Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Preston... and on... and on...

'Why? Because Krakatoa's
not erupting?!?'
Have you seen that scene in Fawlty Towers where the deaf woman complains about the view from her hotel room? (Just in case you don't, here it is - a classic!) She'd have had a birthday if she'd stayed in the room that I shared with Seamus on Saturday night. Mind you it's a bit unfair putting this photo here - if I'd have turned around I could have taken a picture of the ornamental water feature that sat slightly awkwardly between our two beds...

So far, so sarcastic - but how had I got there?

I met the van at 9am on Friday at Driving Me Crazy in Brentford. As I got there my new friend Dawn was just reversing the vehicle into place - when I commented on her New Model Army shirt she revealed that she works for them and then offered to put me on the guest list for their show at The Forum in November. Result!
If I now tell you that we arrived at 53 Degrees in Preston just before 6.30pm after a journey that should have taken around 4 hours you will have some idea of how our day went. Why does this country completely fall apart when it rains? That said although the journey was long it wasn't by any means totally unenjoyable, as Seamus told some hilarious stories about his time playing with Paul Weller (it's best that they're not repeated here, believe me!) matched by Dave coming out with a seemingly endless succession of bad jokes among the many amusing diversions. It was all more fun than it looks written down here, honest!
Backstage passes for the gigs,
and the 'short but sweet'
Newcastle setlist.
When we finally arrived at the venue we were met by the very helpful stage crew who helped us carry our equipment in. Bass and guitar amplifiers were provided by first-on-the-bill band Bug who feature Louder Than War scribe Phil Thompson on guitar and vocals; The Notsensibles are also on the bill and given that we were due to arrive at 3 o'clock there is shall we say a certain amount of urgency to get us soundchecked, but as always Nick our soundman pulled things together in no time. There's just time to get our merchandise table set up and to say hello to Richie from Biteback before Bug take to the stage at 8 o'clock - the room is filling up and they go down well with all concerned. I thought that they sounded great but Phil's a mate so perhaps I shouldn't say that?!? The Notsensibles single 'I Am the Bishop' was produced by Paul Fox (yes, I do have a copy!) and both Segs and Dave are big fans of the song - the band sounded more-or-less how I remember them from back in the day i.e. not too serious and therefore good fun. We all felt that our show took a while to get going, probably due to the journey taking more of a toll on us that we perhaps realised at the time - that said we may have just been a bit overcritical, as everybody I spoke to afterwards seemed to love it. The customer is always right...
With everything packed away it was back to The Holiday Inn where thankfully the bar was still open. Phil from Bug joined us with his wife, brother and mum (they'd all been at the gig, I don't think that he has them with him all the time!) and drinks were drunk, stories were told and the day ended on a much more optimistic note than I for one felt as though it might when we were on the endless M6. Good! 

Saturday started in a leisurely manner, with breakfast finishing at 11am and the band leaving for Newcastle at midday. Our journey goes well and we're checking in at The Ramada Encore in no time where the food is good and the mood is relaxed. We're playing at the North West Calling festival at The O2 Academy where we're sharing a dressing room with The U.K. Subs who are on after us with Sham 69 topping the bill. I meet Subs guitar man Jet in the afore-mentioned room, and since we've both got our instruments handy a spot of guitar nerdery takes place, much to the horror of other band members and onlookers. Great stuff!
The doorway that
leads to adventure -
 or in this case,
an in depth discussion of
electric guitar intonation
and fret wire gauge.
I went for a walk out into the venue to catch a song or two from Steve Ignorant and Paranoid Visions and to meet up with my mate Ross who lives locally, he used to roadie for Jimi Hendrix tribute band Little Wing back in the '90s when I saw them a few times, not least because they had Upper Cut bassman Terry Peaker in their ranks. He always said that he was a big Ruts fan so it was great to be able to invite him along as I hadn't seen him since Terry's 60th birthday bash back in December 2011. No time for a chat now though as we're on in 15 minutes, and even though amplifiers are provided (that's why we didn't take ours along the night before) there's a mad rush to get everything set up in time - we just about manage it and play a blazing 40 minute set to the increasing approval of the increasingly animated audience. We start our last song 'Babylon's Burning' and the place goes wild - but the song goes wrong and Segs stops us during the first verse, confusion reigns but the crowd carries on singing, we restart it and finish to tumultuous applause. A great gig - I wish we could have played for longer but sometimes 'short and sweet' is the way to go, and this was perhaps one of those times. 
With our gear all packed away it's off out front to watch a couple of songs from The U.K. Subs (who sounded great - apparently their soundman just left our settings up on the mixing desk!) before joining our driver Mark behind the merch desk which slightly oddly is up on the second floor. You can't see the stage from there but business is brisk,with plenty of positive comments from many-a punter. Tony who saw us in Stockton back in March shows us his new Ruts D.C. tattoo and local record dealer Pod presents Segs and myself with compilation DVDs of old Ruts footage as Sham 69 blast though their set in the background - it's been a great evening. The rest of the band take the van back to the hotel while Segs and myself pack the merchandise away then take a taxi through the Newcastle streets which are full of people - as we stop to let an endless stream of them cross the road the driver asks us if there's anything we need. The evening then takes a slightly surreal turn when offers us some Viagra - which we decline in case you were wondering - then when we get to the hotel there's a St. Pauli-themed hen party at the bar. I'll leave you to do your own punchline...

The next day's journey back to London goes well if somewhat blearily - I get home and fall asleep for a couple of hours before getting on Skype and participating in episode 128 of the Music Scene Investigation podcast. Watching it now I'm not entirely sure that I was awake during the broadcast either - have a look here and see what you think. And I should perhaps have had an early night on Monday after a day in the shop but instead journeyed up to London where despite guitar amplifier problems during their first couple of songs The Duel were in fine form at their Madame Jojo's Monday night residency. 

And there's more on the horizon from Ruts D.C. this weekend as we're playing at Sub89 in Reading this Friday 13th September. Unlucky for some? Hopefully not for us...

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