21 January 2008

"Are the windows bomb proof?"

Honestly, the sense of humour of some people. All I did was text some of my friends and regulars who attend my club night to say we were open again after a three-week hiatus, and the title of this entry was an example of one of the replies...

We had something of an "incident" on New Year's Eve (well, early New Year's Day). It happened at just before 4am, an hour before the place was due to close and about half an hour after I'd left, having spun wheels and been called "shite" by drunken 19 year olds for seven hours.

It didn't involve nor hurt the punters or staff and happened in an area closed off to customers, thereby negating any need for fear or recrimination. But a police investigation was necessary and the premises were closed, and I found myself suddenly free for two Saturday evenings in a row.

How do you spend Saturday night these days? I didn't know what to do. The first weekend was easy; we were at Plymouth in the FA Cup so I just took my regular carful (normally reserved for midweek matches) to the game and then back home to Hull afterwards - had I been at the club I'd have had to travel alone as I was going straight there after the match.

The second weekend was a home match, late kick off on Sky. We were due to attend a friend's wedding bash in Manchester that evening, but the Natural Blonde was unwell so we cancelled our appearance with a heavy heart. Instead, I got home from the game, ate, walked the Bassets and watched telly. Watched telly! I can honestly say that the last time I watched Match Of The Day on a Saturday night, rather than get the old Sky+ series link mechanism working and see it at 10am the next morning, was in January 2005, a month before I started at the club.

It felt genuinely bizarre not to be there and I did have worries for the future. The crowd on a Saturday night had developed into a cracking bunch of folk, with lots of regulars who shake your hand or peck your cheek each week before enjoying a shameless dance to old stuff for up to six hours. But highly reported incidents can have a knock-on effect, especially when they prompt a venue's closure.

The Saturday just passed was our first one back. I'd already had a poor day, having driven to Colchester for the usual spherical ball reasons only to hear on 5 Live just two miles from the ground (and therefore 261 miles from home) that the pitch was unplayable and the game was off. The conjecture from our club and a spot of local research suggests that not a great amount of effort went into making the pitch worthy of use. Yet nearby non-league sides like Braintree, Grays and Chelmsford all had their games on (some of my mates leapt on a train to Chelmsford to see their game; determined as they were not to just catch their return train home). We'll now be back at Colchester on a Tuesday night sometime, which will severely dent the numbers in away support and cost a further £50 worth of diesel, in my case.

So, having left Colchester, cursing, and gone home again (was watching the latest scores on Soccer Saturday by 4.30pm) I then had to make the trip to the club, wondering what sort of crowd we would get. Normally I start at 10 with the leftovers of the teatime/early evening rush, and the partygoers start arriving from 11. By midnight we're usually full, by 1am there are queues and by 2am the crowd slowly begins to trundle home. At 3am we're anywhere between nearly full and a third full, and at closing time at 4am we're usually a quarter full.

This week, by midnight, we were half full. I gulped, played the tunes and did my best.

By 1am we were three quarters. Not bad. The sign outside the venue on a handily-placed lamp-post saying "SERIOUS INCIDENT HERE!" courtesy of the local rozzers as they appealed for witnesses can't have helped...

By 2am we were nearly full. And many of them were my regulars.

A pal of mine told me that one regular walked in, saw me onstage and yelled "Well, thank f**k for that!" If ever my ego got a boost, it was at that point.

I was thrilled. Looks like nobody's going to put off the 80s crowd, when there's WKD to drink and Livin' On A Prayer to dance to...

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