Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Mini Tour- July 2015

WED JULY 8TH

Opted to travel on the train today. Despite all the well worn savaging it’s had over the years, it’s still my favourite form of transport by far, and as the train pulls out of Newcastle at lunchtime the familiar anticipation and tingle of the days ahead begins to take its hold…it always does… I love it…

The journey is extremely pleasant…a deli platter and some wine help to relax me as the fresh damp fields of England speed by and London gets ever closer…

I get to the hotel in Shepherds Bush before everyone else as I usually do, and as we’re here for 4 nights, get to my room, unpack, and wait for someone to call to tell me they’re in the bar…usually Dave G…

And so it proves…

THURS JULY 9TH

Quite a different and unique day for us today as we head off into London for an engagement we’ve all been looking forward to (in our way)…keep your eyes peeled…

FRI JULY 10TH / WORTHING ASSEMBLY HALL

As we’re staying in London we don’t sound check for this show…so the first time we see it is when we step onstage to play. It’s as you’d expect…a small and very neat little hall…and it’s absolutely rammed to capacity. Some of the usual suspects are arranged along the front, all in their regular places, same places as they’ve been countless times before, and will be again, and the glee on their faces is heart-warming indeed as we kick into Toiler on the Sea, and proceed to deliver a tight and punchy 90 minutes. We haven’t played for a fortnight since the triumphant appearance at the Eden Project, and despite that, and not having a sound check, we play very well…and it’s hot!

Just like to say I’ve never been to Worthing before, and again the jury is out as to whether the band has ever played here either…JJ seems to remember a demo recording session way back in the early days, but Dave isn’t convinced…For my part it’s a lovely little place, quintessentially English sea side…pier and long prom…lovely…

SAT JULY 11TH / HAMPTON POOL-LONDON

This is a bit of a strange one, as they sometimes are…

Hampton Pool is just that, a swimming pool/lido kind of a place…very Hi-De-Hi and somehow redolent of 1950’s British holiday camps. It’s been sold out for months, and instead of pomaded hair and bobby socks, we’re treated to some of London’s beautiful people, scenesters, women in deck chairs, and of course a lot of the army in black…quite a blend. There is a very large covered over swimming pool, and we’re actually warned that if we even so much as mention a swim, or incite anyone to jump in, our fee will be voided and we’ll be asked to leave…seriously…it’s in the contract. It’s like a red rag to a bull for Messrs Warne and Burnel though…and we wrack our brains for some way to get it in there without actually getting it in there…if you know what I mean…how can we say something we know we’re not supposed to say, but say it anyway without actually saying anything…

In the event of things once we’re up on the stage the pool isn’t visible anymore and we just sort of forget…getting into the show and having a lot of fun in the process. The crowd are really up for it, and my light hearted ribbing is taken in the spirit it’s intended…unlike later in the tour…more of which later…
Hampton Pool gig
Special mention to our mates Nine Below Zero who opened the show again tonight…they sounded as good as ever…proper band…and Dennis Greaves gets the prize for getting closest to breaking the dreaded pool rule…” yeah we’ve been told not to jump in the pool…and you shouldn’t either”!

Well said that man…

SUN JULY 12TH

Day off…a lovely journey to York, and a good dinner with everyone…very cordial…

MON JULY 13TH / YORK FIBBERS

I know from writing these blogs over the years that it can be very difficult sometimes to put into words what I’m seeing and remembering in my head…transferring my thoughts to the page and trying to keep my descriptions and thoughts as vivid as I possibly can…conveying the atmosphere of a certain time, place and event so that whoever reads it can at least get a sense of what it must have been like to be there…the key for any factual writing of course…

I’m struggling with this one…

I remember when I was a kid touring with the Toy Dolls in the US at the beginning of the 80’s. I was 19, strong and fearless…We did a gig in San Diego and it was so hot I had to sit outside in the shade afterwards, which was the coolest spot available, for a full half hour to try and get some breathable air…at that age…

We’ve done some club gigs in recent(and not so recent) years where it’s been unbearable…Oxford, Leamington Spa, Liverpool, Paris, New York, Reading (ha)…the claustrophobia will live with me forever…but nothing can compare to the melting, boiling thing that was York Fibbers…If you were there you’ll understand…if you weren’t, next time you’re in a place with a sauna, leave all your clothes on and go in for 20 minutes…unbearable…but bear it we did…

York Fibbers-pic Yellow Mustang
JJ and I, being the little boys we are, often have shirt wringing and boot puddling competitions after shows…there’s always something to compete for in this band…but we were both so saturated all we wanted to do was lay down somewhere cool, dark and quiet…Dave was shiny too…something you very rarely see with his big fan blasting beside him…and Jim bless him, had a very very bad hair day…It was an amazing gig…we played very well, getting into our stride by now…and the crowd were magnificent…how they shoe horned 700 people into that place will long be a mystery to me…It’s an extremely small place…The staff were very accommodating to our crew and bent over backwards to make sure everything was as it should be…a big thanks to them…

Visit when you can…

TUES JULY 14TH / MIDDLESBROUGH THE VENUE

Again, strangely for me, this was the first time I’d played in the ‘Boro with the Stranglers. Like York, I’d played here many times over the years with various bands and solo, but not with us…so it was nice to see some friendly faces from home nestled among the throng when we hit the stage at 9pm. From the off the sound was sharp and tight, and for a large room above a supermarket it had a nice range…the lowish headroom stopping the sound from travelling too far and bouncing around.

I had some local banter with the crowd as you’d expect and it was all pretty light hearted and in good nature. I probably raised a few hackles here and there, I’m good at that, but all in all a memorable gig. Our thanks to local band Zeitgeist 77 too, who, despite their blatant (and pretty awful it has to be said) era conjuring name, played some great original music…not what was expected at all…I have their CD and it’s good…

WED JULY 15TH / HOLMFIRTH THE PICTUREDROME

We hadn’t played here in around 5 years and there were quite a few changes. Because we were staying in Manchester there wasn’t a sound check and so those changes all became evident when we arrived at around 8pm. It’s always been a great gig this, but the backstage area left a lot to be desired and so in the past we wouldn’t really hang around here too long, but it was very comfortable and modern and indicative of how the folks here are presenting their venue now, and how serious they are at attracting acts of the right size…a statement of intent. The town needless to say doesn’t require an introduction as it’s been on our TV screens since 1973 almost every week as the setting for Last of the Summer Wine…but of course, you knew that. The venue is a beautiful old theatre which dates from 1913, and has many of the original features…the iron pillars and ornate balcony dressings, and we’ve always loved playing here. I actually broke a guitar here once after being hit with a pint of lager hoisted stagewards during a gig in the Paul Roberts era…people did that a lot more during that line up…I lost my temper as I am wont to do sometimes, and threw the guitar against the wall, snapping the headstock off…that’ll teach me…or maybe it won’t…
Holmfirth-photo Jim Mac

The gig was fantastic and a sell out since the tickets went on sale months ago. The audience were warm and friendly and there was a tangible good time vibe in the air right from hitting the stage. This was our 3rd show in a row and 5th in 6 days, so we were right on the money…it always takes 3 or so shows to get us firing, and this was it…really good. There was some great banter with the crowd (if you’re going to throw your knickers at us at least have the good grace to give us the ones you’re wearing…new ones still bearing the price tag just won’t do) and we played right up to the curfew, leaving the stage very hot, sweaty and satisfied…I’d love to play there again soon if we can…

THURS JULY 16TH / BLACKBURN KING GEORGES HALL

Another first for me…

Lost my temper at this show…not completely and not altogether un-theatrically I have to say but I saw red none the less. It’s always been my way to gently rib the crowd about where we’re at, especially if it’s somewhere relatively remote or off the beaten track, and I imagine you’ve seen me do it many times, but some folk it seems take exception to it sometimes, or me, or both…as if I could give a fuck…but it happens.

I love my old football teams…proper old style English football teams that have been around a long time. This part of the country hosts 2…Blackburn Rovers and Burnley, who I’ve always had a soft spot for since my dad took me to my first ever game at Roker Park in 1972 to see Sunderland play them. It was desperately hot inside the venue, not York hot but getting there, and I look over at JJ who’s getting very damp indeed and taking every opportunity to take water on board and towel himself down…and I needed to do it too…Our shows can be blitzkriegs and we rarely stop between numbers…knackering in heat like this…so I start to tell a story about Blackburn Rovers and my bass playing colleague who had their strip as a boy, just to get a minute to draw my breath, and some arse in the crowd takes exception to the break…he’s joined by the bloke I berated earlier and asked to identify himself, who took exception to my Blackburn baiting and tried to hurl a similar thing back at me…getting my town wrong(of course) and comparing me to the most sensitive part of the female anatomy…a fact I’ve never denied…I laughed at him at first and he got even more irate and then I did too…all in all a shouting match occurred which was all very funny to me, and life and death to these 2 blokes…

My predecessors were feisty fuckers and so am I...Of course, I wear in ear monitoring and could have completely misinterpreted what was said and over reacted…it’s difficult to hear the crowd unless the ambient mics are turned up…I’m in my own little world otherwise…but I don’t think so…If someone wants you to hear them badly enough you will 9 times out of 10…and I did…who cares…

Having said all that, the whole thing probably lasted 30 seconds and didn’t detract from what was a great hot sweaty rock show…the low ceiling contributing to the furnace like conditions and the crowd going mad right to the death…we played like men and sliced right through the heat…Great…

FRI JULY 16TH

Travel day…Dave, JJ, myself and Kev Allen, who’s joined us and is acting tour manager for the weekend, board a plane from Manchester airport to the Algarve in Portugal for a festival the following day. It is hell…

We’re staying at what amounts to a holiday resort, and so the plane is full of families, petting couples, the heat already beginning to get to them, fat women with fans, and sin of sins…lots of babies...Wouldn’t it be great if it was a legal requirement by airlines to mildly sedate children under a certain age for travel? I’m not talking about knocking the poor little blighters out, just something mild to calm them down and make it a bit nicer in a crammed sweaty plane for everyone…a little sweetie under the tongue perhaps, or a nice sugary drink…just to take the edge off for all the other intolerant old curmudgeons like me…

As it turns out, the hotel is perfectly acceptable though, and we have one of our patented band/crew meals which we all love…and then several drinks…and then bed…It’s dark, and more importantly, quiet…and before I can even reflect on the days gone by, I’m asleep…

SAT JULY 17TH / 34 FARO / PALCO 2015

This festival is one of Europe’s biggest motorcycle rallies…attracting around 30,000 people each year. Thankfully it’s not all Harleys like the last one we did in St Tropez, although there still seems to be a bit of an American infatuation, with Victory being a pushed brand, but there are many hundreds of bikes of different origin to be seen in the locale, and checking them out is a tour bus staple when getting in and off site. There’s a Portuguese metal/rock band on when we arrive, who we’re told are famous in their native land, and from backstage it sounds like someone’s miked up a herd of charging Wildebeest, and mixed it in with the sound of the Hindenburg coming down…

Onstage in Faro-photo Motoclube De Faro Facebook page
Then, as we wander around backstage there are many people in very strange tribal costumes and tall Amazonian women in various stages of undress…applying make-up and glitter to their nipples, and limbering up for something…It soon becomes obvious it’s no more than a glorified strip show…amusing, cringe some and mildly erotic, in a Carry on up the Congo sort of way…The women don’t look real to me, their amazing jelly mould breasts not moving at all as they cavort around the stage attempting to titillate several thousand apathetic bikers and pulling all the stops out. It actually looks to me like they do their bit, come off stage, take their boobs off and hand them to the next girl, such is the uniformity of it all…and we laugh the entire time…It’s a sexy as Boris Johnson and Clare Short doing the Rumba…and probably just as funny.

The gig itself for us is a different matter. We worry that 90 minutes to an after midnight crowd, who are not our crowd, is too much and we stand a chance of losing them at some point somewhere… We needn’t have worried. The stage is huge, the sound is spectacular, the lights are stunning, we’ve just done 6 shows in 8 days and so are drum tight, and the crowd are in desperate need of a break from tuneless thunder and fake tits…and we storm it…3 songs in and we’re looking at each other all smiles, knowing this is going to be a good one…

I’ve mentioned before how together and organised Portuguese festivals are. They’re never less than very well run and thorough. You get everything you ask for…the equipment is always spot on, and it lifts you…no doubt about it. We know after the last week or so that we’re going to play well, that’s not arrogance, it’s just a fact…you do anything all week and you’ll be better at it at the end than when you started… We have a great time and it’s a lovely way to round off a long and draining week. We haven’t done 4 shows in a row for a while, and when those shows are mad little sweatboxes it can really take it out of you…Playing on a huge stage with a light breeze to thousands of people is the other very welcome side to the same coin.

It’s been another really good week or so. Seven shows in 9 days…very varied and hugely enjoyable. This little mini tour thing we’ve found ourselves doing the last couple of years is proving to be a lot of work, but tremendously good fun…and we all reflect on that as we have one last very late drink together back at the hotel.

SUN JULY 18TH

We all fly out at different times today, which is something that happens now and again, and as I’m driven to the airport I think of everyone winding and wending their ways back home for another couple of weeks or so, recharging their batteries and looking forward to the next jaunt as our summer schedule starts to count down.

Looking forward to the next ones…

BAZ / JULY 2015

17 comments:

  1. I used my summer holidays on this mini tour, can't think of a better way to spend it.

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  2. Kelvin Elson-WhittakerJuly 30, 2015 at 9:09 AM

    Looking forward to seeing you in Leeds for a great birthday show.

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  3. What a great blog, Baz. Thank you! :)

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  4. Beninblack - SawbridgeworthJuly 30, 2015 at 12:06 PM

    Brilliant Baz, thanks. Your blogs always seem like they're written by a fan, who just so happens to be in the band! See you in Belgium.

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  5. excellent Baz. See you at Tyntesfield

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  6. Great reading - enjoyed it.
    Shame you didn't tell me you were in Hitchin a few weeks ago!!
    Anyway keep up the good work - writing & playing.

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  7. Great blog, enjoy reading it! Hope a good crowd will be there for your french tour dates. Can't wait to see you in La Rochelle..

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  8. Thanks for doing these Baz, keep up the banter with audience they dont get any more erudite

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  9. Great stuff Baz... I was in the UK for a couple of weeks and managed to see the Holmfirth and Blackburn gigs. Great to see you guys enjoying yourselves. My last gig was in Sydney and Blackburn was number 59 (15 countries I think). Looking forward to number 6. Stitch-Singapore

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  10. Cheers baz great ratter .. just come back from Tenerife and I think we had the same infants on our plane home . I had toothache after four hours of that haha

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  11. York, Middlesbrough, Holmfirth and Blackburn all brill gigs.....did feel sorry for you lads at Fibbers in particular....but had an amazing time....cheers Baz :D

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  12. Nice one Baz.....Your observations on the Faro gig echo our experience totally after what seemed like hours of very metal and then carry on up the jungle strippers we were loosing the will until you took the stage and played a superb set with excellent sound...keep up the good work!!

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  13. I think a mini tour over here on the US east coast would be good. Travel is easier on the east coast and a lot of people are hoping it happens. Get on it Sil.

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  14. Quando tornerete ancora in Italy?

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  15. Hi Baz, Was at the gig at Blackburn which was brilliant but very hot. I was at the front and shouted speak English you Geordie C*nt as a piss take back to you after you started laughing at the Lancashire accent. I have met you a couple of times but I dont think you recognised me and I obviously know you are a Mackem which is why I took the michael. There was another bloke who then shouted further back get on with it who you had a go at. Everybody around me was laughing and I did indeed identify myself by waving at you but I dont think you saw me! Ian

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  16. And from those of us in Widnes, thanks =)

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