Monday Nights at Grizzo's
God's curse on man is that he has to work. An average human’s life is a monotonous cycle divided into five days of enduring this curse, of assuring his sustenance and a comfortable standard of living. As endlessly as forgettable days pass, evenings are no better: a mere string of hours spent at home or the pub, wasted in our favourite forms of escapism. A Monday night — the mere start of another cycle — is at most a drooping cloud with a rusty iron lining.
For several Monday nights I ventured into the centre of Hartlepool — an ancient fishing town that has subsequently wrapped its tentacles around the throbbing veins of my imagination — to join the members of Lost State of Dance in their weekly three-hour band practice. While most Hartlepudlians were busy preparing their dinner or having their first pint of the week, a tiny percentage of the town’s population — 4 people out of the approximate 92 000 — broke the monotonous life cycle of work, eat, sleep. Entering the tumultuous wave of artistic expression.
Each Monday night, Drinkwater, Armstrong, D'Arcy and McKenna gather in a grimy room on George Street, surrounded by amps, electric guitars, a drum kit, synths and a metronome. Grizzo's, the building where it all happens, where dreams are born and nurtured, is near impossible to find if you don't know what you're looking for. As you pass through the black door, the smell of salt and the sound of seagulls fade. Dampness, stale carpets, and forgotten pieces of history intermingle with the smell of musical sweat, spread like blood from a battlefield across every inch of every room.
There is something appealing about an intimate venue. Sometimes the more unique and exclusive a gig the closer you feel to the music and its creators. The more ingrained the memories become. Joining the band at Grizzo's had the allure of an intimate gig. There was no space inside except for Drinkwater's synthesized ballads carried on D'Arcy's impromptu waves, McKenna's chilled bass and Armstrong's precise drums. For a moment the marina invaded Grizzo's and you could almost see a row of mystical palm trees and disco lights forming against the stained walls.
Except these moments were interrupted by heated arguments over note progressions and improvements to songs: a collection of hoarse insistence, passionate defence and patient reasoning ... and superb swearing.
The hours spent together at rehearsal rooms like Grizzo’s merely represent a small part of what really goes into being an actively performing band. Song mastery is a prerequisite. Song mastery requires instrument mastery. Instrument mastery requires years and years of dedication and frustration. And band administration is an added time-consuming bonus, without which the band cannot exist.
So while the members of Lost State of Dance's lives are fully intertwined with their music, limited opportunities and financial support mean they cannot do it for a living. They get paid more for doing covers - playing someone else's music - than their own compositions. The added bonus? They are largely responsible for landing their own gigs and then promoting them: spreading the word, selling tickets and organising themselves and their equipment at the venue.
After all these weekly practice sessions, additional instrumental practice and other performances (over and above work obligations, family and friends), they arrive at a gig, sometimes to perform in front of no one, sometimes in a room full of people, most likely without getting paid in those feather light bank notes that rule our lives. The reward? The crowd. The reaction. A word of appreciation. Of admiration. Two words. Three.
That breaks the cycle and undoes the curse on man.
Find out more about the members themselves in the second article on LSD. Coming soon...