Lights. Drums. Guitars. Let there be Rock!

Neil Copeland

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It was a surprisingly mild night when we boarded the “sleeper” train in Glasgow at about 11.20 pm on Monday night, trailing guitar cases, effects pedals and the drummer in our wake. We were heading to London to play at the first night of Mallowstreet Rocks. A chance to play a proper rock venue, the O2 Academy Islington, with another bunch of pension professionals all living the rock “n” roll dream, at least for one night. For the reasons why we found ourselves on the sleeper train see my earlier Blog; Pensions is the new Rock n Roll.

Clearly with an overnight journey to London and a days work to do in the London office ahead of a full nights rockin’ and rollin’, being well rested and refreshed would be a key part of our preparation. Admittedly, we erred on the refreshments side of the equation, having found Alan “Company Credit Card” Collins in the lounge car. Cheers Alan!

Having bonded with some submariners over a shared love of Led Zeppelin, we briefly explored the “sleeper” element of the train and then, suddenly, we were in London.

Lugging guitar cases and band gear on the escalators of the tube system immediately endeared us to the welcoming and cheerful local populace and we pitched up at Spence & Partners Berkeley Street Offices at some ungodly hour. Which weren’t open yet due to the aforementioned ungodly hour, and I had forgotten my swipe card. So we wandered off in search of breakfast where, to the delight of the Glasgow contingent, we managed to source a full English breakfast which came with the added bonus of a hefty portion of chips on the side. Mike was so impressed he had to take a photo of it for Alan. The breakfast of champions indeed!

Fast forward a few hours and we rock up to the O2 in Islington and our first sight of the venue. Nirvana! Drums on a drum riser, a proper lighting rig, a full PA, a dressing room, (if we’d known we could have had a rider!) and a backstage set of stairs straight out of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a prayer” video. I swear I heard that bass line every time I was on those stairs.

Stu Breyer – Mallowstreet legend and the man who keeps the show on the road – kicks off the sound-check and we’re a guitarist down, so AJ Bell kindly soundcheck first whilst I scour the streets of Islington for Ian. Guitarist found, we run through Sk8ter Boi and manage not to embarrass ourselves – so achieve the first objective of the evening.

We adjourn to the “Angelic” pub across the road where Spence & Partners are laying on some drinks and food before the gig and dispensing the must have fashion accessory for the evening – Run GMP “I’m with the band” lanyards, in tasteful corporate colours. Look out for these on ebay as unscrupulous attendees try and cash in! The band was on its best behaviour eschewing all but that ill-defined amount of alcohol that it is absolutely necessary to consume before standing up in front of 300+ people with absolutely nowhere to hide. Those of you who know any of the band members will appreciate what a massive achievement and collective act of self restraint this was.

Then back to the venue. The running order had been drawn at random and we were on last. At the time this seemed like a really good draw. But standing out front, enjoying the other bands – take a bow the Scramblers, DE-CAPITA-TOR, the Above Average Weight Band and AJ Rebellion – I was hit by the dawning realisation that, er, these guys are pretty good and we’ve got to follow them. DE-CAPITA-TOR in particular have gone down extremely well with both the crowd and the judges.

Did I mention the judges? Three of the great and the good from the pensions industry get to deliver an assessment of your performance, to you (and everyone else in the venue) straight after your performance. I spend the initial part of the evening in a futile attempt trying to work out which one’s Sharon Osbourne, which one’s Simon Cowell and which one’s Louis Walsh.

Down to the dressing room for a final tune up. The stage manager comes and gets us. He leads us up the stairs one more time. We wait in a little space at the back of the stage. Adrenaline building. I’m running through the riff to Sweet Dreams in my head, as I lead off with this. I can’t screw up right at the start. And I’m thinking, “Neil, you need to enjoy this, you mightn’t get the chance to do it again”. And I hear myself saying to the band, “Lets go out and have some fun”

AJ Rebellion finish and we’re led out on stage. I plug my guitar in.

Lights. Drums. Guitars. Let there be Rock!

I’m going to set aside my usual modesty here because the band deserves it. We nailed it! We were awesome! We rocked, we rolled and we kicked some serious ass! Then way to quickly, the last E chord of “the Chain’ faded into the sound of the cheering crowd. I knew we had played as well as we could, and the crowd had gone pretty wild and seemed to enjoy the set. Over to Sharon, Simon and Louis. And they’re saying nice things about us. They think we really nailed it too. They say’s its really close between the top two bands and I’m guessing it’s between us and DE-CAPITA-TOR.

There follows what feels like a very long five minutes and then it’s back to the judges. There they go again with the “Its really close at the top” spiel… and we’re second. I’m amazed and delighted and so is the band, it was a blast and it raised a lot of money for charity. There’s lots of hand shakes and backslapping with the other bands. We congratulate the winners, and mean it. People are telling us we played really well and that it was indeed close. Finally we collect our kit and leave the venue after what’s been a truly awesome experience.

Without getting all showbiz, a few thank yous are in order. First of all to Stu Breyer and Mallowstreet for organising such a great event. Secondly to the other bands – there was a great spirit of friendly rivalry on the night. Thirdly, to Spence & Partners for subsidising my mid-life crisis and supporting the band through rehearsals and flights and enabling us to make it to the gig. And finally, to Aaron, Ian, Mike and Sophie, my fellow band members, for all the unseen hard work that allowed us to push the winners every step of the way. Truly, we rocked!

I’ve been thinking about how we might make it better next year. And I think I know. Flamethrowers. That’s what was missing. Massive big flamethrowers, and some explosions. Brian, we’re going to need a bigger budget…

Have a look at our Facebook page for a few photos from the night.

Neil Copeland

Post by Neil Copeland

Director, pensions consultant and adviser to trustees and employers on all aspects of work based pension schemes.