Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No time to kill

It's my 51st birthday today. Leaving aside the fact that it only seems like this time last week rather than this time last year that I had my 50th birthday this means that I'm now officially in my early fifties as opposed to, well, being 50. Again it doesn't seem that long ago that I would have considered that to be an impossible distance in the future; time flies as I said in the last posting, whether you're having fun or not.
I started my 51st year with an Upper Cut gig, and I'm pleased to say that I'm starting my 52nd year in the same way - we're at The Dolphin in Uxbridge this Friday, the same night as the opening ceremony of The London Olympics. I guess this means that everybody will be at home watching it on television (well, let's face it, no ordinary person can afford a ticket to be there in person can they?) and so there'll be no one at the gig. Bah! Oh well - we'll have a good time anyway!

The festival poster.
In the meantime the last gig of my 51st year (keep up at the back there!) was the first Ruts D.C. show of 2012, headlining the Thursday night of The Seasplash Festival at Fort Punta Christo in Pula, Croatia.
Sometime around 7.25 a.m. my Metropolitan Line train sat for just that little bit too long at Harrow On The Hill station. I exchanged a few nervous looks and bleary smiles with my fellow passengers until the tension was broken by a disembodied voice over the speakers telling us that the destination of the train had changed, and that it was now terminating at Harrow On The Hill. Relative disinterest immediately turned into panic followed by a near-stampede to get on to the train waiting on the adjacent platform - I soon realised that as I was carrying a bag, guitar and (for the first time on an excursion such as this) a pedalboard there was no way that I was going to get on board the already-congested train. Curses! Resigning myself to waiting for the next arrival I stumbled somewhat dejectedly back towards my original train, whereby I heard the driver saying something along the lines of 'well I don't know what that was all about but we're definitely going to Aldgate' and instigating another stampede in the process. I nearly got stuck in the doors, but even got my old seat back. An annoying little incident, which pales into insignificance compared to what happened next... 
The Adriatic Sea as seen
from Fort Punta Christo.
After getting a grown-up to help me to get my ticket for The Stansted Express (a rather optimistic name under the circumstances as we shall see...) I was directed to platform 2 at Liverpool Street station where said train was ready to leave. I always think it's good to be early getting to airports, and the 8.25 train should get me there with plenty of time to spare. Within a minute or so I was on my way - or was I? Looking around the carriage it was very quiet - where were all the people carrying baggage for their flights? And shouldn't this be a newer, more luxurious train? Hmm... after a couple of stops a chap got on and sat opposite me; I swallowed hard and asked the question - his reply of 'Enfield' was definitely not one that I wanted to hear... 
To cut a long story short (for once!) I eventually made it to Stansted Airport at 10.40 - the gate for our flight was closing at 11.05. Tour manager Pablo had left my tickets with in his words 'a very helpful lady' at the information desk in Area A, the Ryanair last minute check desk was suitably (and surprisingly) swift, the lady at the outsize baggage section took her time a bit under the circumstances and the £5 that I paid for priority security clearance proved to be well worth the money. When I got the gate 41 (they're always a long way off when you're late aren't they? Still at least I now hold the World land speed record...) I found everyone waiting to get on board, and then waited for 15 minutes before the queue started moving. What was all the fuss about eh?  
The view from the stage
during our soundcheck
After a thankfully uneventful flight we arrived at Trieste Airport (yes, I know that's in Italy, but this is Ryanair remember) where we met our driver Al and made the 2-and-a-bit hour journey from Italy to Croatia, passing through Slovenia on the way. I'd never been to any of the countries before, and so would have liked to have seen a bit more of them but found myself drifting in and out of consciousness as we travelled. Well, it had been an early start and a somewhat stressful morning so I guess that was to be expected, but what I did see was often spectacular, and the weather was absolutely splendid.
Seamus and the ill-fated
Hammond Organ
When we arrived at Fort Punta Christo another band was soundchecking so food and beer were both located (and were both excellent) before we set up our gear - I had a Fender Super Reverb combo which I'd not played through before, and I hope I get to play through one again as it sounded terrific. I was also rather relieved that my effect pedals all worked on 110 volts - I'd chosen the power adaptor as it specifically said that it worked on any voltage, but you never know do you? Seamus was well pleased (initially at least) with having a real Hammond Organ and Leslie speaker to use and Segs got a bass sound pretty much straight away; Dave had a bit of work to do before the drums were to his liking but everything looking good it was time for us to try a song... everything went horribly wrong immediately - the organ was flat by nearly a semitone. Attempts to rectify the situation (turning it off and on again - apparently there's not much else that you can do!) proved fruitless, the most likely cause seeming to be that we were running off a generator rather than mains electricity. Fortunately one of the other bands lent Seamus a keyboard and everything sounded good at last.
Here's where we stayed.
Nice isn't it?
There was just time to go to our (excellent) apartments to change and sample some locally distilled beverage courtesy of our very friendly hosts before getting back to the venue around half an hour before showtime. This was to be our first 'full' show following our 35 minute sets supporting The Alabama 3 last year - we played an hour-and-a-bit long set to an audience that increased in both size and appreciation as our show progressed. On the downside my guitar went off momentarily a few times before eventually going off completely - the pedalboard seemed to be the problem, which was cured by, you've guessed it, unplugging it and plugging it back in again. Then the vocal monitors stopped working. Bah! Despite the technical problems it was a great gig, and afterwards Pablo seemed particularly overwhelmed by our performance. Or maybe it was the free beer? 
With the next band starting their set in the background Segs, Dave and Molara gave a television interview; there's more alcohol and the promise of some Mexican food but Seamus and myself decide that it's been a long enough day and ask Al to drive us back to where we're staying. As we're getting into the van an enthusiastic young man stops us and says that we were amazing. It's good when that happens!

And we made the newspapers too -

I wonder what the headline says - any ideas?

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