Another Tale of Two Cities (With a Dickens Connection)

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized


                 I’m going to keep the names of the venues and towns anonymous, but only because I may work the one I didn’t like again someday. They were consecutive Fridays in Northern England, one where we were treated like invited special guests, another where we weren’t, to put it mildly. Amazing too that these two towns are only about 10 miles from each other, and both gigs were in old theatre spaces.

                     On Friday the 11th, it was a theatre that seated 1600, though we only had about a third of that in attendance. The room had been around since the 19th Century, and legend has it that Charles Dickens had read some of his works from the same stage 150+ years ago. From Dickens to Dick Jokes, what a transition! Who knows, maybe Dickens himself told a few just to shake things up a bit. I can only hope he was treated better than us performers were. 

                      What usually happens when we arrive at these venues is there’s always someone to meet and greet and escort us to our dressing rooms, though we usually share a single room. That’s not a problem, we usually interact on some levels, though there are a few comics on the UK circuit that are more difficult than others. That wasn’t a problem here, for even though I’d had issues with one of the comics in the past, that seemed to have been a one-off. We managed to keep a steady flow of conversation right up until showtime. 

                         Which was good that we talked among ourselves, as there was no one from the venue that seemed to give a right fuck about any of us until it was time to start the show. As no staff members came by to see if everything was OK, we were mostly left to our own devices. There was absolutely NOTHING for us in the dressing room, not even water. We were forced to brave the crowd at the bar just to pay for bottles of still water, which at £2 each, didn’t exactly make things merry.

                        The show started on time, and the audience of about 500 seemed to enjoy themselves. The two comics that went on left after their sets, one to do another venue, the other to go back to the hotel and crash early. That left just me and the emcee. Since I was closing, and I arrived at the venue when they were seating people, I opted to wait until the interval to sound check my guitar. This option, which I didn’t think to be the most cardinal of sins, would be treated as such.

                            During the interval, I was in the dressing room talking to the emcee, then remembered I hadn’t sound checked, thus began a quest for the evasive sound man. I found him, but he had more pressing issues, most specifically, a cigarette to be smoked. Having been a smoker on and off for many years (quit last year), I understood the addiction, let him go for it. But then, when he came back in, he spent a great deal of his energy talking to the stage door attendant, ignoring me as I stood about five feet away, guitar in hand. When I thought I’d “Ahem-ed” enough to get his attention, he said they’d do it right before they start the second half. I said, “Fine, but what if there’s a problem?” His abrupt answer was “Well, this should have been done before the show started.” I was still annoyed at the lack of attention we’d already received, so in a rare bit of attitude, I told him, still in as nice a way as possible, that given the shitty way we’ve been treated all night, the last thing I needed was to be told 

that this was somehow MY fault. I caught myself before a swear word could be uttered, and said, “Look, let’s just get it done!”


                              The sound check took all of 30 seconds out of this asshole’s life, but I guess they were crucial seconds, and he was still resenting it, because when I was brought out on stage, it took at least 30 seconds from the time I plugged in to the time I actually had sound. Was he fucking with me, or was he just incompetent? Either one was inexcusable, and thankfully I never had to encounter him again. I was still seething the next day, and e-mailed a complaint to the booker, something I’m not sure I’ve ever done, but I wanted to make sure he got the word from me before this dickhead had a chance to complain about ME being one. The booker assured me he’d “have a word.”

                              Fast forward to Friday the 18th, at a town hall about ten miles away from the previous venue. There was no Dickensian history to bandy about, though the venue looked equally as old, albeit with a smaller seating capacity . What a contrast otherwise! From the moment I entered, a 30-ish female was right there to say, “Are you Rick?” When I said yes, she introduced herself, then introduced me to the sound man who was only a few feet away. As we’re doing sound check, she’s asking me if there’s anything else I need, and tells me she’s already stocked the dressing room with sodas and water. The other comics are already there, an even nicer bunch than the previous week, and our lively conversation was only interrupted by the occasional re-appearance of this lovely woman to remind us of minutes until showtime, and wondering if there’s anything we needed. When I asked if there was time to go to the bar and get a beer, she said, “Oh I can bring you some beers! What would you like?” Would ANYONE from last Friday have gone beyond the call of duty and actually fetched us some FREE beer? We’ve come to expect that, since thankfully most of the stage managers we come in contact with are like this young lady, not like the mostly absent staff from the week prior.

                                  They weren’t done with the niceties, either. The show itself was really fun, with a bright, spirited bunch, and to be fair, even last week’s crowd was friendly enough, but I couldn’t enjoy it as much, given the distractions. After the show, they had an Indian buffet, and while it was only intended for the audience members, this same lady must have been psychic, for she asked us if we’d like a meal. This was icing on the cake, though about all that was missing was cake. Oh yeah, and one guy came up to tell me he thought I was a genius. Really, we do enough shit gigs throughout the year where they become exercises in crowd control as much as anything else. To have such unified support from wire to wire is one of those things you remember. 

                                Too bad we have better recall of the crap gigs than the great ones, maybe because there’s more of the latter. 





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