The last gig of the tour was last Friday in Dunfermline, and I'm sure you've all been driving yourself mad with tenterhooks wondering how it went. So here's how it went.
Firstly, we got lost. That is absolutely the last time I trust Multimap.com. So we were about two hours late for the soundcheck. Oops.
As it turned out, though, that didn't matter a bit. The promoters were lovely laid-back friendly people, and the first band were still soundchecking when we arrived and, indeed, were still soundchecking more than half an hour after we'd arrived. They had oodles of high-tech equipment on stage: they were running a huge rack of effects off a laptop which was warping the sound of most of their instruments in real time. They even had their own snare-drum mic, so that they could sod around with the snare sound live. How very tiresome. This is the sort of thing that big stadium bands can get away with but that bands on the local gigging circuit should avoid. Too much stuff to go wrong and too much time wasted during soundcheck, delaying other bands. And a waste of time, too: I've seen loads of electronic bands waste an hour or so setting up eight or nine keyboards just because they use them all at home, then make maybe ten different sounds, all of which are available on just one keyboard. If you're going to play live, put some thought into your set-up: keep it minimal.
At least, that's what I usually say. But I quickly took it all back, since the offenders on this occasion — Laki Mera, they were called — were quite, quite brilliant. They're the only band I've ever seen in a pub-size venue to use loads and loads of technology and to use every last bit of it to great effect. I was blown away by how good they were, and I just want to buy their records now. Which is tricky, 'cause they don't have any. They make atmospheric, murky, mournful, jazz melodies with clattering drums and odd riffs and a non-gratuitous cellist, sounding a bit like Lamb, a bit like Alpha, and a bit like Crustation — their singer sounds a lot like the great Bronagh Slevin — so that's like a mixture of three of my favourite bands ever, right there. Talking to them afterwards, I discovered that they haven't heard of any of those names, which made me feel a bit old: they must be listening to the bands that listened to Alpha, Lamb, and Crustation. I also discovered that their singer once did some vocals for Colin Bailey, our ex-bassist. Small world.
The other thing they told me was that, despite sounding absolutely fucking amazing to me, they thought the gig had been dreadful. We were shortly to discover why.
The sound engineer, Mick, was excellent. He knew the rig back to front and got a great sound for us at the soundcheck: superb out front, and great monitoring on stage. Then he went away, leaving his assistant in charge. We thought something might be wrong as soon as we went on stage, when we were asked to provide signals to check the levels. For the non-musicians reading, this is how a gig works: you soundcheck so that the engineer can get you sounding just right; the engineer takes a note of all the settings; later, you go on stage and the engineer need only read their notes and return the knobs and faders to where they were to give you the same sound. Having soundchecked earlier, it's highly unusual to be asked to provide levels again when the gig starts. The engineer should already know the levels.
In short, the great, near-perfect sound we had during the soundcheck was never to be heard again. After a couple of songs, it got even worse: the engineer removed all vocals from the monitors for some reason, so Donna couldn't hear herself — bad news for any singer. We asked in vain for it to be turned up again. Tsk.
Apparently, we played quite well. It's a shame we didn't get to hear it.
Anyway, Laki Mera, eh? Amazing.