Settling into it.
One advantage with having a lovely Big Proper Booking Agent is you tend to get an actual rider, instead of someone dragging out 24 cheap lagers and some Coke. The upside of that is the bottle of whiskey we scored in Birmingham. The downside (relatively… well, no, actually it’s another upside) is my house is now full of crisps. I could eat a pack twice a week for a year and we’re still only 3 shows in. Maybe we should make like China Drum did in the 90s and throw a party after the tour to feed everyone Walkers cheese and onion.
By the way, before I start, should mention I had a letter from Brighton Council about my last entry but, despite shrill tone, they don’t say anything worth repeating. Legalese / splitting hairs aside, they’re a bunch of culture-crippling farters. Anyway…
Jenny drove us from Brighton to Oldham by 3pm for a radio session, during which I broke a string. Impressive driving.
In Manchester we liked the venue so much we went back for breakfast. Trick came out and also top composer and old friend Ian Vine and his missus flautist Jen stayed out late drinking, so the nervous first night of the tour felt like a proper one straight away. Jen can identify single malt scotches by smell, to a startling degree for a well-spoken American. Starfighterpilot finally made it to a show, which was nice, except we didn’t get a chance to chat properly. And Jimmy Doherty – but he couldn’t talk at all, silenced by laryngitus and trying to write everything on a notepad.
In Birmingham, the Academy’s safety barriers (in front of the stage) were so tall – and support act Lucy & The Caterpillar is so tiny – that you could only see her head poking over the top, as she sang her songs about homemade stuffed-toy owls and meeting boys at Kings Cross Station. Sweet. Ben Calvert opened. Both were very good but having two acoustic acts on made the atmosphere slightly too ‘songwriter club’ rarified for my taste. Lucky the (small) crowd was lovely and dealt with the shift in volume. Ended up doing solo encores on the floor and did Hedgehog Song by request, which is an odd thing to close with. I wish Lucy had heard it because she does animal songs too.
First signs are, people really like the ‘Fighting Fire’ t-shirts, which is a relief.
We stayed at an Etap. It’s a French version of Travelodge I guess. The rooms are like pods – the family room has a child’s bunkbed horizontally above the double-bed. Then there’s the shower, which opens right out into the bedroom rather than having a bathroom of its own. Johny loved it but I won’t be going back. I’m sharing a hotel room with a woman who isn’t my wife – I don’t want it to be tiny.
Awesome Danish band Efterklang were there, so we said excited hellos (I DJed at one of their Brighton shows a couple of years ago and they know my friend Shaun, who is promoting their next Brighton date) but they were having a tough time: one member was sent home by UK immigration, so they’ve had to cancel a gig and hole up in Brum to re-rehearse as a seven-piece.
Meanwhile they were somewhat dazed outside the Etap at 1am, having gotten tangled up with some dodgy goings-on. Basically, a bunch of local lads had booked rooms and were trying to smuggle in hookers by getting people to take the ir room cards out to them. It already smelled hairy when we arrived and half an hour later the police were on site.
Heading to Bath the next day, we stopped in Tewkesbury to look at the Abbey. Lunch in a lush little tea-room called Crumpets, turned out to be their first day open since being flooded out last summer. All of Tewkesbury was near drowned and the Abbey became an island. They have a plaque showing the height of the water and journalists kept coming by to interview them – they got booked for local TV news the next day. Food was delicious (I got laughed at for bottling out of the cream tea – but the rest of my band can get away with cream teas much better than me).
And in Bath, Moles Club was well nice. Promoter Steve and his mate Al were the best gig DJs I’ve heard for a long time, spinning vintage Springsteen up against Two Gallants. Support was Jay Jay Pistolet (stronger songs than I was expecting, pretty damn good) and a terrific rockabilly trio, whose name I never found out.
Just as we’re supposed to go on I have a mini freakout. Earlier, at the end of soundcheck, we were filmed doing ‘4am’ for the venue website. At the end of the song I broke a string – but I had to go straight off to film an interview. And (aarrgh!) I forgot to fix the string. So just as I was setting up to play, I realised I had to replace the top E. That delayed the start and then I immediately snapped a different string during the first song. Thank god Matt Eaton was there to change it, while we did ‘7 Hearts’ (which uses the acoustic guitar). Must work out better contingencies, or source a second guitar!
Finally, a knackering drive all the way back to Brighton in the rain for Jen, who showed more pluck than many would muster: we didn’t even leave the venue til after midnight and it pissed down.
By the way, during this leg of gigging I found out that publishing corporation Newsquest has axed our local culture magazine The Brighton Source, which is A) a dreadful thing for many reasons and B) means my porn article may not see the light of day. Gutted x1000 and I’ll write more about this when I find out firm enough details not to libel anyone.