…Or – When The Venue Is Full, The Toilets Will Flood.
It’s that moment in time. A split second when the world stops, a golden light shineth upon you, from somewhere above a choir sings, the air is still and scented, and the sounds of a metal band clattering away wondrously disappear, muffled only seconds ago by the doors of the cubicle in which you find yourself, flustered and cursing at yet another toilet issue. “What the *&!@ am I doing here?” Oh yes, you run a music venue … and the bogs are down again.
Back to reality, and as you struggle mid-gig with a Byzantine arrangement of rusting circlips and B&Q-level plastic rods and cylinders, using the venue’s entire tool kit (a pair of pliers until now hiding at the back of your ticket drawer), the sturdy cistern lid you hurriedly propped against the wall which, until now, had the indestructibility of Thor now thinks it’s a Ming vase and collapses to the floor in a million pieces, accidentally given the most miniscule of nudges as you manoeuvre in the cubicle. Ah yes, you needed space for more speakers and so a plot originally designed to be no bigger than the cockpit of mini-submarine, you now wish was at least the size of Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe.
Yup, you can book the best band in the world and put them through the best PA; serve the cheapest drinks; even let folks in for free. But it all comes down to that furthest darkest corner in your musical monarchy. Mount Sinai, Runnymede and Camp David pale as historical locations when held up to your own personal lifeline loo marker. Yes. The carsey (pron. kar-zi). The cludge. The smallest room. Whilst those most precious of your charges in the I’m-not-getting-my-hands-dirty department, DJs (“I need more bass!!”) and doormen (“Eeek, someone’s dropped a used handkerchief – get a member of bar staff to pick it up!”) mince around like keepers of the flame there’s only person (you) to whom fall the problems of this smelly, badly-decorated, ill-equipped and yet utterly-indispensable centre of your universe.
Later on that same evening, fighting to keep the entire toilet structure from hopping around the floor under the weight of a million fat arses you are prostrate on the tiles, arms enfolding the centrepiece of your porcelain torture chamber like a long lost relative at the airport, and a large Stone Roses tribute band fan stands over you, unzips, and …. “Sorry mate. Desperate”.
And why DO people put full toilet rolls, golf balls, shoes and takeaway cartons in them?
Y’see, plumbers are at fault. They’re all bastards, especially where toilet design is concerned. If there’s a kink, an impossible to reach bolt, an unexpected backflow-inducing steep gradient or an obscure and irreplaceable thingummywhatsit, they can build it in. You won’t be able to view the problem with a torch or reach it without the orang-utan arms of Clyde, let alone loosen the bloody thing without the might of Samson. Fibbers had an unusual arrangement incorporating all these elements. A ninety degrees bend, followed by a small incline which led to smaller bore pipe and a spaghetti hoop convergence of every water pipe in the building in to a tiny hole. All of which led to a pipe under the road blocked 200 yds away with building rubble. If 2005 was an Olympic year, I would have won the 100 metre mopping race. The worst flooding, however, was at an early Terrorvision show, when, half through, the venue was full to bursting (no pun intended) and the plumbing failed on a biblical scale. Such was the volume of water, I half expected Noah to come barrelling out of the bogs with two of every music fan. We were still clearing up as the band said their goodbyes.
Of course, as a venue owner, your hands will spend more time down the toilets than applauding all the great bands you’ve booked, the thousands of pounds you’ve paid for them to play to ten people and the time spent cradling your cranium when the rates bill comes in (just when you thought you had the month cracked).
One enterprising and particularly sadistic plumbing-savvy customer used to switch off the water every Saturday night. By the time you’d discovered this, every single toilet, deprived of life-giving flush, was full to the top. Ah, you need to do regular toilet checks I hear you say. Do the maths – five hundred people drinking like mad? It doesn’t take long for Armageddon! I once spent most of an evening at The Duchess manually clearing each toilet in turn, the last circuit being at 3.30am when the venue had emptied. I was exceptionally poorly the next day and that’s when I realised I should have washed my hands before getting a pizza on the way home.
Councils sometimes require levels as low as one toilet per twenty five persons. The venue that adheres to that may just about be able to squeeze in a stage and bar.
It’s a thankless job but the uses of this intimate homestead of the unprepossessing big white telephone double, nay treble, quadruple and more under the imagination of your band-following customers …
Sex. The obvious one. Uncomfortable. Unhygienic. Get a (bigger) room. Let’s leave it there.
“Wow, I’m really expressing myself”. Through the medium of felt-tip? I don’t think so. Like hecklers at a comedy show, no tagger has ever said anything funny, interesting or informative. One urban warrior left a whole essay in beautifully scripted gold pen across the boxing-in for the waste-pipe behind a pan. Obliterating his War And Peace the next day with a couple of brush strokes from the brown Dulux tin I wondered what sort of person thought he could change the world by first requiring people to kneel on a toilet floor and then peer in to the Stygian gloom of a men’s toilet. He had spent the best part of a £15 ticket gig doing it.
But the crudest and most plentiful wall-vandalism is reserved for the ladies powder room. Perhaps they have more thinking time. The fairer (!) sex certainly have lipstick to spare, using Rimmel rouge to graphically outline their plans for the singer, using diagrams in the margin. I’m straying off the subject but a large seaside pub I ran in the early eighties was being refurbished, necessitating demolished walls. In order to block off one area, the builders used the old ladies toilet doors to temporarily shield the restaurant customers from dust. Sadly they mounted the insides of the doors facing outwards and, instead of the menu that evening, most diners’ attention was drawn to a selection of profanity and downstairs male detail that Leonardo Vinci would have been proud of.
You wanna run a venue? Cast your toilets from pig-iron, with lids of titanium. Never mind nappy-changing, leave plenty of room for copulation and your local drug exchange and mart. Make your plumbing wider than the sound desk, have an army of aphrodites with air fresheners, floor tiles of granite and doors of oak. Don’t use locks, they’ll be broken. Plug the toilet roll holder in to mains.
The toilets in your new venue, then. Love them, cherish them, watch over them as you would a newborn and equip them well for a life of abuse and neglect. You have been warned!
This is the second guest post up here by Tim Hornsby – Independent Promoter since 1992, operated and booked Fibbers/Duchess 100 to 1000 cap, 6000+ gigs.