When I pulled into the Aspley Retail Park in Hemel Hempstead I knew I’d arrived and the gig had begun!
It was 4:30pm and I felt a sense of relief that I’d managed to pop over the m25 before the drawbridge of congestion had been raised and swallowed me whole.
Folks don’t carry cash these days and many don’t have a CD player so which makes for a treacherous times for us singer songwriters! But I stumble on, and before I left Totnes this morning ordered a new card reader which I was trying to hunt down within the retail park. Once inside the warehouse of the ‘Argos’ I’m greeted by a big friendly but grey and tired looking giant of a man who very politely asks for my collection code. I have it! I’m winning! And he has the reader, our brief relationship is complete. I bid him farewell and dearly hope he can get out of this colourless block building and into the afternoon sunshine soon.
Google maps guides me through farm land and country lanes until I arrive at the Barn, an annex of the home of tonight’s host, Andy. A passionate and informed music lover, whose singular and unique vision has turned this old barn into a fertile ground for original music, a safe, creative space for artists to flourish and grow. Portraits of British legends from Bowie to the Beatles adorn the walls, the smell of curry is wafting through the air as bottles chill on ice buckets and the band plug in and soundcheck.
SpaceAcre are a four piece alternative rock band lead by a lead singer with a voice so pure and clear it hits me like a lightning bolt. Bass and drums lock in and she soars above as free as a bird in flight. I let them do their thing and take a walk in the country lanes as the spacey sound they make ricochets across the adjacent fields and neighboring farm houses. Oh for Englands green and pleasant lands! I’m filled with joy and chatting to a friend whimsically until I’m nearly crushed by a passing transit van doing about 110 around a bend. Blimey.
My gig itself is serene, after a nervy start I settle in and find my feet. The audience are listening, and in turn I’m focusing with more clarity – which makes for a strong connection. There are two folks in the house from the black country and we exchange some banter. Rainbows never end sticks it’s cute little head out as a highlight, I get really into the last song “New Love” and cross my fingers I maintained steady pitch throughout the excitement.
After the show the energy shifts and washes over me like a wave, the hubbub of moving chairs and conversation blends with the DJ spinning Aretha Franklin singing “say a little prayer”, a hand on my shoulder, a word in my ear, a fist pump from a younger chap, all the kindest words you could imagine are spoken.
“I saw a lot of people crying you know, was that your intention?”
Was it my intention? I don’t know. It’s good people feel free and can let go. We all carry so much responsibility and hold onto so much, so tightly, yet life is so brief. We have to release sometimes, let the cycle spin all way around. Step through the glass, smash the glass.
swoop and dive at showtime. The audience collectively close our eyes and accept their invitation to guide us through their material. A song about stargazing from the rooftop of a London hackney flat brings back memories of my own past and a house party where my band played on the landing of a flat above a shop, a gig that ended in a girlfriend telling me my bootcut flared jeans were ‘so 90s’ and my silent response as I stared and longed for her to kiss me.
Post show, back in the barn, folks scramble for the toilets and the merch with equal vigor. I sell CDs to people that don’t have a CD player and vinyl to people with premium Spotify accounts. They know the score and I’m deeply appreciative of their support. Emails, phone numbers are exchanged, a choir invite me to collaborate and there’s talk of a TV show with at least two well know Black Country comedians. We’re here, in Britain, making things, writing things, the wheels keep spinning and the tapestry gets richer by the day. The show is complete for now, we shared something, made something outta nothing – the road of possibility and opportunity is illuminated bright and bold and it’s only Friday night.
Have a good weekend, folks x