To Bedford Way, just off Bloomsbury Square, to the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes under the Tavistock Hotel. I'd never been there before but I was immediately struck by what a fun place it was. They've done it all up with 50s American bowling imagery and the space is indeed dominated by bowling lanes, though they also do food and have four or five private rooms for lager-fulled karaoke sessions. It was busy and quite buzzing, and I thought, "Oh, good we actually have an audience to play to." Not only that, but a poster in the gents revealed that only the week before the Fun Lovin' Criminals had graced the very stage upon which we were to perform.
I quickly realised, however, that all those people had come there to drink and bowl, not to listen to bands. The stage was in one corner at the foot of the lanes; most of the bowlers ignored us, though I did wonder if they weren't rather annoyed by the noise. Every now and then a punter would step up across the corner of the stage as a short cut to the bar. If you add up the people who were actually listening to the music, you just had the usual handful, almost all of whom were in the five bands performing, plus the odd shaven-headed punter who paused in passing—whether in rapture at the siren sounds or in neanderthal perplexity, I could not say.
Needless to say, it was a bit of a cock-up. I think the promoter told me that the house drum kit had been missing so he'd had to go to another venue to get one. Anyway by the time I rolled up around eight no one had soundchecked. The first band was rushed on, and it was a game of catch-up after that. Our set was trimmed to 25 minutes but seemed to go down well with the audience (i.e. the other bands), and we had the honour of seeing The Teeth, a band that we all independently decided were perfect for the Cirque de Crème Anglaise: come and see them on Friday 14th May!
Strangest of all was the end of the night. I like to make a point of watching the other bands, if only out of courtesy. Immediately after us were a band called "Moses and the…" (I didn't catch the rest) with an intriguing Everley-Brothers-go-Indie sound. Then came Speak and the Spells. I know from listening to their MySpace that they have a kind of surf/garage rock sound, but I never found out in the flesh—after waiting 15 or 20 minutes for them to get ready, fiddling with sounds and effects pedals, occasionally shrugging at the sound man in a what-the-fuck? idiom, while the sound man shrugged back at them in the same way, I gave up and went home.
It was already 11.30 by this time and as I left the bouncers were warning incomers that they were closing in half an hour. I thought to myself that if Speak and the Spells wanted to complete their set they had better get a move on.
Neil, who is the hardiest of the Furbelows and always stays to the end of every gig, sometimes the only person in the audience, tells me that in the end the band were pulled off stage by the bouncers and beaten up. Kind of squalid, but, as Neil observes, kind of rock and roll.