The Earls and Countess of Camden Town

Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies
It’s time to leave this town
It’s time to steal away

Road Trippin’ by The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The journey starts around 1pm, heading for the dazzling lights of Camden Town. Having only ever walked the streets of London, I’m fortunate to be just a passenger on this trip, just as our driver, the reliable Teddy Hesper, is fortunate to be guided by the stern female voice of TomTom.

I was a guest on a trip to London, for Le Chat Noir‘s first central London gig.

I shall skip forwward a few hundred miles and two stops at service stations, to the outskirts of London. Here, the sights of planes landing and taking off from Heathrow, signal to me, the start of London.

The road rises and we are suddenly among the tower blocks and giant signs advertising Quantum of Solace. I have a fear of heights and have never flown, but I suddenly feel like I’m in The Fifth Element.

I start to wonder, why there is no traffic in London, on a Saturday night. I decide not to mention this, should I be proven wrong and no sooner are we back on ground level, when traffic builds up and we’re brought to a halt.

After passing sights I know, such as the bit of Westway featured on Bloc Party’s A Weekend In The City cover, Paddington station (a building I’ve adored since childhood) and Regent’s Park, we were soon in Camden and at The Earl of Camden.

From there on, things started to happen quickly. The wheel came off one of Teddy’s amps as we unloaded it. Gig Bingo (or ‘Gingo’, as it shall be trademarked) looked like it’d be won before the gig started, with a soundcheck called off and scribbled changes to the running order times.

We soon forgot the troubles, as Sonja, their German booking agent turned up. She’d brought with her, her two 8-yr-old twin daughters, as she’d been told they’d be allowed into the venue. However, at 7:30pm, there was a ban on children inside, so we went outside. The two of them, not speaking any English, started collecting leaves fallen from a maple tree and handing them out to strangers.

After a while, Eileen ventured to the nearby Dublin Castle to give them a CD and ask about someone possibly checking out their set at The Earl of Camden. Then, we ventured out into the streets of London, looking for some sort of shirt to perform in for Eileen. We came across one open tat shop, selling the usual cannabis lollipops, Mind The Gap mugs and “humourous” t-shirts.

Paying London prices, we walked back to the venue, passing the curious nightlife of Camden. The mohawked punks outside Electric Ballroom. A man outside a KFC, shouting through the window at patrons inside; “You’re up there Simon, but I’m down there. I see you. Don’t you laugh! I warn you, don’t you laugh!” The women, shrieking, as they run barefoot, dressed for clubbing, along the street, towards Camden Lock. The two women talking about something “cheap and cheerful”. The man, talking to himself, outside a late opening convenience shop.

As we returned to The Earl, the twins were still handing out leaves, but not for long, as Eileen soon changed that to Le Chat Noir fliers, which they soon ran out of (unbeknowst to them, they received payement for doing so). Soon it was time for them to go, so we went back inside, to watch the other bands.

The most annoying thing about that, was the overweight photographer in a Wolverhampton Wanderers shirt, who seemed to forget that a flashgun, although required in that lighting, has to go somewhere. When he was on my side of the stage, I was blinded, more times than I care to count.

Should anyone say “but you use a flash too!”, my flashes have always been pithy by comparison and I try to use them sparingly.

And to the crowd! A mixture of bused up Devon and Cornwall folk, with a mixture of Londoners. A middle-class venue, but more towards the lower end. I can’t make sense of the shelving behind the bar, which was used for a ankle length Converse shoe (blue, with a red star), an opened carton of orange juice, a King Kong figurine and a fish tank (with a goldfish), unless they were once won on the Generation Game.

Federic, a Le Chat Noir fan from Brussels, turned up, which surprised Eileen to say the very least. Though that might seem a long trip, it’s actually a shorter journey by car (230 miles) than the one I made (233 miles).

Finally, the part you’ve skipped all the rest to read. The performance itself. As previously mentioned, the running order had been changed and if you ignore that change, the gig was 10 minutes behind schedule (if you count the change, it was 20 minutes behind). Going on at 10:10pm, their set was cut short at 10:40pm, after the police allegedly had informed the staff that the venue would be closed, if the level of noise continued.

Teddy had been told once to turn his amps down, but was told after the next song that it would be their last, as the venue was in danger of losing their license.

Afterwards, I managed to frighten a Liverpudlian urinating by some wheelie bins, by jumping out through a fire escape. I also found a Tesco Clubcard. If your name is Miss K. Evershad, your Clubcard will be back with you shortly.

I won’t embarrass Eileen by repeating the story of the man with nowhere to go.

By 11:15pm, it was time to go. We’d be home, just in time for breakfast.

Le Chat Noir

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