Last Saturday was the final of the Aortas Songwriting Competition, which I blathered about previously here. I woke up very early on the day – before noon even – and immediately changed my outfit eight times before settling on the exciting “plain white shirt” look.
The gig didn’t start until half eight but we were due to soundcheck at four. My singing pal Marieke was going to sing with me, so we did some last-minute harmony practising before heading to The Stables. Stage 2, where the show was, was still being dismantled from the thing that had been on in there earlier in the day, so we went to the Green Room with Dan Plews (he runs Aortas) and did important things. For example, I re-wrote Dan’s slightly scribbley ad-hoc guest list to make it legible, and Marieke went through all the voting slips with a pen, adding a missed-out apostrophe to each one. We thus proved ourselves to be very valuable members of the team.
Soundchecks came and went, and then we had a couple of hours to kill before the gig. We went out to buy drinks and snacks for the other six participants, and accidentally somehow ended up in a Burger King eating whoppers and chilli cheese bites. Whoops! Eventually we got back with a six-pack of crisps, some drinks, and some unpleasant bitter that Dan had requested. Bleurgh.
Soon it was time to sit down, turn off our phones, and listen to seven quality songwriters do their stuff. MyJaike we already knew as they’re from our town – their funky riffs and smooth harmonies got things started. Naomi Rose performed some very lovely songs, very classic and thoughtful. Peter Marchant stormed the house with his energetic piano-based pop and Barney Beauregard wowed us with his guitar skillz. Jimmy Brewer nearly brought us to tears, Rod Eyre played some classic story-style songs – but I missed some of his performance, because it was time for me to go and tune my guitar and hyperventilate in the green room before my set.
The room was absolutely packed, sold-out seats and with plenty of people standing at the back for the whole thing, so I was a little nervous when I climbed up on stage. Luckily there was a very bright light shining directly into my eyes, so the audience was lost in darkness; all I could see was the front row, which included Marieke looking enthusiastic and nervous during my first song. I played Black on my own, and then dragged her up to harmonise on Loss and Kathleen. She sang extremely well and I wasn’t bad.
After everyone’s sets, there was a break so the audience could vote on their top three acts, and I went to stand by the merch table, flogging CDs and chatting to people. Someone told me I sound like Mama Cass which was like the biggest compliment evar. The break flew by and all the musicians were called back onto the stage to hear the results. Third place went to Naomi Rose, and second place… was me! This meant I had won an all-expenses-paid songwriting retreat in the countryside. This is an excellent prize. First place went to Jimmy Brewer, and his prize was an all-expenses-paid songwriting retreat in DENMARK. Flights paid and all. I’ve never been to Denmark but I’ve heard it’s very special. He played another song, to reward everyone for voting for him, and made me and Marieke cry again. (I couldn’t possibly be bitter about not winning because the man who can make me cry with a song about velcro is rare indeed.)
Afterwards, chatting to Dan and Naomi in the foyer of the theatre, I lamented the fact that I wasn’t going to Denmark, and Dan revealed the secret that a place on the course and a return flight to Denmark are actually not all that expensive. So in the end… I’m going to Denmark! HOORAY!