bowling alleys, volleyball tournaments, you name it. But things got weird when we opened for Sex Pistols in Brazil. I think I was feeling particularly pleased with myself in Rio. The sun was setting behind the Sugar Loaf Mountain, Jesus was winking at me and I was winking back.

Then, out of my peripheral vision I saw this rotating structure. I thought maybe it was just one of the lights until BAM! I was hit in the head by a folding chair, thrown from the audience of the stadium. It almost knocked me right over as I was promptly brought back down to earth. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

But the No. 1 disaster gig was in The House Of Blues, New Orleans, in 2005 with The Twentytwos. At this point in my career I considered myself a master of Psychic Firefighting after seven years in the trenches with Royston and Antony Langdon. But these girls were on a whole other level of emotional terrorism. Lets just say two of them weren't getting along.

In fact, they weren't talking to each other. In fact, they were a cocktail away from killing each other! Things had reached critical mass in the Big Easy and as everyone knows, bad things happen in the Big Easy!

I had pretty much had enough of them at this point and disappeared for a couple a drinks with a girl O had met at a bar. A pretty girl, she told me she was a prominent actress, but seemed to be on first name terms with all the girls in the strip club next door. We then went and had our fortunes read before returning to the show. To my horror all three of the girls were smashed, could hardly walk, never mind play. Walking onstage that night felt like walking to a firing squad. After three songs the singer just fell offstage, landed on her guitar with a sickening amplified crunch. She remarkably got up (it was a six-foot drop) and continued to play to our shows conclusion.

I don't think we ever played together again, and it was a deadly quiet drive back to New York.

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