Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants - June 2019

With some more gigs for the band on the horizon it's time for a look back at the first Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants tour, which took place in June of this year - enjoy.


Monday 3rd, 8.31 am leaving Euston Station 

Coach A Seat 25 here - it's early. Well it's not, but it feels it. 
Great poster don't you think?

Ruts D.C. played a storming set (even though I say so myself!) at The Underworld last night as part of this year's Camden Rocks Festival; I got home some time after midnight then was up not long after 5 a.m. to make sure of getting on this train. It's great being neurotic... on the tube train to Baker Street a disembodied voice (presumably belonging the driver, although I suppose you never know) rather ominously informed us that there was a 'Code Orange' and that 'all lines are suspended'. They came back on again a couple of minutes later - well, I'm assuming that they did, as I got here in time to catch my train. I'm off to meet Alvin and Jamie to rehearse for the first Disobedient Servants tour which starts tomorrow. There's nothing like leaving it until the last minute is there? I've got to get some sleep on the way though or this could all go badly wrong - I'm in what claims to be the Quiet Coach, although the announcements are loud enough to be heard in the next world. Ah well - on with the iPod and headphones then, even though according to the sign next to me you're not 'supposed' to use them in this coach. Ah well. It's all anarchy isn't it? 

Tuesday 4th, nearly 1 am, in my room somewhere in the North West of England

A good rehearsal today -  still a bit of work to do, but instead of doing that we've been down the pub. Of course we have. And The Beatles are playing on the iPod in the background, which is always a good sign in my world. 
More tomorrow, or to be pedantic, today. 

12.38 pm 

Crikey - this all appears to be going to plan... a splendid breakfast (vegetarian sausages, egg and beans since you were wondering) and we're rehearsing at one o'clock. If only that cretin Trump wasn't on the telly. What a nasty little man he is. At least Corbyn has got it right (for once! He's missed so many open goals hasn't he?) and is having nothing to do with him. Good man. 

Wednesday 5th, 4.31 pm leaving Manchester Birch Services on the M62 

Well. That was, erm, interesting... 

We - Alvin, Jamie, Abel from ace support band Criminal Mind and myself - were in Dale the driver's bus with Jon driving the rest of Criminal Mind in his van. A text comes through - 'it look like you've got a flat tyre'. We'd better stop at the next services then... it turned out that the right back tyre wasn't flat but that it had a noticeable bulge in it. Time to call The AA then. 

'Twas a good start to the tour last night, at The Waterloo Music Bar in Blackpool. This was a new venue for me, and while it was by no means packed out - it rained heavily all evening - there were more than enough people in to make it work. Ian the guv'nor was very helpful, the previously-mentioned Criminal Mind were excellent and it's definitely looking good for these shows. We're at The Victoria Vaults in York tonight, which is another new venue for me - it's good to be out and about again. And as we're running a bit late so it's good to be back on the road now. After all - there's only so much time you can spend in a service station... 

Thursday 6th, 2.20 pm on the A64 

Encores are funny things aren't they? In many ways I've never really understood them. You play a show. You finish a show. Then you start again. Weird.
I told you he's good!

No encore last night. Why? Because no one asked for one. Well, no one asked for one until music came over the PA system, at which point people started cheering and demanding more - by which time the sound man was already putting the microphones away. Too little too late! But it had been a good, energetic performance with the band sounding better and better as the show went on. Earlier in the evening I'd spent a bit of time down the road in The Trafalgar Bay with Micky and Donna - it's strange how there's nothing like a sign saying NO SWEARING to make you involuntarily come out with all sorts of rude words isn't it? Micky is an extremely talented artist - check out his work here - who presented us with a wonderful caricature of the band. Amazing. We of course suggested that he print some up and put them on our merchandise stall immediately. We're in Manchester at The Star And Garter tonight - Dale tells me that during an apparently unrelated murder investigation (!) near the venue they once found a prostitute's head in a box . I am looking forward to tonight.

Friday 7th, 12.09 pm leaving the Travelodge 

Well I'm pleased to say that no prostitutes - headless or otherwise - were harmed during last night's performance (or if they were then I didn't see it happen) which was the best gig of the tour so far. A good sized crowd included Department S / Rezillos guitarist Phil Thompson, arch Damned fans Steve and Sheila, Ruts D.C. regulars Paul and Mandy and Richie Rocker among the familiar faces - after another splendid set from Criminal Mind we hit the ground running with 'Arterial Pressure' and 'Ghost Train' from Alvin' solo album followed by 'Bordeaux Red' and 'Drag Me Down' from The U.K. Subs's mighty back catalogue. It's interesting to see how the Subs songs in the set are going down - the ones that we're playing have all written by Alvin (and indeed sung by him on the albums) but have never been performed by the band. The Subs fans certainly seem to be really enjoying this side of our shows which is a great thing to see. We encored (see, we can do them!) with Ian Hunter's 'Once Bitten Twice Shy' (I've brought 'Diary Of A Rock 'n' Roll Star' with me to read in the bus) and the Urban Dogs song 'A Bridge Too Far' before joining the audience in the downstairs bar where drinks were drunk, merch was sold and everyone went home happy. Well I certainly did, although I've got a bit of a thick head now. Ah well - off to another Harvester then. Who'd have thought that punk rock legends The U.K. Subs are often seen in such establishments? The things you learn here eh? 

Saturday 8th, 12.18 pm somewhere on the M42 

'Baba O'Riley'.You forget just how good The Who were and indeed are don't you? Well, I don't as it happens, but it's playing on the van stereo as I write this so it's a chance to mention it here. Teenage wasteland indeed. 

Birmingham is usually a good place to play, and last night was no exception. The Castle And Falcon was yet another new venue for me, and what an excellent little gig it is. An extremely enthusiastic and often very vocal audience saw us joined by Godfathers guitar hero Steve Crittall for a suitably noisy show which seemed to go down well with all concerned. Criminal Mind were once again excellent, local lads The Dregs played a good opening set and Captain Sensible's guitar tech Sean kept me entertained with stories from the latest Damned tour. A top evening all round. 

It's raining heavily today. It's been doing that a lot lately. We opened the van door and as Dale put it, the 'sideways rain' pretty much soaked all the seats in about 2 seconds. Bah! 

Sunday 9th, 1.34 pm leaving Nottingham 

Well - what a splendid lunch. If you're in Nottingham and you're hungry then go to The Golden Fleece

Another great night last night - this really is turning out to be a good tour. Ruts D.C. played The Rescue Rooms back in February as part of our '40 Years Of The Crack' tour, and Alberts was just a few doors down from there - it wasn't much fun carrying the gear upstairs but the venue was excellent so it was all worth it in the end. Headsticks opened the evening - we played with them at Strummercamp a few weeks ago, I like their stuff - and Criminal Mind were as good as ever; they really are a great little band, well worth catching if you ever see them advertised. We were back to one guitar which took a bit of getting used to, but the sound in the venue was good so we soon got going, and by the end of our set there was much dancing and jollity down the front. And after initial concerns the turnout was such that, as the afore-mentioned 'Orrible 'Oo once put it, even the promoter smiled. Good!

2.59 pm somewhere on the M42 

Guy Stevens, Ian Hunter, Abbey RoadDavid Bowie, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop... Alvin's got some great stories! 

Monday 10th, 1.22 pm on the road out of Bristol 

I've lost my watch. How annoying is that? And our gig in Nuneaton has been postponed, or cancelled, or something. Bah. 

I've just talked to my dad on the phone - he says that it's pouring down in London. We're at The 100 Club tonight so hopefully it'll have cleared up by the time we get there, or at least by the evening so as not to put people off from coming along. 

Right - that's enough moaning! Last night then - yet another new venue for your humble narrator and yet again The Louisiana in Bristol was a splendid place. Local heroes Criminal Mind took the place by storm and we had another good night, which sets things up nicely for tonight - once again Steve will be on guitar, and we also have Barry Francis from The Saints and Timo Caltio from Cheap And Nasty joining us for a song each (they both play on Alvin's album) so it's got the makings of a great evening. Oh, and I've got an interview for the Rebellion Festival programme. Lots to do... time for a sleep then... I wonder where my watch is...

Tuesday 11th, 10.49 am at home 

I've unpacked my bag and still haven't found my watch. I thought that I might, but I didn't. Bugger. Still, if the worse thing that happens to you is that you lose a watch then it's not a bad life is it? 

Last night's show at The 100 Club more than lived up to our expectations. It's good when that happens. Steve was great on guitar (he usually is!) as were Barry and Timo, there was a good crowd in - we were worried about the rain effecting things but thankfully that proved not to be the case - and were joined on stage for the legend that is Charlie Harper - I think you'll agree that sounds like a good evening?
The band heroically attempt to ignore
the stage invader in their midst...

So - what did Charlie sing with us? 
Good question - he sang a bit of the U.K. Subs classic 'Warhead'. 
Why did we only play a bit of 'Warhead'? 
Because we play it in the middle of 'In A Rut'. 
And who sings 'In A Rut'? 
I do. 
Yes, you read that bit correctly. I do. 

Nobody - nobody! - is more surprised than me. It even looks weird written down on paper. It took a lot of persuading to get me to do it, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that I still feel a bit awkward... but it's been happening every night on this tour, and incredibly it's been going down well. Strange days indeed.

It's a shame that there's no gig tonight, but we're off to Poland on Friday. Excellent. 

Thursday 13th, 1.38 pm on a tube train into town 

I did nothing yesterday. Nothing. 

Well, that's not true. Of course it's not. I did my washing. I caught up on emails. I ran through some songs for the gigs I'm doing depping with The Good Old Boys in a couple of weeks time. I talked to their guitarist Simon about some of the songs. I watched Poirot on the telly. I phoned a couple of mates. I ate some food, drank some drinks - well, you get the idea. I did quite a lot, especially considering that I did nothing. 

I'm now on my way to meet Alvin at Liverpool Street Station. It's pouring down with rain. Again. We have to be at Stansted Airport at 9 am tomorrow so we're staying nearby tonight. Apparently it's over 90 degrees where we're going - that's too hot for me. 

The reaction to the gigs has been brilliant, which is a great thing to see. To be fair, we have been playing well, but it's a new band - albeit one with a pedigree - and it's been great to see such interest. As you would expect the set is built around Alvin's album 'Your Disobedient Servant' - we've missed a couple of tracks but they will no doubt feature in the future -  and reflected his time with Iggy Pop by playing '1969' and 'Down On The Street'. We've also - slightly oddly from my point of view - reflected my time with Ruts D.C... I've been telling a short story each night along the lines of 'back in 1979 I was trying to learn to play the guitar, and I would sit on the end of my bed playing along with records by people like The Ruts and The U.K. Subs - somehow, 40 years later, this can happen...'   we then play 'In A Rut' with a snippet of 'Warhead' in the middle as previously discussed. It's been going down really well - but it's amazing for me to think that, yes, I did sit on the end of my bed playing along with records by people like The Ruts and the U.K. Subs, and now I share the stage with them and play the songs that I used to play along with. As I say, strange days indeed. Most peculiar mama.

Saturday 15th, 3.21 pm ready for take-off at Lodz Airport 

'Warning! Very strong winds, hail and storms expected in the afternoon and at night (15/06) Do not seek shelter under trees. Where possible stay indoors.'

Hmmm. This is perhaps not the sort of text message that you want to receive at any time, but if it arrives as you're preparing to broad an aircraft it really does, shall we say, focus the mind... the stewardesses - I still call them that, don't you? - are busily demonstrating the safety features of this aircraft even as we speak. Maybe I should be paying a bit more attention?

It was a busy day yesterday, hence the lack of writing here - but the notebook is back out now, and in an effort to put the above text message out of my mind I'm attempting to remember what happened and in what order. So...

On Thursday Alvin and myself spent a very enjoyable evening - and a fair bit of money, especially in his case - in Bishops Stortford. My old friend Adrian (he writes the always - excellent Stranglers blog Aural Sculptors) lives nearby so I texted him to say that we were local to see if he was about but sadly he was away. Next time! Once checked in at The George (which I've since been told by Adrian and his family is haunted! Oo-er!) we decided to go out for a walk to see what was about - within an hour he'd bought a very nice watch (that's how he spent more money than me!) and we were ensconced in The Half Moon on the Moretti and discussing tactics. Pizza Express is always a good bet especially for poncey vegetarians such as myself, and it proved to be so in this case; we then heard that Jamie would be meeting us at the airport as his train had been cancelled so we rounded our evening off by watching the Australia / Brazil ladies football World Cup match amid more drinking and tactical discussions. What crazy punk rockers we are eh? 

Ooh - we're taking off. It's always a bit mad isn't it? A bit bumpy, a few kids screaming - not too bad though, certainly not as bad as that text suggested that it might be. Good! 

9 o'clock on Friday morning and we're in a cab to Stansted Airport; half an hour later we've met Jamie (own up - you weren't sure that he was going to show up were you? To be honest - nor were we!) and we're checked in and through security without a hitch and heading for the duty free shops. No, I've never bought anything there either, but I was tempted by a JBL Bluetooth speaker - after heroically resisting it we had some much-needed breakfast before deciding to have a look around. As we left the cafe we were confronted by some familiar faces... it's funny when you see someone out of context but can't quite work out who they are isn't it? 'Are you the chap who plays in The Ruts?' asked the cheery bespectacled chap whose face I knew but couldn't quite place. 'Yes, I'm Leigh' said I. The cheery bespectacled chap extended his hand towards me - 'Kevin Armstrong' came the reply. 'Yes, I know -we've not met before but I've seen you at work' said I, grinning like an idiot. And I had, with David Bowie among others. He now plays in Iggy Pop's band along with Seamus Beaghen who of course played in Ruts D.C. and who played with Iggy at the same time as Alvin. 'We've all had the plane lurgee' said my new best mate Kevin, 'Seamus is here somewhere but he's not too well, I'll see if I can find him... actually, let's take a picture and send it too him'. So we did - somewhere there's a picture of Kevin, Alvin and myself. I must get that someday mustn't I? They were all off to Santiago for an Iggy gig, we were off to Lodz - we went our separate ways vowing to keep in touch. I hope that we do! 

A lot of people - especially bands - won't fly Ryanair. There are any number of horror stories aren't there? 10 minutes into our flight I remembered why. Cramped to hell, screaming kids, a small fortune for pretend food - terrible. And that bloody fanfare when the plane lands. Is that really something to celebrate? It's supposed to land isn't it, in the same way that it's supposed to take off and indeed to fly? Still we got there in one piece, and I even managed a bit of sleep so I guess it wasn't too bad. 

Passport control took ages. Ages. I stood in the seemingly-endless queue shuffling forward from time to time, all the while thinking 'my Les Paul is somewhere the other side of those big doors. I do hope that it's ok'. When I eventually got through the big doors my guitar was nowhere to be seen. Hmm... where's the outsize baggage area? There doesn't seem to be one... after all other baggage had been collected it was time to pluck up courage and ask one of the scary security men where my guitar might or might not be. 'Wait!' said the scary security man firmly. Waiting commenced immediately. He spoke into a walkie-talkie. 'Here' he said, indicating the baggage belt, which obligingly whirred into life. No guitar though. More walkie talkie action. More waiting. More belt whirring. Still no guitar. Suddenly he spoke - 'I have good news for you. Your guitar is here. Wait'. Waiting once again continued, albeit with considerable relief. Eventually one of the bursts of belt whirring led to my guitar appearing on it. Fank gawd. 'What happened?' I asked. 'It got stuck' came the reply. Ah - that explains it. Sort of. 
You thought I'd made it up didn't you?

10 minutes later and we're all in Christof's car leaving the airport. 40 minutes or so later we're at the wonderfully-named Hotel Hades which thankfully turns out to be closer to heaven than hell - plates of pasta and bottles of lager appear, and all is right with the world at last. 

The festival site is a short walk away so we decide to stroll down and have a look. It's state funded - why don't we have things like that in so-called 'Great' Britain? - so the P.A. and stage are good, there's not too many people about but we're assured it'll get busier later. Alvin is presented with a very nice - looking Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass to use (maybe I should have asked to borrow a Les Paul?!?) which is great to play but the guitar strap is too short for him. Still that's easily fixed, and with everything looking good it's back to the hotel for a snooze. 

We return to the festival at 9.15 pm to find everything in full swing. We set up and get ready to play - there's no backstage toilet (or if there is then I can't find it!) so it's time to, erm, find a bush... 

We start, as we have at all the shows, with 'Arterial Pressure' - there are more than a few punky types about including several U.K. Subs t-shirts so it looks as though we could go down well. Things get better and better as our set progresses, and we finish with 'Back To Mayhem', 'Living Dead' and 'Black Power Salute' to a great reception. After an announcement from the compare the crowd start singing something - it's 'Happy Birthday' for Jamie who gets presented with a cake which we eat back at the hotel with beer and sandwiches. I like Poland. 

We were up at half past nine today as breakfast finished at 10; we left for the airport at midday where there wasn't much to do, although as I said earlier that text message certainly livened things up a bit. I'm tired now though so it's time for some music and a sleep. Hopefully.

6 pm on The Stansted Express going back to Liverpool Street Station 

What was I saying about not flying Ryanair? 

I've just filled in a damage report. But more about that in a minute. 

The flight itself wasn't too bad in the end - provided you could ignore the terrifying racket being made by the child who sounded as though he was being disemboweled for the last 30 minutes of so of proceedings. By the looks on quite a few people's faces they may actually have been considering doing just that, or at the very least administering a general anaesthetic to said child or indeed to themselves. But the real 'fun' started back at Stansted Airport. After going through passport control (which was much easier than yesterday) I waited at outsize baggage - belt A in case you were wondering - for my guitar. And I waited. And waited. After about 20 minutes I decided to enquire as to where it might be - the very helpful lady behind the desk at Ryanair Baggage Claims said that she'd make some calls then asked if I had been 'very early' for my flight. When I said we were there a couple of hours before take off she said that it'd probably be ok, any earlier and they might have forgotten to load it on. Oh, great... she came back with the news that there was no sign of it so I'll have to fill in a form and they'll courier it over to me when it arrives back in Blighty. Not good news, but it could be worse I suppose.

Hang on - they've found a guitar in the middle of the road.


They've found a guitar in the middle of the road. What does mine look like? Well it's in a black case which - rather optimistically as it turns out - has a couple of red 'Fragile' stickers on it. Oh, this could be yours then, I'll get them to bring it over. 
A quarter of an hour later my new friend Jerry hands me my guitar. We both open the case. I pick it up. It's still in tune. That's encouraging. I think that it's ok Jerry... we put it back into the case - but the clasp at the bottom of the case won't close. Actually, the case doesn't go back together properly either. Ah - that'll be where it hit the ground after falling off the baggage truck. Thanks for telling me that Jerry - time I filled in a damage report then don't you think?
What feels like a lifetime later I'm finally on my way home.I've got a horrible nagging feeling that when I look again at my guitar it'll turn out to be damaged after all, but that's hopefully just me worrying. Tomorrow I've got to photograph the damage and send it in to the Ryanair website - I'm told that they will then contact me accordingly. So that's ok then. 

Except of course, it's not. What was that I saying about people, particularly musicians, refusing to fly with Ryanair? Why do you reckon that is then? I'm sitting here thinking about the staff - very helpful, almost nonchalant about possible damage or loss of processions. Is that because it happens on a regular basis? I certainly wasn't the only person filling out forms... I've heard far too many stories like mine, and sadly this one won't be the last. I'm telling myself that it's 'only' the case that's been damaged, and that's why you put valuable instruments in them in the first place - but that's not really the point is it? 

So I'm not saying 'DON'T FLY RYANAIR'. Except of course, I just did. Welcome home Leigh.


So there you have it - our first tour, with hopefully many more to come. Derby, Birmingham and Lewes this weekend - excellent. And in case you thought I made all that stuff about 'In A Rut' up, here it is from The 100 Club show. Oh and in case you were wondering - I found my watch! Oh yes!