TRAFFIC TERROR AND THE MISSING CHAIR

To every show, we bring eight people and a bunch of equipment. So naturally, we bring two vehicles: one van with three people and all the equipment and one people carrier with the rest of us.

Last Friday, I was in the people carrier with drummer Paul, bass player Bobby, keyboard player Louis and backing vocalist Jerney. We left Liverpool around 10pm, a bit later than sound engineer Ben, light engineer James and guitarist Liam in the van. Bobby kept a close eye on the traffic news, and so we found out that traffic was horrific that morning. In all of Britain. We started our journey in a traffic jam that was caused by an accident with several lorries on the other side of the motorway. Then we had our usual queue at Birmingham, after which we found a detour from the motorway that was closed (I forgot which one).

Needless to say we were not in a very good mood, despite the beautiful scenic route. We stopped at Warwick services, and Bobby and I chatted how that service station is starting to feel like home. We got in touch with the other van to tell the others we had a massive delay by now, but as it turned out our scenic route had taken us ahead of the others! They got stuck in the traffic we had managed to avoid and however slowly we seemed to be moving, we had made the right choice. Too bad though that we can't do anything when we arrive at a venue until the equipment is there.

The Wilde Theatre in Bracknell is situated opposite a park, so after doing some warm ups and stretches and giving the local staff some instructions on how to set up the risers on the stage, Jerney and I took a short - barefooted - walk on the grass. As soon as the equipment arrived, Jerney and I started prepping everything as soon as possible. We refined our prep routine, so that I could instantly set up my quick change area with all the costumes. While she was ironing, I could prep all the clothes. I always put them down myself on a chair in one of the wings. I do so myself, because I need to know every little details is right (otherwise I might miss a costume change). I need to check all the zippers and the buttons, I am the only one who knows the quickest way for me to get into these costumes. For the record: I don't have an assistant for my quick changes. When we had our first show with WOW, the management had hired a wardrobe assistant. Someone who had worked for ballet companies and for Kylie Minogue, and even she admitted that I don't really need an assistent: all she did during the show was picking up the clothes that I had thrown off. So to answer a question many people ask me ('how do you do all these quick changes?'): I know exactly what I'm doing and I make a HUGE mess!

Just before the show, I noticed the chair that I had meticulously put where it needed to be was in the middle of the stage. Paul went up to the stage to find out what was going on, and apparently James was still working on his lights, but promised to put it back. A bit annoyed (it was less than ten minutes till show time) I focused on performing. The stage was quite big, so I had to focus on filling the whole space.

We went through the first couple of songs without any trouble, other than the chair in Hammer Horror not moving a smoothly as I want in to, but nothing major. Then, after Army Dreamers, I decided to walk off slightly faster than unual, because the quick change to Sat in Your Lap is one of the most stressful ones in the shows. I only have a couple of seconds, and because we don't have a stage manager, I have to carry on our big, gree, heavy stool myself. Because our own light engineer is touring with Elvis Costello, we decided to not have blackouts in between songs, because it can be tricky if that person doesn't know exactly when (sometimes band members need to change guitars or something like that, which they can't do in full darkness). Ideally, I walk on with the chair in the dark, and when the song starts, the light comes up so the first thing the audience sees is me on the chair. In this case, I had to settle for the audience seeing me walk on with the chair, to not comprimize the flow of the set. I managed to get changed on time, turned around and the chair wasn't were I had put it. I looked around and finally noticed it was on the other side of the stage. The other side of a stage without a way of walking round the back. I had no choice but to run across the stage in full light, hoping the band wouldn't start the song too soon, carry the chair back into the spot light and start the song. I am a perfectionist, and I hate to do these things to my audience. A mistake like that doesn't look smooth and it throws me off. Luckily, Sat in Your Lap is the kind of song I could put a lot of my frustration in to release at least some of it.

All sweaty, I decided I needed to blow dry and curl my hair again during the break. But apparently our travelling ghost George had decided I could by breaking my travel adapter (I still have a Dutch hair dryer and curling iron). I just gave up and tried to find some positive energy for the second half. And I succeeded. The second half went smoothly, and I loved running around in The Big Sky (yay for all the people in the back too!).

Meeting the audence afterwards was great! I got another round of applause in the foyer and I think I have been hugged by almost every woman in the audience.

And our drive back? Well, I guess it was ok, apart from the diversions and the delays and the road works and the reduced speed limits. Sigh...

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