Sunday 24 August 2014 - Community Concert, Chateau de Gudanes (#92)

Today was the first big day of the French Tour, as we were to play our first gig at Chateau de Gudanes. But first we had to pack the camion with the pans, while the two 9-seaters took the drum set and the PA system. The drive to the Chateau was fairly straight-forward, down the motorway through Toulouse, then heading south towards Foix. Everyone seemed to get the hang of driving on the right, but with 4 vehicles in convoy, it took a while to learn not to all go through the same tollgate at the end of the motorway (since this tended to lose the vehicles at the end of the convoy).

After driving through some spectacular mountain scenery, the arrival at the Chateau was a grand sight.

After greeting Karina and Jasmine, the owner and her daughter, we settled down on the lawn for a family picnic.

We then set up on the grass under a spreading linden tree for a short rehearsal and a bit of filming. Unfortunately, we were not sounding the best, and it took a while for the photographers to get their bearings, but it gave us all a chance to clear out the cobwebs before the afternoon performances.

For one member of the band, Joe James, this practice session was especially important because it was the first time he had played publicly with the band. Ten days ago, Joe had hardly heard of Pans on Fire; now he was playing with the band in front of a French Chateau. Life can sometimes throw up some surprises!

After playing a few songs, we packed up and took all the pans up to the Chateau for the chance to play inside.

As the pans were being set up in the Chateau, there was just enough time for Massa to receive some Superman lessons, and for a few more pan-stand uprights to be shortened, with the assistance of Thierry, who had come down to see the Chateau with most of the other workers from La Maison de la Rose in Moissac.

There was just enough room to set up all the pans in the Foyer at the foot of the grand staircase.

And then we started playing; and boy what a sound!! The acoustics in the foyer were amazing, and when we played Bohemian Rhapsody, the sound just seemed to fill the building. It then spilled down the front steps and attracted interested listeners. It was enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

As 1700h approached, we reluctantly moved the pans out of the building and set them up in front of the front steps of the Chateau, where we would perform a short concert for the residents of the surrounding villages. Although there was stiff competition that afternoon with a large horse show in a neighbouring town, we still attracted a good crowd (probably all those people who didn’t like horses!). The clapping along to the music during Champs Elysees and Can Can was a good sign that we had hit the mark, and inspired us to our best ever performance of Can Can, as we took the beat from the locals who knew just how fast the various sections should be played.

After playing for about an hour, and then sharing a wine and grapes with the locals, we posed for our Chateau group photo with Karina.

We then had the honour of receiving a personal inspection of the Chateau, with Karina explaining some very interesting aspects of the renovation so far. Everyone was left in awe of the Chateau and in awe of Karina’s vision and determination to bring it back to life.

After coffee and cake at Karina’s apartment in the old stables, we set off for a late drive home. As we were to discover later, some of the drivers had yet to adjust to driving in France, with a couple of speeding fines arriving in the mail for our trip along the 90kph stretch of the inner peripherique around Toulouse!