Jan and Emma’s Leaving Do

I had many plans last night – and ended up following very few of them. But, a wonderful night nonetheless.

First off, I made a fairly quick stop off at the Cremorne to see the Montgomery Follicles play at Jen’s birthday party. I had been asked to act as official photographer, although I didn’t really feel up to it: I needed some warming up after a two week break from photography.

At the pub I bumped into Mark and Claire from Corp – such lovely people – and then I spotted former Sandman magazine editor Jan and his wife Emma. Turns out Jan and Emma are emigrating to Vancouver in three days! Jan invited me to their leaving do, just around the corner at G2 Studios. Although I was desperate to get down to Modern Romance in time for Paddy Orange‘s set, I really didn’t want to miss the opportunity to say goodbye (and I was interested to see what kind of party one of the most musically well-connected people in Sheffield would throw).

On arriving, I discovered that Baby Long Legs were about to play. This bunch are probably my favourite band in Sheffield right now, so it was an extra-special treat to see them (again). Stuart from the Barnacles (and, previously Pink Grease) was also there, with a couple of other members of his band, and he asked if they could do a quick four-song set before Baby Long Legs played. “Dan, you know our songs, come and join the band” said Stuart, and so I found myself in my third new band in as many months, with barely a minute’s notice before going onstage.

By “know”, Stuart meant that I had seen the Barnacles play once before, and hence ought to have a vague memory of some of their sea-shanty choruses. I absolutely love Stuart’s approach to music: too often I have played in bands who feel they must spend months, if not years, locked away in a rehearsal room before they feel ready to stand up in front of the public; Stuart’s philosophy is “just do it!” – I don’t think the Barnacles have ever had a full rehearsal; they just get up, give their best, and have a lot of fun in the process. The result, musically, is as rough as a barnacle-encrusted ship’s keel, but enthusiasm and audacity carries the performance and the audience response is always hugely positive (something which can’t always be said of the more polished acts I’ve played with).

I was also very moved to be thanked by Stuart for putting my Razor Stiletto photo gallery online. I had felt a bit indulgent putting so many (very similar) Barnacles photos in the set, but Stuart was especially grateful because their guitarist (aged 21) had a brain haemorrhage recenty, and is now in a coma, and his mum was very grateful to be able to see these recent photos of her son doing what he loved. I was, needless to say, shocked and quite choked-up when he told me this.

So anyway… I got up there on stage with Stuart & co and belted out “Go down, you blood red roses”, “Haul away for Rosie” etc. And I loved every second of it. I have to say that recently, I’m much more attracted to the idea of singing than that of playing the bass (I may have to find another vehicle for my voice soon…). Partway through the set, at my request Stuart launched into a scurvy sea-dog version of his Black Lace Superman act from the performance art karaoke night.

After our short set, Baby Long Legs got up and did their thing, as wonderful and joyful as ever even though their lead guitarist Hannah was absent and Jim had abandoned his double-bass for a bass guitar “for the first time since 1962”.

Next up was David Ward MacLean, a busker based in York and a special favourite of Jan and Emma’s (he played at their wedding). He played accoustic guitar (6 and 12-string) and sang. Alcohol has clouded my memory of this part of evening, but if I remember one thing it’s that David’s set was a thing of wonder: beautiful and beautifully played songs, with a good dash of dark humour and some great banter in between.

Then Charlie & Lyn did a DJ set and the dancing started. I went outside where I congratulated David on his set. In the courtyard, Tegi Roberts was singing shockingly beautiful folk harmonies with two friends. Tegi’s name was very familiar, but I’d never heard her sing and, in fact, I had half-assumed that she was a he. I was taken aback by the purity of her voice, and the beauty and accuracy of the harmonies (which rather put our Barnacles performance to shame). Being drunk, and emboldened by my recent singing experience, I was desperate to join in although I wasn’t familiar with most of the songs being sung. I sang along with the few parts that I did know, filling in the missing bass part, and again it was a joyful experience. Soon I was singing, humming, la-ing and (at Mark’s prompting) whistling along to everything, whether I knew it or not. I’ve no idea how I sounded to everyone else, but inside my head I made a damned good baritone. A real moment to cherish.

I had many wonderful conversations over the course of the night. It was especially nice to chat to Andy Brown, who can sometimes seem a bit… I dunno, aloof perhaps… but who seems more approachable the more I get to know him (last night he even hunted me down before he left, so that he could give me his last can of beer! [I hadn’t thought to bring any drinks with me, hadn’t expected to stay long anyway, so I was on the scrounge all night]). When I showed Andy and Chris my improvised flash set up – and explained my next invention: the “umbrella glove” – Andy called me “the Thomas Truax of photography”. High praise indeed, I felt very flattered.

Eventually, people started to drift off home. At 5am I walked back around the corner to the Cremorne, just on the off chance that there would be one or two people left there. Turns out Jen’s party was in full swing, and there were actually more like 30 or 40 people left. I joined the party, although the over-the-top debauchery seemed a bit gratuitous in comparison to Jan and Emma’s incredibly special little do. Everyone in the pub was a lot more drunk than me and most of them, it seems, on something else as well, so I couldn’t quite fit in with the mood. Still, I did have (more) fun, and hung around there until 7.30am. Then I walked all the way from London Road, around the ring-road, to Walkley, in the hope of finding a cab on the way; instead, A bus came along just as I was heading up Crookes Valley Road, so I jumped on board for the last two stops to home, and got to bed just as I should have been getting up. Sorry Gill, Rowan and Lola!