The phone call lasted far longer that I really wanted it to. “The mic cables are all broken and the main PA amp is only working on three cylinders and the monitor amp is only working on two cylinders and we need all new microphones and….” I stopped hearing. I knew my time had come. This was the moment I’d been waiting for all my instrument playing life.

I ripped my clothes off to reveal my superman outfit. Well, it was my superman underpants actually, but hey, who’s counting? I quickly realised that as this gig was was apres christening, it was likely to feature kids and a bass player in pants would probably raise a few eyebrows and at least one court case. So I found some decent band type clothes.

We were racing down the motorway at exactly 69mph when the phone went again. Luc answered it and I spoke to Stuey on speaker phone:

“You know the gig at Pen y Banc RFC?”

“Yes.”

“Well, it’s at Pen y Groes RFC.”

“Right. Where’s that?”

“Pen y Groes.”

Fortunately, the combination of Landrover sat nav and iPhone 5 (other smartphones are available) meant that we eventually got to the club with plenty of time to spare.

One of the frustrations of any band is being booked for an inappropriate gig. Heavy rock for an old folks 60’s night, 50’s rock ‘n’n roll band for a modern dance night. We’ve had them all. This gig was booked when the people concerned saw is in the West End – a rocking loud pub. Tonight’s venue was great but it was full of kids under 10. As mentioned, it was a post christening celebration.  Between three PA amps, we managed to find two channels that worked. Suddenly we were in business.

Not long into the first half we were asked to turn down. With electric instruments and a real drum kit it’s not that easy to adjust the volume below a certain level. So we went through the motions – which involves playing a quieter song at the same volume. Then back to the proper volume again and some young guy decided we were too loud and told us. So we used the next strategy available to the band – turned the vocals down a bit. That seemed to please him and satisfied his ego. The next song was ‘Brick in the Wall’ and for that one I detune the bass to provide a low ‘D’ note. At volume! The sound expert didn’t show up again so we carried on at the proper volume.

During the break, two youngsters who were learning drums and guitar in the Spidermusic school got up to play ‘Hound dog’, to great applause.

The second half was more like our normal pub performance. A combination of great songs and great playing meant we had the dance floor full pretty much from the start. This is what we do best and it’s no good booking the band you saw in the pub expecting us to play some acoustic function. While we can turn our hand to most things, we don’t really want to.

We ended the night with some recorded music, played through one channel as the amps finally gave up. What can go wrong, usually will. But we can cope!

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The gig list is looking healthy at the moment and filling up rapidly as we hit 111 days to go until Christmas! Yup – better get the shopping done and the turkey settled in the freezer so you can enjoy the rest of the year watching the band! And check out the new YouTube video – we rehearsed last night and went through this one – I think it’s only the second time we’ve played it so not too bad. It will be in the set for the 14th, our next gig.

Our gigs for the next four months:

14 September – Pen y Banc RFC (private party)

21 September – West End, Gorseinon (usually a real goo rocking night).

5 October, West End, Gorseinon

12 October, Four Winds Aberavon

19 October, The Woodbine Club, Blackwood

23 October – ‘Another bloody charity gig’ – a night to remember Neil Grant and to raise funds for the Stroke Association. Hosted at ‘The Vault’, Wind Street, Swansea.

1 November, Four Winds Aberavon (duo)

9 November, West End, Gorseinon

21 November, Four Winds Aberavon

28 December, West End Gorseinon

There are some dates yet to be confirmed and it looks like we’ll be taking The Insiderz over the border in the next month or so. Negotiations are in hand with our agent and details will be posted as soon as they are confirmed.

 

We pulled up outside the Castle Hotel in Pontardawe last night and immediately, Stuey’s eyes lit up. Opposite the pub was a fried chicken product outlet. It was all I could do not to let him dash across the road to fill up on poultry based food. Fortunately, we had to set all the gear up and that kept him occupied. It was a small pub and we were in the far corner between the pool table and the gents toilet. Inevitable, given that I take up the least space in the band, I was next to the toilet (which was also the fire exit). All night, as people passed me to to for a smoke outside, or to the loo, they kept looking at my headless bass and point at the lack of headstock. I explained to one punter that it had fallen off.

As a three piece, the sound was always going to be different. There is a gap where the second guitar goes and although we’d adjusted the set to compensate with songs that didn’t need a more complicated arrangement, we would also have to fill the gap in certain parts of the set. That meant a more complicated bass part for me, playing little fills and, during Hard to Handle, a complete bass solo. Stuey’s lead breaks were based around chords to keep the sound smooth and full. We’ve played enough times as a three piece, and we’re all versatile enough that it posed no problem.

The first half consisted of a few old favourites and kept the tempo going quite nicely throughout. In the second half we experimented a little more, trying a couple of new songs that had been run through during our rehearsal on Wednesday, They worked really well and need little extra work to make them a permanent part of the set. The rock medley, which I thought might miss the extra guitar part, actually sounded complete. Stuey’s boss even showed up (much to Stuey’s surprise) and we achieved management approval of the Insiderz project as she danced for most of the second half.

Packing away was swift and the van was loaded in no time, But as I chatted to Chris, I momentarily lost sight of Stuey and the next minute, he was answering the siren call of the poultry product outlet. No amount of calling swayed him from his mission and within minutes, he was gorging himself on fast food. Such is life on the road with the Insiderz.

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Last minute gigs. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not quite so good. At the moment, the Insiderz are building back up to a busy couple of months following their extended holidays. We have a number of gigs lined up for the last three months of the year (checkout the website for more details) but September is looking a little bare.

So we were pleased to get a last minute booking for tonight at the Castle Hotel in Pontardawe. Unfortunately, it was so last minute that we were unable to secure the services of our lead guitarist, and so we’ll be playing as a three piece. We started out as a three piece many years ago, and the line up tonight will be the same as that first gig in the Fleur de Lys rugby club.

We haven’t been completely idle during out days off. Last week we had a rehearsal to rethink our set list. Gone are a lot of the songs that always seemed to end up being played as a default. In are a whole list of new stuff which we will be adding to the set as and when we are happy with their arrangements. We’ve also taken a long hard look at the way we play some of our favourites and in the next few weeks you’ll start to see differences in the way we’ve arranged these songs, too.

For me, as the little bass player at the back, it’s been a couple of weeks where I’ve welcomed the rest as I’ve hurt my knee. The temptation to bring a stool to gigs so I can sit down has been great, but I know the ridicule for the other band members would extend beyond the gig itself.  And after a few months of trying to get a consistent sound from the bass amp, I’ve finally invested in a ‘proper’ extension cab to my bass combo. The 1×15″ Laney cab should let me fully exploit the drop tuning on the Steinberg bass for, amongst other things, our updated version of ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.

Off to play with my new toy now.

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Fresh from their holidays, the Insiderz convoy formed up to make it’s way to Aberavon and the Four Winds pub for Beachfest 2013, a weekend of bands and beer on the sea front. We were due to end the night on Sunday. We were there in plenty of time to catch a couple of the bands playing before us and as is usual with festivals like this, things were not running to time. The bands were great but their ability to set up and break down their gear left a little to be desired. We’re pretty good at that sort of thing and from the time the last band left the stage to the point at which we started our first number was 10 minutes. Given the scaffolding Chris our drummer had to construct to support his cymbals, that was no mean feat.

We had to contend with no monitoring which, given the size of the stage and venue, was a struggle. Nevertheless, it was a minor inconvenience – we’ve played worse set ups and survived. We played a truncated set of faster, heavier numbers and we were the only band that evening to get calls for an encore. We must have done something right.

We also found out tonight that we won’t be playing Oakwood Park on the 28th. Instead they are having a troupe of dancers. Our next rehearsal will include some dance moves so that we can compete in this cut throat market. The only question is, who will wear the tutu?

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Well, it’s been a busy time for The Insiderz between gigs. New music, new venues, new countries. Okay, the new countries were where two of the guys spent their holidays. But we’re planning to play a few new venues before the end of the year and, of course, there are always new songs to learn.

This weekend is a busy one for us – we’re playing a festival, a charity night and then Oakwood Park again.

Beachfest is being held at one of our local regular venues – the Four Winds in Aberavon. Two days of bands on the sea front – what better way to spend your Bank Holiday weekend? We’re there on Sunday night at around 9pm. On Monday, we’re at the Masons in Waunarlwyd for a charity night. Then it’s a late night for the band as we head out to Oakwood once again to take part in their ‘After Dark’ night on Wednesday 28th. There are even fireworks at the end of the night.

But the big news is that we will be holding the first annual Neil Grant Memorial gig at The Vault, Wind Street Swansea on 23rd October at 7.30. The night will be raising money for The Stroke Association and will feature The Insiderz plus a number of special guests. The plan is to offer a gig to an up coming local band as part of the night – something Neil would have appreciated.

Watch out for some updates as we move into the last third of 2013.

The Insiderz were back at Oakwood Theme Park last night, standing in for a last minute cancellation. We’re good at that as we enjoy what we do and it’s not difficult to persuade us to get off the sofa and onto the stage. And the people at Oakwood were friendly and helpful last time, which always makes a huge difference to any band.

The convoy of vans thundered down the motorway, heading into the setting sun. (That last sentence is justified only by artistic license – the two vans made their way independently to the gig, there may have been rattling but definitely no thundering and the sunrise was still 4 hours away when we left for the gig).

The conversation in the cab, punctuated occasionally by bleeps and tweets from Luc’s iPhone, was mainly about previous bands and Stuey’s long history of playing in them. As has been mentioned previously, Stuey has been playing so long that Henry VIII’s lute player was his first tutor. The Insiderz family tree, when it is finally compiled (some would say invented) will be mightier than the mightiest oak tree. We discussed the merits of various songs we play and which ones we should be playing. Needless to say, we could have played a completely new set with all the suggestions made.

Tonight I was planning on videoing the gig to get some material for Youtube. We don’t have a good presence there yet and as we’ve been asked by many people where they can see our videos, it’s next on the to do list. The video camera was out in the van for those candid behind the scenes shots.

We drove slowly through the park, led by one of the park staff, and stopped next to the ‘Dive Show’. Not a description of our act but a spectacular display of diving skills that was due to start later in the week. Either side of the stage were large stacks of speaker cabinets sheltered from the sun by gazebos. The park PA had been installed for us by Stormy PA Hire – thanks, the sound was tremendous.

We knew the score from last time so we were able to set up quickly. While Chris and Stuey took the vans away to the car park, Luc and I tidied the stage up to make it seem as if we were professional, and I took a short stroll around the park.

When I got back, the kit had all been miked up to go through the main PA, with a direct line into the mixer from my amp. But horror of horrors, my amp wasn’t making a sound, although I was getting a signal through to the main PA. With only a few minutes to go, I tried desperately to get any sound from my amp, which would have been my main source of monitoring, but nothing worked. We started the gig with me only having a vague idea of what I was playing (some would say that is normal for me anyway) from the monitors.

The first half was a good set of up tempo songs, opening with ‘Heroes’ and ‘Bad is Bad’. We had a larger audience than last week. More people stopped to watch us and we soon had a crowd of perhaps 200 people, with many more stopping to watch for a few minutes as they made their way to or from the fast food outlets and the rides. To my left, the Dive Show were busy making final adjustments to the water tank before starting to fill it up. Even they were moving to the rhythm.

During the break, my main concern was to make sure my amp was working. To my shame, I found that the problem was a simple one – I hadn’t turned the volume up! In my defence, I expected the amp volume to control the signal volume from the DI output, and therefore assumed the volume was turned up. It didn’t and it wasn’t. My defence would not stand up in court and, more importantly, in the crucible of the van on the way home.

The second half had a more fluid mix of songs and felt better to us on stage. It went down well with everyone, including a wasp that took a fancy to Stuey’s leg and wouldn’t leave him alone. The first we knew was the normally restrained front man laying on some new dance moves as we went into an instrumental break.  Groups of dancers across the field seemed to be trying to emulate Stuey’s moves. More people stopped to watch as the evening went on and even the park staff were joining in with the dancing; at one point we had a visit from the park mascot, a brightly coloured dragon!

Packing up was swift. Loading the vans wasn’t quite so swift and the gossiping afterwards was long and drawn out. Eventually, in the fading light, we made our way slowly back through the park before hitting the road and the long journey home.

The conversation on the way home varied wildly from the work ethics of certain band members, through the merits of Italian amplifies, guitar collections and the frustrations of cones on dual carriageways with no one working near them. As we neared Carmarthen, the conversation turned to food and a spicey breaded chicken product was purchased along with some modified potatoes and a sugared and carbonated drink.

Sadly, there were no unexplained lights in the sky.

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