I arrive at 10am and the band has started a countdown as I’m making my way up the stairs. As I enter, they perform a tightly rehearsed jig that’s performed at the beginning of each hour to explain the rules for those showing up throughout the day, which is still stuck in my head. I’m greeted by Stage Manager Anna Barker and Set/Marketing/Merch extraordinaire Sarah Burton who encourage me to get comfy on one of the couches and to approach one of the many folks floating around if I need anything. The vibes are already immaculate.
Hour One starts off with #1NITEBND - this rule dictates an audience member to call someone - hence the text-speak title - and have a brief chat with them, with this conversation acting as the ‘spark’ of inspiration for the first song. We all end up sharing stories of our own best friends to help generate ideas, and Ben Kelly on the keys kicks us off with a soft arrangement that grows into a sappy but gorgeous song about the love we all have for our best friends. I’m amazed at how quickly a few stories turned into 'Sisters Since 13', and how good it feels to be able to contribute to the making of the song.
Suddenly we’ve arrived at Hour Two and the rule is: Democracy! The audience gets to vote on each decision. This is a fun rule, but one where I find the format could do with some tightening, as it becomes hard to focus on enforcing some rules when we’re trying to push a song out in an hour. However the loose nature of this show is what makes it so fun to be a part of, I wonder if a rule enforcer could be an addition to the next iteration of the project to help us stick to the challenge? But I digress, we wrote a song about a lonesome cowboy called 'Cowboy Ruthless' that I keep finding myself humming, I love Democracy.
I spent 4 hours jamming in the Dome, so I’ll try to quickly summarise the last two hours of my stay. Hour Three’s rule is One Night Bestie, where each band member is tied to a brave audience member who helps to play their instrument. This means we have a more basic chord progression, but the song still feels clean and cohesive and we end up with a lovely ballad called 'Two Paths to the Same Horizon'. My final hour consists of One Sight Band which sends us audience members on a scavenger hunt throughout BATS for parts of the song, things such as instruments, chords, and questions to base it off of. This produces a soft lullaby using only keys, vocals, and drums inspired by elephants - titled 'The Elephants Lullaby' - that I boldly decide to sing on because hey, why not? It’s so rewarding getting the chance to sing with Pippa Drakeford-Croad (Vocals) and Tessa Dillon (Guitar), they make my friend and I feel so held as we put together a harmony on the spot and record it not even 2 minutes later.
This is what makes the show such a standout for me. The way the band and the Squash Co. team make each audience member feel comfortable enough to share their stories and try something new, it feels more akin to a rehearsal room than a live music show. The band’s encouragement to contribute offers is even more exciting knowing that they will take and try them no matter what. Each person I speak to says the same thing, it feels so good to be part of the process.
I’ve grown up around music and loved it my whole life, but I’ve always felt as though it’s something I just can’t grasp, try as I might, but I left this show feeling as though I can and should give it another go. Making art for the sake of it is something we all benefit from.
Live art that encourages anyone and everyone to join in is a breath of fresh air and something we desperately need more of. Seeing the work that goes into making a song, from inception to the final product, makes you develop such a deep respect and appreciation for the form. Those of us who stayed for longer than an hour found ourselves getting more and more involved in the creation. I only wish I had the stamina to stay for the full 12 hours.
I hope the team are enjoying some well earned rest after such a long stint in the Dome, and I can’t wait to see where this project goes in the future. Thank you Squash Co. and The Undercuts for reminding me how much fun it is to make art for art’s sake.
One Night Band was performed Saturday 15th April in The Dome at BATS, the whole album is available on Bandcamp.
A quick disclaimer: the theatre community here is pretty close, so once again I find myself reviewing a show involving a number of my friends. I’ve known the Squash Co. team for years, which Jack McGee - fellow Art Murmurer - is a part of, and Anna Barker is one of my closest friends and collaborators, but there was no one else available to review this project. My love for these people as friends and artists is inbuilt and probably obvious, however I’ve done my best to provide a fair and accurate review of this project. Please get in touch with the team if you have any feedback via firstname.lastname@example.org.