Chris T-T performs “Market Square” at Last Year’s Girl’s Friday Night Speakeasy – video courtesy of Dave Hughes
On a bed in a study, somewhere in Enfield, a girl in pink pyjamas and a stripy sweater is removing saved searches for the acts she promoted at the tail end of last week from her Twitter account. For the past couple of months it’s been a little routine in the morning: log on, have a look and see how many perfect strangers have been getting just as excited about a lineup she couldn’t believe fell into her lap. It’s a little bittersweet taking them off, she supposes; but she probably couldn’t have done so on more of a high.
Guys, I did it. I PUT ON A GIG, and PEOPLE CAME WHO I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW, and EVERYBODY GOT PAID.
Because my admiration for Franz Nicolay as an artist dates back to his days playing keyboards in somebody else’s band the image that springs to mind most often is of him standing, just above my head, behind said keyboards with a glass of red wine in hand engaging in some playful onstage interplay with Hold Steady bandmate Galen Polivka.
I think that, from now on, the image that’s going to spring to mind most often is of Franz Nicolay being slowly absorbed into a recliner with a bottle of beer in hand, engaging in some playful banter with my dad. Who, after all, sports a better moustache these days.
There was a folk-punk gig I went to, not so long ago: I can’t remember whose (although I’ll happily swear that the indefatigable Dave Hughes had a hand in it somewhere), but as I hauled ass up Argyll St to grab a bus home I remembered thinking how much I had grown to love the community that had sprung up among the music that we loved. It wasn’t like a smug thing or about ruling anybody out… it just… was.
I remember the day it looked as though we were about to sell fifty tickets. It was just before the weekend that Kat’s incredible gig posters were due to go up around the city, and given that fifty was the initial allocation I’d set aside for pre-orders I thought there was little point putting the posters up with no tickets left for sale. And so I did some calculations in my head, had a think about how many people would be likely to show up without purchasing a ticket in advance and extended the allocation accordingly.
We didn’t sell out, but we came pretty close.
But, you know, it doesn’t matter how many tickets you sell. Every promoter’s fear, even with the money needed to pay the artists and the venue accounted for, is that nobody is going to show up to enjoy the performance that you’ve put together. Our soundcheck ran a little over because nobody could get parking in the city centre on a Friday night, while I ran about in stockinged feet mainly complaining about a headache as my guardian angels The Other One and Rachael put out vases and fairy lights and sprinkled sweets and sequins on the tables we’d asked to have set out to cover half the room. That first time I walked into the room after doors opened, held up a little while friends and family and musicians finished a lovely meal in Stereo, and saw that people were already running out of space to stand behind the tabled/seated area – well.
I couldn’t finish my soup because when I’m worried it tends to show itself as a headache or nausea. I wrapped a piece of bread in a napkin and stashed it in the pocket of my new dress – I worry it made the whole thing look a little shapeless, and it’s not as if I got around to eating it anyway.
I couldn’t have gotten through the runup to the gig without Dave Hughes, who over the course of this year has become a close friend even more so than the pillar of any kind of musical community. How else would a girl like me, who had to google “what is a DI box” when people started sending technical requirements through and then who had to have it explained to her three times whether or not we needed them, be able to organise anything so technical? Without somebody to field all those emails I didn’t understand, or to send a random text message reminding me what I had accomplished every time I started to freak out on Twitter, I wouldn’t have made it through November.
As an opening act, well, there was nobody else I could have had. Dave has probably been the artist I have seen live the most this year, so I can safely say that something seemed to change in his performance after the release of his first labelled EP a few months ago. There was a show at MacSorley’s in particular that stands out where a confident, assured Dave charmed a crowd that wasn’t already all his. That was the Dave who opened proceedings at the Old Hairdresser’s on Friday, engaging a crowd with bad jokes and singalongs. Oh, and getting me up on stage to sing backing vocals on my favourite of the covers he sometimes performs. Because there are times the Renegade Folk-Punk Band is pretty much everybody in the room.
This was the first time I’d seen Chris T-T live, not including the performance of his “child-friendly no-swears” Edinburgh Fringe show Disobedience a couple of months back. With the collection of AA Milne poems set to music which bears the same name currently existing as his latest release it was right and proper that two of those beautiful compositions bookended his set but it was what came in the middle – the clever songs that are my favourite types of heartbreak (“Ankles”, “Love Is Not Rescue” and particularly “What If My Heart Never Heals”) and the even cleverer ones that eviscerate a certain type of politics (“Preaching To Be Converted”) – that were the reason, I think, that more people came up to me after the show and have come up to me since to ask about him.
Although there were a lot of swears. And my mother was sitting in the front row.
And then there was that one time that my dad’s eggs got a shout-out from Franz Nicolay on a stage in Glasgow. There might only have been two people in the room that got the joke, but we thought it was pretty funny.
LISTEN: Chris T-T and Franz Nicolay on the Vile Arts Radio Hour
LIVE: Dave Hughes’ A Renegade Folk Punk Christmas at MacSorley’s, 18th December with The Giddy Things, Algernon Doll
Franz Nicolay and Chris T-T play Ben Marwood’s Christmas Party at Reading’s Rising Sun Arts Centre on Sunday and a free show at London’s Old Blue Last on Monday night. Other remaining dates here.