In Aberdeenshire there’s a bizarre phenomenon called “a marquee”. I suppose in the Wild West it would be called a “hoe-down”, in the tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen it would be a “ball” and in Latin America it would be a “fiesta”.
Taking place usually the night before or after a Highland games it’s a chance for the town to let their hair down and have a few drinks, as the beer tent for the Highland Games may have been underused during the day (cough). As the name suggests, marquees are held in, yes, a big tent- a marquee if you will. Say what you see.
My husband’s band played their first ever marquee at a local games on Friday and it was an interesting experience. The place was half mobbed. Let me explain- the place was hoachin’ but despite an £8 entry fee, and a bill with four really good bands on the vast majority of punters were stacked ten deep at one end of the tent. In the bar area. For three hours the bands played their hearts out and a loyal group of about 50 danced and enjoyed the music. That 50 had a great time. Meanwhile 250 crammed themselves into a small area and attempted to drink their own body weight in lager. "It's like this every year" the organiser, who is a friend of mine, tells me.
The last band, the aforementioned husband’s, goes on stage and about 20 minutes into their set the organiser comes on stage and whispers something into Meeester’s ear for him to announce. “Right I’ve been told to tell you that’s last orders” he says not to the folk in front of them but to the 250 forty feet away who are already very aware how many minutes they’ve got left until the supply is cut off.
The band start to play again and 5 minutes later the bar is well and truly shut and 300 people now appear at the front of the stage dancing and whooping. In between songs my husband is handed a note from a drunken girl he’s already seen taking enormous care and a great deal of time to write a sentence with a Sharpie from her handbag. You know the thing, tongue out of the side of the mouth, showing real concentration. The note says:
“Play Somethin We Ken”
He winks at her. As luck would have it Meeester announces the next song, “Our next song is ‘Something, Wee Ken” and the band launches in to “World Hotel” not their only but definitely their best drinking themed song. The previous incumbents of the bar area go mental. Woah, this is the best band in the WORLD! The Sharpie girl goes "Eh?"
Ten minutes later the band play their last song and go off stage to a three hundred strong chorus of people shouting for them to go back on and play some more.
Told you marquees are weird.