I’ve had a bit of a thin month, gigs-wise (not weight-wise – the onslaught of cake and mince pies is taking its toll…) And although it’s a welcome change from my usual pre-Christmas gig madness – a few years ago I ended up doing a gig every single day for about two weeks – I am basically a big girly show-off and love to be on stage.
My Christmas wish was granted on Sunday, as I got to be on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo, playing with the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra as part of Robin Ince’s self-styled “folly” – 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People. Far from being a night of religion bashing, it was a glorious celebration of rationalism and science, communicated via the twin media of comedy and music. And it was bloody brilliant.
Firstly, massive, massive props to Martin White, erstwhile leader of the MFMO, who was up till all hours arranging the orchestral parts and putting up with our whinging about being cold and hungry, and errant brass players. He is a star of the highest order. I get a hard time dragging my harp around to gigs – I can’t begin to imagine how much hassle it must be to take a whole orchestra about the place.
Anyway, from where I was sitting (right at the front of the orchestra, woo!), I got a great view of the backs of such comics as Dara O’Briain, Al Muray (who had a cheeky twang of my basswires when he went past), Robin Ince, Richard Herring, Chris Addison, Natalie Haynes, John Gordillo, Mark Steel, bendy Ben Moore, the legend that is Barry Cryer and the lovely Shappi Khorsandi. Due to the monitoring it was a bit hard to hear everything they all said, but the bits that I caught were pretty much all hilarious.
As well as the comics, there were musical acts – Joanna Neary did an odd little dance which involved spitting her teeth out (you had to be there…), Robyn Hitchcock sang a song about evolving, Baba Brinkman rapped about evolution (really gutted I couldn’t hear most of the lyrics), Gavin Osborne did a lovely sweet little song about a stargazing nerd’s seduction, and Jim Bob (out of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine) did a big number with us about the angels going on strike. Does that make us the Unstoppable Sex Machine Orchestra?
And not only that, there were scientists too! (It was a pretty long show – whole species had evolved by the end of it). Simon Singh merrily took the piss out of Bible codes, Ben Goldacre ranted about the nocebo effect with barely a pause for breath, and Brian Cox awed us all with the majesty of the universe.
I got a tingle down my spine as I watched Richard Dawkins reading from his books, wreathed in dry ice (though four readings was possibly too many… just saying). And Jonny Ball was good too, steering clear of the controversial material he’d used earlier in the week, wheeling out plenty of groan-worthy jokes and demonstrating Newtonian mechanics with a ball on a string.
For me, the best moment of the night was the grand musical finale, led by Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden. What started as a gentle ballad, pleading for Christmas peace and quiet ended with a riotous, anarchic singalong, culminating with Martin rising up out of the stage playing the Apollo’s enormous organ. Brilliant and uplifting. Who says atheists can’t celebrate at Christmas?