#109. Private Party, Flaunden, Hertfordshire. 17.12.21.


The Phantoms brought their year to a close by providing the entertainment at the 60th birthday celebrations of Phant Phan Carol. With the bands usual bassist absent on this occasion, it was fantastic to be joined by ex band member Paul, back in the fold after 6 years in the wilderness (who last played with us back in Nov 2015, see gig#74)! How time flies! And as expected, he went on to prove that being a Phantom is very much like riding a bike.

As things turned out, this wasn’t to be the last line-up change of the night. With Omicron on the rise, the day before the gig our rhythm guitarist unfortunately came into close contact with a positive case & had to pull out of the gig. This led to a hasty review of the planned set to see what we could still play without him. We mostly got it right but would find out later, to our cost, that ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham was a bit higher to sing than the remaining band members expected!

Anyway, after braving the rush hour M25, the band all arrived in beautiful Flaunden, which was aptly enjoying a typical Christmassy evening with a hint of snow in the air (as we discovered on our short walk from the venue to the quaint local hostelry after having set up our gear).

A cosy beer or two then ensued in the Green Dragon before the band were lured back to the town hall by the unmistakable waft of hog roast to find the party already in full swing. There was just enough time to chow down on a loaded hog roll (apologies for calling the caterer the ‘Pig Man’ but I don’t think he took offence) before the Phantoms took to the stage & got down to the business in hand.

With all the songs played being chosen by the birthday girl we were assured of a good reception & the dance floor was soon filled up with happy party goers singing & dancing along.

The only song in set one not chosen by Carol was when one of the punters demanded the band sing ‘Happy Birthday’. You really would think that after over 20 years doing this we would have learnt how to play this song by now. But the birthday girl seemed more than happy with the acapella rendition duly delivered.

After a Christmassy climax to the opening set the band then retired to the green room to enjoy tea & birthday cake (we are so rock & roll!) before it was soon time to do it all again.

With the revellers suitably imbibed by this stage of proceedings the final set of the night was a riot from start to finish, with the house loving the Phantoms apparent unending stream of sure fire (cheesy) party classics, from Village People to ABBA, with festive offerings from Slade & Shaky to boot. Highlight of the evening was when birthday girl Carol & best mate Michelle joined the band on stage to add some percussive magic to the Phantom line up during a rousing rendition of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’. Thanks girls.

Thanks to Carol for inviting us to join the party at what turned out to be a fantastic close to the year for the band. Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to you all. Stay safe out there & look forward to seeing you all soon on the other side. Now, go & wash your hands!

The Phantoms were: Mark Gibson (lead vocals & keys), Kevin Rogers (guitar), Paul Castle (bass & vocals) & Alun Westoll (drums & vocals).
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