Max Fagandini shares his thoughts on another weekend in the life of a busy function band!
Ah, to be paid for doing something you enjoy. Well, we enjoyed it at least – Mike was probably tearing his hair out with the stress of organisation. This most recent string of gigs featured the delightful playing of several dep players, some of whom were playing with the band for the first time – but of course, they all pulled it off with aplomb and the band sounded great. So a massive thank you and well done to Rhiannon Drake, Jonna van den Berg, Jamie Hone, Meridyth Dickson and Rob Cossins for their sterling work.
Thursday 23rd March saw the band heading up to Oxfordshire for an Oxford University Press conference at Eynsham Hall. Upon arrival at the hall (and yes, having a Streetvan parked out the front of this historic manor did look a tad incongruous) it was confirmed that we would be playing outside, and so with several fretful looks at the gathered clouds we begin to set up for the evening. Thankfully, however, the rain held back and we didn’t have to witness the soul-crushing scene of all of our electrical equipment fizzling its way off this mortal coil. The gig went marvellously, with the band sounding as tight as an inappropriate simile and the lovely Rhiannon singing up a storm. The third set started unusually, with a request from a guest for the Andrews Sisters’ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – as sung by her own, former-Las-Vegas-showgirl self. A first-rate performance, I might add.
The following day was Down for the Count’s triumphant return to Don’t Tell Fred, the Sheen-based restaurant and bar. Slightly shorter hair and a notable absence of door-related monologues signalled that tonight’s tenor sax dep would be Meridyth Dickson rather than the esteemed Jamie Hone, another Down for the Count first-timer who proved to be just as talented as her Walthamstow-bred compatriot. The gig had an even better turnout than its previous iteration – the crowd included several more members of the Ballard family, including one who had come over from Brazil just for this gig , and a Fagandini or three as well. Celeb-spotters were disappointed when Clare Balding failed to make another appearance, but were soon put in better spirits by the swingtastic and soultacular (both words trademark Down for the Count) music. Many thanks to everyone who came along to support!
The third day of this musical odyssey brought the band to Micklefield Hall in Hertfordshire or, more accurately, an elaborate marquee just outside the hall. A quick and easy set up was followed by a leisurely dinner on the dainty sandwiches provided by the caterers and a sudden realisation on Mike’s part that the groom had wanted some horn parts for a rendition of All You Need Is Love. A frantic attempt at working out the key proved successful and the horn section was happy to step up on stage to accompany the groom and best man for their short Beatles tribute. The rest of the evening went off without a hitch and provided a fittingly positive ending to an exhausting three days.
The band’s got a number of these strings of gigs coming up over the next few months – it’ll be a lot of work, but if they end up half as good as this weekend was we’ll have nothing to worry about.