For a couple of months now, I’ve been emailing and phoning and calling on SW London clubs and pubs that present live music to try to get The Freudian Sluts booked. A great many won’t touch a band like ours, which plays only original material. They feel their clientele — their punters, in the zany British locution — want bands that specialise in faithful recreations of songs popularized by others, or who, in the cases of tribute bands, impersonate some popular headliner of yesteryear. Everyone will consider booking an original band only if it has a following. A band builds a following either by winning the lottery on line or by playing live. The catch being that you can’t play live without a following.
We’ve done what we’ve can in terms of trying to win the online lottery. I composed what I imagined to be a unique love song, one with tender sentiments expressed tunefully, but with an incongruously straightforward title line. Our singer, Miss Zelda Hyde, sang it prettily. Our guitarist, The Heath, proved himself a wonderful country picker. We produced a video that I hoped might attract a lot of attention. To this point, it has attracted virtually no attention. Meanwhile, on the live performance front, we agreed to perform at the Old Moot House in Kingston-on-Thames for whatever its proprietors deemed a fair cut of what they made selling drinks to whomever we were able to coax and cajole successfully to come see us.
Miss Zelda and Andrew, the bass player, were able to entice around 25 friends and relatives. They seemed to enjoy the performance, though apparently my electronic drums were barely audible. (Or maybe that’s why they enjoyed the performance.) Our under-rehearsedness (The Sheath’s new day job has taken a large bite out of our rehearsal schedule) showed in places. Seated behind her, trying desperately not to let my poorly anchored bass drum pedal escape me entirely, I thought Miss Zelda Hyde both looked and sounded a star, but I can’t envisage many of the coaxed and cajoled coming back for more. We’re none of us in our 20s or 30s any more. I’m not so sure there was anyone much under 50 present.
At one point someone no one in the band had coaxed or cajoled to attend wandered up in mid-set to inform Miss Hyde that he thought we sounded very much like The Cure. (I think we sound as much like The Cure as One Direction sound like The Grateful Dead, but what do I know?) He seemed to wish to discuss this assessment in detail, though I, in my most abrasive New York Metro accent, repeatedly brayed, "Yo, we're tryin' to work here, OK?" It was reasonably funny.
By and by, the gig concluded with second performance of our delightful audience participation number 'The Prostitutes of London', It seemed to take as long to pack up all our gear and get it back into the cars as we’d been on stage, not that there’d been an actual stage. The guy behind the bar had no knowledge of our expecting payment. (I get to plead my case, to grovel for coins, with his boss next week.) This isn’t financially enriching, to say the least, and is backbreaking and frustrating. Oh, and sometimes even a little bit humiliating, as when the manager of a pub in Richmond finally, after a million emails and phone calls, finally invites me to come plead the band’s case in person, and I travel by bus to her for half an hour, only to be informed by the barman that she is poorly (as they say here), and not able to come downstairs to spend three minutes with me. If I leave the band’s card, though, she will phone me the next afternoon. That was 96 hours ago. She has phoned me to exactly the same extent that Louis XIV, the Sun King, has phoned me.
The problem, of course, is that when she does phone, I shall have to mislead her, to claim that we have a large, thirsty following that we don’t actually have because persons exactly like she haven’t booked us because we’re not a fucking covers or tribute band.
Around and around we go.