Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Acoustic alchemy

So how did last week's tube strike effect you? Speaking personally it made me feel quite nauseous - well that's not strictly true, as what actually made me feel nauseous was the amount of television time devoted to the ever-odious Boris Johnson as he attempted to get his photo taken with anybody unfortunate enough to be next to him in a train carriage, all the while banging on about how naughty and horrid those nasty unions are. What a twerp. And then there was all that stuff about Bob Crow being on holiday the week before the strike. The Royal Family are permanently on holiday aren't they - at least they are when they're not out huntin' shootin' and fishin'. Why was nobody having a go at them? Oooo don't get me started...

The downside of the tube strike from my point of view is that I didn't get to a Ruts D.C. rehearsal in Deptford on Thursday, a shame not least because we were due to look at material for both the German gigs at the weekend and the acoustic show on Monday. I also was obliged to leave early from Jamm in Brixton on Tuesday evening where work was continuing on various Ruts and Ruts D.C. recordings, although at least Segs, Dave and myself did get chance to have a short acoustic rehearsal while we were there, which was just as well as this turned out to be our last chance before the shows. I therefore spent much of Thursday running through the songs at home - as I sat playing along with 'The Crack' it struck me that I had learned to play by doing just that (and indeed by playing along with many other records) all those years ago. A very strange thought, although not as strange as some of the thoughts running through my head at 4.30am the next day as I struggled to get myself up in time to catch my cab to Heathrow Airport...
After checking in at Terminal 1 Dave (drums) Segs (bass) Molara (vocals) Nick (sound man) and myself adjourned to The Giraffe Cafe (with Dave triumphantly announcing 'I'll stick my neck out' as we decided to eat there. Ouch!) for breakfast before we headed to Gate 5 for our flight to Dusseldorf, which was reasonably uneventful (good!) until the rather bumpy landing (bad!) We then met up with tour manager Mutti and Freider our driver (that's how I'm going to spell his name - that's certainly how it's pronounced and I can't find anything on the Internet to help me. I knew I should have asked him!) to make our way to The Getaway Club in Solingen where we're headlining The OxFest celebrating 25 years of Ox fanzine. However first we have a planned detour to see Die Toten Hosen drummer Vom at his house where we've been invited for 'tea and biscuits'. Rock 'n' Roll eh? Vom features heavily on many T.V. Smith recordings and I saw him playing many years ago in Doctor And The Medics; he turned out to be a very nice chap who in addition to providing the afore-mentioned refreshments also showed us around his house including the very impressive downstairs bar which we were told was the scene of many misadventures. Somehow we managed to leave before anything too untoward happened.
We arrived at The Getaway mid-afternoon (where there was probably the biggest dog that I have ever seen. Molara's comment that she could 'ride it onto the stage' tells you all that you need to know!) to find everything set up and ready for soundchecking, which was straightforward enough although somewhat enlivened by the presence of a local television crew and a presenter decked out in what I was told (by him) was a traditional hunting outfit. Strange but true. He attempted to interview Dave while he was soundchecking the drums, although Dave was more interested in trying the interviewer's hat on... from there it was off to check in at the nearby Kempe Hotel where I'm sharing room 216 with Nick - we turn the television on to find the footage from the venue already being aired! 

(And here is that footage - that's Nick behind the sound desk, and you can hear Dave and myself soundchecking in the background. Sadly they didn't use the interview with Dave!) 

We returned to the venue around 6.30 for some food (all vegetarian and / or vegan, all excellent) and to check stage times - we're due on at 11.20 so with plenty of time to spare we return to the hotel before Dave, Segs, Nick and myself find ourselves in The Agora Lounge a few doors down form the hotel. After a couple of drinks it's back to the venue where there's a good-sized crowd in attendance and The Generators about to take to the stage. They're all big Ruts fans (good boys!) and have their pictures taken with Dave and Segs before going on to play an excellently energetic show. Our show is a rowdy affair, there are people calling out for songs from the word go (most if not all of which we play) and by the end of our set the place is going crazy. We encore with 'Society' and 'In A Rut' - Segs invites The Generators to join us on stage and Manny the bass player takes up the challenge and indeed Segs's' bass guitar, riffing with relish during my solo. After the show we find ourselves in the upstairs bar where we see Frank and co. who we first met at our Berlin show back in September and who were also at the Bremen show that's currently being prepared for live album release; I also see Faf from The Tips who supported us on last year's German shows and who gave me a (very good) promotional CD of three tracks from their latest album 'Trippin''. Drinks are drunk, stories are told and we make it back to our hotel for around 3am. A splendid evening.

The next morning I make it down for breakfast by 10am, although I'm not sure how. By midday we've left for the evening's show in Stuttgart (pausing only to say goodbye to The Generators who were also staying at our hotel) and I'm asleep again within 15 minutes of us setting off. No surprise there then... we wind our way to Stuttgart (pausing only for an impressive amount of food at a motorway service station) eventually arriving there just as it's getting dark. We check in at The Astoria Hotel (there are some very mixed reviews on the lik - see what you think!) before going to Goldmark's to set up and soundcheck. The club was named after Peter Carl Goldmark, who among his many achievements invented the long-playing record. Top man! Also on the bill are Sumpfpaepste (don't ask me how to say it!) who are soundchecking as we leave to go back to our hotel to pick up some bits and pieces - as we walk towards the van a rat runs out across our path. Oo-er!
When we arrive back at Goldmark's Sumpfpaepste are on stage and the place is packed with people still arriving. The scene is set for a great gig and I'm pleased to say that is exactly what transpires, although speaking personally I wasn't happy with my performance. You get nights where everything goes right and you get nights where everything goes wrong, and for me this was definitely one of the latter. I just couldn't for want of a better term 'get hold' of the gig. Still no one told me that I played badly so I'm going to do my best not to dwell on it... actually thinking about it, I probably shouldn't have mentioned it here! Afterwards there's time for a few drinks (well, quite a few drinks actually) before we return to our hotel for some well-earned sleep.

Sunday starts just a bit too early for some (well, it certainly does for me!) as we've got to be at Stuttgart Airport before 10 o'clock to check in for our flight home. Once again our flight was reasonably uneventful (good!) until the rather bumpy landing (bad!) and after collecting my guitar from outsize baggage I got on the phone to Big Al Reed - he and The Blistering Buicks were playing at Colnbrook at Ye Olde George Inn at 5pm, and before I left for Germany I'd arranged with him that provided my flight wasn't delayed (it wasn't!) I'd meet him at the airport and join the band for the gig. I met him outside Terminal 5 and we made our way to the venue - we were a bit early so decided to have something to eat, but sadly they'd run out of food (!) so we spent the next hour or so attempting to find somewhere locally that wasn't either packed out or not serving meals. By now it was all catching up with me a bit, to the extent that it all felt a bit surreal - by the time the show came around I was feeling rather disorientated (and not from alcohol, I hadn't had any, honest!) although the show went well with everybody on good form throughout. 

I got home around 9 o'clock, and felt grateful for it being an early show as it gave me a chance to catch up on some sleep before spending Monday in Balcony Shirts. At closing time it was straight onto The Metropolitan Line into London (meeting Pete 'Manic Esso' Haynes on the way) for Ruts D.C.'s first ever acoustic show, at The 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street. It's the first of 13 Reggae Punk Monday nights, all of which will feature The Duel (their singer Tara organises the shows) along with different guest bands and artists each week. Segs is resident DJ, and when we arrived he was setting up his gear in anticipation of a busy night. Having had minimal rehearsal time our soundcheck was more along the lines of a 'what songs do you think we need to try?' session than perhaps it should have been, but as always Nick got everything sounding excellent. With Segs staying behind to start the evening's music (and Esso staying behind in the bar!) Dave and myself went off in search of some food, finding the Aziz Mangal Turkish restaurant on Shaftesbury Avenue where we order too much food (well, too much for me anyway - it was really nice though!) and discuss tactics for the months ahead. When we returned to The 12 Bar Club The Duel were playing to a packed room and people were still arriving - we though it would be a busy night but nothing had prepared us for the amount of people that were in attendance. After setting Segs and my guitars up I go to the bar to get myself and Dave a drink - by the time I'm served I can see Dave and Segs ready to play with Dave saying 'LEIGH HEGGARTY TO THE STAGE PLEASE!' in a somewhat exasperated manner down his microphone but the place is so crowded that I physically can't get near to the stage. I eventually manage to fight my way through - I hand Dave his drink and he smiles a big smile. That's a relief, I thought that I'd annoyed him. We start the show with 'Something That I Said' and it feels great - our set goes by in no time and the audience love it. Larry Love from The Alabama 3 and Aynzli Jones join us for 'Smiling Culture' (no rehearsal at all for that one! You can see it here if you like...) and a couple of songs from the end Segs announces that there's no point in us finishing and then doing an encore as we can't get off the stage, so we play 'Society' and 'In A Rut' to finish a terrific gig. Afterwards there are comments a-plenty from audience members, all of whom hope that it's not the only acoustic show that we play. I agree with them - it really was a great thing to be part of, and hopefully we'll be doing more shows like it in the future.

And here is footage of the first few minutes of the show - I told you that I couldn't get to the stage! There are also two reviews of the gig courtesy of the excellent Elvis In the Clouds and Stupefaction blogs -that's my handwriting on the setlist in the second review...

Well what a few days that was - in contrast there is just one gig for your humble narrator this weekend, with Back To Zero at The Gardeners Retreat in Stoke-on-Trent. It should be a relatively quiet weekend compared to the last one - although having just read back through what I've written here this may not be a bad thing...

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