Sunday, 12 February 2012

Let's get quizzical!

I am not one of those lucky people with endless god-given talents.  I am completely rubbish at art.  I'm no dancer or hilariously amusing entertainer.  While I was at school it was politely suggested to my parents that they save their money and curtail the piano lessons which were clearly even more painful for my teacher than myself.  Alas, what I am best at is singularly random and useless as talents go.  Ask me who sang the 1992 hit 'Informer' or what the lyrics are to the second verse of pretty much anything from the ouevre of Lady Gaga and I can tell you in a heartbeat.  I can identify any 90s Old Skool dance hit or 80s rock smash within seconds of an introduction; sometimes merely a couple of guitar chords or a drum beat is enough for me to tell you who sang the song and when it was released.  My iPod hosts an eclectic selection of tracks that extensively covers the last 90 years or so of musical history.  And I recognise each track the moment it filters through my headphones.  But what good is such a (slightly alarmingly geeky) talent?  None what so ever, I had always thought, until one night a couple of years ago.

I was working late in the office when I bumped into a colleague in the kitchen.  'What're you still doing here?' she asked.  I said something about a last-minute deadline and an evening ahead of staring miserably at my computer screen.  My colleague made me a better offer; she was off to a nearby bar for a music quiz and their team was one man down - did I fancy joining them?  One look back at my desk and the piles of paperwork on it and I was grabbing my coat.  I bailed on the office and joined my colleague and her friends at Jerusalem Bar near Oxford Street, a dark basement bar filled with tables surrounded by keen quiz teams, clad in post-work attire, clutching pints of beer.  Initially I was unsure what was going on, and only shyly offered an answer when the rest of the team look stumped, but as the alcohol flowed and I began to realise that I was somewhat in my element I joined the rest of the bar in frantically screaming each new answer, thumping the tables and dancing along in my seat.  That night we claimed a spot in the top three teams, winning a free round of drinks, and, having demonstrated a surprising knowledge of hip-hop anthems which impressed my team-mates, I had a place on the team.  Two years on, the colleague who introduced me to it has since moved to Sydney but the 'Sounds Familiar' music quiz continues its tour of central London bars monthly.  And I am all too pleased to have found a forum in which to demonstrate my peculiar talent.
So, here's how the quiz normally goes down.  In an ill-lit basement bar, teams of six people (and often an illicit seventh!) gather around a table, armed with a biro and several blank answer sheets.  Each question is posed in the form of the first 30 seconds or so of a track being played throughout the bar, with the teams required to scribble down its title and artist.  The rounds change each month (classic rounds including 'I'm no fool, I know my Old Skool' and 'Does liking this record make me uncool?') and are usually punctuated by a 15 minute interval which allows the quiz-master, DJ Al, to tot up the half-time scores and also releases those who are gasping for a cigarette.  The evening usually begins with a mash-up round, in which teams have to identify multiple artists whose works have been mixed together.  This can be harder than it sounds, and much frustrated teeth-grinding and face-pulling often occurs during this round as people strain to place the familiar lyrics or guitar solos.  I have a theory that this round usually kicks off the entire quiz as it requires the most concentration; a couple more rounds in, and several more drinks down, everyone is far too pissed to recognise all but the most popular of cheesy mainstream hits.  Part of the appeal of the Sounds Familiar music quiz is that as the night progresses the atmosphere transforms from 'pub quiz night' into 'night out'.  By the final round the entire bar is singing along to the song snippets, clapping their hands and some people, ahem, have even been known to finish the evening dancing on the tables.  

Whilst the rounds change each week there are a number of regular characters who form the teams.  Each team usually has a pro; someone who knows 95% of the answers the second they hear the song.  They are usually in charge of filling in the answer sheets and generally looking smug.  Then there are the specialists.  These quizzers spend the vast majority of the night nodding along quietly and sinking pints of beer, but suddenly come into their own on the Motown round or display an unexpected expertise on Brit Pop or boybands.  Next up is the misguided guesser.  As everyone screws up their faces trying to remember who sang 'Tears of a Clown', they will 'helpfully' yell a list of incorrect answers at random - 'Elton John?  Rod Stewart?  The Beatles?!' - thoroughly confusing those who may be close to remembering the right answer.  And there is also the fact-checker.  Not a strong quizzer, the fact-checker doesn't actually know any of the answers, but they feel compelled to grab the answer sheets from the hands of those who do to read what they've written and nod in agreement, despite not having a clue what the correct answer is or actually being able to read what's been written due to the lugubriously dingy lighting in the bar.  And finally there are the no-hopers.  Each team seems to include someone who knows absolutely nothing about pop music but who seems to like hanging out with slightly drunk, shrieking people who do.  (The no-hoper is actually a great asset to a team, as they can be safely despatched to get the next round in, without any fear that the team will fail to answer a tricky question with one of its key players busy at the bar.)  And these wonderful people are really what makes the music quiz night out so much bloody fun!  You bond with colleagues, crack up with mates, scream along to Queen with complete strangers, and often feel like hell the next morning.  But you always want to go to the next one.

Now, if there was only some way I could monetise my random talent into paying dividends even better than free shots, CDs and plastic medals...

8 comments:

  1. But why would you because then it would be less fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true - it would probably be far less fun...bring on the free shots!

      Delete
  2. Surely those plastic medals are priceless?! I'm impressed by your hip hop knowledge, extending only as far as 80's rock myself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That plastic medal is one of my prize possessions! Ah, my childhood years were spent with one ear up against the radio/clutching my Walkman...it still surprises me what I find I suddenly remember; hip hop included!

      Delete
  3. What an interesting night! I am glad that you had such a great time and managed to use your extensive knowledge of pop music. I have to admit that I am utterly rubbish at quizzes. But quizzes seem to be in the British genes. I never understood why, but they are! So, when is round 2?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is quite a British thing, I think, MuMuGB. But great fun...you should come along!

      Delete
  4. Never been to a pub quiz. I am very slow on the uptake and by the time I've thought of the answers to everything (and I do often know them) everyone else has forgotten the question!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, we have a similar problem, Jenny; we often have to scribble down questions if we can't think of the answer straight away then come back to them if we get a sudden flash of inspiration!

      Delete

Pin It button on image hover