Two gigs, a festival, and a book

This week saw my highest number of gigs in a single week since March 2020, with a dizzying tally of two.

Monday’s gig just reinforced how much I hate driving to gigs, particularly those in city centres. I was down in Bristol. And despite having driven there many times, driving through the centre still confuses the hell out of me. If you get in the wrong lane then it’ll send you miles away from where you need to get to and stuck on the one-way system. Even the SatNav refuses to intervene and leaves me to it. Fortunately, some ultra last-minute lane changes saved me from that fate thanks to a considerate lady in the car behind me.

The gig was great fun. There must have been about 30 people in, which is an incredible turnout for a Tuesday night in July. And they were the best kind of crowd, weird and lively but engaged and willing to let acts go off on a tangent, as opposed to sitting with their arms crossed waiting to be impressed. My set went well and people said some very nice things afterwards. I was trying out a couple of bits of material that I’d not done post-Covid to see if they still worked, and it just so happens that they do. I had intended to try out some brand new material for Thursday’s gig but bottled it.

I need to do more gigs in Bristol. In fact, I need to do more gigs. Considering Bristol is my birthplace and only 30 miles from home, I haven’t done anywhere near as many gigs down there as I should have done over the years. Very early on in my comedy life, as in 16 years ago, I had a psychological block about never doing well at gigs in Bristol and would loudly berate myself afterwards on the drive back up the A38. Thankfully, this has changed with experience, for the most part.

And doing another gig is precisely what I did on Thursday, at 2000 Trees Festival. It was both my first music festival and my first time performing at a music festival. It was also about 30 minutes drive from my house and I was performing, which meant I was also getting in for free.

The day started pretty cloudily, which I was pleased about because I cannot function in the heat. Only for the blazing sun to arrive an hour or so before I was due to set off. I made a last-minute decision to take a bucket hat.

I’d planned to drive there in shorts, then change into jeans before I went on stage. It just feels weird doing a stand-up set in shorts, so I try and avoid it unless the heat makes it physically impossible. And when I arrived at the festival and got out of my car, the sun was blazing down and it was sweltering. I thought there would be no way I would be physically able to perform in shorts. Also, grabbing that bucket hat was already proving to be a good move.

I parked up in the artists’ area. That’s right, I am an artist. It’s not the best sign-posted festival, so I didn’t know where anything was or when bands would be on. I only knew the time I was meant to be on and that it was in the comedy tent. So, I went on a wander and it was baking. I walked through the centre of the festival, looking at tents and wondering what was in there. I didn’t think I’d be on in the metal tent, although I would love to give it a go. After wandering around for about 20 minutes, I found the Word tent. Was this the same as the comedy tent? It would appear so. I sat on one of the deck chairs that passed for seating and saw a couple of people walking to the backstage area. So, I explained how I was performing and asked if I could come backstage and store my bag somewhere. Then I walked out the back and almost immediately saw that it was the same place I’d parked my car.

About 20 minutes before I was due to perform, it was time for the pre-gig ritual of a poo. Fortunately, there were some backstage toilets. I mean, they were still portable toilets, but there was no queue for them. Once I’d achieved what I set out to do, I left the toilet and realised that my flies were undone on my shorts. Only, I could not find the zip to do them up, because it was broken. I would have to perform in jeans after all.

I was performing at the Alternative Book Club, which I did back in a pub in Cheltenham about a month ago. When I did that gig, I didn’t have anything prepared as I was drafted in without much notice. Only this time, I was prepared. Or as prepared as I could be with doing a set that was half new material at a festival. The plan was to start with some tried-and-tested material, before going into talking about a book.

But it was okay because I would be reading extracts from Ross Kemp: A-Z of Hell. I’d had the book lying on a table in my bedroom for about 18 months, then suddenly realised it was a perfect fit for the Alternative Book Club. This was the material I bottled out of doing on Tuesday.

Not only did it work well and mostly get laughs where I planned, but I also think I may have some decent new material here on my hands that could serve me very well indeed.

After my set, I saw some bands. As the festival is only half an hour away, I may well go back this evening to see some more.

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