A charity gig in a town centre pub on a Saturday night; what could go wrong with that?
Tonight I was at the Kind Bar in Lincoln for a charity gig organised by Colin Hayward on behalf of Nepal. Charity gigs have something of a rum reputation in the comedy world, as they can range from full on professional gigs to a well meaning person in a pub asking the MC who has come by train why he hasn’t brought a stage and sound system with him. I went to this gig for three reasons, the bills on at Jongleurs and Glee didn’t really grab me tonight, it’s for a good cause and these gigs have a way of throwing up pleasant surprises in the way of acts.
Lincoln didn’t take as long to get to as I expected, but as I don’t go there often I didn’t know any side streets to cache my car, so spent £5 to park. Getting from the car park to the venue involved enough bridges, stairs, subways and water hazards to give me expectations of emerging in the Aztec zone on the Crystal maze. However, the Kind Bar was easy enough to find.
The acts were all present, a microphone stand was sourced and we were ready to go apart from for one crucial aspect – there wasn’t an audience. Well there was one of sorts. 5 comedians, the organiser, a reviewer and associated driver’s and spouses, but not one single civilian. The bar was busy, there were lots of people, but they were all at the bottom end, having a night out. These people weren’t noisy in a nasty way, they were just on a circuit of pubs and were having one here before moving on. They were noisy, though and it was a constant fight against this backdrop. Every so often there would be the sort of noise that made you think a stag had been hoisted aloft by his friends or that a conga line was about to wend its’ way by the stage. All night everyone had to make a conscious effort not to turn around to see what the latest bedlam was all about. The compere was Tony Hayward.
Hayward was both organiser and compere and it is very much to his credit that he tried to do a nice thing. He worked hard at trying to get some order in the room, but between the anvil of a Saturday night and the hammer of being in Lincoln town centre, he was on a hiding to nothing. He did manage to lower the noise slightly, but with constant traffic in and out of the pub, this was rather like emptying a bath with a tennis racket. On a similar theme, the smoking area of the pub, which like the Golden Fleece was located adjacent to the stage, was closed off during performances. However, new comers weren’t aware of this and so a few walked by the stage before being turned back. It’s impossible to review his work as a compere tonight, as it was just crowd control of a totally indifferent changing set of revellers. I doubt anyone could have done much with the crowd in there this evening. The opening act was Fran Jenking.
I say opening act, Fran was actually second up. The chap who kicked off proceedings was a representative of the charity the night was in aid of. He helped build the mood by demonstrating how the cause was worthy by a ten minute slide show of scenes of devastation, poverty and destitution. This wasn’t exactly the sort of build up an opening act would have asked for, all things being equal. By this time everyone involved knew the night was ridiculous. It was essentially five comics playing to each other and friends and a floating pool of civllians, but never more than two. Jenking made the best of it. He referenced how ludicrous it was to good laughs and he gave us a very enjoyable 15 minutes. He mostly bantered his way through his set, with sprinklings of material, a lot of it new. Some of this was of a high order – kids and relationships were both good. I’ve only seen Jenking twice, but he is a likeable chap and he’s not afraid to go off piste with his work. I’d love to watch him compere, as I’ve a very strong feeling that there is an excellent MC there. As it was, tonight, he gave an enjoyable performance and made the best of a bad job.
Steve Rimmer, the bomb disposal comedian, opened after the intermission. He wasn’t meant to be going on in this spot, but the act that was, a new act, bailed after getting an attack of the nerves. I’d not seen Rimmer before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. He began with injecting some energy into the room, before putting his head down and launching into his set. This relied on a lot of visuals projected onto a screen and could be split into two parts: a routine based around his job and material based on photoshop. Of this, the works based material was very much the A side. He had a recurring knob gag that worked well the first two times, but which would benefit from a twist on the third and fourth outings as this would add value to it. He demonstrated what I’d consider to be an interesting middle ten section that would work well on quite a few bills. It would shake up the format of a night of comics with a microphone and add a bit of a change of tack to a night. Rimmer got laughs tonight and despite the audience (lack of) he did well. I’ve only got two concerns with his act. One is how can he develop it further. Work based material is ok, but it’s hard to get more than five minutes of good material from any job. The other is that by being so reliant on visuals a longer spot could stray into the territory of the works’ wag giving a humorous presentation at a team building event. Rimmer delivered his material well and this material was decent, but I’m curious as to how he can develop his act.
Jed Salisbury followed Rimmer and showed the pleasant surprises that nights like this can throw your way. He’s got a big presence and has a voice that carries. He gave his performance from the floor of the room, rather than the stage and didn’t suffer for it. Salisbury opened with some solid jokes getting a good laugh and building some momentum. His delivery was a bit fast, at times he veered towards sounding as if he was auditioning for a job as an auctioneer, but I think that may be a reaction to the audience tonight. Either way, he’d have gotten a better response by going at a more natural pace. His set had some very nice touches indeed. His buffet section was really enjoyable, as was his closing routine. Salisbury demonstrated a fair bit of talent tonight and he is someone who I’d very much like to see again.
I missed the closer, Kevin Connerley as I had to leave early owing to work.