My line manager arrived on base a couple of weeks ago and, being a keen drummer, decided to get a few of the resident musicians together for a bit of a jam one evening. Luckily, we had a pretty good spread of instruments on base – Simon the Ops manager on keyboards and vocals, Kevin the scientist on the guitar, Chris (my boss) on drums, Ross the electronics engineer on electric bass and me on the saxophone.
On the appointed evening I turned up at our surprisingly well-equipped rehearsal room to find the others jamming a 12-bar blues, and already sounding like they’d played together for years. It was a particularly exciting evening for me as my beloved saxophone had just arrived on the ship and I was keen to see how well it had travelled. After a squeaky warm-up, I joined in and found the group an absolute joy to jam with – they were probably the most musically talented bunch that I’d ever played with – a bit of a surprise on a remote Antarctic base!
There was a great energy in the room that night, and we put together five or six songs with no trouble at all, and arranged to meet again a couple of nights later. Unfortunately for us, Kevin the guitarist was running out of time down South and soon had to head back to the UK, but the rest of us carried on jamming in the evenings for a couple of weeks before deciding to go public and arrange a gig for the rest of the base.
This plan rapidly evolved and we soon had a name (‘Ross and the Trons’ – it’s a long story!), a good-sized set list based around rock and blues classics such as ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ , and also an ever-expanding list of ‘guest’ musicians who joined us for a couple of songs each. This included Fraser, the Rothera sparky, who had only discovered that he had an incredible singing talent since he arrived on base a year previously.
Soon enough, the day of our gig came around and we headed up to the Rothera bar on Saturday afternoon to set up the kit, do a sound-check and try to create some sort of ‘blues club’ atmosphere. We also dug out some old blazers and pork-pie hats from the fancy-dress cupboard to complete the Blues-Brothers look.
Once the evening dinner was finished, everyone on base headed up to the bar and we warmed up with a couple of beers before donning our hats and kicking off proceedings with a 12-bar blues jam. Simon the keyboard player then got on vocals with ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and a few of other classics, and we built up to a final song of ‘Mustang Sally’, with a full complement of guest musicians, Fraser on vocals and a load of people boogying away on the dancefloor. The crowd even demanded an encore, for which we gave them a rowdy version of the Blues Brothers classic, ‘Everybody’.
Click on the links below to play or save the MP3 files (apologies for slightly dodgy recordings – we are in Antarctica after all!).
|Blues Jam (with me on sax, Simon on keys, Dave on guitar)
Sweet Home Chicago (with Fraser on vocals, me on sax)
Money (with Simon on vocals, me on sax)
It was a great night, and the atmosphere in the bar was brilliant. Once we had wrapped up our set, the dance tunes came out and it ended up being a pretty late night for everyone! Fortunately, I had planned ahead and avoided the early morning shift the next day.