Last November I took on 2 new venue pilots under the smoof brand. The Wheatsheaf in Shifnal and Granvilles in Stone both shows the venues owners agreed to do them on our terms with the room layout, format and ticketing it and both saw we were right after one show.
Shifinal night 2 in January was an even bigger turnout than night 1 and all the acts went down a storm there, didn’t end up writing a review but it was a success and now goes monthly here on in. Both gigs are ‘hits’ but audiences tastes in comedy almost in complete contrast to each other anyway I digress. For the 2nd show after a 2 month break here for Christmas I initially decided on Simon Wozniak to headline, nick Clarke to MC with Laura and Masai as the 2 supports, masai opening and Laura in the middle but figured I could do with a ‘straight forward’ act in-between them and as both are none drivers they would need someone to bring them so Martin Huburn came to mind as the best of both worlds.
Me and John went earlier at my request due to the forecast snow which STRESSED me out to the extreme that I almost considered pulling the gig entirely, drove the acts mad with my eternal pessimism in the facebook thread and had every backup plan possible in place ready and was shocked when it failed to materialise (well a bit of dandruff – as I call it) on the high grounds is all. However this was just the beginning as most of the tech went wrong. I have a mini-mic-audio-input mix deck that I originally bought to use at a gig of ours that died a month after me buying that and as sat in my ‘unused’ tech drawer ever since. Toyed with selling it but figured I’d need it again some day and this gig has come along to give it its monthly use plugs straight into his in house PA system works a treat. You can hear it all clear as a bell inside the whole venue but everything else failed on me.
Laura’s whole act revolves around PowerPoint so requires a screen and projector or TV because of the lay out of the venue and room. I had the ‘’ingenious’’ idea of buying a small HDMI splitter and have the screen/projector on the stage AS WELL as the TV set up on the bar for the folk at the back of the room (I have both for when I’m doing 15-20’s spots depending the room size AND for when acts need them at my venues). Tonight we went early to set both up and all was going well expect firstly the projector wouldn’t fit on the screen when it put up on the balcony would only work on a stool down below in front of the stage. I’d also not actually tested the splitter idea before hand and splitter just wouldn’t work. I could only get a picture from the laptop on one or the other (not both) I know now it’s because you need an amplified HDMI splitter (mains/usb powered) not just a basic splitter for it to work. (Boring techy stuff) so Laura was stuck with just the screen/projector at the front. THEN we had issues with my mp3 players for the music and sound effects. One of them crashed and refused to work, the audio in jack hole was playing up so had to go to backup plan of using my (show) laptop to get the music and sfx for the night. Thankfully I bring the bag with that stuff in with to me all gigs to fall back on so thanks to my anal retentiveness we had a show that could run (almost) to plan.
The audience filled up the seats and unlike last time we had no real trouble in filling the front up but still folk crammed round the corners at the bar as to be expected. 20 minutes later than planned we kicked the show off with Nick Clarke doing crowd work. Nick is the most crowd pleasing and loved MC at our long standing Crown gig, he has always hit home at the Forton gig when he’s mc’ed that and he had come and done a middle 20 spot at the 2nd shifnal gig a few week before and totally stolen the show. Tonight he held his own but didn’t ‘hit’ it off as well he could have with the crowd here, many punters didn’t take to him when he later on went into his material but he had success with his crowd interaction and banter at the top of the show however. The middle section of the audience weren’t ‘laughers’ but the ones at the front and the back were tonight. Laura Monmoth opened (she herself is like me and doesn’t believe her act suits opening) and this is never the easiest spot for any act of any level but she hit the track running when she started bringing up the photos of the crowd taken earlier with faceapp age guessing making them feel part of the show and this hit home. She got the audience (who were laughers) to do a great sing along with her now infamous ‘Facebook Karaoke’ bit to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody set closer tho I’d set up the audio itself for her and that was another bit of tech that could of gone tits up but worked perfectly thankfully.
First interval and as always break went on far too long but we looked so slick and professional taking down the screen and projector and resetting the stage with the banners in the normal places. Nick went into material for the first part of the second bit and in total contrast to Shifinal where they had lapped it up. They are not really fans of the fifth/blue material at stone it seems. Martin Huburn was first of the 2 middle spots and he had a huge laugh early on with his ‘Thieving Gypos’ gag which me and Laura had told him to do, this hit home, but he hadn’t gigged in a few months so he fluffed some of material as his time went on his nerves showed too much but he carried on like a professional and finished his short set at the right moment with a good call back at the end, wasn’t the right fit for this gig but I’m getting at shifnal where he’ll be perfect for them. The legend that is Masai Graham followed and put simply knocked it out the park. He does one-liners and puns; pint in hand, slick professional delivery whilst high as a kite but that’s who he is and he plays up to it so perfectly I wouldn’t want it any other way. Punch-line after punch line wallop, with all the classics I’ve heard 100 times but this crowd all hearing them for the first time is a beautiful thing to behold and he had them round his finger the whole time (nearly) but as he went darker towards the end you could begin the see the split the room more and he ended on the dead baby joke but I think on balance it was the right moment to wrap it up.
Running late the landlord Adam worried that we’d loose people so tried to get it started again quickly. Simon Wozniak headlined who I thought would be a good match for a ‘tricky follow up album gig’ and he had smashed it headlining the crown inn show a few months before. Initially I thought he was going to struggle and find it impossible to reach level we’d just peaked at with Masai but he soon got them on board and the ‘pro standard grip’ (as I call it) had taken hold on the audience. Who were in fits of laugher for the entire club set. I wont’ spoil his material much but he’s in the mould of a younger John Bishop with stories of his home life, car journeys and the job centre which is classic and reliable. A reliable top bloke and safe pair of hands I shall be booking again for shifnal. They may be in stark contrast over one-liners/zany and blue/filth but the polished club acts like him are still a good match for closers both venues.
Me getting pissed off at the tech not working makes me look unprofessional to the owners and I really regret that but after 2 shows I think those teething issues will be ironed out and sorted by the next one. However the staff were happy and we now officially go monthly with this show here on in. Coming up we’ve got in support spot Lovdev, David Luck, Al Rudge, myself (and I think were all going go down well here but I’ll eat my words about myself I’m sure) plus Jon Wagstaffe and Scott Bennett as headliners. Bring it on!