Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Posts tagged “Alice Cooper

Tickets, Touts, and the BBC 6 Music Festival

I first attended a live music gig in October 1998 and, writing in April 2017, I have been to about three-hundred-and-fifty others since then. I did not intend to become someone who travels around the country, and occasionally the continent or across oceans, in the pursuit of hearing my favourite bands – but that is who I am. It is possible that I just grew older and cantankerous, but it is equally possible that gig-going has been ruined by online ticket sales, the secondary resale market, and self-obsessed pricks with camera-phones.

It was in 2000 that I began to regularly attend concerts, buying tickets in person from one agent that still exists and two record stores that have closed down. Occasionally, I would buy from the venue direct – the crowning glory being a ticket in the second row of the Edinburgh Playhouse stalls to see Alice Cooper with Dio. I was in the right place at the right time to see the Lostprophets’ first ever Glasgow gig, and Pantera’s last. The influence of a friend (and the cancellation of his scheduled T In The Park festival appearance) meant that I saw David Bowie play what became his final Scottish show. I watched Brutal Deluxe play the Cathouse to an audience of six people, and Iron Maiden play the first Download Festival to sixty thousand. I was there when FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks) played their debut live show, and I flew from Glasgow to Los Angeles just to witness a rare 75-minute Combichrist techno set. In short, my experience has been as wide and varied as my taste in music.

I still enjoy going to smaller club shows (aside from the insufferable selfie-takers, iphone photographers, and especially those who film video with their phones in portrait mode), but trying to obtain tickets for anything popular has become so much of a chore that it has sucked the joy right out of the whole endeavour. Chronologically, my recent gripes have been with the Reeves & Mortimer tour cancellation; Penn and Teller’s UK tour; Alice Cooper’s 2017 presales; and the BBC 6 Music Festival.

Bob Mortimer required emergency heart surgery, meaning that he was unable to perform as scheduled. See Tickets refunded, but kept the transaction fees that everybody had been charged when booking seats – leaving me three pounds out of pocket. Now consider, they had sold out venues every night, each averaging about two thousand seats. Suddenly it is apparent that See skimmed several thousand pounds off a man’s poor health – which is pretty reprehensible.
In 2016, when I was trying to buy four individual tickets to see my favourite band play in four UK cities, See advised me that they offer no “add to basket” option, and would force me to pay a transaction fee on each brief. Thankfully, I used individual agencies and went to the venues own sites and managed to pay a more sensible amount.

Above: Reeves & Mortimer later announced replacement tour dates, but by that point I had lost interest.

Lately, it has frustrated me that both Iron Maiden and Ricky Gervais have opted to use Ticketmaster in their seemingly noble bids to combat touts. Ticketmaster IS the tout – they operate two different secondary resale sites, with alleged evidence that some briefs are diverted for sale there without ever having been made available through the primary channel. Iron Maiden have claimed success with their “ticketless ticketing” system for the 2017 UK tour, while Gervais inflated the price of premium seats himself – giving the additional spend to charity, but again limiting access to only the wealthiest. Despite their assertions, it is not “fairer to the fans” that these high profile acts endorse the one ticketing agency that we all feel ripped off by.

In December 2016, I decided to jump on my chance to see magicians Penn and Teller, whose television career I have been following since the mid-1990s when Channel Four aired “The Unpleasant World of” show. I soon learned that TicketSoup, which was formed by and used to cover sales for Glasgow’s SECC and Clyde Auditorium, had been taken over by or merged with the dreaded Ticketmaster. So began the pain – I logged on and selected (from an interactive plan) the seats that I wanted, at which point an instructional box popped up. Due to high demand, it informed me, I would be unable to select my own seats and instead it would offer me whatever was available. My chosen seats at the front of the first circle had been greyed out, and in their place would I like two seats on the fourth level, three rows from the back wall of the theatre? Not knowing any better, I accepted, suddenly miles from where I wanted to be to see the performance. Insult to injury, the next day a second date was announced, and when idle curiosity (or masochism) made me look at availability, I could have at least had third level. I cannot say that I hold the same enthusiasm, knowing that I was deliberately diverted into buying seats so bad that I will be watching expert sleight of hand from virtually outside.

Above: Metallica are another huge band offering “experiences” instead of tickets. It is no longer enough to just watch a band play live.

That same month, Alice Cooper announced his first UK tour for five years – excitement soon tempered when it was revealed that these gigs in standing arenas would be all seated. If you wanted to be at the front of the stage, you would have to find a seat located there – and good luck to you. Presales were announced on his official site and for customers of two different corporations – one telephones, one home energy. The next day, there would be presales through Ticketmaster and AXS, and on the individual venue pages, followed by general sale the day after that. You had seven places to try, therefore, in pursuit of a decent spot – more, if you planned to try and catch a couple of shows, and his diehard fans often travel to see the lot.
He did at least guarantee a ticket near the front, provided you paid a premium for one of four different “VIP” packages that were on offer. No need for luck, all you need is money – specifically, £482.50 to sit in the front row (and meet him, and various other unnecessary stuff – merchandise and photo opportunities and the like.) Alternatively, you could slum it in rows two to five, for just £426, and meet him but for less time – or whatever the supposed perks are. Personally, some of us just enjoy being down the front to see an iconic showman play his hits accompanied by the finest musicians he can find.

The Alice thing irked his entire fanbase, certainly on one respected and thorough forum. With all packages accounted for, his diehard fans would now be located fifteen rows from the front, behind the casual fans with money to burn, having to find the best available tickets for each location they plan to visit – a tedious process to be repeated as remaining availability dwindled at every subsequent venue on the list. The VIP experience used to be an upgrade, on previous tours, but Alice’s personal assistant (who was very sympathetic) says that sales soared when they included the ticket too. So to Hell with the fans, it is all about ticket company profits.

For my part, I was offered one seat – too far back, though in the centre section, and I declined it – and was automatically then assigned a number of seats dotted around the outskirts of the floor, declining each in the pursuit of something nearer the stage. This was in the presale, and then in the general sale I tried again – and bought again, when I found I could be in row seventeen instead of row thirty. If you want a ticket to see Alice Cooper in Glasgow this November, I have a spare to sell – it is right in front of the sound desk, so if you just want to see the show from the position which should have the best sound (since that is where the operator is listening from), then we can talk. Me, I want to be nearer the action.

Above: Alice’s personal assistant explaining why tickets are now inextricably linked to VIP packages.

I do love my music, which is why I never listen to the radio – a medium where it is used to fill gaps between irritating commercials, or as an interlude from the banal chatter of witless presenters. It was social media that alerted me the 6 Music Festival was coming to Glasgow this year, and I was so excited at the announcement of Sparks that I had to be told directly that they had further revealed a Depeche Mode gig at the relatively tiny Barrowland Ballroom. It seemed a strange choice, given the size of venue (the festival would also encompass the city’s Academy the same night, which holds more), and also for DM’s history here. Singer Dave Gahan’s immediate assertion that they’ve always had a good time here failed to ring true – they played this city in 1986, and did not come back until 2009 (they played Edinburgh in 1988, so their eventual return was twenty-one years after they had last been in Scotland, and twenty-three since they played Glasgow – where, a first-hand source told me, he saw them booed off stage for miming.) Most bands who love us and who regularly tour try to play more frequently than twice every quarter-century.

Aware of these facts, having previously had to travel to Manchester and London in 2006 to see them, my oldest friend and I had decided for various reasons that we were not going to attend any more of their UK dates.  The exception, we both instantly agreed when we heard the news, would be this intimate club set. All I had to do was secure tickets.

A local club DJ stated (perhaps with inside knowledge) that 1400 tickets would be sold, in a venue that usually holds 2000, and my estimate now is that they probably did lose about a third of the capacity due to extended staging, set dressing, and the various technology required for recording and broadcasting. I submitted a Freedom Of Information request after the fact, regarding numbers, but the BBC snippily replied that they were not obliged to provide the data and refused to do so voluntarily. It would have been interesting to learn just how far demand outstripped supply.

Above: Initial reaction pre-empted the chaos of trying to obtain entry.

Due to go on sale at 10am one Friday, I was poised and on the website twenty minutes ahead of time – but clicked away as, I have learned, the link quietly went live fifteen minutes early – placing customers in an online queue, and putting me thirteen minutes behind those who had already discovered the fact. By 10:08am there were no DM tickets left for me, and I hear they sold out faster than that. I could have accepted my poor fortune, if the process had seemed at all fair.

It would be reasonable to think that a portion of tickets could have been allocated for local collection in person only, as the online system was swamped with keen English people and Europeans taking advantage, in the knowledge that trains and flights and hotels can be had for a comparatively low cost. Had a percentage of tickets been kept aside for those in the vicinity, we would have camped out overnight like we used to – knowing we were being held in a queue, on account of the fact we would be able to see all of the people in it. What is the point of taking the festival to different cities every year, if you refuse to guarantee entry for at least some of those living in the vicinity? It might as well be hosted annually in London.

The online system advised not to refresh the browser page, or risk losing your place. One friend, frustrated at the lack of availability, refreshed the page and was rewarded with the option to obtain a pair – suggesting that, as well as going live prematurely, the dedicated site had glitches.

My intention had been to buy four tickets, the two I needed and a further two to sell at face value (I knew a few people looking) – I would be a hero to somebody. Instead, I failed.

The touts succeeded, of course – instantly listing on sites like Viagogo for seven, eight, nine hundred pounds. Touts used to stand outside in the rain, they invested a bit of time and effort. If you were smart, you could wait until showtime and then haggle the price – offering face value (or less) and knowing they would either take what they could get or keep hold of a worthless piece of paper. Not now. Now anybody looking to make a fast buck can do so without standing up.

Above: One of several media reports, all focused on how quickly the gig sold out and how much touts were charging.

The BBC reacted quickly, promising that nobody who bought on the secondary market would get in. Absolutely, definitely not. No chance. ID to be checked on the door. very strict, do not attempt it. That policy worked well – and I say that with the sarcasm of someone who bought a ticket on Twitter for the Sparks and Goldfrapp gig, and who can be seen in the BBC’s own footage, at the barrier, applauding the former after their performance of “Dick Around.” Meanwhile, another friend bought tickets for DM, and then forked out for a fake ID (which she had to order in the name of the man who had originally paid for the tickets) – not only was this ruse successful in getting her in, it makes a mockery of the whole enterprise: forced to fund the secondary ticket market AND invest in the equally immoral practice of forging identification documents.

For my part, a generous stranger purchased a ticket for me on Viagogo (the reasons for this are a story in themselves), leaving me desperately trying to find my friend a way in. This friend, I have written before, introduced me to DM and they are her band. It was imperative that she be there, to which end I racked my brains and investigated every avenue. It was hopeless.

On the Saturday, the Gigs In Scotland Twitter page announced a handful of tickets would be immediately released for every venue that evening – I can only presume that this was from the allocations reserved for the BBC, and released for sale once they knew how many staff, guests, and VIPs they expected. It was 2:27pm, and the official BBC 6 Music page retweeted the information, meaning that Gigs In Scotland was the original source of the news. Come the Sunday, I sat on their page from 1pm until 4pm, refreshing constantly, only to discover – nothing. In vain, I phoned the Barrowland, who confirmed that there would be no tickets on the door that night, and no Production tickets released. It was over. I had exhausted every option.

I phoned my friend, adamant that she take my ticket, which she refused with equal stubbornness. Short of marching her there, I had no choice but to concede. My enthusiasm was gone, replaced with the sadness of knowing that I had let down my oldest friend, my closest confidante. I had a way in for myself, but was disconnected from it – a gift from someone I have never met, unrelated to my persistence and effort. I could take it or leave it, and would have surrendered it in a moment had my friend only agreed. Instead, I used the tout-sold ticket that the BBC had definitely blocked, and went in to watch my best friend’s once-in-a-lifetime dream gig, without her.

The stage had been extended to accomodate the band, with fully grown trees felled and placed at either side as set dressing, both highlighted with ultraviolet paint. The ceiling tiles had been similarly marked, in various colours, to brand the hall in the 6 Music Festival style, and camera equipment further reduced the crowd capacity. They brought us a band who had ignored our city for most of my life, shoehorned them into a space they had made to look nothing like it usually does, and excluded most of the home audience from attending. The gig was amazing, but the overall experience was awful.

Above: In the words of Joseph Heller (Closing Time, 1994) “The Freedom of Information Act…was a federal regulation obliging government agencies to release all information they had to anyone who made application for it, except information they had that they did not want to release. And, because of this one catch in the Freedom of Information Act…they were technically not compelled to release any information at all. […] It was a good catch…because the government did not have to release any information about the information they chose not to release…”

 

 

 

 

 

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Banking On The Wrong Name – Part 3.

My initial complaint and the first follow-up (part two) can be read by clicking those links.

My complaint handler at HBOS then sent me a letter in the mail, which I realised he probably would. I sent him the following reply today, and got an out-of-office response. He has not yet seen the letter published below. Not only am I interested in his response, I was looking through my correspondence with the company on Twitter and note that I provided them with my mobile number on the first day, alongside a request for them to contact me in writing instead. I will include that information next time, while chastising them appropriately for the lack of communication between departments.

Here is the bulk of the letter he sent me:

HBOS mailed letter

Here is my response:

Dear [staff member’s full name including his middle initials],

Thank you for your letter dated 8th April, which I received in the post today. I expected it, and had correctly anticipated that you would largely reiterate the content of your previous email.

I wrote in the first instance because I wanted you (that is, HBOS) to remove the Esq that you place after my name. It was, to my mind, no big deal – an outdated form of address that I have never personally used, it makes sense to rid myself of it. The timing – why now? – relates to a recent letter you sent which added “Esq Esq” after my name. Verging on the ridiculous, I decided to address the issue before I find myself in a roughly similar situation to Catch-22’s Major Major Major Major.

I imagined, evidently wrongly, that putting my very simple brief in writing would enable you to fix the problem swiftly, and all I wanted in reply was a note essentially saying “done.”

Instead, here we are – five emails, a dozen-and-a-half Tweets, and one Royal Mail-delivered communication later – and still no resolution. Furthermore, you have given me immense cause for concern on two counts. Firstly, as you are unable (you said) to locate either of the accounts I hold with you and, secondly, because you appear to have lost my phone number.

Please check again, my mobile number ends [last three digits redacted] and the Bank of Scotland has contacted me using it, in relation to my online banking approximately eighteen months ago. Your assertion that the number you have for me “is not up to date” does not wash: I was given that number when I took out my first phone contract, with Genie, in or around October 2001.

Genie was taken over by BT Cellnet, who became O2, now owned by Telefonica. It is how businesses operate, except that unlike this Lloyds Halifax Bank Of Scotland nonsense they managed to keep hold of my one and only contact number in the process. So, again, given that I have had precisely the same phone number for twelve-and-a-half years, please comb your records once more.

I hold a Current Account with you, which I opened within the last three years. I also have a Savings Account which was opened for me sometime in the early 1980s, when I was too young to foresee the hassle it would cause me thirty years later. You explicitly stated that you are “unable to locate an account in [my] name to make the appropriate amendments.”

I do not know what to say, except “try harder.”

I have two accounts, and one name. I have signed my name to every email in an attempt to make it easier for you. Perhaps a search for correspondence sent this month to recipients marked “Esq Esq” will bring it up? There are very few people whose name matches mine – especially not when my middle initials are included. There should be remarkably few people banking with you in the name Jordan (or J.) R.A. Mills.

I only wish I had the ingenuity of Alice Cooper, whose bank tried to find his account for him. “We have twenty Alice Coopers” they said, when the results were returned. He had the intelligence, grace, and wit to politely reply “Yeah, mine will be the ‘Mister’.”

A distinguishing name ought to be most useful at this juncture. If you will trust the medium of email then I can send you my account numbers and sortcodes across, but it worries me greatly that you cannot find them of your own accord.

“Feel free to call me with the information”, your letter cheerfully offers.

Once again, I am forced to state that I do not really wish to discuss this over the phone – it is not terribly convenient for me – yet you keep insisting it is the only way forward. Are you so bored or lonely in your office that you just wish to chat? Or maybe you read these letters and feel you have found a kindred spirit? Granted, we both sign ourselves with a pair of middle initials, there is that connection. However, I try to make my writing entertaining to read, instead of blindly repeating the company line in copied-and-pasted paragraphs while singularly failing to locate vital customer particulars.

I know my tone is cheeky, increasingly so, but I refer you to my original complaint. I was hopeful you would quickly make the necessary changes, and instead you seem to have misplaced some extremely important personal details. Not only have we reached an apparent impasse, but you have revealed negligence that borders on corporate incompetence. You will be aware of Data Protection legislation, and know that the loss or careless handling of secure  files would constitute a clear breach of the law. Find my accounts, and my number, and then you can phone me. Or, perhaps just quietly make the requested alterations as per my initial enquiry – no telephone conversation required.

I await your response with more interest than you pay on either of the accounts you have mislaid.

Yours,

Jordan R.A. Mills

(or, using the unwanted alter ego you bestowed upon me, Mr J R Mills Esq Esq)

HBOS number sent DM


Dubious Claims To Fame – 18

Eighteen, eighteen, eighteen, I’m eighteen and I like it. That was Alice Cooper’s first hit, before School’s Out, and it was the song that Johnny Rotten sang along to on the jukebox when he auditioned for The Sex Pistols. Alice is my hero. My 18th claim to fame is about him again.

I met him once, on Halloween in 2010, and have seen him on the two Halloweens since. He has yet to bring back the ‘magic screen’ as he promised when I asked him about it, but I have since learnt from far more dedicated fans than I that Alice can rarely be relied on when it comes to such things – he has so many ideas for his shows and album concepts that not all come to fruition. No matter how much he might talk them up.

Having recently released a sequel to his seminal solo album “Welcome To My Nightmare”, there was a lot of excitement and speculation that he might do a themed stage show for the first time since 2000’s ‘Brutal Planet’ tour, and even more excitement at the prospect of him doing a new ‘nightmare’ show for the “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” follow-up. It didn’t really happen, and although he said in interviews that there would be three sections to the new stage show and a nightmarish middle section, it subverted expectation. Of course, subversion is what Alice has always done best.

As soon as the first show of the tour happened, a week before I saw him, someone posted a set list and spoilers on the Sick Things fan site. I think we all read it, and there was much disappointment that he had removed so many stage effects that he didn’t even get executed in this show. Add in half a dozen cover versions and only a handful of the newest songs, plus recent staples that have been in the set for years now, and for the first time ever I didn’t feel particularly enthused about seeing him. I was wrong.

Alice’s management pay close attention to the discussions on that fan forum, and the setlist evolved from show to show. By the time I saw him, in Edinburgh on Halloween, he was down to four covers (honouring his dead friends – Morrison, Lennon, Hendrix, Moon) and had added in a couple of long-unplayed classics. With less theatrics, more pyrotechnics than usual, a fantastic array of songs, and the incredible talents of the musicians he has hand-picked to form his band – what a show! Easily one of the best shows I have ever seen him do, and I’ve seen him seven or eight times now. It was also the first time, in twelve years of going to his gigs, that he finally played a track from one of the two albums I bought together as a teenager and which first got me into him – and that was a pretty special moment for me.

The claim to fame is this: Alice always throws items into the crowd – he taunts us with dollar bills threaded all the way up the rapier that he waves above our heads during “Billion Dollar Babies“, sending them fluttering into the air above us, and he dangles beaded necklaces just out of our grasp during “Dirty Diamonds.” His band throw out dozens of guitar picks and a couple of drumsticks at every show too, and my first piece of memorabilia was a Pete Friesen signature plectrum that I found on the floor of the Barrowland after my first gig. As of last Wednesday, I now have five Cooper Band plectra – one from new addition Orianthi (jesus, that girl’s solo on his live cover of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” – amazing!), the Pete Friesen one, a Steve Hunter one and two Tommy Henriksen ones from last Halloween, plus a dollar bill and a branded balloon that I caught and carefully deflated. The best bit, though, considering how many shows I have been to and how many times I have been down the front and still failed to catch more than one dollar bill (and no necklaces) is that I now have Alice’s cane.

He carried it onstage for his opening number, then threw it into the crowd. There was a mad dive for it, but I got one hand high and one hand low, and although I had to fend someone else off, it became mine. I threaded it up inside my belt, under the doctors coat I was wearing in lieu of  a proper costume, and it stayed there for the rest of the gig. I brought it home to Glasgow, and am very happy to have it. Here is a video of Alice waving it around during “Hello Hooray”, prior to throwing it casually away. I’d like to pretend that he deliberately chucked it to me, but at 3m 05s you can see how disdainfully he tosses it into the audience. Ha, if you look VERY closely, you can see my hand in the audience, giving the devil-horns, and then see as I lunge up with both hands to grab hold of it. 😀

The other claim to fame I have is that, owing to how far in advance I ordered my copy of the latest album, my name was printed along with several hundred others in the background of the poster that came with the limited Fan Pack edition of the album. You can see it highlighted and then enlarged below.

If you ever get the chance to see Alice live, you will not be disappointed – the greatest showman on the planet, and one of the warmest, wittiest people you could ever meet. I love him. Here’s “School’s Out” from that same gig – giant balloons, confetti, bubbles, swords, canes, top hats, a segue into Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 and back again, plenty of audience interaction, and masterful showmanship from Alice and every one of his band members – the biggest rock ‘n roll party going.


Dubious Claims To Fame – 7

Paul Daniels cut my head off once. Kind of.

Owing to a number of factors, I was most definitely not cool as a teenager. That was one of the reasons that my main hobby at the time was magic. I was alright, I had some decent sleight-of-hand skills and could manipulate a deck of cards, but I lacked the confidence and personality to actually make myself watchable. The lack of personality doesn’t stop most of the folk you see doing magic, but the lack of confidence was an issue. By way of illustration, I once came fourth in the Scottish Young Magician Of The Year competition. I can gauge this from the fact that there were four entrants, three prizes, and I won none of them.

I soon realised that, much like theatre, I was far more interested in the mechanics and principles than in the performing – I made the transition from being in amateur youth theatre productions to working backstage when I was 13, joined every stage crew I could when I was 16, and eventually did my degree in technical theatre before making something of a career building sets and shifting scenery.

It was perhaps natural that my interest in magic came to rest with the methods, the implementation, the gimmicks or subterfuge that assisted or explained stage illusions. It is still a dormant interest, and I own dozens of books on historical stage illusions and their practitioners. Along with Victorian stage machinery it is something that occasionally fascinates me, and I have lately found Jim Steinmeyer’s biographies to be captivating reading.

In my late teens, I joined the local magic club as their youngest member. With friends I made there, we went to a few shows at the Edinburgh Fringe – Jerry Sadowitz and Rudy Coby being the stand-out memories. Shortly after that, Paul Daniels came to Glasgow. My friend Peter bought tickets and, despite an age gap of forty years or so, he was a bigger kid than me – daft, and with a tremendous sense of fun. It was only on our way into the theatre that I discovered he had got us all tickets for the second row of the stalls, and I was immediately apprehensive – as I said, I had long ago learned that I preferred being backstage to being on it, and I didn’t much fancy being a volunteer facing one of the biggest auditoriums I’d then been in.

Knowing that the magician is most likely to (as the books all advised me) pick an audience member who looks like they are enjoying themselves, I decided I would just sit stony-faced throughout. Easy! Especially since Paul Daniels, the magic icon of my childhood, had not been on television in years and had been widely derided even before his TV career waned. How good could he really be?

I quickly found out that he was exceptionally good, disarmingly quick-witted and extremely funny. I was fucked. He bantered with people, presented his magic, and at one point called a wee girl up onto the stage to help with his Linking Rings. She was seven if that, and at the end of the trick Paul Daniels asked for a kiss, presented his cheek, and then handed her one of his commercially-available magic kits to take with her as she returned to her seat. He requested another volunteer, looking directly at me, and so with a great deal of peer pressure from the adults I was with, I reluctantly made my way up onto the stage. In my head, I thought of something I could say that might be funny – I now realise that was probably the first time I said something that got an audience to laugh. It took me a further eleven years to actually try stand-up comedy.

“At the end of this, I’m not giving you a kiss,” I said matter-of-factly. Paul Daniels bantered with me in his trademark way – asking questions that required an affirmative answer then telling me “Say ‘Yes, Paul.'” I think he may have made reference to Katie Price when I told him my name – Jordan having just started making a name for herself and making jokes about my name easy. When I told him I worked in Index he referred to it as “ah, downmarket Argos.” All the while, his assistant was wheeling some contraption onto the stage, with a cloth over it. Evidently I was to be part of some grand spectacle.

“Have you ever seen one of these before?” he asked, deftly removing the cloth to reveal a full-size guillotine. FUCK. This was not a prospect I fancied, and in hindsight I wished I’d told him that I had seen one before, due to my growing love of Alice Cooper (who famously uses one in his vaudevillesque stage shows, and who I wrote about meeting.) It wasn’t long before I was led around the machine, knelt down with my head forward and locked in the stocks, the blade dangling high above my neck. I remember thinking to myself that if it went wrong at least it would be a quick death. So much for magic being light entertainment!

Paul was in front of me doing his big build-up. He had a box, and while he removed the lid he told the crowd he’d only ever had two accidents with this trick. He placed the open box in front of me, ostensibly to catch my head. “They weren’t the same accident,” he said, putting the upturned lid behind me. That was quite funny, but I didn’t feel much like laughing right then – being genuinely worried as anyone in my position might well be. You can rationalise as much as you like about professionalism and track record and safety checks, but when you are the one secured under a blade that is destined to come crashing down – yeah, you’d probably entertain the thought that it might go wrong too.

As it happened, I lived. I don’t remember much beyond an almighty adrenaline rush as I left the stage, although I do recall that after the show all the guys told me how glad they were that it wasn’t them, and was I not terrified?! Bastards! Ha. Paul and Debbie McGee did a signing in the foyer, and I still have my autographed ticket stub from that night.

DSC_0814Above: My signed ticket stub.

Eight years later, after I had graduated, that was the first theatre I worked in in Glasgow, and I eventually did three pantomimes there as well as gigs by assorted comedians, music acts and variety shows. They remembered Paul Daniels being there, and the guillotine, but not my involvement in his show.

I lost touch with all the guys after I left the magic club and let my interest drift. I’ve spoken to a few of them in the past few years though, thanks to the magic of social networking. My closest friend back then later set up in business as a professional magician, and – having helped me out enormously in my youth – it gave me great pleasure that I was able to repay the favour in some tiny way by booking him to perform at my sister’s wedding. It was nice to see him again. If you are in the Glasgow area and looking for an all-round talented entertainer (in the true sense of that word), you can book Ian here.


People Insistent On Telling You The Nothing They Have To Say.

This has happened to me twice now, once a few years ago at Glasgow’s “Bedlam” nightclub, and again in a pub last week. The latter incident annoyed me much more than the first, and since it has now occurred more than once I’m going to document it.

I wear band t-shirts every single day, t-shirts that I used to buy at every gig I attended (or bootlegs picked up outside afterwards). Since 1998, I have accumulated something close to a hundred and fifty t-shirts. Some fit better than others, some are bands that I have since lost interest in – hell, some are bands I wasn’t even that interested in when I picked up a cheap piece of clothing. I have drawers full of ripped and long- faded shirts I keep for work, newer shirts that haven’t lost their pristine black colouring which I wear if I’m going out, and then numerous ones that lie between those states. I’ve got shirts I have literally never worn, and shirts that are almost see-through on account of fourteen years of wear. As it happens, I usually wear a dozen or so in rotation, for months at a time.

This means that, given the diversity of music I have listened to over the years, and the sheer number of shirts available to me, I am very rarely aware which band’s logo I am sporting emblazoned across my chest on any given day.

Band shirts have long been the accepted way for metallers and their ilk to recognise like-minded fans. It is unacceptable to wear the shirt of a band you haven’t heard, because you will be found out and thought a dick of when some long-term fan addresses you in the pub. This is the simple and long-standing rule, because sooner or later you WILL be addressed by a fellow fan. Or more likely by dozens, over the years. Here are the two most memorable to me.

Firstly, at Bedlam a few years ago, I was wearing a KMFDM t-shirt. I am not a huge fan of them, but have amassed ten or so of their shirts and at least as many CDs. I only saw them once, in 2005 if memory serves, and I now remember very little of the gig. In the club, some guy approached me to ask me about the band. There was a brief exchange, and he told me he had met them and drank with them in Poland on some previous tour. I think they were due to play Glasgow again imminently, and he gave me some message to pass on to their guitarist – something forgettable, and more designed to make me believe his story than to actually hold relevance for the band.

As though I was going to hang around to meet the band post-show and say “Hey, some stranger I met once and had a really slight conversation with says [‘don’t eat the honey’, or some equally-banal reference to an experience they once shared, one day in the band’s thirty-year history.]”

I shrugged it off that time, because I work in film, TV, theatre, and live music. I can take your meeting with some band or other and match it with half a dozen encounters of my own. I just choose not to, because I often meet these people in a professional capacity and it seems inappropriate – dickish, even – to boast. If you do want to read about some of the “celebrities” that I’ve happened to meet in an everyday capacity, then read the blogs on here tagged “fame.”

 

Last week, I was in the pub having a quiet drink. It was a very quiet drink, as I was alone at the table – one friend was playing a game of pool with his pal, and the other had nipped over the road to get food.

I was sitting in silent contemplation, my mind elsewhere and occupied by a couple of personal things that have been or were weighing on me. My peace was suddenly disturbed by an unknown wanker ambling towards me and demanding “What tour’s that from?”

It took me a second to break from my thoughts, and I had to glance down to see whose name I was displaying that day. Iron Maiden.

I was a diehard Maiden fan from the ages of 12 until 24, and no other band defined my teenage years so wholly. I’ve moved away from them now, but still have the sizeable collection of rare memorabilia I hunted down when I had the taste for it. This means that I can hold my own in any conversation about them, something I used to relish and which I latterly concede to – provided I am in the mood. I wasn’t in the mood.

As I was asked again which tour I had picked this top up on, I gauged from the artwork that it was probably the 2003 UK tour. He asked me if I had ever met the band.

The truth is, I have met all three of their lead singers at one time or another, in different circumstances, and all three have signed items for me: this was back when I cared about such things. I could tell from his demeanour that he wasn’t interested in my experiences, and was only asking as a means to share his own. I let him.

He had met all of them outside the SECC in Glasgow on the last tour, and what lovely blokes they are, apart from Bruce Dickinson. They put him on the guestlist for the Aberdeen show the next night, and – blah, blah, blah. It was apparent he had only approached me so that he could give me this information – he didn’t ask or say anything else about the band, and as soon as he had told me this he made to leave, offering his hand for me to shake. I had already ignored this advance when he interrupted me, but with it now thrust towards me it was easier and less hassle to shake his hand than not.

“That’s the hand that shook hands with all of Iron Maiden,” he told me triumphantly. If I wasn’t already resentful of the intrusion into my personal space, that sealed it. Fucking wanker.

Seriously, what kind of arsehole stoats up to people just to brag about how great they personally are? I could do it, I could go up to anyone wearing an Alice Cooper or Combichrist tee and impart, apropos of nothing, tales of meeting them and what we spoke about. I just don’t. If it happens to come up in general chat, that’s one thing, but I don’t engineer it and it certainly isn’t my opening gambit.

When this guy left the pub at last orders, he shouted across to me to say goodbye. My friend had returned and was sitting across from me, and when I shouted a goodbye so did my friend. “Not you!” the guy yelled at my pal.

So yeah. Nothing to say, but he made a purpose of telling me.