The Tolbooth Stirling supporting JJ Gilmour Saturday 3rd October
The nerves kicked in about lunch time as I walked along Blackness shore with Kirsty and my boy Lewis. What if I broke a strings? What if forgot the words or the chords. I looked over the river Forth; surrounded by the landscape that have provided much of the canvas for my music. I’m starting to hope that tonight will open new doors.
I kiss Kirsty goodbye, Lewis dropped off at his Grandmas (thanks!) and I walk to the train, guitar case in hand ready to catch the 5 past 5 to Stirling.
I crash down with all my gear onto a seat opposite a strange guy who looks half paranoid and half irritated. Eventually he relocates to a more comfortable seat. I turn to look out the window as the landscape rushes past. Alone with my thoughts its usually here I think of Weird Decibels. Before a gig the four of us are involved in some sort of banter; I haven’t played a lot of solo shows but this seems to be recurring thought.
The train wheels into Stirling; the city is bustling with people. I dodge through them and make the journey up the hill towards the Tolbooth. Eventually I reach the venue and I am greeted by Katie and her friendly colleague whose name has escaped me.
I’m lead to the dressing room; backstage there is a fridge with beer. Filtered coffee sits on a percolator and there is a box of curry. I head through to the stage.
I find JJ Gilmour on stage doing his sound check and Phil, his pianist, is in the seats listening to the performance. I’m delighted that the seats are out; it was the same set up used when I came here to see RM Hubbert.
JJ Patiently battles with a poor monitor sound that is eventually fixed by the sound engineers (who did a fantastic job for me). JJ is a perfectionist, he is clearly concerned about the on stage sound and you could tell he was thinking of the audience that would arrive later having paid money to see him.
Eventually the sound is settled; I sit back and listened to JJ and Phil play a few tunes which I really enjoyed. Its my turn to go up and sound check. Those nerves? Yeah they come storming back.
My sound check was terrible, I was all over the place. Usually with the band we settle our sound quickly and confidently hammer through our song. Solo? Much different. The silence of the room, every single string and every word sung is heard. It is a pressure I’m still getting used to. I regained my composure and for the first time I nervously asked the engineers to adjust my monitor sound. Suddenly I realised how important it is to nail your on stage sound. The guys could not have been more helpful; the sound was balanced and now the echo (or latency) from the back of the room was no longer putting me off. I strummed through a number of songs and my confidence grew.
Sound check concluded I stood with JJ and Phil; two cracking blokes who were happy to share stories to a guy who is interested to hear about their successful musical careers. Clearly they have had some amazing times with the Silencers and the many artists they have met along the way. The conversation turns to the present music industry. JJ is visibly frustrated at how musicians are treated these days, he explained that he had went to a TV station where musicians were playing.
(Not his exact words)The receptionist, paid, the guy who escorted me up to the studio, paid, the presenters, the sound engineers, the camera operators, paid. I look at the artists and they are the only people in the room who weren’t paid.
This struck a chord with me.
We all went back stage and had a blether about all things music; I found both JJ and Phil to be great company.
Time was flying and my stage time was approaching. I was escorted by a young stage hand awaiting instruction from the sound engineer; all very professional and certainly not what I’m used to!!
I Had To Turn It Around
What Are You Running From
Looking From The Outside
Let Autumn and Winter Pass
Hard Working Man
The lights went out and I made my way towards the stage. I could feel the presence of the audience and I can’t remember if there was applause or silence. My nerves had really kicked in; I took a moment and lifted my father’s Takamine over my shoulder and stepped towards the mic.
I Had to Turn It Around is fairly easy to play and it went well. The applause was brilliant; I smiled, through the first song unscathed! I slowed things down with What are you Running From, my composure was now on and my confidence starting to rise. Looking from the Outside was fine, I think I hit a wrong note here but I carried on. I loved playing Awkward to an audience that listened to everything I played. Boxer went down well and I dedicated Autumn to Kirsty who had been joined by Lisa and Greg (thanks guys!).
Hard Working Man went the way I wanted; I slowed it right down at the end. The audience were very enthusiastic. I wasn’t used to this and I loved the experience. I went into Bluelights, the lights went blue (like that last time) a nice touch. This is a moment that will not leave me. Then there was the applause at the end, as a grass roots musician you wait for moments like this. I looked up to the lights, bowed, and left the stage.
Backstage JJ and Phil were sipping from what I was assured a nice red, a far cry from Buckfast! I cracked open one of our complementary Becks and took my place in the audience.
I liked their show, a really entertaining mixture of songs from the past and present. Halfway through the set JJ took the time to ask the audience to give me a round of applause; it was a nice touch, its been a while since I’ve been called ‘young Paul’! The stories were brilliant, then the sing along from JJ’s fans at the end was fantastic. I really enjoyable performance from them.
Afterwards, we stood at the merch stand. To top off a fantastic night I sold out my CD’s albeit with a little gentle recommendation from JJ. I signed some of the copies and spoke to some lovely people.
A once in a lifetime experience for me? I hope not!!
Kirsty, Greg, Lisa, Kenny, Katie, the sound team, the staff at Tolbooth and of course JJ and Phil.