As an outside observer, dear reader, you probably think the life of a musicOMH gig reviewer is a glamorous one. Swan up to the venue, waft past the plebs in the queue to a beautiful young thing holding the press list, who waves you in with a friendly smile while handing you an access-all-areas laminate that will get you free beers and a shag with Carl Barat.
Sadly, as you’ve no doubt guessed by now, life is rarely (okay, never) like that. Now and again there are brief moments to remind you why you bother – such as nicking free tins of mints and left-over luxury chocolates off the best tables at the Digital Music Awards, or sharing warm beer with Captain backstage at Koko.
More often it goes like this: turn up at the venue to find it plunged into darkness by a power cut, doors not opening for another hour, band unable to soundcheck … cumulating in the gig not starting until the last train home is about to leave.
This, sadly, was the reality of the April 19th Holly Golightly gig at Spitz – part of the Spitz Festival of Blues 2007. Apart from the inability of the door staff to give a straight answer about how far behind schedule things would run, at first glance the lack of power gave Spitz a pleasant ambience; candles on the tables, stygian darkness on an otherwise sunny and bright spring evening, the possibility of Blitz spirit and the certain romance of a venue already doomed to closure struggling on against all odds to ensure the show must go on for its last festival of the Blues. You could even make a good Blues lyric out of it.
Instead, it consisted of prolonged and tedious queuing on stairways as the door (originally due to open at 7.30pm) proceeded to be “10 minutes away” from opening for a good hour or so. With power only restored at 8.20pm, Holly Golightly – former Billy Childish collaborator, more recently better known for working with the White Stripes on Elephant and appearing on the Broken Flowers movie soundtrack – needs to soundcheck before the waiting masses can be let through the doors.
“Look at it as a bonus,” offers the perky doorgirl, clearly a glass-half-full type, at ten to nine, “You don’t usually get to hear the band soundcheck”. She also assures us that once the doors do open, Holly will be on stage “very soon”.
This, sadly, does not prove to be entirely true. The doors open at nine, but it’s another 45 minutes before anyone takes the stage, and when they do it’s not Holly but support act Pete Molinari.
A bluesy, Dylanish, solo acoustic type with guitar and harmonica, on a good night he would have been a great support act but tonight he’s in the way, eating up precious time between Holly and the looming threat of Last Train Home. He finger-picks his way through songs with Blues-friendly titles such as Loves Lies Bleeding, and covers Billy Childish number I Don’t Like The Man I Am. Another time, he might have won himself a fourth star for rhyming Limousine with In My Dreams but tonight, I’m not in the mood to be generous.
The logical thing by this stage would be to get the headline act on as soon as possible afterwards. Instead, there’s a second, unbilled, support act – another solo acoustic bloke with a guitar, Laywer Dave. It’s now 10.15pm and as the audience suddenly realises that he’s going to take up most of the remaining precious time between Holly and that last train, the venue starts to thin out considerably.
Mystery man’s music sounds as if it’s filtered through a 100-year-old amplifier, scuzzy with echoes of the Velvet Underground and guitar solos that go on for just a little bit too long amid sparse, lonely vocals. Lawyer Dave, like Pete Molinari, would have been welcome entertainment on any other night, but this evening the time his set takes would have been better used getting to Holly more quickly.
By the time his set ends, I’m tired, fed-up and aware that I have to leave now if I’m going to get home for less than a three-figure cab fare. As I make my way to the exit, Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs emerge, carrying their instruments through the crowd en route to the stage. With one eye on the door, I risk staying for the opening number. It is, of course, energetic, glorious, dirty blues that threatens to wash away all the bad things in the world and the frustrations of the day. I desperately want to stay for more, but I can’t.
So I head off into the night, towards Aldgate East tube and an already precarious appointment with the Wimbledon branch of the District Line, leaving Holly and the promise of a fantastic gig behind me. Next time maybe.