This week, not a jitter or a flutter of the Sunday Night Blues. They can be known to creep up during Antiques Roadshow and floor you with a feeling of overwhelming futility by Sunday supper. The cure is simple : have a night out planned for Monday evening. A Monday night out kicks work-a-day blues into touch. It reminds them who’s boss of that ill-charted ship – Your Life. It essentially says “I’m going to treat my liberty like a right user and squeeze every last bit of time out of it.” And, if the only way you pay is a delicate head on a Tuesday morning, then no difference. Nothing of any interest can ever happen on a Tuesday morning anyway. It is better seen through a fug of sweet coffee and Nurofen (but then so are most things).
Last Monday night then, I lurched -with aplomb and brio – into the first night of the BluesFest London festival with an evening of The Echoes of Ellington at the 100 Club. The 100 Club is a bastion that guards the northern gateway into Soho like a 1950s doorman. I’ve blogged on the niceties of this venue before (see https://thelondonbluebird.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/97-98-99/) and think that if my life was an ideal one, I would be in the 100 Club four to five nights a week dancing and listening to live music and enjoying the general ambience of feet tapping and 1950s suits. But the one night you don’t really want to be melting in an underground music club in the centre of Oxford Street was Monday last. That was the day that we were all stuck to the floors, baked in the buses and essentially went totally doolally because some fool turned the temperature up to “mega hot” on Planet London. It was so hot the ice cubes in my freezer burst into flames. I was distinctly worried. I thought that after 45 minutes in the 100 Club I would be wearing my mascara on my mouth, sweating like a hussy and have to be carried out in a delirious frenzy, with steam coming out of my ears, by those lovely chaps from St John Ambulance. And all that for a big band, I thought?
Prior to the gig I did the safest and most comforting thing. I went to Pizza Express. There’s something so incredibly reassuring about Pizza Express. I like the way they dance groovily on the line between High Street middle-of-the-road and hip 1960s typefaces. I love the fact that every Pizza Express is the same. I love the fact that the overhead lighting is distinctly flattering. In some towns in England, the Pizza Express is the nicest, most fashionable place, a stylish beacon of dining. You are always sure of an American Hot (even if the Army aren’t in town). But even in deepest Central London it is still lovely. Perhaps it is because the one in Dean Street remains largely unchanged in twenty years that it reminds me of going out as a young teenager for dinner, which is always a good thing. The acoustics are those of a private swimming pool – everything seems to be open and made of marble and it’s a given that you must shout to make yourself heard in any PE in Britain. When I was in a horrid play in a ghastly place (Slapdash On Sea, I called it) the only place where you could get a decent meal after 10 pm and get slightly, friskily drunk with the other actors was Pizza Express. Niggling irritations amongst the cast seemed to be washed away. Nervous, sweaty and uncomfortable sexual frissons with a man you didn’t actually like in a scene during that night’s performance could be whitewashed out. Perilously, you’d brave half-a-bottle-happy drunkenness with the same people every night for nine weeks. At the end of a miserable performance, it was a joy to see the same old marble table tops, the small black vases, the token, solitary bright red carnation, the cream coloured menus with their dozy, dark blue fat font. People would swap their stories. You’d tell them – daringly – stupidly – about an affair you once had with a drummer. They’d tell you about drugs experiences with a respected Sunday night drama type actor at Glastonbury. You’d discuss plays you would never write and they’d steal it for the plot of their novel that they would never write either. You would pledge friendship over the dough balls. You would develop in-jokes, in-phrases and invent comedy dance moves. You’d discuss going to Southwold as a group. And then the run came to the end and none of you ever saw each other again.
Lunacy, eh? Acting – what a LAUGH. Not. The only thing that made it bareable was the safe, well-meaning, and actually, for Slapdash-on-Sea, rather glamourous Pizza Express. I love it. In Dean Street, however, I was briefly interrupted by a thumping bass that curled up through my bottom, or seemed to. It turned out to be the live jazz downstairs. I waited for my friends who arrived hot and happy from St Albans, and wolfed down something called a Romano which was spectacular, before heading over the road to the 100 Club. Oh joy! Oh rapture! They had put in air conditionning. Thank goodness.
The Echoes of Ellington big band has been in circulation since, I think, about 1999, and is run by the illustriously adept Pete Long, who chirpily informs his audience between songs of various information and anecdotage relating to them. It’s a fantastic band featuring some of the best jazz musicians working in the UK today, and it was particularly great to see Enrico Tomasso on trumpet. I was joined by My Very Good Friend The Doctor and her new boyfriend. We were surrounded by the usual smorgasbord of jivers, jitterbuggers and zoot suits that Monday night traditionally invites to the 100 Club (the night of the Jive Class that always starts at 7.30) and, despite the only 70% capacity, the evening swung. I mean, really. I mean, my neck still hurts from my jabbing and shifting it about in time to Take the A Train. I mean, if their had been a small child / an old person / a general fragile being in the vicinity, I would most certainly have taken them out. At one point someone tried to dance with me but I felt a bit sick so I stopped. My Very Good Friend The Doctor had a swimming time too, although my attempts at trying to record something onto to my Iphone just ended up looking like a load of red and white blobs with a piano in the middle of it. We ended up leaving shortly before the very end, however, as it was half eleven and, well, that jazz and liquor does cost something, you know, and we all have to work in the morning. Heading back out onto Oxford Street was a bit like when your plane lands in a hot country and you walk – Boom! – into that all encompassing blanket of fuggy heat.
Of course, we weren’t in a hot country, we thought, as the No 159 bus dribbled past outside Shoe Express. We were in Oxford Street on a Monday, but how lovely that time had become elastic and hot and fun and deliriously musical for those short few hours. Tuesday morning became more – not less pleasant – because the landing into it had been cushioned somewhat by a blanket of jazz. It was an astonishing evening, and I advise get thee to Echoes of Ellington quick. Guaranteed to beat Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday night blues, my friends. As for tonight, well, it’s a Thursday, isn’t it? No blues of the non-musical variety today. Mind you, I appear to be going back to Pizza Express again and from there straight on to Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre. And, next week’s Sunday Night Blues have also been absolutely, completely and totally annihilated by the incredibly exciting prospect of Take That at Wembley Stadium on Monday. I shall report back from both, forthwith, dear readers, particularly on whether I ever achieve my life aim of somehow capturing Mark Owen and putting the wee lad in one of those hamster cages for small things, and watching him go round and round and round and round whilst forcing him to sing Puff The Magic Dragon. I think it may stop him having extra marital affairs. We shall see.
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