Caught by the River

School Fetes Are The New Rock 'n' Roll

18th July 2008

by John Moore

On Saturday afternoon, as the sun finally broke through the north London clouds and blazed in all its glory, The John Moore Rock’n’Roll Trio played its first and perhaps only gig, at my daughter’s Primary School Summer Fete. Powered by Phil King on bass – fortuitously on a weekend off from his current worldwide land grab, Ben Swank from The Soledad Brothers on drums, the honeyed larynxes, wild dancing and scorching beauty of backing singers The Loose Moorelles – actress Cecilia Fage, and the Guardian’s very own Laura Barton – themselves powered by something liberally swigged from a plastic bottle before and during the show, a middle-aged man in a hideous shirt with a semi- gut-concealing-semi-acoustic Gibson guitar tore through a blistering set of rock’n’roll covers, commencing with Eddie Cochran’s Summer Time Blues, celebrating the late great Bo Diddley with Roadrunner and
Who Do You Love, bemoaned the lack of stair-lifts – Twenty Flight Rock, bad knees – Shakin’ All Over, then caused seven year olds to dance like birds while howling Surfin’ Bird at them.

As far as gigs go, playing in front of your children, their friends, teachers and parents, is about as far from a no-pressure gig as it’s possible to get. I’ve played some atrocious shows in my life, but
generally you still get paid, blame it on somebody else – the audience, the promoter…the list of excuses is endless, and move on to the next town. Saturday’s show, had it gone pear-shaped, could have exposed me to four years of general ridicule, and a lifetime of abuse from a child who could already give Dorothy Parker a run for her money.

Thankfully – although I couldn’t possibly review it, everything seemed to go brilliantly, and the only thing that was pear-shaped was me when I swapped the semi-acoustic for a Bo Diddley square guitar. The kids appeared to love it, the parents nodded their heads appreciatively, the school’s tiny PA system was far more powerful than it looked, and the encore requests kept coming – even after we’d removed every last piece of equipment from the stage.

Playing pure raw rock’n’roll again was bliss. Fast, pounding rhythms, three chords, screeching five-second solos, songs about girls and cars, whose deepest philosophical theme is an exhortation to Shake Your Moneymaker. The grand moment came when my daughter took over the stage for one
number -Moon River – she’s been watching that dreadful Andrew Lloyd Webber show ‘I’d Do Anything’ where a procession of stage school hoofers compete for a west end roll and a lifetime of daytime TV
appearances by wrapping their tonsils around the classics and strangling the life out of them. Far from being schmaltzy and saccharine though, Ava imbued it with a wonderful strangeness – like a scene from a David Lynch film, and as she will never tire of reminding me, drew the biggest applause of the day. Everybody who took part in the gig – Ben, Phil, The Loose Moorelles
and myself had a fabulous time doing it. When you can play Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On to an audience of face-painted, sugar-rushing tinys, break it down, look them in the eyes and order them to ‘stand in one spot and wiggle’ and watch them do just that, everything is worth it. You can never be to cool for school. Primary School Summer Fetes are the new Rock’n’Roll.