I got here early. Too early. A boy fell over with his bike and I had time to stay and help. He was confused and in pain, I could relate. I was on my way to the first gig of the year. Six whole months of darkness, despair, and Facebook live. Finally, I was close, my body ached from the tension I obviously have been carrying in anticipation for tonight. Number one worry? The PA. After six months of dusting about, will it turn on? Never have the legendary Half Moon in Putney been quiet for this long since it opened in 1963. Never did the people of southwest London have to wait this long to book a ticket. Never had the regular drinkers stayed this long without a pint from the polished bar and never did the musicians wait this long without a gig.
It’s stand-up tonight and I am introducing the MC. I have written my little intro and I am anxiously waiting for the latecomers to arrive. I have always hated this part, this limbo place, where the background music is playing and everything is ready. I guess I should tell you at this point, the PA works, the lights work and the mixer turned on. Yey! I take a breath hoping I won’t have that awkward silence. That one when the audience thinks it’s starting, but it’s just the silence between the song and the next one. Hate when that happens!
The gig starts. I make people cheer twice and off we go. Tonight the audience is mainly older men, maybe because of the headliner, and I can tell they don’t get the first young woman comedian. It is a really difficult and mixed audience. We are capped at 50 people, and if there’s a lot of tables of two. Normally, we would squeeze in 120 chairs in this old little dark venue. So when she speaks of jeans that break in the crotch because she’s fat, I cackle loudly in the back. I got you and I get you. I chat with her during the break, we give each other a follow on Instagram and a bond was created between us two. Being self-employed in the arts can be lonely and this year has had us lonelier than ever.
A quick break, the main act, and all of a sudden it was over. I’m exhausted! The tension has made my bodywork so hard and I can’t wait to get home. I’m toying with the idea of doing yoga when I get home, but deep down inside, I know I will eat snacks and go to bed.
Tired, I sit here waiting for the punters to finish their drinks, but I don’t have the heart to turn off the music. They are enjoying themselves and ordering more. This will be their first event of the year. Today is the 20th of May, and only days ago the UK lifted its indoor event restrictions. I hereby deem this opening night a success and bite into a couple of days old gas station chicken wrap. My stomach welcomes the familiar taste and reminds me to bring food from home to my next shift. In a bit, I will fade the music out, turn off the amps and get on the bus to take me home.
Linnéa Kempe is front of house (well ALL of the house) sound engineer in the small legendary London club The Half Moon. The small team there is like her second family since her family is back home in Sweden! She plays in woodland pop duo MEADOWS and since “the lockdown” she’s also a feministing podcaster (@anditwentlikethispodcast).