December 14, 2017
I woke unreasonably early, 5, and immediately my head was racing around empty rooms.
I hadn’t slept before 1am and I think I was worried I’d sleep through my 8 o’clock alarm.
We had a train to catch, and I was overtired.
As it is I’m a twat because, turns out, I’d set the alarm for 8pm in any event.
Anyway. No more sleep was forthcoming, so I got up and was ready in plenty of time for the 9:30am taxi.
Since Vinny missed our train that time, where ever it was, he has become super vigilant, and is now getting us to stations with time enough to knit a bed jacket and learn a second language.
This morning was 2x thermals weather, and I’d not thought of that in my too-hot room.
Consequently, I was ‘taters-in-the-mould’ throughout our 40 minutes wait, in the very well ventilated train station.
Removed to the platform, we find our train is more than a further 40 minutes delayed.
Germany, why have you forsaken your fine reputation today?!
Jeez but it was icy.
Once boarded, it was a bit like pre-booking a seat at the Odeon – no one giving a fuck that this is your place, instead glaring ahead resolutely at the adverts on the screen until you shit right off.
Do you have a reservation for this seat too?
I ask the man who had occupied my space, offering him the benefit of the doubt that we had been double booked.
No. He replies, as though I was impertinent to ask.
He gets up and moves across to his own, huffing and giving me an old fashioned look.
Actually. I lie.
That was the train ride yesterday.
That belongs to the previous day.
Today no one is in my seat and I am merely lost in time.
Our train was late, as here described, but no one today was in my seat.
My days are leaking.
Today’s journey is some 3.5 hours long.
We got a train to somewhere called Celle, or something.
In ‘Celle’?) the station has a large domed ceiling like one in London, or Liverpool, the name of which I can remember no better.
Good story, eh?
Here we have a hired car to collect.
While Vinny completes the paperwork, I go and buy a coffee, ostensibly to pick up a straw to exercise my voice with.
My voice is tired from last night’s gig.
Turns out, when I thought my monitors were broken yesterday, it was in fact the mic playing up.
James thinks it’s an issue with condensation.
The chill of the truck.
That wouldn’t have helped the opening of the show in Hamburg.
They are transporting the mics in the bus from now on.
We leave the relative shelter of the station to find the hire-car carpark.
It is raining and we are dragging all our cases.
It’s a bit miserable.
We walk a few roads, soon sodden, are given some varying directions depending who was asked, but finally make it to the multi-storey and our rental vehicle.
We are nearly 2 hours later here than planned.
We have about an hour drive now.
Our delay means there is more traffic on the wet road.
No real issues though.
We make up good time.
Arrived, we enter backstage via what appears to be a pedestrian walk way.
Are you sure? Vinny asks on his phone.
There is a car parked up ahead, but it still feels like we are driving indoors.
Entering the back door, I am stood directly in front of the four or five steps that climb to the stage.
The boys are already sound checking, and so I drop my bags by the monitor desk and walk straight to my stand.
The room looks tiny.
Attractive, but minuscule.
How many does this hold, then?
I ask Dougie.
900? Fuck off does it.
It doesn’t even have a balcony.
How can you get 900 in there?
300 more likely.
If it had a balcony, Dougie says, it would be 1500.
I am placing virtual bodies down there.
900 and you’d have a glut of inadvertent pregnancies.
I sing and am delighted to note that the sound is perfect up here.
I’m going to have a good one, I know.
Look. Tony Hadley’s poster is on the back wall.
Most of the UK tour we seem to have played venue tag with Heaven 17.
First time I’ve spotted a Tony.
In the dressing rooms, later, we are reading the band-name stickers on the various doors.
I remember having band stickers back in the day.
They seemed very important to have.
It was a step-up.
Like having a drummer with transport.
It suggests a gig circuit has been established, even if bookings are near rare as hen’s teeth.
Our drummer, Mick, in my Abdabs days, had his dad’s orange transport.
That meant we were going places.
Rayleigh at least.
On the way back from one gig, I remember, our support act, I think it was Slash Wildly and the Cutthroats, had to follow behind us in their van to bump-start us at the traffic lights – drive into our rear end to get the engine fired again on account of the fact that we broke down every time we had to brake.
Anyway. We all had shit names then, and nothing much is new in band world now.
We note ‘Step-Father Fred’.
They might be massive here, says John.
To date, this Other Tour, I have felt overly fortunate that I have had the better dressing rooms.
I withdraw that today.
The crew have a fine, airy dinning space with sofas, and a grand oak table.
There are many more of them.
John and Sean are installed in a comfortable and large living room, with a TV, full length wall mirror, stylish settees, and a long, purpose-lit make-up shelf, running the whole length of one wall.
A proper, no see-through shutting door.
Theirs was the one that had the
Step-Father Fred sticker.
They must be massive here.
I have a dimly-lit side room, with a glass panelled door that has a 2″ circular hole drilled in it, precisely vagina-height for when I have to take off my pants.
My small table is already crammed by my meagre rider and the CD booklets that require me to sign them.
There’s a wavy thin vertical panel of mirror to one side in which I can see an approximation of my boat race, darkly, if not from the table.
My door opens straight into the 5 foot dash of lean corridor where the touring parties food platters are marinating by the hour.
Sean says their room smelt like cat food yesterday.
This feels like payback.
I thought it would be more private for you, Dougie says.
Not one of those other fuckers have even bothered applying the merest slash of lippy.
Na’er a powder puff between them.
Air guitar, at best, I’m guessing.
David ‘Dougie’ Brent photos, I’ll warrant.
I smartly lay claim to a chevalier mirror in his ‘office’ which also boasts a long mirrored make-up shelf… and haul it to my store room.
Chicken for dinner.
It looks a bit dry.
The pot of soup from crew lunch beside it has reduced enough.
I don’t know what it is, but it is gravy coloured.
It’s gravy now.
I push space into the corner of my table and eat there facing the wall, with a cob on.
Vinny says they could see if more lighting can be found?
Soon they return with a fellow who plugs me in a splendidly bright floor lamp, raising my mood immeasurably.
Anyone will tell you.
I am made grim by a dark room, unless in recline.
My book. On.
My rollers. In.
Make up. Painted.
Hole in the door – when I’m getting into my tights. Watched keenly.
I’ll go to the boys room for warm up tonight.
We go on in fine spirits.
We are in the mood to play.
Sound is good.
Audience are hearty.
2nd song in and John speaks to me through my in-ear monitor.
Stall for a minute, can you, he says.
There is a problem with his monitor pack.
It is a long minute and my stalling involves grinning a long,
moon-face grin, and speaking nonsense inaudibly.
At last he is sorted and we start up again.
There is another delay later over what, I’m not sure.
It makes me think of Goldilocks. Only, instead of changing beds, as a suck-it-and-see exercise, this involves guitars.
In the old days you had just the one guitar, and if you ever broke a string, you had a spare finger and a new arrangement.
Shit sounds better now though.
I was really happy my voice was strong enough tonight.
This morning I had had my doubts.
A stress-making stage sound in Hamburg caused me to over-sing last night, and I’d not then had enough sleep, so woke up with it feeling strained.
I had blown my straw the whole journey in the car and now it felt solid again.
What comfort that is.
I really enjoyed performing tonight.
The stage was a little lower, perfect, and the sound was very good to sing to.
This smaller room, 600 capacity it transpires, allowed for enough intimacy in the auditorium to make it feel like it was an event.
It felt special.
The cameras were evident, but fewer and far less obtrusive tonight.
I am unaffected when people film using ambient light, though I know it can impact on their fellow audience member, to have a screen ever in their peripheral, or indeed, forward vision, and for that I do empathise with their neighbour.
What I personally object to, is the filming when it is coupled with that stark bright, relentless, inbuilt light-beam.
They pierce the vibe of the room and diminish an atmosphere carefully created by well considered lighting engineers.
When then, they are close to the front and are doggedly pointed at me,
It affects my performance.
The harsh beam cuts into your vision like lasers.
I try and angle my body to protect my eyes, but that’s where they follow.
I lift my mic hand in attempt to block it, and all my movements and concentration then becomes about trying to restore physical comfort.
It really is unpleasant.
Like driving facing an oncoming full beam on a motorway.
One young girl in the second row had covered about 5 songs like this, and I was struggling between trying to maintain focus and wanting her to see my predicament.
Pointing at my eyes and squinting.
Finally I had to stop a song and ask please for her to turn her light off.
That it was dazzling me.
Then I felt awful because I didn’t want to embarrass her, or ruin her evening.
I said film, do, but please not the lights.
At that, a few more lights were turned on.
I think it was lost in translation.
It is a rock and a hard place.
It’s not about me or anyone wanting to prohibit people.
Other than that issue, I had a tremendous time.
I loved the sound and the energy and the commitment the audience gave to listening and connecting with us.
It was a night packed full of heart.
Everything about the day that had made me cold, was forgotten.
Vinny and I hit the road, and made our way to Frankfurt.
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