The Show Must Go On…
As my last blog was about how I got into, and out of, the promotion game, I thought this time I’d give you a glimpse of what can go on behind the scenes in order to make sure a show goes ahead…
Back in 1991 I had the idea of putting on a Didgeridoo Spectacular. To be honest, there was a band called Outback who I’d been following for a bit – we’d sold their cassettes in the shop, they’d been signed to Hannibal and were about to release their second album – and I thought they’d go down really well in Manchester. So rather than just promoting Outback, I sort of upgraded it a bit.
I got in touch with Outback and the gig was agreed. Having promoted Ozric Tentacles earlier in the year, I had fallen in love with their light show, so I gave The Fruit Salad Light Show a call. They too were up for it. I arranged a support act (I won’t tell you who, for reasons that will become clear soon) and a venue, The Boardwalk.
This was the year that Oasis made their live debut at the same venue, something that actually passed me by at the time.
Fast forward a little – two weeks before the gig, posters made & up, advertising done, tickets are selling well, and I get a phone call from the support act. Sorry, not doing it. Suddenly the gig didn’t look quite as spectacular…
One of the friends of Decoy Records was a guy by the name of Ben Walker. Stopfordian, multi-instrumentalist and all round nice guy. He could play almost anything – guitar, piano, flute, uilleann pipes, clarinet, saxophone (sometimes two at a time). I asked him if he could play didgeridoo. I think his reply was “probably”. All I needed now was an actual didgeridoo.
I gave Outback a call to let them know the situation and ask if they knew where I could borrow a didg for a couple of weeks. Graham Wiggins very kindly offered to send one of his to me. So two days later, wrapped in more bubble-wrap than I think I’d ever seen, a didgeridoo arrived, which I duly gave to Ben.
Cometh the hour – Ben Walker stepped onto the Boardwalk stage, surrounded by an ad-hoc band thanks to guys from the Decoy Records scene. And he played. In fact he played so well that Graham was mightily impressed. The set was only marred by the electricity going off at one point, as the light show had overloaded and tripped a circuit.
Outback themselves were excellent, and with Rick style accounting (see previous blog) the gig broke even. It was a shame that some months later, Graham Wiggins and the other founder member, guitarist Martin Cradick went their separate ways, though I did manage to put them on again before the split, this time at the Band on the Wall, with no light show and no support…
Graham left to form Dr Didg and fused the didgeridoo with rock & dance music, as well as playing with the Grateful Dead and recording with Mickey Hart, while Martin Cradick and his wife Su travelled to Southern Cameroon to live with the Baka tribe of hunter / gatherer pygmies – recording their music, forming the band Baka Beyond, helping raise awareness of their situation and eventually, though their work with the charity Global Music Exchange, helping them with healthcare, education and even obtaining national ID cards giving the Baka basic rights as citizens, previously denied to them.
Ben Walker went on to record numerous CDs, solo as well as with bouzouki and Celtic harpist Chris Knowles. He teaches all the instruments named above (except didgeridoo), and has featured a few times in the Roots & Fusion sessions.
While I’m sure the majority of gigs you’ve seen have not had similar challenges, it just goes to show that while the swan looks lovely while it’s swimming, underwater those legs are peddling like hell….
Outback wiki page - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outback_(group)
Dr Didg page - www.drdidg.com
Baka Beyond page - www.bakabeyond.net
Ben Walker page - www.benwalker.org