Controller.Controller Part Two
The journey to Bristol is painfully slow but we pull up at the venue at 7pm with an hour to spare until showtime. It’s a remarkable achievement under the circumstances.
The band and I unload the gear and they set up on the small stage. Over the next hour the venue begins to fill up and by the time the band takes the stage at 8pm it’s packed to overflowing. I feel genuinely excited and there is a palpable air of anticipation as they begin their first song. This is the first time I’ve heard them perform live and I’m impressed. They’re tight and energetic and they know how to perform to an audience. I look around the densely-packed room and see a lot of heads nodding appreciatively. For the first time in a long time I feel my shoulders begin to relax and I even allow myself a little smile. I decide it’s time for a well-earned drink so I push my way through the audience towards the bar. I’m just about to order a pint when suddenly and unexpectedly the venue is plunged into darkness. The band have not yet got to the end of their opening song but they abruptly grind to a halt. All except Jeff the drummer who continues beating his drums wildly for a couple of bars before realizing that the band is no longer amplified.
The sound engineer, armed with a bright torch, weaves through the confused audience and mounts the dark stage. He spends a few minutes poking around the backs of various amplifiers and plug sockets.
“It’s your gear,” I hear him say when he’s finished conducting his examination. “It’s tripped a fuse.”
He leaves the stage and disappears. A few minutes later the lights come back on to a cheer from the audience. The band, still smiling and appearing totally unfazed by another setback, launch into their opening song again. Right then I decide that I love them deeply and will do anything for them and I settle back into the confident feeling I’d been enjoying a little earlier. If anything the band sounds even better now. But before they’ve got through their first song again the power goes off a second time. The audience groans. The sound engineer pushes his way to the stage once again and after another thorough examination of amplifiers and cables and plugs he turns to the audience and pronounces the gig terminated. Time of Death: 840pm.
I feel terrible. After such a harrowing experience just getting to the show and having got a glimpse of the band’s greatness it is incredibly frustrating that the show won’t go on. The band begins packing up and the audience drifts away to the bar outside where--maddeningly--the power is still working perfectly well.
Once the van is loaded up again I drive away from the venue, crestfallen, only to immediately take a wrong turn up a narrow road that winds up a steep hill. The van screeches under the strain. I keep going uphill. There is no other choice.
Our progress becomes slower and slower until the road comes to a dead end and--inevitably-- the van stalls. I suddenly feel the urge to jump out and run off into the night, change my name and spend the rest of my life stacking shelves at the Co-op. Instead I take a deep breath and turn around to smile awkwardly at the band who--incredibly--still seem to be in good spirits.
“Don’t worry,” I say confidently. “Everything’s under control.”
I pull the screwdriver from the glove box and wave it in the air triumphantly like I’ve just pulled Excalibur out of the stone. I hand it to Colwyn who hops down from the cab and pops open the hood of the van. I triple-check that the van is not in gear. There will be no broken legs tonight. Not on my watch.
Colwyn pokes the spark plug with the screwdriver and the engine starts. It’s a slow process getting out of Dead End Street. I jerkily manoeuver the van a few feet, stall the engine, Colwyn jumps out and performs screwdriver magic on the spark plug, the engine sputters back to life, we lurch forward a few feet, the engine stalls, Colwyn sparks it up. This process continues for several long minutes until I’ve performed an exhausting twenty-five point turn and we’re facing downhill again. By now I’m drenched in cold sweat and my arms feel like I’ve put them through a strenuous work out. But after some deep breathing and improvised shoulder exercises we’re soon on our way back to Oxford at a cruising speed of forty-two miles an hour. Tarrant’s warning about not going too fast has been given in vain. There is no danger of approaching anything resembling ‘too fast.’ Then half an hour out of Bristol we crest a hill where soon after we reach our maximum speed of forty-five miles an hour. In a thirty-mile an hour zone. Unfortunately I only discover the speed camera when I see its flash go off in the wing mirror. All I can do at this point is laugh. Though my laughter dries up when I remember that we’re less than twenty-four hours into a two-week tour and somehow, as hard as it is to believe, I have to find a van to replace the replacement van. I tell myself not to worry though. Everything will be OK.