By Kris | November 16, 2001
November 2001 · Words by Ginger – Transcribed by Darren Stockford
Saturday 3 November – Glasgow Garage
First tour, first date, first time on the road clean and sober. Man, this is fucking weird!
The thing about being sober is that you notice everything! People getting drunk is really funny. The point between conversation and someone blasting wet words into your ear is quite startling and entirely unexpected… and really, really funny. I’m usually the worst culprit for drunken blathering, so the rest of the guys must be finding this as weird as I am.
The first show of any tour is usually a totally unplanned and unpredictable thing, and tonight was no exception, except that I had no hangover so therefore I had more energy than usual. In fact, the whole band shone with energy tonight. The playing was tight and we pretty much made up the set as we went along. Random Jon Poole became Johnny Rotten and we played the Sex Pistols’ Bodies, with Conny on bass. The first of the Singles Club singles (I’m A Lover Not A Fighter) had its first ever live airing. A brand new BC Rich guitar was thrown into the audience and a huge fight instantly broke out. It ended with the security guys dragging the guitar from the bloodied victor (but I did get the security to give it right back to the guy after the main set – Hell, he fought bravely for that thing!).
We weren’t allowed to use the whole pyro show, so we made do with just confetti cannons, but we were so fucking loud that no one would have heard the bombs going off anyway. Nitebob is doing our sound and he’s probably the loudest sound guy currently working in the business. He’s done sound for Aerosmith, New York Dolls and Kiss. It’s good to have legends on tour with you. And he’s given up cigarettes, too, so he’s a buddy in purgatory.
Jon Poole is giving new names to everyone. I’m Rob Dreyfus, Conny has become Chris Gates, and seeing as The Jellys are supporting on this tour and CJ is travelling with us, he’s become Errol Friedman. Since Jon is now Gavin Henderson, I think we got a good deal. And if being sober is this much fun for the whole tour, I’m staying off the drink for good! The bus is travelling to Newcastle at the moment and it’s like sitting in the monkey den of a zoo. Drunks are falling all over me and this brand new laptop, and if I can manage to keep this computer a red wine free zone I’ll be even happier.
I really think this could be the best tour I’ve ever been on. This band are great company and amazing players. Surely that must be some kind of record?
Glasgow, as usual, rocks like the proverbial fuck. We sold tons of tickets and T-shirts. And someone just gave me a tip worth passing on, in light of the country’s recent lenient attitude towards pot-smoking. Instead of burning your hash (and your fingers) and crumbling the pot into the spliff, try putting your hash into a pepper grinder. It grinds down to a perfect powder and makes the smoke much more consistent. And there’s no hot rocks.
It was Glasgow and it was Saturday, and for now there was nowhere else I’d rather have been.
Sunday 4 November – Newcastle University
For me, there’s something very strange about playing Newcastle. Expect the best and the show will undoubtedly fall miserably on its face. Expect an average reception and a Newcastle crowd will bring you to tears of emotion and remind you why you started doing this rock thing in the first place.
SG5 have never played my home town, and the last time I was here (with The Wildhearts) was probably the worst experience in all my years of playing the Toon. The advance ticket sales don’t fill me with an amazing sense of victory. The band are hungover and walking around the venue pre-soundcheck like Lucio Fulci was right and the Earth has spat out the dead. Still, it’s nothing to worry about this early in the afternoon. Hopefully their trips to the pub, and the Jack and Coke liveners during the day, will put smiles back on their faces. Anyway, Angie has turned up with Jake and my family so I’m happily getting lost in fatherhood bliss. The Chinese food for breakfast has stopped fighting to get out and I even manage to fit in a run. There’s something about finishing a jog that really makes you feel good – like, if everything else sucks during the day, at least you did something worthwhile. An entertaining interview kills some more time, and before I know it, the band are soundchecking without me… a good sign. It means that they’re raring to go, singer or no singer!
Johnny Zhivago are supposed to be playing tonight, but no one told the promoters or the agents, so unfortunately they don’t get a slot. It’s just as well, as there’s an early curfew (boy, these venues are tough with their weekend curfews), so The Jellys have to go on at exactly 7.30 pm. I make the big mistake of catching some of their set. Seeing the opening band play somehow makes me lose focus on my own gig a little. Always does. I don’t know why I do it. But I still do. I get two startling revelations when catching their set. One, Stidi is a fucking amazing drummer. I already know this, of course, but there’s something about watching someone giving 100 per cent dedication to their performance that fills the sails. He plays like it’s his last gig on this planet… and with that amount of energy it could well be. Revelation two is that there seems to be NO FUCKER HERE!!!!
I go back and sit in the dressing room to start getting ready for the gig. I try to gear myself up to do a great show in front of an empty hall. With my mother present. Great. Oh man, I just hope that the auto-pilot kicks in early and the evening goes by painlessly. Sometimes, the less you expect, the bigger the shock, right?
The set begins with bass problems, and the confetti cannons don’t all detonate. Great. But, from nowhere, there seems to be tons of people. The place looks great all of a sudden. There are heads and hands all the way to the back, and many to the sides. Where the fuck has everyone come from?
I start to really enjoy it. Then fucking love it. I feel like I’ve got wings. That run must have really been the ticket. But something isn’t gelling with the band tonight the way it did last night. A mixture of hangovers and tiredness is evident from the stage, or at least from where I’m standing. Aw, man, this is Newcastle and I’m having a really good gig… trust this to be the one where all the components don’t gel. Fucking Newcastle. I fucking love playing here but it doesn’t ever seem to just let me enjoy it. I feel a little down. Good to see Danny here tonight. I’ve missed the old fucker.
Hope that Manchester sees everyone at their very best tomorrow. In a way I’m glad that Newcastle is out of the way. I find out the same thing every time I play here. You can love somewhere too much.
Monday 5 November – Manchester University
It’s Bonfire Night and we can’t use the pyro! We can’t even use the confetti cannons as “the cleaners don’t want to clean it up afterwards.” And here’s me thinking that cleaners are employed to clean things up, y’know? And if the over-muscular confetti laws aren’t enough to threaten the evening’s festivities (I did hear that Less Than Jake were allowed confetti shots, but hey, whatever), there are no posters outside the venue, and inside we are seemingly the only band to ever play here without flyers splashed all over the interior of Manchester Academy. The only reason we’re given for this is that the promoter didn’t think it was worth flyposting Manchester.
I mean, what the fuck is wrong with these people? Why even bother to do a job that you obviously don’t want to do? Give it to someone else who gives a shit… right? Wrong. It seems that the promoters are a big American company that are buying out all of the smaller promoters (this is what I’ve been told – I’m reporting). They’re the same people who are promoting the London show, and we got posters there so it doesn’t make any sense. But hey, this is the music business. The security guy even refuses to let Jon back in after he’s been for a piss. “But that’s the bass player,” someone shouts over for his information. “I don’t care who he is, he’s not getting in!” is the illogical reply.
What would a gig in Manchester be without the usual drama?
But fuck this shit. Tonight, the band are looking and feeling fresh and we want to destroy this place, sonically speaking of course. The Jellys’ van has broken down three times getting to Manchester, and it’s touch and go whether they’re going to make it or not. It’s a good thing that there’s a three band bill tonight. Butterfinger are not sure if they should risk waiting ’til later to play what looks increasingly like their main support slot, until The Jellys’ last minute arrival settles the matter. The crowd sound great for both opening bands. The atmosphere is already better than Newcastle on all levels. So we get up to play. And when we go into our opening song the monitors aren’t even on. But the crowd go nuts. Second song and still no monitors. And still the crowd go nuts. Guess it’s just going to be one of those nights. At one point, someone from the venue pulls out the plug from the monitors to see if that helps. This is hilarious. Pass me that guitar, I want to set it on fire and break the living shit out of it. And I do.
The audience are fantastic. The best of the tour. Hey, tonight I found out that with enough volume you don’t even need pyro. And for all the use we seem to be getting out of the pyro, I’m not exactly sure why we’re spending a fortune on it. Nitebob is sonic pyro in himself anyway. He even got busted for having a cigarette by someone who read on the site that he’d given up. Touring really does bring a lot of people closer together. The Internet helps too!
The band really gel tonight. This is a very special unit. One that deserves to go all the way. And with your help, we intend to do just that.
I miss Jake sooooooo badly today. All day. Thank fuck it’s a good show. Seeing him yesterday just makes me more determined to make this work. Yeah, I miss him. So bad that I’m going to bed, otherwise I’ll start drinking. And if I start drinking to forget I won’t remember to stop.
Tuesday 6 November – Norwich Waterfront
The first thing that greets us as we pull into Norwich Waterfront is a colour poster with the SG5 logo smiling out at us. Already today has a better vibe than Manchester. Promoters could really learn a thing or two from watching their competition at work. Me, Nitebob, CJ and Stidi take in an early morning shopping spree to further ingratiate ourselves with this lovely town. The people are friendly and the outdoor market rocks big time. They have hot pork shops here, too, reminding me and Stidi of being back home, where the emphasis is on tasty food as opposed to healthy food.
The venue is a great-looking place with a nice large stage, showers in the dressing room, and a really friendly production office. And posters. Even Q magazine phoned up to ask some questions.
I feel really down today for some reason. I can’t shake it. At times, I feel close to tears for no forthcoming reason. It can’t be because of some stupid comment that some mean-mouthed bitch came out with last night. Or even the fact that I’m starting to really crave alcohol. I’m missing Jake like I’ve never missed anything before. So much that it hurts. Like actual pain. Whatever the reasons behind the sudden attack of sadness, the brutal truth is that having a miserable bastard on tour is like having toothache during a dentists’ strike. Got to cheer up… can’t get drunk… this is tough.
Then, ten minutes before showtime, Random and Tom start laughing at nothing. It becomes infectious, and within minutes we’re reduced to choking, crying hysterics. It really is a special feeling when the guys you’re playing music with double up as mood enhancers.
The show is great. The audience are mostly here to size up this new band before they invest in the record. But they seem to want to like it; seem to want a new, great British rock band that openly, unashamedly, unapologetically ROCK. We’ve been trying different sets throughout the tour, adding songs and swapping the order, and I think we’ve ended up with a set that clicks really well. The sound on stage is clear (great fucking place, this!). Another guitar is torched and trashed. Random is inspirational tonight. He is truly born to be loved by many. Tom is hitting those drums harder every night, and for someone that hits drums hard as an affliction, that’s pretty hard. Conny insists afterwards that he didn’t personally have a great show, but with someone of his star quality, this is never apparent to anyone else, even the band.
Every day in every way, this band are getting tighter. As performers, as players, and as friends. As I type this, happier than I’ve been all day, the guys are upstairs shouting and laughing, drinking and dancing. The music is blasting so loud that the speakers in the upstairs lounge will surely end before the tour does.
It’s a day off tomorrow, and I really wish it wasn’t.
Thursday 8 November – Bristol Fleece And Firkin
Bev greets us as we walk into the Fleece And Firkin, all crazy-coloured dreads and huge smile. She is a representative from the promoter, and it seems that at this level, any attention from a promoter is as rare as a quiet night with Jon Poole around. Needless to say, the promoter himself doesn’t turn up. But what the hell, Bev more than makes up for his absence.
Tonight is the first venue to allow our pyro show to go ahead. It’s also the smallest venue on the curcuit. And made entirely out of wood. Typical, then, that the pyro guys miss cues, fail to detonate bombs, and generally have as lazy a show as possible. The guitar tech we’ve been using for the past two shows has been replaced by someone who’s not as sharp or dedicated to the job, so the ‘setting fire to the guitar’ segment of the show goes disastrously wrong when I turn to him and find that he hasn’t brought a lighter! Also, the spare guitar hasn’t had the strings changed, and there’s no battery in the tuner. For fuck’s sake, what else can go wrong?
We make the big mistake of letting a friend of CJ’s do the lights tonight. The guy swears he knows the songs back to front. No one suspects that he might not have the common sense to turn off the lights when the show starts. Genius. One verse into the first song and we completely blow the power. A mixture of severe volume and pyro smoke has woken the dormant security system, and so it decides to shut down. The band stay on stage and attempt to get a singalong going and hope that we don’t have to wait too long for the power to return. Eventually, after a lot of good-natured chanting from the crowd (who are on absolutely top form, the best crowd yet… Bristol absolutely ROCKS), the amps and PA fire back up and we start the set all over again. The monitors aren’t working, but hey ho, let’s go.
Conny plays a slide solo and gently throws the bottle into the waiting audience. It misses the hands of the waiting crowd and lands on the face of an unsuspecting fan, cutting her just below the eye. Fuck. After the show, we make sure that she’s well looked after. She’s been in the capable hands of the ever-impressive Bev, so things could be a lot worse. The cut isn’t as bad as we thought it might be. She (Hilary) is a lovely girl, and takes the mayhem well within her stride. Hilary, you are welcome to any show that I play for the rest of my life, babe, you are wonderful. If you can get in touch, then please do.
Thankfully, we eventually reach the end of the show. I’m pissed off and hyper, and that’s when things tend to go wrong with me. And just as I start to feel the safe hold of rationality slip from my possession, the guitar on Conny’s side of the stage suddenly gets louder. And as I turn around, during an inpromptu performance of 29 x The Pain, I see CJ smiling back at me as he pounds out the chords. I notice that CJ looks really comfortable on the stage with us, and a million thoughts run through my head, replacing the previous anger with ideas, plans and schemes. Something clicked, it has to be said.
It also has to be said that the girls in Bristol are fucking gorgeous. There’s one particularly stunning girl standing right in front of me, throwing the most radiantly dirty stares in my direction all night. Fuck, she looks good. It’s all I can do to force myself to look away in order to ensure that I have a family when I get home.
Back on the bus later, I’m really pissed off about the laid back attitude of some of the crew members. The band were thorough professionals in the face of tonight’s fuck ups, and I expect the same level of performance from everyone on the bus. I’m too angry to voice my displeasure without going over the top and putting a bad vibe on the entire bus, so I resort to getting stoned instead. It’s my first ‘buzz’ of the tour, and damn, it feels good.
Random Jon Poole is on top form as the bus entertainment for this evening (and every evening), being as random and as funny as a man has any right to be. I go to sleep to the sounds of Jon’s multi-purpose vocal effects and truly inspired lunacy. Every band should have a Jon Poole, and I’m very proud that we have ours. The guy is like gold. The band are world class. The crew need weeding.
Friday 9 November – Dudley JB’s
The last time I played Dudley JB’s, I experienced a first – swapping bass players mid song. Tonight, we swap guitar techs mid song – another first. Despite the fact that this is one of my favourite gigs to play, I sure seem to have bad luck playing here. Tonight’s disasters begin with the bombs not going off in exactly the same place as they didn’t go off yesterday. Maybe one of these days the pyro guys will actually listen to the album and learn the songs they are supposed to detonate bombs in.
Tonight, I set fire to my guitar myself, just to make sure that it gets done properly. And, oh my fuck, does it go up! Flaming like a bastard and taking a huge hunk of flesh out of my hand as it gets royally smashed to shit. The next song involves me turning to the guitar tech to get another, and I am handed one (I’ll give him that) but the strap is shorter than Jon Poole’s hair, and is of little use to me. Unless, of course, the thought of looking like a cunt suddenly came into my head as being a good idea.
A huge crowd has turned up tonight to watch this spectacle, which involves me singing songs with no guitar and endless gaps between songs while Conny waits for his guitar to be tuned. I’m fucked off, and so I throw my Les Paul against the back wall. Tom insists that I was aiming for him. But he’s wrong, because if I was aiming at him I would have hit him. In between two songs, I take a sip of water from a small water bottle and throw it away. It accidentally hits the guitar tech. He’s the singer in a band, and therefore a little highly strung. So this pisses him off and he walks out of the gig, leaving Jon and Conny (and me) standing without a guitar tech, and looking for all intents and purposes like the last three sailors left on-shore.
Like I said, crew leaving the venue in a strop is a new one on me. Axl Rose, yes. But crew? Tip for today? Don’t ever work with road crew if they are also in a band – finish off the set with Willie, who was the guitar tech for The Wildhearts for a long time. Thoroughly professional, totally dedicated, and unfortunately unavailable. I guess tomorrow we’ll be tuning and stringing our own guitars. I fucking hate the fact that we’re paying money for technicians that don’t understand the basics of the job. Gimme a guitar with the same length strap as the other one, the same gauge strings, and make sure that it’s in tune. Does that sound harsh?
If we went out on tour with no special effects, no legendary soundman flown in from New York, bad quality T-shirts, and carried our own gear on and off stage every night, the fans would still enjoy it… and we would walk away with pockets full of money. But instead, we want to put on a spectacle for people, something special that other bands of this level don’t bother doing. We want to be the best night out, and leave lingering memories. Even if it costs us money from our own pockets.
AND WE WANT THE SHIT TO FUCKING WORK!
Playing your favourite venues and having a shit gig is one of the biggest downers in this business. We’re having a bit of a bad run. The band are dynamite every night. We deserve to be at a bigger level than this, and with hard work we will achieve this. For now, though, we just have to buckle up and make it through. It’s called “paying your dues”.
And it sucks.
Saturday 10 November – Nottingham Rock City
What is it about Rock City that ensures that you never have a bad show? In all the years I’ve been playing this place, there has always been a warm welcome from Mole (sound engineer) and legendary madman Andy Copping. The Angels make sure that the show is run with strict professionalism, and the crowd are more often than not the loudest of the entire tour. And tonight is no exception. I fucking love this place. Best venue in Britain.
We have stand-in guitar tech Ant back with us after the previous two days’ worth of mishaps. The situation dictated that we employ someone whose main concern is the job at hand, and Ant is one of the best in the business, so it feels real good to have him back. Everyone seems happy, and there’s a quiet confidence in the air throughout soundcheck. Even with the early curfew, there’s still time in the day to go for a run and work out with the weights. I’m feeling really strong today. It’s a good sign. This is the one show of the tour that I’m dreading playing sober, as I’ve never done it before, as Rock City is legendary for party madness.
The Jellys get a great cheer from the audience, and before we know it, it’s show time and we’re waiting at the side of the stage until Random finishes his bleedin’ make-up. The stage sound is great and the band are tight. The explosions go off perfectly on time, and the crowd are fucking fantastic. Jesus, Rock City has some amazing-looking girls. I spot one extremely pretty young thing in the front row. It turns out that her name is Minty, and the crowd give her a special round of applause just for being cute. It’s that kind of show. Pretty girls, crazy audience, loud as fuck pyros, and flaming guitars being smashed up – the kind of thing that could safely be labelled as entertainment.
I mentioned in an interview earlier that ‘having a good time’ should be the easiest thing in the world to market. Let’s hope so, eh? Incidentally, the guy doing the interview met his (very pretty) girlfriend on a dancefloor grooving to Anyway But Maybe. It’s happening already – we’re putting people together for the sole purpose of fun and sex. That’s gotta be a good thing.
The show goes by without fault until the very last note of the very last song, where we have huge bombs going off either side of me. The cue is bang on time and the explosion is impressively large. So large, in fact, that it sets fire to the ceiling! The band are oblivious to the drama as guys leap on to the PA stacks in an attempt to extinguish the flames. Jon and Conny are standing in the backstage corridor as huge biker dudes run past with fire extingishers and a ladder. “Get out of the way, the place is on fire,” Jon and Conny are told… only to look at each other in shock, then smile and flick the devil horns, Beavis and Butthead style. It’s a perfect end to a perfect show. Of course, no one was hurt and a fantastic night was had by all. And of any show to set fire to, surely Rock City is the most rock ‘n’ roll by far.
Afterwards, everyone is in extremely high spirits as they begin the task of getting royally hammered. I really want to get drunk tonight, but can’t risk making the next show anything less than this. The audience deserve the best that we can give, and for me that means staying together for every gig. Large and small.
Much debauchery ensues in the dressing room, none of which could possibly be printed here without incrimination and arrest. Needless to say, everyone is arseholed by the end of the evening. Random’s ‘bus lunatic’ crown has been passed on to Tom for tonight. The diminutive Swede is as drunk as legs will allow. A friend of CJ’s gives me some prescription sleeping tablets that could floor an overweight Brontosaurus. The last thing I hear is Tom offering everyone on the bus a fight, as the warm embrace of sleep takes this happy, smiling Geordie away. As I drift, my parting thoughts are along the lines of ‘wouldn’t it be great if you could bus in fans from all over Britain and just play Nottingham Rock City every night?
Sunday 11 November – Sheffield Leadmill
Sunday, Sheffield, overcast and shut. There’s nowhere to get breakfast, unless microwave burgers whet your early morning appetite. The only sound floating in the cold air is the steady ‘BANG, BANG, BANG’ of a distant techno club still having it large from last night. We left Nottingham at 8am, when the party began to taper, and suddenly, it appears, we’re in Sheffield, slightly disorientated due to mild sleep deprivation. We’re awake, but it seems that Sheffield isn’t. The day looks likely to slink by with little occasion.
A surprise interview is hastily arranged for a local rock radio show – ‘surprise’ because I didn’t know anything about it, and the guy spends the entire interview answering his own questions.
“So, the influences on the album are Sweet, Slade and Status Quo, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Good. And you used to live in Newcastle, but now you live in London, is that right?”
“Good…,” etc, etc, etc.
This was the same guy that was spotted craftily filling his carrier bag with crisps and soft drinks from the buffet – the stuff we usually leave behind.
Johan from Backyard Babies turns up to see the show. Overend Watts from Mott The Hoople turned up to the Bristol show. Hey, those bass players can’t get enough, huh?
Come show time, the sound on stage is muddy, and the playing is loose for the first couple of numbers. But the pyro goes off perfectly on time again. After Nottingham, anything is going to come as a slight anticlimax. This would have ranked up there as one of the best, had last night not been so amazing. Tonight, the band play great, perform great, and the Sheffield crowd is abso-motherfucking-lutely nuts. It’s great to see a whole room with every single person clicking their fingers (a first on this tour), and generally giving every last drop of energy in the name of fun. The people in Sheffield really know how to have a good time, and it reflects right back on the band. The venue rep seems slightly nervous as she spends the entire day worrying about the safety of the pyro, but after the show she admits that she actually found the whole spectacle very entertaining.
Not a lot to report, then. Great show, great audience and pretty girls. There’s even some lesbian action down in the front row of the crowd. See what you miss when you stand at the back? Guess I’ll be seeing you all down the front in future, then?
Monday 12 November – London Electric Ballroom
London might as well be home, and playing your home town is a pain in the fucking ass. The phone rings constantly with people wanting to be on the guest list. There are people wanting to hang out in the dressing room before the show (only in London, I swear!), and there are people that walk around like they’ve just received the Nobel Peace Prize for curing cancer whilst instigating world peace. To us, it’s just another day on the road. To the venue owners and the council, it’s our lucky day. We’re playing the capital.
The audience in London are amazing, the loudest and most dedicated we’ve seen (although we’ve yet to see what the Irish SG5 fans are like). But other than that, playing in London is a big anticlimax, complete with egotistical asshole council members. One guy comes down to inspect the explosions – he must be around 50 fucking years old – and says that he doesn’t like flames (not that they’re against the law, but merely that he doesn’t like them), so we don’t get to use the flame-throwers. The venue owner says that we can’t use the loud bangs (maroon / concussion bombs – one of the best effects we do) in case the roof caves in. If the fucking roof was going to cave in, then how come it didn’t when we set off the test pyro? Un-be-fuckin-lieveable…
Jobsworths and assholes aside, the day passes by with gusto. I’m trying to avoid the phone and keeping guard on the dressing room, which has no lock on the door and is situated just off the street in plain sight of the public. The dressing room doubles up as a storage room for The Jellys’ drums and guitars, so what little space is left is occupied by our four fearless, tireless, sleepless men. I / we have been looking forward to this show for the whole tour, so it’s without surprise that it turns out to be less than climactic.
Everyone spends the day in the pub. Great. This is pissing me off more than the anti-pyro brigade on this tour – not the fact that everyone is down the pub most days, but the fact that I’m not! Still, I managed to drink nothing stronger than Red Bull at Nottingham, and if I can do that I can do anything. I even resist the inevitable partying after this show.
Going on stage in London is the strangest feeling. You personally know a large percentage of the audience. You are immediately made aware of the importance of your task by the flashing bulbs of the the photographers filling the pit (one of which is Angie, my girlfrend!). There’s a tangible ‘presence’ of journalists in review mode that feels akin to the ‘record’ button being pressed in a studio, or knowing that you’re being taped for a live album. In short, playing London is uncomfortable but fun.
The set whizzes by in seconds. I don’t even know if we’re playing well or not. Pyro goes off on time. Songs seem tight. Crowd are mental. Set ends. Encore. CJ gets up to play 29 x The Pain. Bombs either side of me signify the end of the set. I sit backstage as what sounds like the entire audience cram into the dressing room next door. There’s talk of partying at Bar Solo, or Bar Vinyl. Can’t go, can’t drink. Get taxi home with Angie. Pay babysitter. Jake is asleep. Sit in silence and wonder why on earth I feel so empty tonight.
I don’t like playing London, but I love it.
Wednesday 14 November – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
We had a day off after London. Days off can be disastrous to touring momentum. This one was no exception.
After the success of the London show, there is a tangible air of abandon flying about today, like the tour is over and it’s party time. I guess being sober makes me awkward company for a bunch of drunken rock ‘n’ rollers. Also, for me, the tour is not over, there are still two shows to play. I feel decidedly out of place and uncomfortable today. Everyone spends the afternoon drinking in the pub.
The effects of consumption are glaringly evident on our entourage as they pop in and out of the dressing room that I’ve planted myself in, as voices get louder and people irritatingly repeat themselves. I get the feeling that, to some people, today’s show is not as important as the alcohol, and this is starting to piss me off. Fans are paying money to see musical prowess and larger than normal production values. I don’t think they care how much the musicians can out-drink each other. To me, it makes sense that people reward themselves after the show, when the job has been done. This is why we’re here.
The Jellys sound messy, out of tune and chaotic. I’m just hoping that we can play better under the influence than they can. Come show time, it’s obvious that we can’t. The set is sloppy and careless. I get more and more angry at the stupid mistakes being made, especially after such an impresive tour. The ghost of The Wildhearts is in the house big style tonight. I can’t help remembering how we would always get close enough to smell success and then belligerently blow it. This is not the band that played in London and Nottingham. I get so pissed off that I lose my temper and push over the cymbals of the drum kit. Not exactly professional behaviour on my part, I have to admit.
Tempers flare and the mood becomes increasingly caustic. With the set done, a huge argument ensues in the dressing room before the encore. Blame is thrown in every direction but the bar. To me, it’s as plain as the rings on my fingers. The set sucks because of the fact that everyone is pissed.
To the band, it’s all just rock ‘n’ roll.
This feels like the fucking Bad News video we watched today on the bus. I’m fucking disgusted.
After the show, everyone’s anger peaks as insults are thrown around the room and fault is apportioned. I have my views and others have theirs, but a sober guy arguing with a drunken guy is like a Buddhist arguing with a gansta rapper – neither one is particularly right, but a common mutual point is unlikely to be made.
Back on the bus, everyone drinks some more, and more arguments ensue. Between who, I have no idea, as I retire to my bunk to try and get a handle on tonight’s revelations.
I don’t want to be in The Wildhearts… whatever name they’re going under.
Thursday 15 November – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
Last day of the tour. It had to come. It was always going to be a mixed bag of emotions, but after last night’s show those emotions range from uncertainty (I hope we don’t suck like we did last night) and vulnerability (I don’t know if the band are still into this anymore… and seeing as they spend most of the day in bed with hangovers it’s impossible to tell; still, it means I get to soundcheck all the instruments!), to sadness (a two week tour is more frustrating than anything – just as you get comfortable with the daily routine, you’re going home).
I decide early on in the day to try to organise a Christmas solo tour – just me, Stidi and Random – and play all the songs I’ve written that people like, all the ones that have folk saying “why didn’t you play that one?” Touring sure makes you get used to sharing your thoughts and ideas with a bunch of relative strangers. Touring sober gives it a slightly more ‘essential’ quality. You descend upon people’s lives, armed with only your tunes as currency, in the hope of constructing a dialogue with the natives. And after giving every ounce of effort, you leave satisfied that you attempted communication to the best of your ability, and it was, mostly, successful.
There’s a girl doing on-stage monitor sound at the Clwb Ifor Bach for whom everything is a chore. She gets wind of the ‘burning guitar’ effect in the show and ‘helpfully’ lets us know that the security are going to use fire extinguishers to put out anything flaming more than an Embassy Regal. We shouldn’t have worried, though, as she spends the entire show with her head in her hands gazing away from the stage. She probably missed the flames completely.
The phone lines don’t work in this place, so I can’t use the computer to kill time. It’s impossible to recite the address over the phone as the street name is all in Welsh… and, I mean, what is English for Clwb Ifor Bach? I go for a walk around town and the scenery reminds me of the bad times I’ve had living in Cardiff with crazy Welsh girls, and psycho Welsh guys. I’m starting to think that anywhere would have been better to end the tour than Cardiff.
I needn’t have wasted my time thinking negative thoughts, however, as the gig is an absolute stormer! The crowd are the maddest, loudest, rockingest rollingest bunch of beauties of whole the tour. Fuck, do the Welsh know how to enjoy themselves!!! It’s been a while since I played Wales, and I definitely don’t remember it being this crazy. Made me forget everything for an hour and a half.
The band play great, too. Such a pity that the last two shows couldn’t have been testament to the fact that we rock every single time we play. I know it’s common to fuck up, but I also know it’s common for success to evade those that don’t need it the most. I managed to track down a computer earlier today to read the fans’ opinions of last night’s show, and it seems that those ticket buyers are as sharp as BC Rich guitar shapes. You just can’t appear to be average in front of them, unless you want to represent being average. It’s a sign that the plan is working and people have come to expect the very best in entertainment from this show. They want consistency. They want a movie. They noticed that the show yesterday was a let down.
Two final shows… one sucked, one rocked. 50/50. Great odds, huh?
I don’t know what I’m thinking today, or how I’m feeling. I have a drink after the show, the first of the tour. It tastes good but we run of alcohol pretty quick, so even that’s a bit of an anticlimax. And to top it off, tonight is the night that some people decide not to party, so I don’t get the big bash I’ve been looking forward to. So much for end of tour celebrations. It doesn’t really feel that we’ve tried hard enough to celebrate. We’ve shown a lazy side that doesn’t really deserve rewarding.
Am I being too hard on the band, or too hard on myself? Surely someone has to steer this ship? Or maybe it’s just more fun to have no one at the wheel. Crash and Burn? Rock ‘n’ roll? Maybe just play smaller shows to fewer people? All the hits rolled out for the nostalgia circuit?
FUCK THAT SHIT.
I decide that whatever the future brings, I prefer touring sober. At least it means someone tried their hardest.