This week, I went to Brian Damage and Krysstal’s legendary Pear Shaped venue in Fitzrovia, London.
Tomorrow, they start recording a music album in Cambridge.
“We miss the music.,” said Krysstal (real name Vicky de Lacy). “When we first got together, we used to play a lot.”
“You met at the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.”
“Yes. In 2000,” said Vicky. “When we first got together, our main work was playing in pubs as a duo with a bit of comedy and then gradually the comedy took over. We hardly ever do any music gigs now, so we put this band called The Wrinklepickers together.”
“The Old Bastards was another option,” said Brian.
“But The Wrinklepickers wasn’t taken,” explained Vicky, “so we got the website wrinklepickers.com and we’ve had that for about three or four years now, though someone has recently started calling themselves Wrinkle Pickers – separate words.”
“Playing the same sort of music?” I asked.
“No,” said Brian. “They’re playing covers.”
“Who’s your target audience?” I asked.
“It’s mostly country-ish sounding,” replied Vicky. “Close harmonies. But they’re lively songs: you can dance to them.”
“In folk clubs?” I asked.
“We’re too lively for folk clubs,” said Vicky. “We’re pretty upbeat. Not political songs or anything like that.”
“If you listen to old bluegrass and country songs,” said Brian, “they’re miserable songs about death and killing your girlfriend, but they’re cheerfully performed. With us, it’s the harmonies and beat that does it. We’re lively. Our percussion man has got a snare drum, but he’s also got pots and pans and a washboard.”
“We have 30 or 40 original songs,”said Vicky, “about 20 of which we already play regularly at comedy gigs and people like the songs, so we figured: Let’s make an album. But we’ve got no money.”
“You’ve made albums before,” I said.
“Yes,” said Vicky, “but they were silly songs. The music wasn’t the most important thing; it was the comedy bits. We could do those at home in our bedroom but this one – because there’s a band…”
“We’re going to do it in somebody else’s bedroom,” said Brian.
“On a farm in Cambridge,” said Vicky. “We’ve started a crowdfunding thing to make at least a demo album. There’s just under two weeks left to go – 19th November.
We have met our first target of £600, but we set the target deliberately low, so now we’re aiming for about £1,000 because that will help us make a proper 10 or 12 song album instead of a demo album with 5 or 6 songs and then 5% or 6% of the profit will go to a music charity for young people.”
“What’s the album called?” I asked.
“The Wrinklepickers Album #1,” said Vicky.
“Very appropriate,” I said. “How is Pear Shaped going?”
“We don’t wanna get too big,” laughed Brian.
“You should give out awards,” I said.
“We did have an award winner,” said Brian. It was Seymour Mace.”
“We gave him The Golden Derriere,” said Vicky.
“As in Perrier,” said Brian.
“It was a golden pear,” said Vicky, “with a cut in it so it looked like a little bottom – Pear Shaped – the Golden Derriere Award. I think we gave it the second or third year we were in Edinburgh.”
“You should go up again,” I said.
“The good thing about Edinburgh,” said Brian, “is you bump into people – promoters – accidentally and that means you don’t have to crawl up anybody’s arse. But we haven’t been up there now for a long while.”
“Someone’s arse?” I asked.
“Edinburgh,” said Brian.
“2008 was our last time,” said Vicky.
“Edinburgh?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Vicky.
“The Holyrood Tavern,” said Brian, “was a great venue to run. But that other place we ran up the Cowgate was vile.”
“It was hard to run.” agreed Vicky.
“In 2008,” said Brian, “Edinburgh pissed rain for a whole month.”
“Not only that,” said Vicky. “We had torrents of water coming down inside our venue from The Green Room upstairs because they had a faulty washing machine. So we had all this dirty washing water coming down the back stairs into these enormous bins, so it sounded like a horse pissing when people were on stage.”
“And sewage outside,” said Brian. “It splashed on people as they came in.”
“There was a hole in the road,” explained Vicky. “You know how narrow that road is there and they had a little notice, but people kept knocking that over and all the cars kept going into this hole full of sewage water and spraying it up so people coming in to our venue were getting sprayed and you couldn’t put posters out the front because they got soggy. The staff used to go out the front to have cigarettes and get showered with dirty, smelly water. It was just horrible. And the toilets stank in there as well: the men’s toilets especially. The whole place was smelly and wet for the whole month.”
“It was the worst Edinburgh I’d ever had,” said Brian. “The previous year, we had set off from London and the sun was shining. I was in shorts and a flowery shirt and looked like I’d crept off a beach in Spain and we came up over that hill into Edinburgh and we just saw…”
“…all this mist and fog,” said Vicky.
“And we drove down into it,” said Brian.
“And the whole month was like that,” said Vicky. “And then, coming home, the reverse happened. We drove back over the hill and it was all sunny.”
“But it wasn’t as bad as 2008,” said Brian.
“It was great this year,” I said. “You had shit weather in London and I as basking in the sun in Edinburgh.”
“The year the two of us met – 2000,” said Brian, “I didn’t pay to go up. Neil Willis was an agent then. He said: Do you wanna go and compere a show in Edinburgh? And it was great.”
“What’s the point of Pear Shaped?” I asked. “What’s the unique selling proposition?”
“Anybody can do five minutes,” said Vicky. “and anybody watching can stand anybody doing five minutes. You can be as terrible as you like and you still get booked back. Basically, it’s mainly for comics; it’s not for an audience. It’s our night off; we just have a good time.”
“The Pear Shaped shows in Edinburgh were wonderful,” I said. “Comics just coming along to see other comics.”
“The midnight show was brilliant,” agreed Brian. “Any customers who wanted to see it, we charged ‘em and that kept the idiots out. And then the comedians would turn up in various forms of psychological meltdown and tear up on stage. They would either have had a fantastic day, in which case they were really on form. Or a terrible day and they were roaring at everybody and threatening to kill themselves.”
“There was that time,” Vicky reminded him, “when Danny Hurst showed up and he had just been mugged and had had a bad review. Well, someone tried to mug him, but Danny ended up punching the mugger because he was so fed up.”
“He got up on stage…” started Brian.
“…and said…” continued Vicky, “I had to go and report it to the police… And then the police actually turned up at our venue when he was midway telling the story on stage and they carried on the story.”
“The police did?” I asked.
“Well,” said Vicky, “They pulled him to the side and so it all became part of the show. He had punched out this guy, but he had to give himself up to the police for committing Grievous Bodily Harm.”
“I take it,” I said, “that the mugger did not press charges.”
“No,” said Vicky, “the police just said: Well, you shouldn’t go around punching people on the one hand. On the other hand, we understand… We used to get things like that happening. Or people just being completely pissed and getting on stage and trying to do another comedian’s act.”
“I’d like to go up again,” said Brian.
“But it’s the cost,” said Vicky.
“Maybe we should try to crowdfund it,” said Brian.
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