Our wives are invited to sing. This was not my idea
Plus Coco Khan
TThe band I’m in is embarking on our first tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland, on the off-chance that, unbeknown to us, we are huge there. My wife has decided to come along, adding to my sense o of foreboding.
In Belfast it becomes clear that we are not huge there: along with the select crowd who have turned up to see us are two men w who have chosen to spend 14 quid each to stand at the bar and talk loudly through our set. My wife, sensing kindred spirits, befriends l them afterwards. When I find her, they are telling her – still very t l loudly – that they haven’t been inside this venue for 20 years. “We came to see Hard Marks,” one says.
“I’m not familiar,” my wife says.
“You know Hard Marks,” the other man says. “Very big in the 90s.”
“I’ve never heard of Hard Marks,” she says. “You need to educate your wife,” the first man says to me. “She doesn’t know about Hard Marks!”
“Actually,” I say, “I’m not sure that I’ve ever…”
“Hard Marks!” he shouts. “Perhaps they were more of a Northern Irish thing,” my wife says. We all stare at each other, until something occurs to me. “He’s saying Howard Marks,” I say. “The pot guy?” my wife says.
I go to pack up. From the dressing room the only thing I can hear is my wife’s occasional shouts of “Hard Marks!” and the laughter of her new loud friends.
In the morning my wife announces that she has lost her wallet.
“Have you checked your pockets?” I say. “Of course I have,” she says. “Don’t be so patronising.” She cancels her cards, one by one, on the bus to Dublin.
We arrive at the Harbour Bar in Bray at 8.30pm and, although the room is heaving, show time remains some way off. At 11pm our support act is still on stage. We play until 12.45am, accompanied by the regular sound of breaking glass. The bass guitar gives out four songs before the end: all in all, a triumph.
The next morning the bass player and I are crouched over the guts of his guitar by the window of his hotel room, glasses on the ends of our noses, with a plastic bag tied over the smoke alarm so my soldering iron won’t set it off.
“I’ve never actually done this,” I say. “I’ve just seen it done.”
“It’s fine,” he says. “Hold still.” We put everything back together and plug the guitar in: it works.
“I’ve just performed a miracle,” I say to
my wife, who is still in bed. “A miracle I’m prepared to describe in some detail.” “I’m so tired,” she says.
“Once again I feel the need to remind you that your presence was by no means compulsory,” I say.
“What’s happening?” she says.
“The van is leaving for Roscommon in an hour,” I say.
The Roscommon stage is small and girt by low fencing, like a topless gazebo. We do two hours to a roomful of people determined not to let us interrupt their conversations, parting company with them, by mutual consent, some time after midnight.
In the morning my wife announces she’s found her wallet, in her pocket. “Don’t tell anyone,” she says.
“Of course not,” I say, texting everyone. In Galway there is a big stage, and time for a proper sound check. At 9pm, the only thing missing is an audience.
“So,” I say, stepping up to the microphone. “I’m normally terrible with names.” This is meant to be a joke, but by the end I will know the first names and home towns of everyone in the room.
For the final number of the tour, our wives are invited on stage to sing. I cannot overstate the extent to which this was not my idea. My wife shoulders me aside, grabs my microphone and addresses the audience, specifically Sam and Benji from Washington DC.
“Have you seen A Star Is Born?” she says. “No!” shouts Sam.
“You won’t need to after this,” my wife says.
We always said we wanted to play in Ireland. If nothing else, I feel I’ve been thoroughly tested by the experience, and that I have come through with hard marks