The light clicks on over the sound desk behind me. A man walks past in a Navy officer’s jacket with stripes on the arm. The tables at the front of the stage are cleared away. Working on the railroad for a dollar a day blasts out.
We’re on the ground floor of the Camden Monarch. 8.46pm – things are about to kick off. Not in a bad way. Buzz building. Drummer sits down in plaid shirt. Takes half a pint of lager with him on stage. Girl with rucksack puts a drink on the keyboard. Loses rucksack. Audience starts to fill the wooden floor in front of the stage. Which is a foot off the ground in front of the window. Can see the traffic going past outside. White T shirted guitarist flips on his pale guitar. Strings stick up wildly from the neck. Here we go
‘Good evening we’re The Walk Uprights, this one’s called No Control. The next song seemed to be called Tented Wife. About a woman who wears a burka maybe, or perhaps I misheard. A four piece: drums, bass, guitar, keys.
‘Anyone got any serviettes?’ Beer spilt all over drum kit. Not so rock and roll. Dee on vocals for new one, great guitar riff starts it off, these boys can make some melodic noise. A new pint comes on for the drummer between songs. Jeans and tees. Stuffed fox above the bar. iPod headphones hanging from bassist’s pocket. Burgundy curtain behind the stage half open. Bus stop outside. Burger and chips go past at head height. Band laughing musical bridge. Singer salutes. Factory days. The 24 to Pimlico pulls up outside. Black top, pharaohic necklace. ‘Big up for Cursor Major! They might have freebie eps! No. Yes freebies for all!’
‘This one’s for Melissa’. Precise. All hitting beats, bass interlude, great bassline. People watching through the window. Thank you and straight into the Beatles. Day tripper.
21.16 crowd getting into the dancing vibe.
Looking around: Antlers. Portraits of monarchs. Big free-standing image of a dress you can stand behind and have your photo taken as though you are Queen Elizabeth. Not the current one, the one from the Cate Blanchett film.
Next up The Harlots. Straight on stage. Is it fair having the world’s most successful band playing between sets?
Pint by mike stand this time. Another rucksack on stage. This one’s brown. Four piece again. Two guitars, bass, drums. Final tuning, set list on floor, check amp. About to go. Lead singer takes capo. Then takes guitar off and walks off stage with pint. Back to Beatles.
Chandeliers. Thumbs up. ‘Yeah yeah yeah’ sings McCartney before being de-volumed for the new lead singer to shout:
‘Hello, we are The Harlots from London!’
‘Go on son,’ someone shouts.
Tap of sticks. A wall of guitar sound. Nice one leg moves from lead. Heart tap. Powerful voice. Plaintive voice as moans things will work out fine. Cried swaying feedback. Stand ups now drinking and listening.
Wipes forehead, announces an incomprehensible website address – a couple of slashes in it. Heavier. Sideways. Skinnier jeaned, more beards, well The Walk Uprights did have a girl so that lowers the possible beard count.
‘Had a bit of a cold’.
Stage not big enough for much movement. Too low for stage diving. Looks genuinely pleased with applause. Fiery, jangling, powerful – these guitars work well together. Three mikes but it’s just the singer really. Bass joins in a bit. Most songs start with a fierce guitar intro. Apoyo xxx mutuo on back of t shirt of tall man now standing in front of me. Constant stream of people walking past – I think I must be on the route to toilets. Two more songs, a deeper intro.
Dancing getting crazier, then the end. ‘Thank you’ and Tom Jones kicks in. The dance floor fills. The bearded burgundy jacket that’s been sitting to my right must be in the Cursors. He gets up and starts fiddling with equipment. Where to put handbags whilst dancing becomes an issue – not for him, for some girls nearby. Shout. Robotic dancing. Beach boys. I get around. Both bands serious music machines. Think Cursor will be more light hearted. Marvellous head of hair on lead. The beadiest – all three axe men. A very complicated footboard appears.
Older. They all have beards! Not sure why that’s exciting. Retro amp at front of stage. Lead is setting up in front of the stage down amongst us all. Oh no, a fifth member who is beardfree. Or maybe he’s a roadie. He’s adjusting the lights now.
Lead plugs in guitar. List on floor. Beardless is sound guy, we’re OK. Two guitars, bass, drums. Police patterned guitar strap. Drummer doing yoga – no, trying to get earplugs from behind his back. Final tune up. Whistles. Trilby on guitarist – has been a hatless evening ’til now. ‘Two two, check check, give me a slap. Not feeling it on the face. Bit more.’
‘Welcome to Cursor Major let’s do this!’
Drummer jumping out of seat. Bassist shaking. Dancing around. Lead singer walks towards me, no towards nearby sound desk. Sound man: ‘hell yeah’.
‘Not coming through. Need to check that. Spirit in the sky?’
‘There’s a lead going to the mixing desk.’ Guitar off. Snazzy blue guitar.
‘OK, thanks very much. We had this slick performance planned!’
Track two. The singer moves more than the others as he’s on the dance floor. But out of the spotlight, can’t take photos. Lighter moments. More varied. The aural assault
Guitar lead like an old USA phone. Long and curly. Like Roseanne’s.
More than just guitars these huge pedal boards distorting the sound Drinking water. Or a lot of vodka. All in jackets two leather blousons, one burgundy smoking jacket and a black coat. Drummer will be shattered after this. ‘We love it!’
Sign: Free ear plugs. Now holding guitar by neck by side. Red hot fever. Long haired guitarist stands relatively calm. Other three move. Somehow the drummer who is sitting down is moving the most. This is the one. 27 to Chiswick Business Park pulls up, loads up, drives off.
Guitarist joins in on the cymbals. Yes. Great tunes. Top of amp filling up with empty bottles. It’s not usual. ‘I saw you dancing to Tom Jones. This is for all you Tom Jones lovers!’ Wild then a glockenspiel kicks in and takes the tension away. For a moment. Guitars off before song finished. Hugs. And the clear up begins. Leads out. Looped together. Plugs out. All the way from Bristol.
Amps carried past me upstairs. Dancing fewer but wilder. Pretty woman.