Holly band photo

There I was again, listening to the same playlist, watching the same band, and yet the night never got boring. When arriving at the local bar, The Tap, in Portsmouth, greeted by five police officers and three paramedics as they swept a naked man out of the entrance, I looked over to find the four members of the band, Force Four, watching the scene with horrified expressions. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the perfect location for a band gig, but even so, the four members continued to set up whilst the paramedics cleaned up the blood from the floor and the manager cleaned up the broken glass. It was safe to say that I was a little on edge. At first, the members of the band looked a little hesitant to set up their equipment, but with a firm nod that the night was to go ahead from the manager, they continued to set up their gear. Darren, the guitarist, carried in the speakers and the heavy equipment due to being the broadest and strongest of the bunch, whilst Martin stood fitting wires and connecting electrics. Ed was busy practising on his drum set that was almost set up and Nick was strumming his bass guitar in time with Ed’s drumming. I settled myself down on one of the small stools at a table near the front door of the pub, so I could easily capture the band with my camera. They had taken a spot by one of the front windows. I went over and grabbed the drinks and sat back down. Taking a sip of my diet coke, I watched the band walk in and out of the entrance carrying equipment. It was like watching a line of lemmings run in and out on an unstoppable mission.

After an hour of wires draping over doorways, speakers taking up most of the small dancefloor, and the sound checks being carried out, the band was finally ready to start, and boy, did they have an audience. ‘Welcome everyone, we are Force Four,’ sounded over the microphone. The whole pub clapped, and beady eyes lingered on the band as they started up with a good old favourite, ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I smiled up at the band which earned me a smirk from the guitarist, Darren. As those around me swayed slowly back and forth to the opening song, I knew it was going to be a good night. After another few songs, ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis, ‘Free Falling’ by Tom Petty, and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd, I had gifted myself another drink and watched as the band started to play ‘When You’re Gone’ by Bryan Adams and Mel C. I whooped and felt instantly embarrassed by the number of stares I received. However, once the swift melody of the guitar sounded, accompanied by the thunderous percussion of the drums, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the music. I eased past a couple drunkenly dancing, almost knocking over the speakers from their erratic movements, and skulked down so they didn’t ask me to join them, which didn’t work. However, after my tenth protest, they seemed to understand that I wasn’t going to dance. Call me a bore, but by this point I wanted to get a good close-up picture of the band.

After ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ by Guns and Roses, and ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond, the whole pub had joined in singing along and sweat was pooling off everyone’s faces, including mine. I had to keep buying more drinks to cool down, my hands slipping over the buttons of my camera. The vocals by Martin never seemed to shake or tire, and Nick, the bass player was shimmying to the music also, which just illuminated the vibe the band was giving off. After a few close-up shots captured, and the videos taken, my work was done. I was free to enjoy the rest of the night. After finishing with ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince, which always gained high praise and a chorus of cheers, due to the electrifying guitar solos, the pub wanted more. The band obliged with one more song, casting ‘Up’ by Olly Murs through the speakers for ‘just a bit of fun’, if Martin’s introduction to the song was to be believed. The pub loved it. I loved it. Apparently, it gave a lanky guy at the bar the courage to approach me and touch my shoulder. I instantly shrank away but it didn’t seem to deter him from taking the seat across from me that I had been saving for somebody else, somebody that was watching us from up on the stage, playing the guitar.

‘I’m going to be blunt…’ he started off, which was never a good sign. ‘I saw you looking at me over there and…’
Sweet lord…
‘I wasn’t looking at you,’ I answered, quick as a whip, dodging his gaze so I could watch the band in peace. ‘Oh…’ he looked confused. After a few minutes, he picked himself up and left. I breathed out a sigh of relief.

After another chorus of cheers, mainly by me and the drunken couple adjacent to me, the band finally said goodnight and the guitarist, Darren, swooped in next to me, and tucked me under his arm. ‘What did he want?’ he asked. I smirked. ‘He was just telling me how good he thought the band was.’That seemed to smooth things over as I grinned up at him. And there it was, another energetic night watching Force Four. From a night of police officers and paramedics, to choruses of cheers and dancing, it shows how a night can be turned around just by listening to the simple melodies and harmonies of a great band.