True professional that he is, Vin carried on - slightly dejected - and played his planned set of witty anecdotes and thoughtful (sometimes edgy) songs. At the end of the gig, someone showed him a ticket. He'd been advertised as a 'Christmas Dinner and Disco.'
Now there's a lesson in this for all. Imagine the reaction, for example, if the Missoula (Montana) Steer Wrestling Club mistakenly booked The Communards for their end-of-season hop. Or Chicory Tip were invited to open for Megadeath. The respective audiences would be a little miffed. Or, for argument's sake, a certain punk band were booked to perform at a Secondary Modern (which shall remain nameless) school reunion ball.
Yep, it happened. The surroundings were very elegant indeed. A Georgian ballroom complete with glittery ball suspended way above the dance floor, below which a gaggle of young ladies with flick fringes bopped to the sounds of Tina Charles belting out 'I Love To Love' via the medium of the White Nite Disco.
One glance around the stuccoed walls was enough to indicate this might not be the kind of gathering to appreciate original New Wave material and the odd Clash cover. For propped against the Wedgwood blue panels and floor-to-ceiling sash windows were white trousered individuals of various shapes and sizes, mostly with their hair parted in the middle and swept back over the ears. To a man they wore shirt cuffs folded back over their jacket sleeves. Wooden soled shoes tapped to the rhythm of The Village People informing them that they couldn't stop the music.Well, there was a challenge if ever there was one.
Now I don't know why - perhaps advance ticket sales had been generally poor - but for some reason entrance to all and sundry was available on the door. Free raffle ticket for a magnum of Lambrusco included. Ticket availability resulted in a trickle of younger lads and lasses filtering into the ballroom, who had little or no connection with the unmentionable school. There was a distinct difference in the new arrivals' choice of evening wear. Studded black leather biker jackets and tartan bondage trousers added a certain cutting-edge style to the erstwhile sartorial blandness of the assembly. The idea of mingling at a party obviously hadn't hit home, and various little huddled groups began to form at opposite corners of the pillared room.
At this point I ought to interject that I was attending the function as a journalist, with a mission to review the main act of the evening. Mal, a musician friend of the time, had also gone along to watch and listen. But not dance. He was incongruous too - in his full length black wool coat and hair died to match.
The band stormed on to the stage to a luke-warm welcome and finished the energetic opening song to a dozen or so enthusiastic cheers, one or two boos, but mostly stunned silence. Something told me this performance was not going to go down too well.
Second song began: of the 'One, Two, Three, Four…..' and then as loud and raucous as possible variety. Not too far in front of us, a lad of about fifteen, exercising his right to pogo, lurched into a rather beefy fellow who had a far from firm grip on a pint of warm Trophy bitter. The hapless dancer's bondage trousers meant he had even less control over his leg movements than a unidexter trying to hop across a frozen pond.
Result: boy sent flying across beer drenched by a swift punch to the upper torso. Band continue playing. Pintless drinker's friends urge restraint: "'ee's only a nipper" etc. But it was clearly about to kick off. Mal and I, being bold chaps of the 'we'll hold the coats' persuasion withdrew to the lobby - where some of the organisers were already in a heated discussion about removing the live act from stage asap "We'll still have to pay them.." "It'll be worth it to get them to stop…." that sort of thing. Song two finishes in the hall behind us - the majority are no longer silent. It's time to make our excuses and leave.
In the park outside we encounter the young pogo dancer (who is actually only about four years our junior) and find him shaken, but not stirred. Rather a well-spoken lad as it turns out. Walking through the dark back into town with him, we discover that his father is in the RAF - a pilot for the Red Arrows. The family are of Champagne tastes rather than Lambrusco.
I always think, reflecting on that night, if the press had got hold of the story, it would have been reported very differently. 'Gang of punks gate crash smartly dressed function and cause trouble.' Far from the truth, but that was the general bent of reporting in the day. Another subject entirely and not one under scrutiny in this blog.
So, musical tolerances. Are they any better today? Clearly, yes. Bruce Forsyth at Glastonbury. That wouldn't have happened in 1980. And the crowd were reasonably pleasant to Charlotte Church at Cornbury in 2012, even though she didn't reciprocate. Nor deliver what was expected.
But playing live anywhere is still a worry for the singer/songwriter: what if the punters are eager to hear a Country and Western tribute act or a enjoy a Christmas Dinner and Disco?
Upon the cusp of returning to the circuit after an absence of a quarter of a century, I should therefore be biting my nails. But as a finger picker, they need to be a certain length. So that's something else that could go wrong. As well as opening my eyes and finding everyone has buggered off to the pub next door.