It’s always nice when we get re-hired by a previous client, it not only means that they had enjoyed our previous show but it also demonstrates their confidence that we can provide another dose of high-quality swingy jive entertainment for them again. We were therefore very pleased to be invited to be a part of another black tie Q & A event with a Hollywood celebrity and this time it was the turn of “The Bundle of Fibrous Tissue from the capital of Belgium”. Better known as ‘The Muscles from Brussels’ - Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Having previously worked with the event organisers last year in 2014 for an evening with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Leeds, we already knew the style of event and the general format of the evening. We perform on stage during the three-course meal before the interview and then return to the stage afterwards to round-off the evening. This time the show was being held at EventCity in Manchester - one of the largest venues outside of London and our itinerary stated that we had to arrive there for around 4pm for soundcheck and because we were coming from Kent, we needed to make sure that we left in good time. Therefore, the five of us met up in Maidstone at 10am, merged all of our equipment into Mark’s transit van and then hit the road. At this point in the proceedings there is not much to report apart from mentioning that the traffic was generally clear, we stopped off and had two toilet breaks along the way and we listened to an unhealthy amount of George Michael and Michael Bolton (just one song each of which we still consider to be an unhealthy amount - see our video at the top of this page as evidence).
At pretty-much bang on 4pm, we arrived at EventCity and were directed around to the side of the building to unload all of our equipment. There are some gigs where all of the equipment is supplied by the organiser but it was agreed in this instance that it would be easier if we brought along, set up and managed all of our own equipment of which we then send our final “mix-down” audio output to the big PA speakers that were already rigged up in the building. The reason for this became apparent as soon as we investigated our performance area - we were going to be playing on the same stage as the main interview and so we needed to make sure that immediately after our first set we would have to move all of our own equipment to the very back of the stage to make way for the main event of the evening. Plus, it meant that the AV (audio visual) team could focus on getting the sound and lighting just perfect for the interview without having to worry about mixing and setting the sound levels for the band as well.
The room itself was already looking impressive upon our afternoon arrival - two big TV screens either side of the stage with a full lighting rig and smoke machines to really provide that professional sheen. Around 80 large round tables were already adorned with place settings, bottles of wine, candelabra and programme guides, all ready for the eager guests who had paid to see the experience. After a quick and easy soundcheck, we were taken to our back stage green room and got changed ready for our first set. We had a band discussion regarding whether we were going to ease the crowd in with some softer jazz standards while they were eating but decided that on this occasion we were going to unleash our main swing jive set right from the start and it was a good decision because, even though people were eating, it turned out they appreciated the more lively, entertaining and engaging set rather than us becoming quiet background ‘musical wallpaper’ (although we can do that too if that is what the client specifically requires!)
After about an hour and 20 minutes of playing, we pushed all of our equipment out of the way and quickly left the stage to grab some hot food that the kitchen had reserved for us. Someone must have sent a memo to the chef saying that we were a 20-piece orchestra because they promptly wheeled out two massive catering trays of lasagne which was far too much for us five but nevertheless tasted great and was very-well received after our long journey. We tried our very best to finish it all but after some of us going back for 4th helpings, we thought that it was safer to stop before feeling too ill.
We all grabbed a seat at the back of the room and watched the interview, which started with This Morning TV presenter Jenni Falconer coming out on stage and asking the audience to shout out how far they had travelled - it surprised us how many people from not only all over the UK but also around Europe had made a special journey to Manchester to see Jean-Claude up-close and personal. After a movie montage introduction was played on the big screens, the main man came on stage to a rapturous applause and then launched into a long discussion about his early life and how he got into movies in the first place. After well over an hour of watching, we had almost forgotten that we needed to be back on stage immediately after the interview was over and so we made our way back stage and got ready to go on as soon as Jean-Claude had finished his Q & A with some select audience members.
After the interview, the guests that had paid the top-level ticket prices were able to get a photograph with the main man in a side room, while we took to the main stage and played some classic rock n roll and went into our funky set to round off the evening for the rest of the guests. After the event, we thanked the AV guys and the event organisers, packed down, loaded up the van and drove down the road to our B&B that we had pre-booked for ourselves - it had been a long day and we didn’t really fancy a long drive back home without getting some well-earned rest first.
A high-profile event like always attracts a lot of social media attention and naturally there were plenty of subsequent Tweets and FaceBook posts about the show and how much attendees had enjoyed hearing and meeting their Hollywood movie hero. We were very pleased that we also received some nice comments and praise even though we were not the main act of the night!
So An Experience With Jean-Claude it most certainly was and we felt privileged to play a part in making the evening a resounding success.