Monday, June 20, 2011

114 hours playing the guitar - Dave Browne

Last week I was in Dublin for the EUNIS conference, extensively blogged about in a different place, and this post is about a great experience we had during the week - watching Dave Browne beat the world record for continuous guitar playing.

On our first night there we happened upon a bar (like you do), called The Temple Bar. We nearly didn't go in as it looked packed, but it was apparent that something was going on. Posters said there was a world record attempt, and through the window we saw a band playing, with a guitarist obviously the centre of attention. So, we ventured in, and saw the clock at almost 5 hours, of what we discovered to be a 100 hour record attempt. This was our introduction to Dave Browne, and you can read more about him here. We watched for quite a while - the music was excellent, and from then on were hooked. Other commitments meant we couldn't return the following night, but after that we were there every night, sometimes till we were thrown out by security staff at 3am. I don't normally drink Guinness, but boy did I drink some pints in that bar!

The rules were simple. Dave had to play continuously, the only break was no more than 30 seconds between songs and five minutes an hour, which you could save up. So he would normally play for 8 hours without a break (not even for the loo), and then have 40 mins off. Songs and tunes had to be published and recognisable, and last for more than 2 minutes with no improvisation or jamming. No song could be played more than once in four hours. So as well as the whole proceedings being closely scrutinised by representatives from the Guinness Book of Records, he had a team of helpers timing the songs and holding cards up at 2 minutes, timing the breaks between numbers and warning the band when they had 20 seconds left, and maintaining a complete playlist with timings so that they could check if a song was "safe". If any of these had been wrong, the whole attempt would have been void.

There was another group of people feeding him bits of chocolate muffins, sweets, giving him water though a straw, mixing energy boosting powders with orange juice and giving his aching shoulders a massage. Another very important role was reminding him to keep playing - you might think that was obvious but he wasn't allowed to stop at all, not to clap with the audience or anything, and you could tell at times that he was  slightly spaced out and very tired. Towards the end he was putting his fingertips in a glass of ice between numbers.
The other very important group of people was the incredible group of musicians who played with him on stage. We wouldn't have kept going back if the music hadn't have been so good, and you tell they were keeping him going. The staff at the Temple Bar were also great - serving into the early hours, giving the punters free coffee and generally being very supportive.

So, we saw him play up to 93 hours, and were really annoyed that the conference dinner meant that we weren't going to see him go through the 100 hours on Thursday evening. I was even trying to work out if I could sneak out between courses without being noticed.....    But, with only hours to go, he had the news broken to him that last Friday someone in India had broken the record and played for 113 hours. He therefore had to play until 9am on Friday morning - another sleepless night. We watched him on Thursday night into the early hours and the next morning was the first time I've ever been in a bar at 8am, the atmosphere was electric - everyone rocking and cheering him on.  Here's him breaking the 113 hour record, and remember, it's in a bar at 9am.

After about 5 seconds he carried on, and made it to 114 hours, adding another hour onto the record - you can see him going through that barrier here - and look how much energy he still has.

At this point we thought he'd stop - but he kept going, for another 20 minutes. Eventually he stopped, and was presented with his record. One of my favourite moments was when he was handed the microphone, and came up with the immortal comment - "I'm f***ing knackered". 

It was a great achievement, and really made our trip special being part of it. It was an honour to be there at the end. He made the national news, deservedly so. He's a great musician - he didn't just sit and strum but really played and put his heart and soul into it. He also seemed to be a nice bloke - with a lovely smile.  Well played Dave!

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