Alight Fingers Juggling and Circus Skills Workshops  

Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



Fontains Finale

That evening was to be our last show of the ‘tour’. The big event was to be held at The Fontain Palace, the legendary venue of La Art de la Mayonnaise. I was really looking forward to it. For a start, given that it was a music venue, it meant I had a chance to get my guitar out and perform, and although I’d brought it with me I’d hardly touched it over the week and was getting withdrawal symptoms. It also meant that I’d have an opportunity to get the glow balls out (i.e. light up juggling balls) which were also suffering from a serious lack of attention.

We were also prepared for a big finish, as we’d decided that at the end of the show, we’d drag everyone outside, and play with some fire on the dockside. The plan was simple, I’d provide a pseudo melodic introduction, then we’d kill the lights and let the glow balls glow. Then Jonathan could entertain everyone while I went outside and set everything up for the fiery finale.

Ieva showed me backstage where I spent a little time tuning the guitar and checking my balls (one of the many pleasures of juggling is that you’re never short of innuendo). Juggling and playing guitar (and checking your balls) are all occupations that are not best done with cold fingers, so I also spent a little time warming them up, and fortunately, there was someone else backstage happily twiddling their thing which made it a far more pleasurable experience.

Then negotiating the horrifically steep stairs back to the stage (the steps down to hell are probably not so steep as the stairs backstage at club Fontaine), I made my way back to the stage.

It was all prepared and waiting for me like an expectant new lover, if a lover were ever to deck themselves out in pine, with lights, speakers, and for that matter, an audience.  Maybe it’s possible to stretch a simile too far.

A quick check to make sure everything was ready, and then it was on with the show.

I sang ‘Happy Song’, which needless to say is no where near as happy as the title would make it sound. There’s an old trick, that if you’re going to sing a miserable song, make sure there’s a bouncy little guitar riff in the back, because otherwise, well, it’s just plain miserable. It’s not actually a miserable song … it came about because one night when out around a bonfire with a group of friends, the guitar was being passed around and it had hit the melancholy stage. Each song seemed to be someone trying to outdo the last as to who could find the most poignant tune. Then one of the girls stood up and said “Will someone please just sing a happy song?” It struck me as odd at the time that I’d never actually written a happy song. I figured the reason is that it never occurs to me to sit down and write songs when I’m having a good time. If I’m having fun, I tend to carry on doing whatever it was that was making life fun. I’ve ‘written’ songs with other people that were stupidly funny, but we’re usually so busy laughing at them at the time that we never get round to actually writing them down.

It’s funny, as I know that at least half the audience didn’t have a clue what I was singing, and somehow that didn’t seem to matter. It was our last show, I was in a great mood, and it seemed to reflect in the atmosphere. As I rounded up and balanced the guitar on my chin, because well, I can, it was all going great. Then it was time to get my balls out, and very few singers have done that on stage since Jim Morrison got a felony charge for it in 1969. I lit them up, they killed the lights and started to pump music through the PA system. Unfortunately, I’d planned on doing the juggling off the stage as there was a space in front of the audience, which meant I now had to get down there in the dark. Well, I had the glow of the balls to light my way.

Note to Self : learn to juggle while walking down stairs in the dark.

The balls probably looked really good as they bounced down the stairs on their own. That’s not what I was thinking at the time, as basically, I’d just dropped them pretty much before I’d even started. OK, so it doesn’t matter if you drop, what matters is how you carry on …. They were quickly gathered, and fortunately, I know how good glow balls look when they’re being thrown around. They leave long trails. Beautiful coloured imprints on the retinas, which follow the balls wherever they’re thrown or carried. It was also a really vibrant upbeat tune which meant I had no problem getting right back into it. So for however long, I tossed, twirled and did my merry dance as the balls in the dark did theirs. I sometimes wonder if it’s me leading them or vice versa, and it’s probably fair to say it’s a bit of both. Who/What ever was leading, it did then occur to me, that as cool as the tune was, I had no idea what it was, or more importantly, how long it was going to last …. It could go on for half an hour for all I knew. It also occurred to me, that I wasn’t actually that aware of how long I’d been juggling for. As much fun as I was having, it was probably about time to stop. Of course, the problem with trying to have all kinds of thoughts like this is that it’s not actually conducive to keeping the balls in the air …. And suddenly they weren’t

Woops !

There was however suddenly an eruption of noise. It’s always nice to go out on a big clean trick, but more preferably is going out to a huge round of applause. I wasn’t going to make a better exit than that by starting, doing one more trick, and then stopping. It was time to take a bow with balls scattered to the four (three) corners in their own sweet dramatic fashion.

With no need for introductions, Jonathan hit the stage in his usual larger than life persona. It was time for me to get out and get the fire ready. There was one small problem, in that … I didn’t have the van keys, Jonathan did, and he was … on stage.

“Fair enough” thinks I, there are limits to ingenuity. I’m not going to manage to break into the van in the ten minutes this is going to take, and once The Jester has finished jesting, I can grab the keys and set up while he distracts them a few moments longer. No need to panic. This is the man who did a record breaking twenty six hour street show. I’ll loiter with intent, and watch the show and maybe I can subtly grab his attention. It was really high energy, fast and funny and he jumped up onto the walking globe and started heading towards the crowd at speed ….he stopped just in time, and turning to head back, still on the globe he saw me at the corner of the stage. I could see his look of “what are you still doing here?”, so using the international sign language for “you’ve still got the keys you idiot” (hold hand in air and twist from the wrist while gaelicaly shrugging shoulders) I communicated my distress. Without a moments hesitation he reached into his pocket and while still standing on the globe, nonchalantly through me a bunch of keys. As they sailed through the air towards me I thought, “this is going to be embarrassing if I drop them”, but was already running before they hit my hand.

Unfortunately, having the keys meant I missed the rest of his show, but I was told afterwards it was brilliant. Some consolation! The next thing I knew about it was some minutes later when everyone from the club piled outside, just as I was getting ready to light the first torches.

Handing them to Jonathan so that he could carry on with the show I went to work on soaking the staffs. There’s something special about watching fire being thrown around. I love doing it, and I love watching other people doing it. It was also, in a strange kind of way, a really cool setting. A cobbled ‘stage’, by the side of the dock, and more importantly, all the people we’d been working with for the past days here. When Jonathan finished throwing fire around, balancing it on his chin, and balancing himself on his globe, I lit up the staff, and sent the huge fireball into the sky which is my favorite way to start, and then twiddled, twirled and (must learn to summersault – it would sound so much better when writing it down) tried various other things, while Jonathan soaked my mammoth staff (I told you there was no shortage of innuendo), so that I could finish everything off with a twenty five foot fireball.

And that was that …. Almost. There were closing speeches, which were fortunately for all concerned, quite brief, and then everyone headed back inside to party away the rest of the evening while we packed away before heading in to join them.



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