In the late-1980s, there was a Q article about Phil Collins doing production rehearsals for his tour in a Surrey village hall. Okay, I know this isn’t the most promising start to a blog post, but bear with me. It was full of jolly juxtapositions like members of the Phoenix Horns munching digestive biscuits in the kitchen with the vicar’s wife, one of Collins’ perkier numbers (“Sussudio”, if memory serves) sapping too much power and knocking out whole sections of the village’s electricity, and then the whole shebang having to pile out of the space by 7pm one night due to a prior booking from the local Women’s Institute. Silly old Phil, we all thought. Didn’t he have a proper rehearsal space to go to?
Fast-forward 25 years, and plans for Fink’s production rehearsals are plunged into a skipful of turds by one of those professional rehearsal spaces turning round at the eleventh hour and calmly announcing that they don’t allow use of a smoke machine. Panic! Fink’s entire live show is based around a smoke machine. I’m personally lost if I can actually see the rest of my band through lack of fog. But where can we find a space for five three-meter tall lighting stacks and a five-piece band for four full days with, ooh, one week’s notice? Homerton’s old public library in East Hackney, that’s where, now rebranded as Chats Palace and – although termed a “community arts space” – with a vibe as homely as an episode of The Archers included in the price, i.e. it’s a village flipping hall. And what a lovely place it was. Great coffee place next door. Diamond geezer of a technical manager who’d seen real live punk gigs in the very same hall during the late seventies. Chill-out spot for the day patients of Homerton Mental Hospital in the park across the road. If it wasn’t for the minor inconvenience of having to move our entire production out of the room each night for such vital activities as kids’ Ju-Jitsu club, we’d be rehearsing there all the time. Once again, Phil Collins is proved right.
Anyway, to the show. Once again employing the twin artistic powerhouse of 59 Productions, theatrical gunslingers of War Horse fame, and our own lighting director Andres “Argy” Atkinson, a man who can single-handedly set up an entire lightshow while speaking up to six European languages, we set about creating 90 minutes of pure sensual assault. I don’t know what sort of dreams those 59 people have, but I’m sure they must involve perpetually strobing lights and lots of technical Lego. The five lighting monoliths – by the end of the week named variously “Steel-Henge” and “Steelosaurus” – pump out beams, sparks, slow dims and rapid-fire flashes like the lighting equivalent of those giant robots in War of the Worlds. By the end of the week we’d added some key new songs to the set, including “Green and the Blue” with its extended atmospheric outro where we all pretend to be one of those anti-insomnia CDs, and “White Flag” when our sound man Rob gets to stick all the instruments through the same Tesco’s Value delay effects pedal and turn the intensity up to eleven. Up in the viewing gallery, the 59 Productions boys and girls sat studiously behind their laptops, fine tuning the fades and flashes (or perhaps catching up on a few emails), and after four days we had a show. We unplugged, and prepared ourselves for the next problem.
When “folded down”, the five lighting monoliths are really quite compact, in the sense that if you happen to have an enormous warehouse attached to your office or flat, you might be able to squeeze them in. Hilariously, as five o’clock struck on the Thursday, everyone else thought they were going to be stored somewhere else. 59 thought they were going to the band’s place. The band thought they were going to the flight casing place. The flight casing place thought they were heading for 59’s place. Suddenly we had a room full of steel with nowhere to go and a tap dancing class starting in forty-five minutes. After a few seconds of teeth-gnashing, our amazing management team quickly found a last minute storage space, and also the number of a 24-hour Lorry-To-Come-And-Pick-Up-Your-Shit service (no, we didn’t know they existed either) and a while later a wiry grey-haired dude appeared with a truck and we all started pushing the thankfully wheeled monoliths precariously across the car park, being careful not to scrape the bottom on random rocks and stones or crash them into the arriving tap dancers. They really don’t teach you this sort of thing in rock school.
So it was goodbye to our temporary Homerton home, we’d learned a lot: Guy, Ruben and Chris discovered totally new parts of the London Transport system, Fin had improved his personal best Brighton-to-London landspeed record on a daily basis, Rob our sound engineer had spent most of the week fixing the rented sound system so I’m not quite sure what he’d learned, and me, the smug bastard who lives in Hackney anyway and could have practically walked there each day, I’ve learned that the 236 bus is marginally better than the 276 bus and has ever so slightly less mad people on it. Happy days.