By Kris | March 15, 2004
Ginger, Jon Poole and Hot Steve – Acoustic Tour – March 2004 · Words by Hot Steve
Doncaster – 12th March 2004
Hey you guys and gals out there; here we are again! Acoustic as fuck 2004!
With the strains of The Darkness ringing in our ears we head out on the road again to give you people some good times and some more memories. First up, leaving Kettering at 8am under 6 inches of snow isn’t a good start. It’s just then I realize that the last time I drove this car on the last tour it snowed: I’ll be hiring it again in July to further test this theory!
Getting to London I pick up the acoustic geetars lent to us by the lovely Juliette at Gibson and take them to Gaz to get a pickup fitted. In the guitar workshop I’m greeted by the Les Pauls of a certain pair of Hawkins. Messrs Justin and Dan are having final tweaks applied to the guitars given to them at the Brit awards. The pink Justin model beams from the case. It really is just like the man himself, sparkly and very very special.
After that, it’s picking up the lads from the Ginger household; it is always good to see the clan Ginger, as all the time kids just can’t stop growing and developing. It really is joy to watch and makes me smile a lot; almost as much as the txt messages I’ve been receiving since the European tour. Thanks a lot. You know who you are 😉
The race is then on to get to the first gig which is my hometown of sunny Doncaster. I’m writing this with prior knowledge of what will happen, so I’m trying to be objective and not too emotional. The rush to get to the Leopard was on. And with so many new songs planned, we had to run through them during the sound check. Being a local, some mates were there and things were going as well as I expected for a while. The support act, Beast, turned up with his usual casual approach to life in general. That was good to see.
Then begins the real runaround, from the pub, to the wrong hotel, to the right hotel, drop off the boys, go home to change and get back in time to play the show. This is the time that we should be sat in a dressing room relaxing before the show. Unfortunately my duties of everything get in the way and I can’t relax as I have to drive, setup, tune and change and then bang! We were onstage!
Confidence can be built up over a long period, like learning to drive, you get more confident as time goes on to a point where you don’t think and it becomes second nature. On the other hand it can disappear in a split second!
The show for me was a nightmare. Knowing a large percentage of the crowd it’s hard to relax and I feel like the biggest reddest fool in the world. When things stop working that were previously working nearly all my faith has gone…
By now it’s a joy to just get off and try to blot it out by getting very drunk.
A face in the crowd who I recognize tries to get my attention as I go back out to find my parents who came to support me. I’m hopeless with names. I have a photographic memory for faces though. In Europe a trio of young ladies at the Strasbourg show approached me. I had no idea of their names but I knew that I knew them from somewhere. It was Beatrice and chums I had met at a festival in Sweden 3 years ago and caused some hotel chaos with them in a rather small provincial town that I nearly got stuck in as I narrowly caught the last train out of there….
The face in question at the gig however was none other than the son of a Mr George Turner. When we were recording the Destroyed album in sunny Alford in Lincolnshire, we religiously bought our stocks of alcohol from the Alford wine shop run by the amazing Turner family. There was nothing that these people wouldn’t do for us and a firm friendship bond was formed over the months. Hil Turner, George’s wife, has the most fantastic manner in the shop, which would always have us in stitches. Our order of booze and fags was picked up everyday and even specialist items like Merrydown cider were ordered just for us.
During the final session at Chapel Studios I remember going to the shop, which was strangely closed with a simple handwritten notice stating that due to bereavement, the shop would be closed until further notice. George had had a heart attack and died that night.
I remember delivering the news to the studio and sadness sank in. I remember all the listees trying to guess who George Turner was when the album was dedicated to his memory. Everyone thinking he was a famous Irish poet or something much grander. George was the kindest shopkeeper we have ever met and was a damn fine man with a damn fine family. See you all in Nottingham you guys.
After the memory of the gig started to fade it was time to hit the bar with a collection of mates in the bar downstairs to watch the usual mental antic of Random to unfold! I just wanted to leave. As did everyone else. So we did.
The morning came too soon and with a message from Ginger saying they had been kicked out of the hotel at an ungodly 10am, so it was time to act sharpish. Getting out of town was like a military operation and I was the commander. Get into pub. Pick up guitars. Get the money. Go home for my clothes and get right out of town.
Hometown gigs are an anathema to a lot of people. I spend a lot of time away from mine, so playing there had to be perfect. Nothing else would do. I suppose I have high standards as I work for professional bands all the time and the gulf between pro and amateur bands is huge. I had mentioned before that I wanted to hire a sound guy. When you hire someone, they are yours and you can shout at them, as you run the show. This is where working with friends doesn’t work. I can’t shout at mates, as it’s not what I do. Not that there’s ever gonna be a next time but in future well meaning friends have to be less precious and just accept that I was right to want a top job doing. Unfortunately the gig and the subsequent incidents marred my enjoyment of what should have been a really good homecoming show and completely destroyed my unconditional love of this town. Sounds harsh but I’ve been looking for a good reason to move for a while as life here can get a bit staid after a while and without a special loved one to return to I cant really see a reason for staying other than family. But I might change my mind if we get promoted to the 2nd division!
Crewe – 13th March 2004
With hindsight the first show of the tour should have been anywhere but there, as I wouldn’t be happy with anything less than a knockout show in front of friends and family.
I’m driving from the place I call home (but for how much longer I don’t really know). Once again thank God for SMS messaging, as positive smiling messages from Vienna really help at what is a tough time for me.
In the car we listen to Jon’s other band The Cardiacs and without a doubt it is THE most mental music I have ever heard, which actually takes away some of the rubbish and negativity in my brain – thanks Jon!
Straight to the hotel in sunny Crewe for another attempt at a show. Not before checking into our luxury hotel right outside Crewe Alexandra’s ground who are playing host to the Baggies. Our hotel is designated a Baggies only zone and judging by the clientele the door staff are totally justified.
The Limelight has played host to loads of tribute bands and tonight is a double header of Quo tributes and ourselves in the bar at the back. So an eclectic mix you can agree.
It’s funny, when I remember shaking Rick Parfitt’s hand at one of the Darkness shows in Europe and here we are at a shrine to the mighty Quo. If only they knew eh!
After such a calamity the night before, a feeling of ‘right then this better work otherwise it could all end tonight’ took over and it had to be a good show. If I keep referring back to the ‘Donny’ incident it just means that I have been scarred by the overall experience.
During the soundcheck it’s looking good. The cry of ‘Miles Away Girl’ from a chap behind the bar is promptly rewarded with a quick rendition of said song.
As the promoter hasn’t booked a support band, it’s up to the sound guy to step into the breach and for the exchange of me doing the sound for them, his hastily arranged trio take to the stage for the first time under the moniker ‘retardis’.
A strange crowd our’s? I can say that now, as I’m a part of this trio, a mix of young new fans gathered from Kerrang TV ever since ‘Vanilla Radio’ did the business and the hardy late twenties-thirties gang who remember the rise of the band the first time around. And who probably look at us thinking ‘why the hell are they doing this’? One guy who manages to sit at the front for most of the show eating his chips in a basket later tells us that his two all time favourite bands are Quo and The Wildhearts, so that makes today some sort of visit to Mecca (not the bingo) for him. Arranging the shirts near the door I’m pleased with the amount of people coming in. Like I said it’s a strange gang these days.
Show time and I’m a bit apprehensive. But a text message from Vienna puts a huge smile on my face, everything’s good and its time to rock. Having dismissed the previous night, this is my first gig as it were and we are sitting down.
Being introduced and having a massive cheer go up is great so I’m redder than ever. The new set – featuring standards and a few wildcards thrown in – goes well and even the engineer’s attempts to drown us out with feedback cannot stop the rock! I really think we played a blinder in Crewe.
After the show people bay for an encore but Elvis you could say had left the building. Why spoil a great experience with any more songs.
Hanging around after shows is the part I’m getting to enjoy. Signing stuff for people is great. I’ve never really done it before except for filling in for absent band members – oooops shouldn’t really say that!
My new idea of merchandising took off as well and we promply sold half the stock of shirts that night… what an idea it was tucking a pint glass stuffed with cash down the front of my pants and walking round the gig shaking my ass and telling people to buy the swag…
It’s a tired gang who return to the hotel (as well as sober!) as I’m off the booze for this tour to give my fun size Milky Way kidneys time to recover for the USA. Me and Jon attempt to not get beaten up in the kebab shop and succeed with the prize of the best dirty meat of the tour (it’s an acoustic tradition to sample dirty meat from each town and Crewe was really good).
Back in the hotel and the techno disco is roaring through the walls but the reward of a comeback show is a great nights sleep and the feeling that we had come back from the edge as it were. Marred only by the atrocious Starsailor on the Jonathan Ross show which really is vomit inducing and the kebab is nearly lost.
Must make a special announcement to the twat who ran a set of keys down our car in the limelight car park! When you grow up I’m gonna be a old git in a wheelchair who is going to do the same thing to you and ruin your day and lose your deposit and end up having to get the car resprayed at your expense. But as the car park has a camera I’m gonna find out who you are and retribution will be swift and karmic!
Ashton – 14th March 2004
After blagging some extra time sleeping with my newfound ability of sweet-talking hotel receptionists, we emerge refreshed from the hotel and ready for the new day. Its not very far to Ashton so we find a suitably un-pc public house (the fox and hounds) and do lunch.
After filling in our immigration forms we head on to the gig. It’s gonna be a weird one tonight as straight after the gig we have to go straight to London to collect the visas and with a 7am taxi call I will have no alternative but to enter ‘bloodshot’ in the eye description.
We get there early and decide to find some kind of Internet connection, which in the end means unplugging the pub phone for a while. While Jon chats to a bloke funnily called Ginger Wildheart, I get down to some tour diary writing while Ginger sorts his emails out. Wow how rock and roll are we! The typical backstage drinking and nefarious dubious antics replaced by the clicking and the occasional ‘bang’ from our computers. How times have changed.
The show was everything I needed from that night. When you are relaxed and confident its difficult not to be good, but when you are sober as well it’s even better. If I had have been drunk I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to replace a broken string that fast and continue the same song. I felt really sharp up there and it felt good. Really got to learn how to sing better though eh?
It was a strange tough manc crowd at first but when the big songs came out they all got going. Playing ‘Be My Drug’ and ‘Lily’s Garden’ is great and hopefully we do them justice. I even remember how to play Dangerlust straight from the top of my head, which starts an impromptu romp through the song.
The set ends with the favourites. I sometimes feel a bit like an outsider at these shows as I’m obviously the Wildheart’s roadie but I know that the fans are such that I don’t know if I’m filling an invisible person’s shoes by being up there. I love playing ‘I Wanna Go’ and for someone to come up to me after the show saying that’s the best he has ever heard that song be played is a blast!
After selling all the t-shirts and nearly having a tour manager strop in the dressing room (why does everyone in the big room want to get into the smallest room in the building? – Never understood that one. Its like trying to fit the Astoria crowd into a toilet cubicle just cos that’s where everyone thinks the party is), we leave the Witchwood happy and content with Jon keeping up his acoustic tour record attracting strange men things…
It’s 4 am when I pull up to the hotel in London where we can all get 2 hrs sleep and be ready to go to the US embassy to collect our visas. With luck and a big cheer we are rewarded with a years work permit each to America and head off to the nearest hotel bar to meet up with the ever lovely Becky to sign the new album cover and a load of posters.
I crossed the invisible line of stage guitarist straight back to road crew with ease that day. Playing is my favourite but having this job with these people is also brilliant. As soon as we all get together in the queue outside the embassy the ‘gang’ is back together and for me it feels good. From the pits of despair to the height of enjoyment the sheer emotional roller coaster ride of this tour, tour what am I saying it was 3 days! I went from depression to fulfilled and happy in 72 hours and 974 miles.
You don’t get that working at Tescos.
Until we ride again, take care and I’ll see you all in a guitar tech t-shirt in Oxford!
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