Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Firstly ... Well all great things must come to an end. To cut to the chase, when EWITFRN tour around the US next month, your humble narrator will not be joining them sadly. It was an extremely tough decision to make, but current circumstances won't allow me the time basically, but hey it'll be ace as Ian from Art Brut is doing it instead ! However I did go off to SXSW with Ed & Dyan, & here is my account of it !
Austin Tx, some 1600 miles from the EWITFRN base of Los Angeles CA. Dyan & Eddie are driving (well, Dyan is driving !) & I got an affordable flight at the last minute, arriving on the Tuesday, via Dallas. On the Dallas-Austin flight I cannot get an assigned seat so I am seated mid-row, which i hate. Then a guy & a girl turn up, together, so I offer to move over so they can sit together ... "oh no, we aren't a couple or anything, don't worry" they say, so I stay put. They then spend the next fucking hour talking across me, discussing business / SXSW etc like I wasn't there ... I can tell you from what I learned that it was the dood from Drive By Truckers & somebody from his record label & jesus christ on a bike I could tell you their entire SXSW schedule /business / favourite foods if you'd care, I heard it all ! ..... I have not even got to Austin yet & I already want to kill everybody in the music industry !!!
My first day & I am alone ... everybody else gets in on Wednesday (well apart from my mate Mark "Fuzzy" Fraser who is due to arrive Tuesday eve late from Bristol UK but due to flight complications might not make it at all!). Im am at a shitty hotel by the airport (just for this day) so I get a cab downtown. I go to registration & get my wristband & generally avoid people that I sort of know but really have no interest in wasting breath talking to. That is what you do at SXSW (or that is what I do at least!) !! Another thing about SXSW is that everything sort of blurs into one .... I can't really remember what I did between 6-10pm this day, but it involved standing in a line for an hour to get a pass for some corporate sponsored free-drinks house/refuge, eating wings in Champions sports bar, & later consuming free drinks while watching terrible Brit landfill-indie shite at the, ahem, British Music Embassy (really!). I do remember this though ... at about 10pm I see Mark Fraser's head come around the entrance door : he made it , & I am delighted so we have drinks together watching more conveyer-belt-Brit-shit-pop !!!! SXSW starts here ! PS ... I don't have any pix from this day so here's one of me & fuzzy from a couple of days later enjoying some Lone Star beer in that great area near the university (the name of the neighbourhood escapes me!).
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
... lots of songs with "Amsterdam" in the title: the Jacques Brell tune that Bowie covered, or what about Mojo Nixon's "Amsterdam Dog Shit Blues' ?! ! ! We arrive after a short drive & check into a nice little b&b, actually right next door to the famous Quentin Hotel, an artist/musician freindly hotel that I have stayed in many times! Our hotel also has THE steepest staircases imaginable, just like the Quentin, which could be dangerous ! Chalkie has arranged with the lovely folks at The Paradiso (one of the most wonderful music venues in the entire world fyi) for us to store our equipment there while we cut loose & wreak havoc across Amsterdam on our day off ! I love Amsterdam ... I really love those little kiosks where you deposit some money & get a delicious hot snack from behind a mini-glass door... I am particulary fond of those little spicy minced beef pasties ... mmmm! Anyway, we eventually meet at the marvelously named Winand Fuckink, an establishment that has been making & serving liquers since the 1600's ... oh boy, it is phenonenal ! A strong liquer (& there are hundreds to chose from) is a mere 2.50 euro's, & washed down with a beer you still get change from a 5 euro note ! We can't drag ourselves away, & everybody has a nice warm buzz ... in fact Eddie comments that he feels like it's christmas day, which I must say I cannot disagree with ! We walk back & find another lovely cosy little bar, we drink some lovely local lager & it still feels like xmas morning !! Bliss !!! After a good nights sleep I do some great record shopping the following day, including Distortion Records, which I wholly recommend ... I found the rare 1979 diy-pressed Hardware ep (pre-Pigbag) for 2 euros & orig pressings of the first Radiators From Space & The Flys LP's for 8 euro's each .. not bad ! Anyway, over to the venue & it is the last gig of the tour ... boo !!! Everything is great.... lovely people again! And a great gig to finish on, lots of people, a great reaction ... what more can you ask for !! Woo hoo ... WE DID IT !!!!!!! PS I have also attatched a pic of The Lezerplien ( the main square in the center) on a Friday night ... it is MENTAL !!!! Ok, drive to Calais tomorrow, then ferry to Dover, then drive to London, then home !!! PHEW !!!!
... there is nothing like an eleven hour drive from Switzerland to Rotterdam (via what seems like most of Germany) to sober you up before you finally arrive in Holland ! Oh man, what a delight, the venue is the polar opposite of yesterday, with a really well run amazing sound system operated by really helpful knowledgeable nice guys !! Not a lot to ask for really, but we feel blessed, & spirits are high ! The venue is also a (seemly reputable) restaurant, & the food we get is delicious: I go for the grilled mackerel with scalloped potatoes, a step up from the likes of the legendary Dudley JB's salmanella-cheeseburger (always icy cold in the middle) that us Midlands musician would consider somewhat luxurious back in the day !. We don't have a lot of time as we arrive late & the show is fairly early, so not much to report really, but it is a fun show, not our biggest crowd but an enthusiastic one ! To be honest, after a gruelling couple of weeks (12 consecutive shows with some LONG drives) I would say that it would be an understatement to say that everybody is excited for tomorrow ... a totally schedule-free day-off in Amsterdam ... so we take off fairly early to our hotel, or I should say boat-el ... it is a docked boat on the water that is a Chinese supermarket, Chinese restaurant & lodging facility ! We do have one of our now-legendary night-caps, & I make a make-shift bar out of the left over beer / booze left (see pic) but it is quite possibly the earliest night of the tour so far (well, 1.30am or so !).
Sunday, 14 March 2010
Friday, 12 March 2010
... well it started out nice ! A short drive, a nice (if overpriced) lunch & a stroll by the lake. It is beautiful (see the first pic I took ... exactly like the picture-postcard Switzerland!). Then we get to the club: everybody is nice, but I am concerned at the sight of a group of people crowded around the mixing board (one of those horrible small digital mixing boards at that), staring into it like it just randomly landed there from outer space or something ! After an hour or so we try & prod them in the direction of letting us soundcheck, which is about when it becomes apparent that they have no control over what instrument is coming through which onstage monitor, & we figure out that they just got a new mixing board the other day & we are the guinea-pigs ! Thanks a lot guys ! Cue a four-hour soundcheck ! (well, not really a soundcheck, just them fucking about trying to make it work!). Eventually it sounds just about decent & we have the right things coming through the right monitors (we use backing tapes so if we can't hear that onstage well the gig is toast basically!). Then the support band load onstage, set-up & the sound-crew completely forget / lose everything we did over the last four hours !! ... Brilliant ! .... thanks again guys !! ... Things get worse ! We cope with all of this in the very best way we can ... by drinking massive amounts of alcohol obviously ! Dyan & Chalkie go back to the hotel & Eddie & I sit at a candle-lit table in the club after dinner, watching the opening band, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, Ed jokes about how it feels like Lou Reed at CBGB's in the 70's ... ha ha !!! Stage time, the gig is somewhat undersold, we are pretty drunk & it is probably going to sound like shit ! : what can we do ? Firstly I grab the ridiculous Guardsmans outfit we found in the production office earlier & insist on wearing it (see pic) ! Then we decide to change the chorus lyric of the set-opener "Creeque Allies" to a direct attack on the Swiss ...... "Everybody was in the French Resistance... Except YOU !" !!! Oh dear, & oh what japes ! Well it goes balls-up from the very top: .. we start the gig & there is NOTHING whatsoever going through the P.A / sound-system !!!! So we stop. We play for a bit longer, then have to stop again for whatever reason ! This is how the gig goes on ! The crowd are really cool & understanding ... we feel really bad for them having paid their hard-earned Swiss-Franc for a good show which they aren't really getting ! We somehow make it to the end, & the crowd are lively & really want an encore, so we oblige ! We start the track & it sounds like absolute garbage ... in the two minutes we left the stage the sound crew fucked it up AGAIN!! ! Basically, I totally lose it !!!!!! In fact I completely fucking lose it !!! I can't remember exactly what i said but I go on a long shout / rant at the club / soundguy / situation, with a lot of expletives, a LOT of expletives (like "you f**king completely useless bunch of absolute c**ts, f***kin useless ! "... that kind of thing !) .... then Eddie comes over, gives me a hug, & reminds me that there is a father with his two young pre-teenage kids right in front of the stage !!! Oh dear oh dear !!! Then I realize that I am dressed in a comedy guardsman's uniform ! Oh the humanity ! Anyway we finish the song acapella (a first for EWITFRN) ... considering our state we actually pulled it off !!!!!! & then we all crawl under a table & want to die !! (or something like that !). What a (insert expletive) day !
... is admittedly a shit (yet legit, read on) subject header for this update but a: I can't think of anything else & b: I did actually go for a walk in Winterthur & there was some snow on the ground ! So there ! ..! It was a long drive from Cologne to Switzerland, and we got pulled over AGAIN by the German police (Eddie reckons it was cos I had a stripey sweater on & Chalkie was wearing a beret & they thought we were dressed like we had just done a burgulary !!). Anyway we cross the Swiss border & I am excited as it is only my second time here (1988 with da Drops was my last time!). Winterthur is beautiful, & we are playing at Albani which has been a rock club since the 60's ! An old mate Steve from And Also The Trees sent me a note a few days previously saying how great the club / people are but how small the stage is ... well he was right on both counts ! We are the smallest band ever with a tiny backline & we can barely fit on the stage ... attatched is a pic of Dyan setting up ... she could literally reach over & pull her own pint from the bar from her spot onstage ... I'm jealous ! Then we notice a, gulp, second band with mountains of equipment loading in & wonder how on earth they will also fit on the stage ! The amiable promoter takes us away from all of this to a lovely Italian restaurant around the corner & when we get back, the opening band All Ship Shape go onstage ... and they are amazing ! The singer is a Swiss young Mick Jagger reincarnated through a Modern Life Is Rubbish - era Damon Albarn !! They are great lads too ! The Swiss also show no concern for expense in as far as what we get in the dressing room, including some more amazing beer & some nice wine & vodka is consumed by both bands! I am amused by a pic of Dr Feelgood on the dressing room wall with NO original members !! Sheeesh ! Also I forgot to mention but the venue is also a hotel & we are staying upstairs, which is funny: in fact after the gig we decide to change into our pyjamas in the dressing room (see pic) as we consume what we can of the generous rider & listen to ace Swiss punk/post-punk band Kleenex / Liliput into the small hours ! ! ... and nobody mentioned Nazi-gold all night !
Thursday, 11 March 2010
... here's a brief flashback to the very beginning of the EWITFRN tour. This is me & one of my oldest mates Paul Lunt (who I have known since age 5 !), taken in the brilliant City Tavern in Birmingham, a Davenports pub ! When we played our second gig, a warm-up in Birmingham, Lunty & Mr Jon Farrington (aka Fazza) kidnapped me after soundcheck & insisted we go to sample the beer at this fine establishment ! Oh man, it was amazing, both the Bitter & the Mild were to die for ! ... real beer ! Mmmmmmmm !!!
... the beating of my heart is the only sound ! (groan!). Koln (or Cologne): back in 1988 when I was in The Mighty Lemon Drops we finished up a long European tour here, coincidentally our good friends & neighbours Pop Will Eat Itself had done exactly the same thing the night before, & came along to our gig to have a bit of fun ! I can't even begin to describe what a drunken carnage our ahem "gig" was that night ... let me just say that when it came time to play / perform our "single", the one that the German record company (present & out in force) had put a lot of time & money into promoting, I don't think there was a single Lemon Drop on stage ... I do remember that Craig Jennings, tone-deaf & pissed-drunk PWEI manager handled lead vocals ... if that gives you an idea !!!! We were never invited back to Germany !! ... Anyway, this time, with EWITFRN it was a bit more civilized ! Dyan & Eddie did a long interview for a German TV show, & while the club (Blue Shell) was a bit more rough & ready than the comfort of the previous nights luxury in Frankfurt, they looked after us well & gave us these amazing HUGE bottles of delicious Wickuler beer !! Gig was great, though we opt for a relatively early night as we have a big drive to Switzerland tomorrow, but not before clearing out the fridge of that amazing beer !!! Oh by the way, forgot to mention about yesterday in Frankfurt: they also put us up in a ridiculously trendy hipster hotel, a room each, so we had a hotel-room "nightcap" that became a party, finishing up the rider, listening to David Essex & The Boomtown Rats & watching youtube video's (including an amazing one of Ian from Art Brut f**king himself up really bad crashing a bike, that you must see!)
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
... to quote that great Desperate Bicycles b-side John Peel used to play back in the day .......... ok I made that one up, there is no song ever written by that title, to the very best of my knowledge at any rate !! We arrive late afternoon at the venue "Mousonturm", which is an art gallery, venue & performance space. It is not some crappy underfunded half-arsed space like you would see in the US, it is brilliant, big, clean & really well run ! (it actually looks like it used to be a hospital ) ! And again, like in most of Germany, their hospitality is second to none ! After eventually figuring out how to operate the self-locking dressing-room (shame there isn't a picture of that one!) we enter a world / room of cold-cuts, amazing beer, fine French wine, Vodka, amazing bread & free wi-fi ! As if this isn't enough there is an amazing Indian restaurant next door, so we do curry night ! Mmmm! I have attatched a couple of pic's of Eddie & Dyan happily whiling away the time in said dressing room, and another one of the cold cuts !!! PS I leave a note for old pals the reunited The Woodentops who are playing the following night ... I had no idea they were back together !
.... is ****ing freezing ! Berlin was cold but the streets of Hamburg are covered in frozen ice ! We are staying at a nice small hotel run by a very friendly chap on the famous Reeperbahn where some band The Beatles once stayed, alongside some other less dubious artists ! (see pic !). The venue, built in the late 1800's, used to be one of the first movie theater's in Germany, & has been a gig since the late 60's (we are told Bowie played here in the early 1970's!). After soundcheck I buy the German "Rolling Stone" magazine as there is an article & review on EWITFRN in there & "Creeque Allies" is on the cd attatched to the cover ! ... shame it is in German as I can't work out if the review is complimentary or not ! Anyway on to the gig: to be honest I was a bit knackered from the previous late night, but did my best & thanks to the promoter giving us a litre bottle of Jack Daniels! it was actually one of the best gigs of the tour !! I even recovered enough to have a bit of a dance at the indie disco afterwards, being Saturday night n'all that! (& thankfully there are no pictures available of that !).
First one is of Mini-Zeb, a chap that did an interview in the dressing room with Dyan & Ed, who Chalkie pointed out looked like a scale-model of Blood Arm guitarist Zebastian Carlisle, so I made him stand on a table & strike the Zeb guitar pose ! Second one is of my nightly stage "cave", a den of my equipment consisting of some drums to my left, my amp behind, "drumphrey" the machine with the backing tracks etc to my right, my pedals in front and my lovely 1971 les Paul gold-top ! Amiable German hippy sound-engineer optional !
... is the most obscure song title reference I have used so far on this blog (it is an ace punky track from the early 80's by The Uninvited, released on a Stoke Musicians Collective compilation album called Cry Havoc ... you still awake at the back there??). We eventually arrive in Berlin at around 7pm, after a couple of pit-stops at German service stations, some great sausages & some great beers too (no wonder the Germans drive at a zillion miles an hour on their autobahns!). After soundcheck we eat thai food in the dressing room & Dyan's friend Graham shows up, a Scottish ex-pat who also helped make three of the FR live backing tracks ! Gig is great ... again we are nervous as to how the Germans will take to our band / concept / name, but I am still here typing this so all was fine obviously ! Funny as they were fine about us making fun of Germans & the French but they didn't find the bit where we make fun of U2 funny at all ... go figure !! We have an uber-late one, & Bekki leaves first thing in the morning, then the four of us do a bit of sight-seeing & Dyan buys an overpriced supposed actual piece of the Berlin Wall in the form of a fridge magnet (which I reckon is probably just a random piece of concrete spray-painted ... !!).... on to Hamburg!