December 10, 2017
Vinny and I headed for the central train station in Amsterdam to catch our train for Cologne.
We stared a bit like half-wits when no train of that destination came forward and named itself.
After standing slack-jawed for a bit, we were enlightened by a helpful sort.
Platform 2B, Vinny repeats to me.
Or not 2B, I reply.
At this, a railway guard in our hearing recites the whole passage mellifluously and grinning wide.
There is a world of knowledge and beauty in the heads of those we pass, unseen.
We board the ICE Train and make our steady way.
Arrived, we pick up a taxi and head straight for tonight’s venue.
It is a cold, grey day.
Inside I find a flat looking crew.
Dougie has his best dour face on and is not breaking it for my benefit.
That’s not a good sign.
Olga is giggling weakly.
They all had a heavy night it seems.
Their working days are relentless and consigned to long hours and hundreds of miles to travel over night, a jar or two is all they have to punctuate day from night.
Everyone will dry out at home.
The cheese boards will be put away.
Our waistbands relieved.
I am going to fuck sandwiches to Hades.
I am sick of bread.
Back stage is pretty grim.
Again, and again abashed, I get the best of the deal.
Up a spiral iron staircase, mine is a room with a mirrored shelf, a chair, a fridge and a vinyl settee.
No window covers.
I will strip beneath the sill again.
The door that doesn’t quite shut, jammed with a chair.
My allocation is accessed through the paltry room that must serve the rest of the party.
It sports a shelf against one wall that carries their rider and a coffee pot, atop a couple of fridges, and an oblong table at the window side that occupies most of the floor, about which, chairs are arranged tightly.
There is no room to walk around it.
A toilet and a shower to serve us all, is to be found at the end.
Our wardrobe cannot be brought upstairs, so it stands down in the holding area. A loading bay between exit and the stage.
As I go up and down, I collect and deposit my things piecemeal.
All my gear has to be packed away before I go on stage.
At soundcheck, the auditorium looks cold and bald, lit by brusque house lights.
Unadorned but for countless simply tasselled light shades dripping from a ceiling that runs with pipes and metal beams.
The bar is tucked in at the side.
Otherwise, the kind of place that challenges you with the task of feeding it your own body heat or be damned.
It wasn’t going to do your leg work for you, it seems to say.
Sound and light desks both seem very close.
I can almost see the whites of Darren’s eyes.
It is much like the clubs I played as a punk albeit a little larger.
The sound is wet.
I however, have got a tour flow on.
My routine is the same what ever space I am in.
I still have my same face to paint.
The same dresses to wear.
The same schedule.
The same intention.
I say that.
Tonight, show time is 7:30.
That’s as early as I have done since summer festivals.
I have no time to play around with.
There is a catering space on the other side of the hall, I am told.
The crew and band will go there to eat.
A plate of food is ordered up for me and I pick around it as I get ready.
My new book sounds out for me.
I like this regime.
Warm up is full of camaraderie.
We are singing in 3 part harmonies to John’s guitar and are finding much pleasure in it.
Sean gifts me a Cologne gig memory, and my spirits are raised as high as I need them to be.
Actually, I have an old Cologne memory too.
It involves tequila slammers.
A Depeche Mode party being held by dignitaries.
Me agreeing a deal on new management (not current)
A stomach pump – (not mine)
Two men being sick in a Taxi (mine)
and me getting them back to their hotel, still in one piece.
All followed by a torrid 8 am start and a car journey from hell the next day.
I have never drunk Tequila since.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t clever.
It was however, retrospectively, an event.
Again our stage time is deferred a while, so that the people queuing outside can gain access before the show kicks off.
We go on and are met by a great vision. An utter surprise.
The room before us is transformed.
It is body pressed to body dense with people.
Front to the very back.
Vivid. Bright. Open. Eager. Wonderful people.
The space now seems vast and is packed and thrums as a hive.
Eyes pressed tight with feeling, closed in concentration.
Arms in the air.
Arms about one another.
Where we might have expected lack lustre, we were proved to be utterly, but utterly mistaken.
Here was a crowd as giving as that which we so enjoyed in Amsterdam, but with the added joy that the silence in quiet segments was profound.
I was blown away.
Again, the song ‘Other’ was received with such ardour I felt giddy.
In between set and encores, Sean and I met in the dark and laughed our happiness.
Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.
It can also be the sister of our greatest surprise.
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