[I wrote this on Friday as another catch up blog, but didn't have time to post it as I spent four hours putting together a fiendishly complex lego viking boat. I think it's something I should do more often]
If there had to be a Riccardi gig in the approach to Christmas then there also had to be a Griffin gig, predictably in York because York seems to be the centre of the Universe when it comes to Griffin gigs. That it is also the centre of the universe when it comes to fountains and cocktail drinking makes for something of a happy union. Because if Griffin is wonderously predictable, then it must be said so are we.
Though we're rather fabulous too.
If my slightly over-develped sense of the ridiculous had meant that I rather loved the thought of going to a 'Summer Spectacular' a week before Christmas - does such an event require bikinis it has to be wondered - it still remained that I was wearing my big winter coat. I'd learnt my lesson from the Whitby Christmas gig last year ("What f**king idiot has a gig in Whitby in December?") when I assumed that turning up after the 'door opening time' would mean that I could get straight into the gig. It didn't. I got very cold and swore a lot. And then developed full blown Whitby Flu over Christmas, which made me grumpy and didn't exactly put me in the festive spirit (unless we're considering the festive spirit to be exemplified by Scrooge). It might have been a different venue this time but I still found myself grumbling in a queue some time after seven thirty. Because standing outside is cold. And I feel that I've done all the standing outside for Griffin that he could ever need (and then some). No, I've shown my commitment (and insanity). Now is the time for warmth.
When we did get into Temple Hall - to the strains of a brass band - it was to a couple of realisations. One: I was over-dressed. Not that this is anything new, I revel in the fact that, to quote a much uttered phrase, I am never knowingly underdressed. It being Christmas I'd thought it wise to wear some sequins, so my Mischa Barton dress purchased pre-JCS in Cheltenham and not yet worn had come out. It also co-ordinated rather nicely with the crutches, which is always something to keep in mind. I'd added jeans to the look, because neither the weather nor the current size of my thighs are exactly conducive to getting my legs out. But it remained. I was overdressed. Two: the stage wasn't very high. Now don't mark me down me down as some sort of stage fetishist, but a low stage and seating means that there's not going to be a lot of dancing during the band set. And - even with the crutches - I wanted to dance. Not bouncy dancing, because that hurts, but more like swing-your-pants dancing.
Eventually Griffin emerged on stage (having somewhat broken the illusion by already having been organising seating) in a paper mache spaceman's outfit and enough smoke to give anyone in a three mile radius an asthma attack. Naturally it took all of three seconds for the smoke machine to set the fire alarm off. And I had to mentally check that I hadn't wandered into a BBC3 sitcom, because, let's all face it, how many gigs have any of us been to where the Fire Alarm has been set off within the first ten seconds? Plus if several episodes of house managing various plays and then four months at the WYP has taught me anything it is that the last thing you want to do is set the fire alarm off when you've got an audience in. Because THEY WILL HAVE TO LEAVE THE BUILDING. And, as a rule of thumb, no one wants the audience to leave, not least the audience themselves. I think it took a minute or so to filter down to the realisation that the only thing calling to us was the evacuation route, and then we were being asked to evacuate. And maybe because I've worked on too many shows in such studenty venues to count and because I've been involved in more health and safety show fun and games than I like to consider, I wasn't the happiest of bunnies. Because I'm pretty exacting on myself and everything I do and I tend to extend that to other people, especially people I inadvertently care about. And had that happened to one of my shows, through such an elementary mistake, I'd have been furious with myself. Plus given that I now judge venue front of house procedure with a passion possibly unrivaled in normal society I also wasn't happy at the fact that had there been a real fire, me on my crutches, having to get down a fire route that wasn't clear, dodging round chairs, would have been in serious danger of frying. I'd like to think that not even my most ardent dissenter would want that. On the plus side, though, the whole thing was dealt with with such good nature, and a very nice security man half lifted me down the steps on the way out, that it - almost - took the edge off of my venom. Just enough for me not to rap Griffin round the legs with one of my crutches when he passed behind me, anyway. Given that Cat and Val took the cue to start their own particular brand of entertainment I was, anyway, more scared by this than the possibility of frying.
Even with the opportunity for one of my favourite rants, I couldn't remain grumpy once we were back in our seats and Griffin was back on stage. After a couple of songs I don't even think that I remembered the fifteen minute detour to the fire point, or at the very least I'd lost the desire to rant. The only thing that popped me out of the acoustic zone of the first half was a slice of a new song, 'Get A Life'. Parts of it, some phrases I loved, a couple of bits I didn't, more for its rather unforgiving undertone than anything else. But I never signed up to saying that I'd love - or even like - everything from Griffin's output, any more than I love everything from even my all time favourite writers. Equally I'm sure that Griffin wouldn't agree with everything that I've to say about the matter. And, regardless, I was humming the bloody thing incessantly the next morning.
By the time that we'd progressed, via the classic 'Last Christmas' (George Fornby style) and an interval complete with brass band, to the band set I was loving the gig. After so long it was a little odd to see Griffin backed by a band that weren't the Riccardi boys (certainly there was a notable down turn in aesthetics) but things seemed fresh again and I certainly couldn't fault them. As for the dancing, predictably, we ended up in the aisle and because, as one of music's great philosophers once said, you can't rock siting down Griffin decided to use us as a test case in front of the stage. And I loved him a little bit more and felt that aching sense of dissapointment that creeps up on me at these type of gigs. Because I want Griffin to rock a crowd. Which inevitably involves more than the occassional nodding of a head. Given that the stage was as low as we'd first noted and Griffin was apparently getting 'glares' from the front row (his words not mine) we went back to the side to shout and dance, only completing our advance towards the end of the set (through a couple of storming versions of the new songs, particularly my favourite back at the Bedford last month, the amusingly titled 'Everything Changes'). When the encore hit, Griffin instructed us to the front, and without warning, then stomped over the tradditional Northern Division 'COME ON!' during 'Bring It On' by coming in too early and smirking. The git.
Afterwards people lingered, I made more than my usually insular attempts at socialisation and finally we were heading back for some drinks before the strange light flashing 'last orders' of one of York's finest - and curiously atmosphere free - bars. A couple of drinks, some singing along to the music, random clapping and a debate about whether we could get away with abusing Griffin's tab (we didn't, not for some moral reason, but just because we couldn't be bothered) followed before we made our way back to Val's for the culmination of the evening - Secret Santa.
In retrospect I think the gig was something of a marker. Of the future rather than the past. There were the new songs, enlivening the set more than I could have hoped. But there were notable absenses. Wherever You Will Go, our song, wasn't there and I rather missed Semi Charmed Life. But the set seemed to fit better and who am I to harp back to something of the past when I want Griffin to go forward. But I missed WYWG, because I'm me, with all the contradictions and flaws that that entails. And I also missed people. I ticked off those who weren't there who meant something to me either because of who they were or because of the journey they'd been part of, the obvious ones and the not so obvious ones. Griffin said on local radio just before the gig that he can pretty much expect 200 or so fans at whatever he does. I've said as much myself. But as I searched for those who'd miss WYWG as much as I did, more often than not they were not there. I suspect that's the nature of being a fan.
But to the future, more gigs, new songs, a new album (everything crossed) and much less use of the smoke machine. And maybe the occassional WYWG. Just to make a soppy Griffinette or two happy.