Monday, September 21, 2015

'Hold your group together, with Rotosound Strings!'

When you're a kid trying to learn to play you never think that one day a World-renowned guitar string company would not only like you to use their products but would also want you to tell people that you use them - as if my name next to theirs might somehow enhance their reputation as much as their name might enhance mine. Well, I certainly didn't think something like that would happen. Well, incredibly it has! Ruts D.C. use Rotosound Strings!

(Incidentally I've got no illusions here - they have offered me an endorsement deal because of the band's reputation rather than mine... still, it doesn't half make me smile!)

Talking of Ruts D.C. it's nearly time for our European tour, full details of which can be found on the Muttis Booking Agency website. It's going to be be a busy week-and-a-half, with some big distances between shows and some long days in prospect, but I for one can't wait to get out there and play. I'm intending to update my Facebook page as we wend our way across the continent before we return on October 3rd to play a show with Hawkwind in Manchester - now there's something that I never thought I'd type! In the meantime I went to see Walter Lure supported by The Bermondsey Joyriders at The Jazz Cafe on Thursday, played with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks at The Dolphin in Uxbridge the next night and then returned to The Salmon And Ball in Bethnal Green with The Upper Cut on Saturday night before making guest appearances with Department S (scheduled, that's the reason I was there) and T.V. Smith (unscheduled, but I wasn't going to say no was I?!?) at The Undercover Festival yesterday - all very enjoyable events, but now there's work of a different kind to do... 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ruts D.C. European Tour, September 2014

As we prepare to return to Europe next week I've finally got round to typing up the at-times-very-difficult-to-read notes that I made during last September's Ruts D.C. European tour - come with me now to Germany, Poland, Austria, Norway and Hell, the last of which is of course a lift somewhere in a well-known airport the South of England...  

Friday 19th, 12.25pm in the bus somewhere between Hamburg and Dusseldorf.

Ooh my head hurts. I thought it might have stopped hurting by now but it hasn't. Oh well.
Your humble narrator
in Hamburg on
the first day of the tour.

It was a long day yesterday. My alarm went off at 5.15am - I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't been aware of the 'Quadrophenia' connection! - and an hour later I was outside of the house waiting for a taxi. With me was my Les Paul and two bags, one of which was significantly bigger than the other as in addition to 10 days worth of clothes it also contained my guitar effects pedalboard. I'd booked said taxi for quarter past six - a text message had arrived informing me that it was outside but it was sadly nowhere to be seen. Oh dear... after a few minutes it arrived - it had gone to the wrong end of the road.
I met Segs and Dave at Heathrow Airport Terminal 1 (zone G in case you were wondering) where check-in went well and we were through security and sitting down to breakfast in no time. With Molara away elsewhere a three-piece Ruts D.C. are playing 10 shows in 10 days across Europe - the first 9 gigs have been organised by The Muttis Booking Agency and take in Germany, Poland And Austria; we then fly to Norway where we finish at a festival. The mood was good if a little bleary (well it was certainly bleary from my point of view!) and after a pleasingly uneventful flight we were met at Hamburg Airport by Mutti and Katya who took us to the hotel to check-in. We then went to The Fish Market for some food (where we bumped into Mattais who I met at The Rebellion Festival in August and who was wearing the first Ruts t-shirt of the tour!) before we returned to the hotel for a planning session. We played at The Hafenklang when we first came to Germany last September - it's a great venue that provided a splendid vegetarian meal for the bands and crew (we were supported by local lads Goodbye Jersey) which was gratefully received by all concerned. We then walked along to The Haifisch Bar where we met up with Nikolai from Echo Beach Records (who put out 'Rhythm Collision Volume 2' last year) among other luminaries. When I got back to the venue there were plenty of people in and the scene was set - I remember it being a good show last year, and this one was if anything even better and an excellent start to the tour. Afterwards there were drinks to drink and talk to talk - that'll be the cause of my headache then...

Saturday 20th, time unknown (because I didn't write it down) 143 Km from Berlin.

We've just passed a sign for Magdeburg - The Price played a show there during our tour of East Germany back in 1990 which was memorable for it being attacked by black-clad right wing skinheads. I recall that we gave an extraordinary performance, the sort of thing that you do when you think that you're going to get flattened by a load of scary blokes. Strange but true.
Ruts D.C. played well in Dusseldorf last night without being under threat, although the show was not without incident. We generally have the services of soundman extraordinaire Nick Diesel but he was unavailable for the tour so we're trusting to local sound crews; he usually brings along a Roland Space Echo to use for dub echo effects but again we're without that. These two factors combined during last night's soundcheck to cause us to (a) contemplate flying Nick over for the remaining shows (we called him, he's still unavailable) and (b) attempt to buy a Space Echo (we've got one reserved in a shop in Berlin). But that was the least of our worries, as partway through our second song 'Mighty Soldier' Segs's bass started to cut in and out before going off completely during 'Back Biter'. The problem turned out to be the D.I. box and the lead connecting to it - once it was all sorted the show went on to be if anything a touch better than the previous night, with 'Something That I Said' being saved for an encore rather than appearing mid-set and a raucous 'Society' finishing things off in no uncertain terms. Earlier support had come from Alaska, The Myers and The Tips - I'd not seen the latter band since they supported us last year and the evidence of this show things are going very well for them as they sounded excellent. And I'm not just saying that because they gave me their new album 'Trippin' ' and a t-shirt, honest!
Die Toten Hosen drummer Vom is a very nice chap who among his other attributes has a bar in the basement of his house. How do I know this? Simple - we went there after the show and had more than a few drinks. Hmm... all things considered I don't feel too band but I think that the term 'pace yourself Leigh' might come in handy over the next week or so. 

To Berlin! 

Sunday 21st, 9.45 am just leaving Berlin.

It's a long way to Tipperary, as well we all know. But it's also a long way to Poland (or to be precise, the town of Gydina where we're playing tonight) which is why we're on the road at such a worryingly early time. And if ever there's a place to spend more time in then it's got to Berlin hasn't it? Ah well - maybe / hopefully next time. But last night's show at SO36 really was something special; after a fine support set from Plan B (not that Plan B!) during one number of which all the band members took it in turns to crowd surf (I think that's what it's called, you know that thing where the audience members carry them above their heads - not much chance of any of us trying that I can tell you!) the scene was set for a classic show and I'm pleased to say that it turned out that way. As we walked up the steps to the stage Segs said that he was going to start with 'a bit of chat - just follow me'; as he spoke Dave and myself drifted into the chords of 'Whatever We Do' before the song began. The sold out crowd was with us from the word go and the show took off from there - it felt great and without wishing to sound too big-headed it was great. We all fancied going for a drink afterwards, but with the afore-mentioned early start already looming discretion was the better part of valour (for once!) and we headed back to the hotel. As I say, maybe next time. Now we're travelling through what was The GDR which couldn't be more different than the city that we've just left behind. It's flat, misty, a few degrees cooler than yesterday and the road looks as though it could go on forever. Maybe it does?


We've just entered Poland - KFC, BP, Wild Bean Cafe and a sign for Gdansk. I've not been here before, and it's good to be here now. Mind you as Keith Richards often says, it's good to be anywhere...

Monday 22nd, 11.23am in Gdynia.

Hello from Room 211 of The Hotel Hotton; I've had a shower, eaten breakfast, changed my strings and I still have time to sit down and write this - the first leisurely morning of the tour is happening right here, right now. We're leaving at midday to collect our equipment from The Ucho Club which is (literally) just around the corner, then as it's 'only' a two hour drive to Torun for tonight's show we're going to do a bit of sightseeing along the way. I'm told that there's plenty to see so hopefully we'll see it!
'Twas a good show last night, although audience numbers were lower than expected due to The Volleyball World Cup Final being on television. Yes that does sound a bit mad doesn't it? Poland were in the final, and judging by the number of people gathering to watch it in the hotel bar expectations were high. I wonder who won? Anyway we played well, and afterwards met what felt like the entire audience. Many were old fans who clearly could not quite believe that Dave and Segs were actually among them; it's great to see this as it's a reminder (should one ever be needed) of just how much Ruts and Ruts D.C. music means to people. And from what they were saying many will be at tonight's show too.
Right - time to finish what's left of last night's pizza (rock 'n' roll eh?!?) and to gather my things and go, as T.V. Smith once (almost) sang. Forward!

It does what it says on the tin...

We're just leaving Gdansk having paid a visit to the new (around two weeks old) Solidarity Museum. What an extraordinary building - it's made from rusty steel (actually thinking about it I suppose that it's clad in rusty steel rather than being built from it, but you know what I mean I think) and is next to the shipyard entrance. Sadly we didn't have time to go around the exhibition as we have to be in Torun by 6 o'clock, but hopefully we'll be here again. Earlier we stopped off at the seaside resort of Sopot on The Baltic Sea, and before that had chance to see the ships at Gydnia Harbour. It's been good to see a bit of the country (not least as I've not been here before) as for the first few days there wasn't time to do anything much apart from play the gig and travel to the next one. Mind you, this isn't a holiday is it?

Tuesday 23rd, 10.25am leaving Torun.

The Astronomer Copernicus came from Torun, and judging by the number of references to him the town seems to be very proud of this. Mind you we've just spotted the Till Death Tattooist in the town square...
Judging by the posters adorning the walls Pub Pamela is more of a blues venue than anything else; that didn't seem to worry the audience, many of whom were young punky types who all seemed to be more than aware of Ruts and Ruts D.C. material. A great number of people were taking photos or filming our efforts, so it's probably all over the Internet by now... our show began with an acapella chorus of 'Whatever We Do' and was perhaps not quite up to the heights of the Berlin bash but was pretty good all the same. Earlier in the evening Dave and Segs were interviewed by a local TV station, and a lot of audience members asked for photos with them which again are probably all over the Internet by now. The only downside to an otherwise enjoyable evening were a couple of people wearing Rock Against Communism t-shirts - Mutti was of the opinion that this is a right wing organisation whereas promoter Kris thought that he and indeed we were wrong to be concerned. Hmmm...
Now we have a 5+ hour drive to Katowice where we're playing a short notice gig at The Megaclub. The name of the club has somewhat inevitably bought to my mind The Mega City Four, who The Price played several shows with and who I'm a big fan of. I remember them telling me stories of their exploits touring Eastern Europe, much of which involved trying to get to sleep in the group bus whilst travelling near-astronomical distances between shows. I'm beginning to get the picture - no doubt Copernicus would approve.

Wednesday 24th, 11.25am on a motorway travelling through The Czech Republic.

Another sunny morning, another Sat. Nav. setting, another breakfast eaten just that little bit too quickly - I can really do this touring lark you know. No really, I can. It's easier than it sounds, and I personally don't think that it sounds too difficult...
Rather against the odds last night's show went very well indeed. It was a last minute booking (we were to have a day off, but it's better to play than not play if you know what I mean) at The Megaclub, which is a very impressive (and it must be said, large) venue in Katowice - we reckoned that there were about 40 people in a room that could probably have held over 10 times that number. Still we played well, and the people who were there seemed to love it which is the main thing. The P.A. system was excellent, and despite something of a language barrier the crew were extremely helpful and very good at their jobs. The amount of dancing and general audience merriment belied the relatively small number of people present, with one young chap in a Jam t-shirt scaling the barricades and getting on stage several times. (Mutti very effectively helped him back into the audience every time.) Ruts biographer Roland Link turned up sharp-suited and with his wife Ana - he's always taller than I remember him being, which is a bit odd if you think about it. After meeting and mingling with most of the audience we retired to the bar of The Best Western Hotel where the Talisker flowed and old Cure promo videos played on the Polish equivalent of MTV - a good end to a good day.
Now we're heading to Vienna - I've not been to Austria before so this should be interesting. Dave knows a hat shop there that he'd like to visit (always a good plan!) and Mutti and Katya are both of the opinion the The Chelsea Club is a good venue so there's lots to look forward to. And I've just realised that we're past the halfway point of the tour - I'm tired, but you get tired doing any job don't you?


We've just stopped at a motorway service station - don't ask me where! - and there's a coachload of people waltzing around the car park to accordion music. And that's live accordion music played by a live accordion player. What can this mean? Answers on a postcard please, usual address...


Drasenhofen. That's in Austria. Excellent.

Thursday 25th, 1.10am back at our hotel.

'God damn God damn God damn, the pusherman...'

Well Vienna. You rocked in the end. Good.

This has been a strange day.  But these are strange days indeed - and there's a John Lennon reference. He's been on my mind a bit lately as Dave was today offered a show with Walter Lure next month at an exhibition of of Bob Gruen photographs - he took the iconic shots of Lennon wearing the New York City t-shirt among so many other classic images.

But back to the plot, such that it is - this was a very odd show.
The Vienna setlist,
in my own not-so-fair hand.

Do you believe in ghosts? I asked Segs the same question earlier and his reply of 'ghosts live in your heart' is at least one good reason why I can't sleep at the moment. Anyway whether you do or whether you don't I for one think that there are things that it's very hard to explain purely scientifically, and what happened to me on stage tonight definitely counts as one of them. Well, it does to me at the moment...
I've had Paul Fox in my head all day today. And why not? I play his riffs every night with the band, I talk to people about him on a regular basis, sometimes people even think that I am him (!) from time to time... anyway 'In A Rut' was the first encore tonight. Sometime during the guitar solo I suddenly found myself standing in the audience at The Fulham Greyhound watching Foxes And Rats, the band Paul formed with Rat Scabies to play material by Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Steppenwolf etc. Oddly enough we played a bit of 'The Pusher' during our soundcheck in Turon the other night, the first time that I heard that song was when Foxes And Rats played it. Weird. Well that might not seem weird to you but it feels weird to me at the moment. But I saw Paul as clearly as I can see the room that I'm sitting in now, looking how he did in the early '80s, on the stage between Segs and me. And I found myself playing a bit of 'Third Stone From The Sun', another song from the F 'n' R repertoire. Segs laughed, and I think I did too.
I spoke to Segs after the show. It had felt like hard work with the on stage sound being less than perfect, although the audience had loved it. I wasn't sure if I should say anything about the things that I'd seen but in the end I said them anyway - he said that Paul had 'been with him all day'. Sitting here now, scribbling half-readable notes that may never be read by anyone, I can say without pretension that I know what he means.

Thursday 25th, 10.55am, leaving Vienna.

Have you ever been to Vienna? The are a lot of, er, 'adult' shops around aren't there? The one opposite last night's venue has a 'cruising area' (it's advertised in the window, I didn't go in and see it, honest!) which I think you'll agree is an evocative thought.
Anyway we're stuck in traffic attempting to find the road that will lead us to the road that leads to Munich. We've just passes The Chelsea Club - on reflection it was a good show, although Tomas the soundman may have overdone the dub echo a bit on a couple of songs making us go out of time here and there. Well, that's my excuse anyway. And the crowd loved it which is always the main consideration - as I say, a good show.
Earlier in the evening we had dinner in The Golden Pelican, a 100 year old strudel restaurant - remind me to tell you just how funny the word 'strudel' can be when I next see you. The food was fantastic but with virtually everybody else in the place smoking you really notice how much nicer it is in Britain with the smoking ban in place. Well I certainly do. Anyway from there we took a cab back to our hotel to get changed - our return cab was moving before we'd closed the doors. Maybe they do that sort of thing in these here parts? When we got back to the venue the mood around it seemed darker - maybe this is a rougher part of town, or maybe our hotel is in one of the better areas?
In the meantime Mutti has just given Dave some new socks (he'd asked him to get them for him, it wasn't a spontaneous act!) and I've got guitar strings to change. So it goes.


We've just stopped at a large service station, where I've taken the opportunity to buy my Dad a fridge magnet. This somewhat bizarre tradition started ages ago, it's something my brother Terry and myself do whenever we're away - he's got so many now he's had to buy another fridge...
The scenery here is very reminiscent of 'The Sound Of Music', which of course is exactly what it is if you think about it. To this end the rhyming slang potential of 'Von Trapp' is causing much merriment. It doesn't take much sometimes.


Ah - the German border. Bavaria! To celebrate Dave and Segs are yodelling whilst attempting to sing 'The Lonely Goatherd' and 'She Taught Me To Yodel'. I'd join in but I'm laughing too much. There are tears streaming down all of our faces. Like I say, it doesn't take much sometimes.

3.50pm arriving in Munich.

One of my favourite guitar solos of all time can be found on a live version (recorded in 1977 at The Hope And Anchor since you've asked) of 'Don't Mention It' (aka 'Don't Munchen It') by The Pirates. It features the mighty Mick Green - for me Britain's best rock 'n' roll guitarist - firing on all cylinders and sounding like at least 2 guitarists in the process. I'll no doubt have a listen to it thanks to the magic of the iPod in a minute. Fairly obviously it's come to mind as we're in Munich but it's not a bad thing to have in mind at the best of times.
We were here around this time last year, it's the start of The Oktoberfest and this year there are so many people here that we're staying in Nuremburg. We're travelling there after the gig - all in a day's work. Don't mention it...

11.50pm on the road to Nurenburg.

Well that was an interesting show. While I was in a world of my own (as usual!) remembering Mick Green the mighty Mutti was plotting a course through the outskirts of town to avoid the Oktoberfest gridlock - as always he did a great job, and we were met at The Feierwerk by a gang of strapping young lads eager to help us carry our equipment into the venue. It's good when that happens! The backstage area had a shower and bunk beds - I took advantage of the latter to catch up on a bit of sleep - this touring lark can sometimes be as tiring as you think it might be.
We took to the stage at 9.15 - 'Whatever We Do' moved into 'Mighty Soldier' and the sound was excellent. We were in a slightly smaller room that last year although there seemed to be more people at the show - but they were quiet, listening as opposed to dancing. Segs's comment that you could hear a pin drop made me wish that I had one with me to try it... there was a bit more jamming than usual, with the 'In A Rut' guitar solo maybe going on a bit longer than it should? Oh well - I enjoyed it! 'Dope For Guns' and 'Something That I Said' made their first appearances for a while, and after the last encore of 'Society' we went to the bar next door for a drink and to meet some of the audience. Dave from Cardiff tells me that 'it's been a long time since I cried at a gig' - I rather weakly joke that I didn't think that we'd been that bad and he grabs my hand with the words 'tears of joy, tears of joy' while looking as though he might start again. He's a guitarist so I ask him if he'd like to see my guitar - as I hand him it he looks almost overwhelmed.
Now we're on our way to Nuremburg, it's Frankfurt tomorrow night before we fly to Oslo for a festival. We're playing well, Segs's voice is sounding great (he was worried about it before the tour began) and I really can't think of any job that I'd rather be doing right now. How lucky am I? That lucky. And that's alright.

1.05am 54Km away from Nurenburg.

Yes I listened to 'Don't Munchen It' and yes, it sounded fabulous. I've also been listening to tracks from 'Achtung Baby', 'Heroes' and 'The Idiot' - we're hundreds of miles from Berlin but they all sound amazing. Amazing. Even better than the real thing? Yeah, why not?

Friday 26th 10.50am Room 326 at The Ibis Budget in Nurenburg.

We got to the hotel not long before 2 o'clock - we then had to carry bags and guitars (I generally take mine in with me, if only so that I can take it out of the case to air and for the guitar strap to dry) up several flights of stairs to the 3rd floor. It might as well have been the North face of The Eiger! Over-dramatic? Probably, but you know what I mean... we didn't have door keys, just a 6 digit number that you entered into a keypad on the door handle. What will they think of next eh? Sadly Katya had the wrong number, and with no staff anywhere to be seen she had to call an emergency number to get her entry code. I couldn't resist telling Dave that I was about to write a blog piece about our Nuremburg trials.
I woke up at 10am to a text from Segs saying that we'd all missed breakfast - within minutes the heroic Katya had appeared outside our collective rooms with coffee and rolls from I know not where. 'I want to live in The Ibis Budget in Nuremburg' said a delirious Segs as the food and drink was passed around, adding 'provided Katya is here looking after us'. Good morning all!


And so we approach Frankfurt, the scene of our last show with Mutti and Katya. ('Nine gigs in nine days with nein days off') Having just read back through page upon page of often barely-legible scrawl (some of the roads have been a bit bumpy!) it's interesting for me to see how my moods have changed over the last week-and-a-bit - the piece written directly after the Vienna gig is probably the most obvious example of this (it's nothing if not honest!) but there are other examples scattered throughout proceedings. Some of that is obviously due to lack of sleep or alcohol consumption (or let's face it, both!) but I suppose that it's also a reflection of how your mind works over a period of time. In theory the days have all had a similar structure - get up, travel to the show, play the show, go to the hotel, go to sleep - but that doesn't mean that any of them have been for want of a better word, 'routine'. Then again if I abbreviate the above description to 'get up, go to work, go home, go to sleep' I suppose that would describe many if not most people's working day wouldn't it? 
People often assume that the life of a musician is exciting and glamourous - I'd be lying if I didn't say that it sometimes is (!) but it can also be tiring, disorientating and not something that everyone can cope with, however much they might enjoy playing an instrument. Me? I'm due to be back in Balcony Shirts on Monday morning - strange as it may seem I find this 100% easier to do, although I'm all too aware that many people wouldn't. The road really does go on forever, and to paraphrase Charlie Watts you can't do this at home, you have to go to where the people are. Mind you as my mate Alan from The Good Old Boys often says, you can't do this when you're dead...

It's time for us to go to work again soon. Good. 

Saturday 27th 9.25am leaving The Goethe Hotel.

Way back in the mists of time I saw a band called Ruts D.C. play live several times. They were very good. I suppose that's why I saw them several times rather than just once? Anyway as part of their encore they sometimes played the Johnny Kidd and The Pirates song 'Shakin' All Over' - we were in the dressing room after last night's main set preparing to go back on for an encore when Segs said something like 'I can't get that Johnny Kidd song out of my head'. 'Well let's play it then! said I without thinking. So we did - somewhere during the 'In A Rut' guitar solo the bassline changed, I played the riff and along came the immortal opening line - 'when you move in, right up close to me...'

Ruts D.C. playing 'Shakin' All Over' - now there's something that I never thought I'd hear again!

Midday in seat 9E listening to the safety announcement.

Well that certainly qualifies as a 'nervous moment'.We - Dave, Segs and myself - were on an escalator at Frankfurt Airport heading for the SAS desk to pay for some extra luggage when for whatever reason I suddenly couldn't remember picking my passport up. I put my hand into the pocket that I usually keep it in and lo and behold it wasn't there. Bugger! I told the lads that I was going back to the check-in desk where we'd dropped our bags and guitars off a few minutes earlier to see if it was there. As I was on the down escalator surrounded by other travellers obviously oblivious to the thoughts currently careering around my mind I said 'and this had all been going so well' under my breath. Last night's show at Das Bett had been one of the best of the tour, thanks in no little part to the excellent sound (Lee the soundman was particularly helpful) and the very enthusiastic audience, many of whom we met after the show. And as we were only staying a few minutes walk away Mutti could have a few drinks, a situation that pleased him no end.
So I get to the check-in desk and mumble 'er, I think I've left my passport here' to the really rather good-looking young lady behind the counter. She looks around under the counter then says 'you left the guitar didn't you? I'm 99% certain that I gave it back to you'. Sadly I'm 99% certain that she didn't. Oh dear. I check my pockets, then my bag, then my pockets again, then my bag again, like you do in situations such as this. Nothing. 'Well' she smiles, even more good-looking than a few seconds earlier, 'you don't need it to get on your flight'. 'Ah but I'll need it to get back to London tomorrow' I say as both our faces darken. 'Are you sure that one of your friends didn't pick it up? Maybe Mr. Jennings?' Well I must admit that I didn't ask them - but why would they have it? I check my pockets and bag again, then thank her for helping me. 'I'm sure one of your friends will have it' - she smiles again and she really is beautiful. I really hope she's also correct.
I walked briskly back towards the up escalator. I'm sweating. What will I do if they don't have it?
At the top I walk around to the left and see Dave and Segs waiting for me. Oh well, we'll all know soon enough. I nervously ask Segs if he has my passport. No he says, he's only got his own which he gets out of his coat pocket to show me.

It's mine! Thank Christ for that!

Oh hang on - if that's mine then where's his?

It's in his other pocket. Time for a drink!

3.50pm in apartment 127B at The Kempen Hotel in Oslo.

Yes that's right, I've got an apartment all to myself. Hilarious!

Our flight was ok apart from a bizarre moment when Dave and myself simultaneously opened the little pyramid-shaped cartons of milk that we'd just been given by the stewardess to go with our coffees and they both exploded firing milk everywhere. Bugger!
We were met at the airport by Terry who is one of the organisers of the Dogtown Streetpunk Festival; we also met The Cockney Rejects who all seemed like really nice chaps and together we made the 40 minute journey to the hotel. So now there's hopefully time for food and maybe some sleep. Excellent.

Sunday 28th 11.35am in the same apartment.

Well that was quite a night.

There was indeed time for some food at an cafe around the corner from our hotel (they didn't start serving food until 5pm) but not for sleep - we met up with Pablo (returning as tour manager for one night only) and Bob (sound man, we couldn't afford him for the rest of the tour!) and made our collective way to the festival venue which was, unusually, a skatepark; we were playing at one end of what I assume is part of the park while people were skateboarding across the way from us. Interesting! We're introduced to Maria who is our backstage person, she's very helpful and gives us food, drink and AAA wristbands. I walked over to the venue, there, a local band playing with a fair few people watching and more arriving all the time. We work out a set and I warm my guitar-playing fingers up, everyone is friendly although some seem to have been on the backstage bar for longer than perhaps might be wise at this early stage of proceedings... meanwhile Evil Conduct are playing to the still-arriving crowd and going down very well indeed. The sound is better with a few more people in the audience too.
At 10 past 8 we collectively make our way across the road from the backstage area to the stage. I've got a Marshall JCM2000 half stack, it sounds good as soon as I plug in which is always a good sign. We're set up and on in no time - the first couple of reggae-based songs seem to bemuse the crowd a bit but we play on - 'Backbiter' gets more of a reaction so it's clear that they're more interested in the punkier material. Segs introduces 'Something That I Said' as 'a new number which you won't have heard before' - from the first notes it's very clear that they have heard it before and have perhaps been waiting a while to hear it now. Then in 'Love In Vain' Segs's microphone cuts out - he comes over to use mine and as he does so I notice that his mic cable has come apart as there are two XLR cables in the middle of the stage. Maybe one of us stepped on the lead? I quickly plug them back together and he's back on the air. A brace of old singles at the end of the set causes much mayhem - our last song 'In A Rut' includes 'Human Punk' alongside the Hendrix and Kidd snippets, and when we encore with 'Society' the whole place goes wild. Job done I think!

I'd never seen The Cockney Rejects and so had been looking forward to their show for quite some time - I must say that I was not disappointed as it really was a great gig. Micky Geggus is a great rock 'n' roll guitarist, Jeff Turner tirelessly shadowboxed his way around the stage for the whole performance and with Tony and Andy matching them blow for blow they went down a storm with all concerned. Afterwards there are drinks to drink and stories to tell - I ended up back at our hotel drinking with Mick and Tony talking about of all things Brian May's guitar. Now there's a subject that I never though I'd talk to The Cockney Rejects about! A great night all round.

Ooh I'd better get going - we've got a plane to catch...

4.20pm - or is it 3.20pm? - in seat 18C on board Flight SK809.

Sadly our flight was delayed for over an hour - I say 'sadly' but maybe I should say 'happily' as this allowed us to spend even more time in the bar. With our first round of a pint of Guinness, a pint of lager and a mineral water costing the equivalent of over £25 we were able to drink last night's merch money in no time. Ooops! 

Epilogue - 8.55pm.

And of course the most stressful and frankly ridiculous part of my epic journey occurred after we'd landed at Heathrow - it took over an hour for our luggage to appear (bags on belt 5, guitars on belt 11 approximately 2 light years away) which was unfortunate as I'd ordered a taxi not long after we'd got off the aircraft. When my guitar and bags were finally in my possession it then took me a further 30 minutes to get a lift in Terminal 2 to take me to the top floor so I could meet my taxi. I got out of the lift on one of the lower floors to let a humourless ugly tosspot (sorry about the name-calling, but this doesn't end well!) get their fat frame out of said lift and, you've guessed it, the doors closed before I could get back in. It took me another 10 minutes to get another lift, which promptly went down instead of up then moved between floors 2 and 4 for what seemed like several years. I described it to one hapless lift sharer as 'like being in Dante's Inferno', an oddly literate comparison considering that at that precise moment I'd probably have hung myself if I could have found a rope. I eventually got to floor 5, where my taxi driver began by telling me that I owed him an extra £10 for waiting time. I briefly considered murdering him then throwing myself off the building, but instead got in the cab and asked him to set the controls for the heart of the sun. I don't think he knew what I was talking about, and I must be honest and say that I don't think that I did either. Still I'm home now, and unpacking can wait until tomorrow as I'm off down the pub. Well - I can't stop now can I?

Ruts DC on the roof of SO36 in Berlin, Saturday 20th September 2014.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

'The hope that springs eternal...'

The word 'legendary' get overused these days doesn't it? It seems to me that you only have to get through the opening stages of a television talent programme to find yourself referred to as a genius, and if you get through to the final you're a legend within minutes, maybe even seconds. Ah well - at least that means that it'll never be applied to me...

The Hope And Anchor in Islington is, I think it's fair to say, a legendary venue. The Stranglers, Madness, U2, - they and many more played there back in the day, although you wouldn't know it from the pub's website. Have a look at it here - unless I'm missing something (which let's face it is more than possible!) there isn't one mention of it being a live music venue. In a way I suppose you could say that this is a good thing - there are so many people and places that have talked up what they've done to the point that it's either barely believable or just plain embarrassing - but I can't help but think that it's a shame that a place like this seems to be all but unaware of it's history. That said the walls of the staircase down to the basement venue are adorned with reproduction posters and tickets so perhaps I'm reading more into this than I should. Imagine that eh? I saw a few shows there over the years although oddly enough the only band I can really remember seeing there were The Gas; the last time I was there was to see Ipanema who featured former Mega City Four mainman Wiz and who played upstairs rather than downstairs - I'd never played there myself and so it was indeed a pleasure to play there with The London Sewage Company last night. Apparently the official capacity of the venue is only 80 people - sadly we didn't get near to that figure, but those that were there certainly made a lot of noise. With the Ruts D.C. Autumn schedule looming it'll be my last gig with the band for a while although there's talk of a single release in the not-too-distant future - more news as and when I have it, as they (whoever 'they' are) say.

Talking of Ruts D.C. we've been gearing up for this month's European gigs (full details on the Muttis Booking website) by spending some time at The Music Complex in Deptford. Tour rehearsals begin next week, but part of this year's PledgeMusic campaign involved us offering drums, bass and guitar lessons - nobody wanted a guitar lesson (!) but bass and (especially) drums proved to be popular, and as a band we decided to go a bit further by all turning up for the last hour of the session which gave the pledger a chance to play with the whole band. Somewhat inevitably this also involved us all visiting The Little Crown for some Guinness - it's a tough old life sometimes isn't it?

In the meantime Big Al and The Blistering Buicks played at The Kings Arms in Harefield on Saturday evening, an odd show which was marked by an unusually high amount of equipment malfunction. As we went to start the first number Pete's guitar amp refused to make any sound at all - fortunately Al had a spare but it wasn't a good way to begin the show. Chris's keyboards then mysteriously turned themselves off, and when he turned them back on he'd lost his pre-programmed Hammond Organ sound - and then my overdrive pedal went wrong. Towards the end of the Bournemouth gig earlier this month the overdrive sound had stopped working even though the indicator light was still lit - this, a classic case of 'the lights are on but no one's home', usually means that the battery has nearly run out so changed it believing that to be the problem. However it happened again at this show, something which I chose to attempt to remedy by jumping up and down on it in an increasingly futile (and indeed childish) display of anger. Not big and most definitely not clever, although it did give Al something to laugh at! Closer inspection revealed that the power switch on the back of the pedal was set for 18V rather than 9V (it's an Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808DX - this review tells the story should you wish to indulge) so I've since taped it in the 9V position which should hopefully sort things out. We shall find out this weekend as Big Al and Co. play at a private party in Uxbridge on Saturday night... and The Upper Cut return to showbusiness with a gig at Ye Olde George in Colnbrook on Sunday afternoon - which means that I've got from now until then to re-learn the songs. I'd better stop sitting here typing and listening to 'Album' by Public Image Ltd (it is bloomin' good though isn't it?!?) and get on with it then hadn't I?