The Society Of Poor Academics, Live At Fuel Café Bar In Manchester

On Friday, roughly a week ago – 30th April – I made my live debut, performing under my pseudonym The Society Of Poor Academics at Fuel Café in Manchester. I had been invited to perform by my friend Tom, a fellow all-around creative guy who generally goes under the pseydonym Yossarian when doing music himself, participating in his mini-festival Night Of The Living Dead II. He had also invited me to perform at the predecessor the previous year, but I hadn’t been able then.

Two other acts performed before I was on: first there was Tom’s new band, then there was Sam & The Plants. (Someone named Aidan Smith was supposed to perform as well, but unfortunately was unable.) They had both done pretty well and seemed to have a good connection with the audience. Didn’t make me feel any less nervous in regards to my own performance, and with Icelandic volcanoes and having traveled around the UK for a week I hadn’t been able to do much practice beforehand.

Tom's band.

Once it was my turn, it started off with a clunky thud. For some reason I just wasn’t able to figure out the chords to the first song on my set list, and Tom admitted to me later that it made him briefly feared that our combined efforts in getting me to the gig had been wasted. But after the initial awkwardness I recovered by starting off with an “old” classic of mine instead, and then chugged through most of my planned set list.

Tom setting up the equipment for me.

I’m tempted to say my performance was a big success. There were waves of roaring applause and laughter from the small crowd, both in response to the actual songs and to my in-between banter. Got three people come up to me to say I was brilliant afterwards, and I sold three copies of my album – which apparently is good for such a small indie concert. The highlight for me was when I got most of the crowd to howl along with me (like wolves) during “Don’t Go Quietly”. I knew trying to get audience participation can be difficult, but fortunately most seemed to join in.

The audience’s response to some of my songs surprised me. I was surprised to hear a collective awww during “A Very Short Song About Ice Cream”; that they found “You Provoke Me” funny, as I’ve never thought of it as a particularly funny song; and that they laughed as much as they did to my song “A Very Short Song About A Random Online Guy” (though I think it was mostly due to my pre-song banter build-up). It was interesting getting such direct response to one’s songs.

But, there were a lot of mistakes. As mentioned, I actually had to give up on performing the first song on my set list after being unable to figure out the chords, probably due to being nervous. I later played it as an unplanned encore though, feeling slightly less nervous that time around, so it kind of worked out. I also messed up on several other songs, to varying degrees, leading to some awkward pauses. Had I been able to practice a bit more, the mistakes would have been greatly reduced. Thankfully the audience still seemed to enjoy it.

"Now, what were those chords again..."

For the event me and Tom had also prepared a split EP, Consider Yourself Covered, which was given away for free to anyone who came up to the merchandising table and asked about the available items – though he’d done the work of actually putting it together, burning the CD-Rs and getting the cover artwork done. The EP consists of six songs in total, with three songs each, and they’re all covers of each other’s music. After the concert he gave me half of the copies which were left. I’m guessing I’ll be trying to sell them off to unsuspecting indie hipsters, friends, and family members. If you’d be keen on a copy, get in touch and we may be able to work something out.

During the event, I got to talking to Sam of Sam & The Plants, and his crew. A pretty friendly bunch. At one point Sam also asked if he could get me a drink, but I declined, which seemed to surprise him. A short while later it dawned on me that he had probably meant if he could buy me a drink, which Lawrie, whom I’d been spending my visit to the UK with, confirmed my suspicion; I thought he had meant that he would buy it on my behalf, and that I’d pay him back, and that he’d offered to buy it as he was heading to the bar. I’ve never had a stranger buy me a drink.  Had I accepted I’d probably have had to study the drink’s menu for a minute or two though, being both a bit indecisive and fairly unfamiliar with the world of spirits. I’m curious if anyone else will ever offer to buy me a drink, or if this was my one and only shot.

After the show me and Lawrie crashed at Tom’s place, and we had to get up early the next morning to get me on my plane back to Norway. Probably the closest I’ve been to the rock-n-roll lifestyle.

Lawrie giving the locale a critical glance prior to the concert.

Would I like to perform live again? I think so. It’s a good way to promote yourself, it can maybe lead to some small profit (though travel expenses if you’re performing abroad pretty much kills any profit), and it’s even sort of fun. I’m fairly sure I’d do better if I were to do it again, making fewer mistakes. But I’m not really sure how you go about getting “gigs”, and I don’t really have a big enough catalog of songs to be able to have full-length concerts. Also, I doubt all audiences are as positive and responsive as this particular audience was.

Leaving you now with a few songs. The first is a song from Yossarian‘s album The Selfish Gene – which you can order for free from here – and then there’s my cover of the same song, taken from the Consider Yourself Covered EP.

Yossarian – “I Am Just A Complicated Vehicle”

The Society Of Poor Academics – “I Am Just A Complicated Vehicle”

The final song is called “Hey, Manchester”. I was playing around with the idea of writing an original song in relation to the event. I wasn’t really able to come up with anything good in the time I had prior to leaving for the UK, but I did manage to make this throwaway number. I had semi-planned on performing it at the event, just for the heck of it, but I had forgotten to print out the lyrics and write down the chords prior to leaving. Fortunately the demo was on my portable multimedia player, so I figured I’d try transcribing from it before my performance. Unfortunately on the day of my performance the database on my player had become corrupted and I was unable to actually play anything on it, so I was unable to access and transcribe the song. Thus, I could not play it. Maybe for the best, as it’s not very good. But I figured I’d share a recording of it here.

The Society Of Poor Academics – “Hey, Manchester”

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The Society Of Poor Academics, Live At Fuel Café Bar In Manchester

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