Paul Henry Smith at the Tolbooth Stirling 6th March 2015
Thanks to Eve Smith, Dale Ashworth and Greg McSorley for the pictures
I had just returned form Kelso; I had recorded for a whole week with Weird Decibels and my voice was shot. Sitting in the quiet of my house I was desperate to give my wife and boy a cuddle. I hadn’t seen them for a week. The phone rang.
Kirsty was on the line calling from work to tell me that the car was making a bad knocking noise and that driving through to the Tolbooth would not be a good idea.
Slightly frustrated that I wouldn’t see my family I made plans to get the train. So I grabbed a quick sandwich and a strum of the guitar, packed it up and headed out of the door, case and bag in hand.
Whenever I play a gig I’m with the band; I was struck by how alone I felt. I boarded the train and took my place in the carriage beside the bikes hoping that a cyclist would not take my spot. As the train rattled towards Stirling I had the feeling that everything in my musical life was changing. I don’t know why I thought that.
As a worrier I like to be prepared for anything so I went into a shop to buy some batteries for the acoustic pick-up. A fight started outside; I had to swerve by the angry youths with my dads Takamine in hand. Safely avoiding the rabble I headed up the hill to the Tolbooth.
Esperi was already sound checking when I arrived; he looked alone as well, sound checking by himself and playing all the instruments that were set up on stage. He was very meticulous about his sound. Everything had to be right and I admired that.
I met Kenny Bates, a nice guy who was running the show. He led me backstage to the dressing room and explained what was happening; I settled ticket sales and he left. Again the loneliness kicked in; if the band were there we’d probably dipped into the beers in the fridge.
Something, Someone arrived a little late; a very friendly trio of young musicians were talking rather calmly about playing at the King Tuts. I guess it was just me but I’d be amazed at playing all these great venues. It reminded me that I really need to get out and play these venues.
I sound checked last (I was first on) and I was very nervous. I was glad I had rehearsed so much, the songs were second nature so it made it easier. It was so strange playing alone.
A quick sound check was done; the sound guys (Dave and co) were keen to wrap up and I wasn’t the headline act so I headed off stage and went to meet the other artists in the changing rooms. Esperi (Chris, nice guy) and Something Someone were all exchanging gig experiences. I felt out of place at this point although it didn’t take me long to settle in.
A trainee journalist Sam dived downstairs to ask us for interviews; I was rather taken aback by this. So I headed up with the young guy and he pointed a camera at me and explained what he wanted. He was a nice chap; when he asked my age for some reason I said 38 (not quite there yet…) and he quipped that’s not too old for a rocker. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I found it funny; the age thing is starting to creep in I guess.
The interview actually ended up being more about Weird Decibels as he was quite intrigued about our 20 years together. I was happy our band was getting a bit of extra publicity through my solo work. I hope he completes and shares his article.
Kenny approached me before the gig with stage times. I noticed I had 30 mins although in the contract it was only 25 mins so I had to find an extra song…
Looking From The Outside
What Are You Running From
I Had To Turn It Around
Let Autumn and Winter pass
Power (extra song)
Hard Working Man
I had not been this nervous since Weird Decibels first gig. Every footstep, when I picked up the guitar, strumming the first chords and singing the first lines felt like so heavy. The nerves eased though. I looked up and could only see bright lights and the stage was hot. I finished the song and the applause was magnificent. Then there was the silence. Its hard to describe what it is like when people are actually listening to every chord and word of your songs. Truly amazing.
I grew in confidence as I played through the songs; I kept an eye on the time and worryingly I was hurtling through the set. I loved playing my old song Let Autumn and Winter Pass and it was nice to fling in Power ( I needed it!). Hard Working Man felt very emotional and then I announced Blue Lights. As I started picking the first notes all the lights turned blue. A truly great moment; I’m gutted I forgot to thank the technicians for that moment.
Then it was over (25 mins!); and my kind family and friends told me how much they enjoyed it. That was really nice. I headed backstage an again I was alone to gather my thoughts before I opened the fridge door and helped myself to a free beer!
I headed back out to watch the other acts and I stood with my friends and family. I was delighted they all came through to see me play; humbled to be honest.