Sunday, July 19, 2009
Down Under The Station
We all had a feeling it was going to be an interesting gig. Even getting into the place was a challenge. Perhaps you've been to London Bridge recently and seen a long queue of people seemingly waiting to get into some part of the station basement. Well I know what they are waiting for now, and it's called Shunt.
Shunt is hard to define, it's part work space, part theatre, part art installation, part night club. The atmosphere is damp and humid, like being in a cave or some sort of Victorian England slum experience. It's no coincidence that the London Dungeon share the same space in the dank arches under the station. I arrived at the entrance in Stainer Street and then was led through a reception, bar, theatre and huge video installation that takes up about 10 arches to the far side of this eclectic venue. We were performing in the Speakeasy, which is a little pub sized room with a small bar and a big PA. The chairs and tables didn't match anything - least of all each other, and the whole vibe was easy going. The artists were all nervous and excited, we had no idea what the audience reaction would be to the mixed line-up that our host - Frog Morris - on behalf of Utrophia had assembled.
In the end we had no worries at all (apart from the odd technical glitch). The audience came in and out, but often stayed and crowded around the door to catch what was happening. We didn't disappoint them.
Frog was first on as host: Dave the security guard, who has an interesting line in safety information and an unhealthy relationship with his dogs! The first section of the show was dedicated to art. Daniel Lehan, becoming an increasingly confident performer, amused and entertained with poems and stories about sex, Sting and an interactive poem about buses in London. Next up was another gob-smacking performance from Duncan Ward. It's very hard to give a full flavour of what Duncan does in mere words, but suffice to say it involved, bags of compost, a bottle of champagne, leaves and other foliage, a paper aeroplane and, well, a fair about of mess. As with the last time I saw him at the Montague Arms, the audience were hushed into mesmerised silence, and the doorway was crammed with people trying to get a view.
After the art, it was the turn of the comedians, and James W. Smith, with musings on philosophy and sex and Aaron Barshak, the self-styled Comedy Terrorist, helped us understand religion a little more completely. There was also an appearance by the renown medium - Mystic Huere.
Finally it was time for the music! I was up first and went for the more performance art end of my repertoire. It all seemed to go down pretty well, despite one small equipment glitch. The full set was:
The End Of The World Part I
The End Of The World Part II
When The Snow Fell In Denver (extended version including a spoken verse from Obsession)
The Doctor Who Theme Tune (Oh yes!)
I Need Your Love
I was very pleased to get some great feedback after the set, and sold quite a few CDs.
Last, but not least, was Deference Engine who despite one or two problems with the backing track played a storming set. In the end all that was left to do was sing a rousing chorus or two of Angry Badger (pictured above, Deference Engine just off) and we were on our way out of the venue into the south London night.
It was such a great event and, although we are unlikely to ever get the chance to perform at Shunt again, you can see similar nights to this EVERY MONTH - on the 2nd Thursday at the Montague Arms in Peckham.
Or if you want to catch my songs sooner, then I'll be at Prohibition (a mere stone's throw from Shunt in the St. Katharine's docks near Tower Bridge) tonight!