Usually, I am the last to be surprised that I don’t know something. Go on. Ask me something. Bet I don’t know it. ..Nope, never heard of it. See? And I’m not remotely surprised; I always said you were the clever one. Yet I am sitting here listening to Robson Jorge & Lincoln Olivetti and wondering how the Brazillian funk wax I have never heard of them or this album ever before. This is one thing that should have blurted all over my radar decades ago, surely.
Sent to me by Momo’s own current head of horns, Mr Hayes, he is wondering the same thing – how he too has apparently never heard of this 1982 playful soul groove outfit, all tight horns and synths and energetic dancefloor cheese of the gloriously old school variety. But it is watering our mouths at the thought of new musical tastes to concoct between us, after a week that saw each of us launch an album with a nerve-wrackingly big show, one at either end of the week, with another in the middle for good luck. As we both pondered all we still had responsibility to do for each show, some days before, I distracted our worries by coming up with the album name for our collaboration project. It got us so excited, we fogot about all that could go wrong in our shows. Which is the whole point of making music for me, I think.
But not knowing what the hell to cook up next musically is a pertinent topic here because it is a completely new concept to me and it is almost literally all I have been doing for the past three weeks.
I always know what’s next. This is because I take so long to get anything done, it seems, there is always a list outstanding. And don’t get me wrong, there is still a list. Only, it has things like “paint the utility room” and “for God’s sake hoover the studio for once” and that kind of thing on it. But musical concepts… er, not exactly. Not quite an actual one. Which is giving me the most destabilising wobbly feeling I’ve ever had.
Especially with all this swooning sunshine since the start of June, I wonder if I have in fact died and my own Limbo is not dissimilar to Napoleon’s in The Great Divorce but instead of pacing back and forth in my little house trying to justify myself I am doomed to spend an oddly gentle portion of eternity trying to untangle leads in my shed. It is less demoralising than I imagined.
I may not have known there would be quite such a summery weather vibe to June, but I had an inkling it would be weird, before it arrived. Because of course, the start of the month saw something finally happen that had been planned for for weeks, or really months, or really actually years. Because it’s been five years since I launched a new LP, and June 6th saw me finally do it again. And in some style this time.
When I took the call from Tony at Jalarra back at the start of the year, I was seriously stuck at answering the question: “Where on Earth will I launch Thespionage“? I felt it should be in Bournemouth, as much as a statement of creative intent as any additional hope that people might actually come to it. I also longed for a place with some actual atmosphere; you may be a splendid old muso, who loves the sacred simplicity and hard-working anti-glitz of beer-soaked sticky black carpets in empty box rooms with a stage at one end – such pub backrooms are the hallowed halls of many dreams and much musical integrity. But I always wish someone would at least add some drapes to brighten up the place. If I can’t be in an art gallery, then I’ll want to be in a theatre. And pop music doesn’t really like either of those pretentious playful places. If it’s good pop music it will like sweaty small dark places and if it’s not good pop music it will haunt shopping malls and glorified sports halls.
None of which sounds much like Momo to me. And then Tony rang me, the morning after our last show at Swing Unlimited jazz night.
Tony. With the unique new atmospheric bar theatre music venue he and his wife Lisa were just putting the finishing touches of an extensive refurb to. And would I like to bring a show into this beautiful, vibey creative space. In the heart of Bournemouth. I, as you know, played it cool and jumped into his arms.
By the time June 6th finally dawned, I saw it do so. I’d played a 100% bloody Tim Peach move the night before and shied right off finishing all my homework for the biggest little show of my life to date and went out for drinks in a sunny Friday evening Westbourne with Dan and David, up for the show from Devon. Had a brilliant night. Woke with a headache just before sun-up at quarter to five the next morning finally ready to nail the last bits of arrangement files and charts and props for the day’s big event.
I stood on the step outside the kitchen and looked down the hill over a steaming cup of tea as the sun poked its first orange frond over the distant horizon of the New Forest. Took a breath. Took a sip. Said something about getting the hell on with it. Did. And didn’t make it back to bed again until just before the sun repeated this manoeuvre.
In the intervening 23 hours, I was in sensibly solid work mode. So much, that I paced myself though the joys of such an event as much as the challenges, a bit. It’s all very well saying that you plan to abandon the stage the moment your big show is done and head illustriously straight up to the bar area to settle into a corner with a bottle of something vintage until the sun comes up but enless you have a manager and full road crew prepared to carry you out on a flightcase at dawn, you will have a stage to pack up and lost props from Peeks Party Store to gather together and a lot of people to thank. Plus I think Tony planned to go home for at least a couple of hours before opening his venue all over again the next day. But to his eternal credit, Mr Hayes purposefully pushed a clinking glass tumbler straight into my hand in the wings with a glint and the steely words “double brandy” almost as soon as we’d finally given up trying to remember how to play anything. With attuned care instincts like that, the man could run a hospice.
By the time I was standing in a coridor with a double brandy, chatting dazedly to people and hugging anyone who walked by, including the security people in the middle of their own conversation, I am told we had been on stage for over two and a half hours. Even admitting for how much of this time would have been me guffing on about God-knows-what or trying to remember what I was supposed to do next, this was still by far the biggest show I and the boys had done as Momo. And I was almost reluctant to finish even then. Despite most of the audience having gone home.
Something I do know is that it’s important to leave them wanting. Whoever they are. I think context is important to this phrase, probably, but it might have looked like I didn’t know the meaning of it at all that Saturday in early June at Jalarra, because I did rather leave it all out on the field, as they say – few songs were left unwrestled by the end of the show. But none the less, we didn’t share everything we do; we even rested Disfunkshun for goodness sake, tremendous fun as it always is. But the experience of that musically rich night did leave at least some of us wanting more. The band.
After six weeks of rehearsals with Mark and Simon especially, but also with Martin and Hazel along the way, and lots of planning charts with Pat, all we wanted to do after the show was the next show. Finally getting to share some new pieces from Thespionage was enormous fun, but in a playlist that finally included the unforgivably-never-before-performed Asylum Seeker and our only second-ever cover, Hyperactive by Thomas Dolby, the night was like a lengthy Momo manifesto, from first music to first influences and latest ideas with all the collaborations in between. Getting to share a whole section with Hazel from Adventures Into The Monochronium had been one of the sections of the show I’d most been looking forward too. Whimsical jonny that I am. And at the end of the whole set, we all more or less bounced off the stage at the end.
Bouncing off the stage ultimately, however, comes down to just one factor: Your audience. Most especially with a hairy creative audio stunt like Momo:tempo’s Electro Pops Orchestra. If it doesn’t work, or people aren’t feeling it… groo, that’s no fun. But this was a night to side-step such fears, for we had the family with us.
To walk around Jalarra in the warm evening sun before the show and mingle about the place’s late night atmosphere afterwards was a bit akin to being at my own wedding again. With only marginally better hair. People from all over the country and other parts of the planet had made a huge effort to join us for the celebrations. Celebrations that included Mr Adkins’ own fortieth birthday party at the beginning of the night; a blending of events I will always thank him for. Momo’s family of amigos were there in force to sing along to words they already knew and arse about enthusiastically along with us on stage. Those are the shows you really want to do – when people are truly with you. Showbiz may serve up a few cold soups when you job your way through it, but if you can gag back the odd pappy gespacho, it’s the fraternal feasts it also sometimes gives you that you truly go to work for. This was one of those. And I had no indegestion at all. I’d even lost my hangover by the end of it.
Couple of other things I knew before the day that turned out to be right. That Sunday morning on the lawn would be sweet. And thankyou wouldn’t cover it.
We had a crowningly ecclectic houseful by the time I made it back, a little before three. The Londoners convened with the Devoners and no one could really get any sleep so we all chatted noisily for another hour over teas and wines and ports and goodness knows what else before the cool first light of dawn stole over the kitchen skylights and we all finally crept to our various camp bedded corners. I took a little glimpse out of the kitchen door down the hill and saw a shimmering band of rainbow colours warm the horizon.
By the time I staggered back into the kitchen from our camp in the studio, the house was full, with guests already in the fray for brunch. Lee and Andrea and Finn made impromtu pancakes and everyone made noise and sat in the sun and swapped stories and recovered from hangovers and generally filled the neighbourhood with the sounds of love. By the time Mr Hayes finally found himself on my lawn with that beer and his parents, it was a swooning late summer afternoon and most had sadly already left. But it did taste sweet, that beer on the lawn. We had actually done the week. And I know I have spent the weeks since largely listening to Pat’s album. We clinked glasses as showbiz chums.
So what do I know now? I know that I owe friendship and love all over the place. I know the Thespionage show wasn’t a normal gig, it was a family party. One that worked because Mark, Simon, Pat, Martin, Hazel, Dave and Tony are class acts each one of them and they agreed to help me out with their talents and invaluable enthusiasm and a lot of time. And worked because Tony and Lisa threw open the doors of the coolest venue to happen to the south coast in a lifetime. All of which would have been for Danika’s lovely photos alone if friends like Simon B and Lee hadn’t spread the word of Momo far and wide so generously over the past couple of years, and friends like Sarah and Jules and Kev and Fee hadn’t been happy to travel a long way from normal comforts to stand alongside my daft creative endeavours over the last couple of decades.
I also know I love the new album. Never had any fears, really. Unlike The Golden Age Of Exploration, five years back now already, this time I wasn’t coming out – I was making good on that LP’s promises, really. And whatever the reviews might be – all of them glowing, as it turns out so far – I will always have made record I love, shot through with memories of the best five years of my musical life to date and creative collaborations that have changed my little world a bit. And the Thespionage show was the seal on it all. The end of a brilliant chapter, and the start of one.
I also know I take unwarranted pride in something else that happened at the show – I and all the Phonicon crew that made it along meeting the cult legend that is Jenny Shirt for the first time in the flesh. I shall never forget some faces when she walked in. I shall forever be very touched that she chose this event to travel all the way down to Bomo to finally put a mellifluous voice to her invaluable online friendship across so many forums and groups and support networks of fandom. It was beautiful to have her with us.
What I know more than anything right now though is this: I have no idea what the hell to do next. At all. Many possibilities, I am sure, but pottering around the studio tidying it up for the first time since I opened it seems to be all I can manage as the summer opens up here. My whole creative life has oddly wrapped up with the launch. But I’m too pooped and pleased to worry just yet. For I am already getting distracted with enthusiastic ideas with various members of the creative family who were with me on that big little night a few weeks ago. And maybe that’s the point of a life after all. Who knows.
But watching the rushes of Kumquat’s enthusiastic film of the show, I am all excited again. I know that. About something. No idea what yet.
Hope I’ll be surprised.
Catch some of the memories of the performance:
THE FLICKR SHOW ALBUM
See some of those who were there:
THE FACEBOOK PEOPLE ALBUM
Back the LP for yourself:
THESPIONAGE ON iTUNES
Discover the Patrick Hayes Electric Ensemble
BACK TO THE GROVE ON BANDCAMP.