Just another Saturday night

Shaker, the rock band in which I play bass guitar, made its first trip to the west coast on Saturday evening where we were the post-Christmas reopening attraction at the Myrtle Bank Hotel in Gairloch. The name conjures up visions of lavender-scented ladies taking afternoon tea accompanied by cucumber sandwiches and seed cake, which may well be the case, but in the evening the hotel is part of the village’s roaring night life. You find your fun where you can in the wild west.

Matchgirl had elected to accompany me to the gig, presumably to keep an eye on her man whilst he’s surrounded by village maidens, so we’d booked in for the night. This was poor economics, as the room would cost more than I’d actually earn, but allowed for much greater relaxation at the end of the evening when we’d be tucked up in bed while the rest of the band would be dodging deer and braving icy bends on the road back home.

The rest of the guys arrived soon after we did so no time was wasted in assembling the gear in the hotel function room and making the sound check. The results were pleasing, although a small volume entitled Live Sound For Beginners (or something along those lines) found in the possession of sound engineer and guitarist Adam had caused an initial frisson of concern. We should never have doubted him.

Dinner followed, after which most of the rock and roll animals, already bloated by days of festive over-indulgence and chocolate, were ready for a nap. Instead, we made some final tweaks to the sound then sat back and waited for the crowd to pour in.

This was over-optimistic, as what we saw was more of a trickle, but by nine o’clock there were enough music-lovers gathered to hear our usual opening crowd-pleaser, Rock And Roll Star, which we delivered at full volume and full throttle followed by a pause for us to enjoy the adulation of the west coast. Cue the tumbleweed.

Gairlochians, we quickly discovered, are an undemonstrative breed. Much foot-tapping, in-chair dancing and singing along was observed during the set, but applause was sparse and the dance floor remained largely unoccupied.

“That’s the way it is here,” we were assured during the interval by members of the crowd who sidled over to pay us compliments. However, there was a more definite reason for the lack of response – applause is difficult with one hand grasped firmly around the glass that’s been in constant use throughout the evening. The bar staff were in no danger of being under-utilised.

The second set was much the same, although we did entice a few more dancers on to the floor. Afterwards, the management declared itself happy and invited us to get in touch later for more gigs. Result. In addition, Adam found himself surrounded by village maidens, but to his disappointment all they wanted was an introduction to our singer, Garry.

Post-gig euphoria doesn’t last long – not when there’s gear to be carried into the freezing outside through doorways and pathways blocked by glass-clutching punters too engrossed in conversation to notice or care that they’re in the way. But as no-one had asked us to play Sweet Home Alabama they can be forgiven.

Our mission to entertain Ross-shire continues tonight when we help bring in the new year at the Riverside Tavern in Conon Bridge where the crowd will be enthusiastic and drink will flow. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

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