Me and Tom White jump in the Electric Soft Parade van (a well customised and lived-in Merc sprinter that steers like a dream compared to the last one I drove) and head north for the first leg of our co-headline tour. I’m increasingly secure driving these beasts and after the last blog entry, I’ve started planning a coffee-table picture book of tour splitters and their bands. Awesome idea, Chris.
Before leaving town we scoot across to Metway Studio, where Tom’s brother Alex is demoing with The Pipettes, to drop him off a spare guitar. Chatting outside the van on a sunny Brighton morning, suddenly a lizard runs along the pavement. It’s about 3 inches long.
We get to York in reasonable time but then the Satnav (she’s called Madame Swish) lets us down (that’s twice so far) and it takes 40 minutes to find the venue. They’re nice about it though – lucky we’re acoustic or there’d’ve been no chance of getting checked. I forgoe a soundcheck, so my set is entirely acoustic, but it goes well and I enjoy myself more than expected.
Tom reprises his monumental Nina Simone cover, which took the room apart in south London a couple of days before, in a venue that didn’t deserve us.
In the evening Charlie phones to tell me a funny story: walking with his daughter, they spotted a lizard in the street. I can’t believe it, it’s a 2 lizard trip.
After York, we’re hosted by Sam and his friends, who’ve just finished college. It’s a household of musicmakers and fans, yet it’s spotless and comfortable – which is rare – and you can feel a slight air of sadness that they’re about to go separate ways.
The next morning, eating breakfast in a café, we’re leaning into a conversation about appalling religions and obviously Scientology comes up, thinking about that poor kid who is being taken apart by The Met for waving a banner at a protest that used the word ‘cult’ with reference to Hubbard’s Hoons. Suddenly the middle-aged woman on the adjacent table introduces herself with a broad smile – she runs York Scientology Centre. Cripes! She launches into a broad defence of her ‘faith’ that within one minute is becoming a brazen attempt to recruit. That took balls, it must be said. Well, either balls or the funneled focus of unquestioning faith. She’s full of holes but friendly and (I think) sincere. Her starting point plays down the religious side almost entirely – describing instead a benign business networking opportunity and a chance to self-improve. Quickly though, she openly accepts some of the looming tenets I find most disturbing, while determinedly dressing them up as positive spirituality.
Interestingly, despite running a centre in a town, she is still a volunteer and not doing her OT levels (or whatever they’re called) yet – so one gets a real feel for how deep members have to go before they start to gain any ‘intuition’. No answers, anyway.
I’m not going to call her the 3rd lizard of the trip because that would be mean (!)… But the whole time we were talking (which must have been at least 30 minutes), her companion – an unsmiling younger man – sat silent and still, not reading or even looking around curiously, waiting for her to finish, seemingly eternally patient. If you told me he hadn’t blinked I wouldn’t have been surprised. Or that he can re-grow his leg if you bite it off.
We say goodbye and drive to Manchester. Matt Thwaites’ band Restlesslist are doing Marc Riley’s show on BBC6Music this evening and Tom is drumming. On the way, we do a quick stop-off at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where a young sheep escapes and has to be harried back through an open gate by punters. Then we rumble over the Pennines and park up at the Beeb, where we head for the bar.
Restlesslist are storming, doing complex, instrumental psyche prog-pop (spacerock?). Bloody ace – and it’s nice to meet Marc. Refreshing to see a DJ at that level actually playing entirely from CDs (and some bloody brilliant ones to boot) and just wanting to talk music, not bollocks.
And when that’s done we’ve got to make it to Glasgow for midnight…