Sunday, November 05, 2023

Ruts D.C. UK Tour May 2023 - First World Problems and more...

What follows was written in May 2023, at the times and places indicated.

Wednesday 10th, Room 905, The Thistle Hotel Luton, 9.55 am


It's been a while.

Ruts D.C. last played a live show on Saturday 3rd December 2022, at The Islington Academy. Even though I say so myself, we were great. It was the last night of the 'Counterculture Part 1' UK tour, we'd been accompanied on all shows by the mighty T.V. Smith, and it had been a wonderful experience from start to finish. I'd joined Tim for three songs at the last show ('Tomahawk Cruise', 'The Lion and the Lamb' and 'One Chord Wonders' in case you were wondering) which maybe made the night extra special for me - mind you I then spent over an hour after the show walking around with all my tour luggage trying to get a taxi home. First World problems eh?

Since then we've recorded the 'ElectrAcoustic Volume 2' album which is due out in August in time for The Rebellion Festival, and I've been out and about on the Wingmen tour. All good stuff - but there's nothing quite like playing live with Ruts D.C... we've just had two days rehearsal at The Hive Rooms in Horley where the Wingmen tour rehearsals took place, it's a good set up and we've all enjoyed being there. Yesterday afternoon we were joined by Dale (driver) and Dave (soundman) with whom we then wended our weary way to Luton - We're in Stockton-on-Tees tonight so it's a suitable stopping off point. I'd stayed at The Gatwick Airport Travelodge on Monday night (again, Wingmen approved) which was as, erm, eccentric as I remember it being - this is a rather more straightforward place with breakfast consisting of rubbery scrambled eggs, lukewarm baked beans and potato rostis that night best be described as 'experimental'. As I say, First World problems eh? 

 Now I'm scribbling away on some old A4 paper that I found in my bag as I don't have a notepad with me. I used to take one everywhere with me when I was a regular blogger but that was then and this is now - these days I use Facebook to blast on and on about myself (!) so why am I back doing this now? Simple - I've just started re-reading 'Diary Of A Rock 'n' Roll Star' by Ian Hunter and have, rather pretentiously perhaps, decided that it's time to get back to this sort of thing. Do you wanna be a rock 'n' roll star? Of course you do. Let's be one together.

We leave at 11. It's good to be back!

Thursday 11th, Room 304, Hilton Garden Inn Sunderland, 10.12 am

Ooh - that's the Stadium Of Light. I don't think I've seen that before.

It was a good first night, maybe even a great first night as first night's go.

The journey up went well with no major hold ups so we were at the venue a bit early - with our hotel 40 minutes North of there we had no choice but to go to The Green Dragon to, erm, consider our setlist or something. Actually that was more or less what we did, as there are a couple of changes from Part 1 of the tour. 'No Time To Kill' has replaced 'Dangerous Minds - both are on the 1981 'Animal Now' album - and 'Caught In The Kill Zone' from our new album is in for 'Music Must Destroy'. But there is a less likely difference this time... if like me you saw the band promoting the afore-mentioned 'Animal Now' in 1981 you will have seen Segs and Paul swap instruments to play 'Despondency' and 'Fools' - they play each other's instruments on 'Fools' and 'Despondency' on the album too. Somehow - and I'm not exactly sure how - 'Despondency' is now in the set with Segs on guitar and your humble narrator on bass. Strange but true, and a proper 'did I really just do that?' moment for me. This is the longest set we've played since the band reformed and there is hopefully something for everyone in it.

First nights are almost always a bit... weird. Ian Dury put it best in 'What A Waste' - well, kind of anyway. We thought that we took a while to get going but it was a good show with many-a friendly face in a very appreciative audience. It was good to see UK Subs guitar man Steve with his lady Beki (check out her band Chaos 8 - fearsome stuff!) alongside uber fan Tony Lee (he's got our faces tattooed on one of his legs! Really!) and his lady Kate - as I say, a good start to proceedings.

Dunfermline tonight - I don't think I've been there before. It's the home of The Skids - that's got to be a good omen hasn't it? Well I think that it has. We're off at 11. Again.

Room 106, The Guildhall And Linen Exchange Hotel Dunfermline, 3.27 pm

We're staying in a Wetherspoons. Ooh.

Whisper it very quietly - it's excellent. Of course it is. Why wouldn't it be?

Our journey took longer than it might have due to roadworks, diversions and the disconcerting sight of a burnt out car on the opposite carriageway. A lack of service stations (more First World problems!) meant that our only stop was at petrol station where a poster in the window proclaimed 'FOOTBALLER SAVES FRIENDS LIFE AFTER PITCH COLLAPSE'. An evocative thought.

We're a few minutes walk from the venue and we're sound checking at 5. Time for a pint perhaps?

Saturday 13th, Room 306, The NIU Hotel Manchester, 10.53 am

I've missed a day. How did that happen?

'Twas a cracking night at PJ Molloys in Dunfermline, a venue with a rightly-deserved good reputation and one that I really hope that we return to in the future. a sold out crowd made us feel welcome from the first song, and there was time for a drink afterwards with some fans who were also staying at the hotel - great stuff all round.

Last night was also good, but not without it's moments. The monitors were off for the first song which always creates an 'is it just me that can't hear anything?' moment for everyone on stage. Well, it certainly does for me. I thought The Academy was a bit big for us but we had a good crowd who warmed up as the show progressed, and everyone went home happy in the end - that said I for one could have done without the security man trying to throw me out when I went out to our merch after the show to see a few people. My cheery 'I'm in the band honest' while waving a backstage pass in his face didn't even get near to making him smile - still I suspect that judging by his general demeanour I and indeed you have a better day than he does most days... support came from Voodoo Radio, a father-and daughter duo who are well worth a look and listen if you get the chance. Nice people too.

We're leaving for Huddersfield at midday so it might be time for a walk across to the rather odd looking Irish shop opposite. And hopefully there will be time for us to get a photo outside Salford Lads Club. One for the Smiths fans - which I'm not really, but you have to do these things don't you?

Sunday 14th, Room 203, Premier Inn Huddersfield, 11.22 am

I suppose it was bound to happen sometime. 

There I was, soloing my way to the end of 'You're Just A...' and thinking 'oh this is sounding good' - I should know better than to do that shouldn't I? By the time we got to the end of the next song 'It Was Cold' I could hardly hear the guitar. Well, I could, it just had no power.What's gone wrong? Oh, it's ok now, maybe it's just me... 2 songs later and it's definitely not right, Dale is on stage and we're playing with leads then decide to change to my spare pedalboard as Dave and Segs keep everyone entertained with some increasingly outrageous stories. We change the amp while there's high jinks at Niagara Falls with Kirsty MacColl - eventually we restart the show and it goes well despite me spending the rest of it expecting something else to go wrong.

There's work to do at today's soundcheck.

In the meantime - I don't think I've been to Huddersfield before either, it seems like a good place although admittedly I've only really seen The Premier Inn, the pub next door (The Aspley) and the venue (The Parish) but it feels good if you know what I mean. Mind you I was in the bar until 3 am with Stranglers fans Steve and Nick...

Tuesday 16th, at home, 10.18 am

The last thing that you want when you're on tour is a day off. Well, it's the last thing that I want anyway. Or is it? My washing is on, it's a lovely day and my guitar problems on Saturday night turned out to be the fault of a dodgy guitar lead. Well hopefully that's the case - sound man Dave is taking both amps for a service today ('I know a man in a shed') just to be on the safe side.

Sunday in Nuneaton turned out to be a good day all round - lunch at The Chase Hotel was followed by a string change and the afore-mentioned troubleshooting at sound check before I joined Steve & Sheila and Paul & Mandy at The Lord Hop for a pint or two of impressive tasting Pilsner. Back at The Queens Hall it was good to see Pam Greenfield and her friend Josie among the many familiar faces, and a good show was followed by a few few drinks with a few more people... and I woke up yesterday with maybe the worst hangover ever. Ouch.

Or did I? Without going into too many details the next few hours showed that it might have been a stomach bug. Or maybe that Pilsner wasn't quite so impressive after all...

We're playing in Reading tomorrow. Good. 

Thursday 18th, Room 19, The 1843 Hotel Reading, 10.42 am

It's good to be back. Or as I wrote the other day, it's good to be nowhere again. That line should be in a song shouldn't it? Maybe one day it will be.

A good show at Sub 89 last night, although from our point of view maybe not a great one. 'Hard work' we all said in unison at the side of the stage as we waited to go back on for the encore. 'Hard work' said the mighty T.V. Smith who is back with us for the next set of gigs. 'Hard work' said sound man Dave who then announced that the PA system 'might be a bit blown'. 

Hard work then.

I'd been up to Denmark Street earlier in the day as in the wake of the guitar lead issues I though it might be a good idea to buy some new ones - when one goes, they often all go... it's all changed. Last time I was there it was a street with musical instrument shops in it, now it's more like a guitar theme park. Everything seems to have doubled in price too. Bah. For there it was a train to Reading and a walk to Sub 89 to meet Spike and his son Kaleb who are joining us for this leg of the tour as Dale is elsewhere. Dave met Spike when he was drumming in Dexys, he's a great chap and his lad seems like a nice fella so it's looking good for the next few shows.

So - why was it 'hard work'? It's difficult to say... I was expecting my guitar to go wrong again - maybe it's time for some switch cleaner on everything? The lights were rather, erm, dark, Dave was on a riser which made him feel separate to us and us feel separate from him, Segs's mic stand kept collapsing... it's those First World problems again isn't it? And we went down well, and it was great to see Roland Link, Retroman Steve, Bill from The Good Old Boys and more so maybe it's time I cheered up.

Brighton tonight. That'll be good. I've cheered up already.

Friday 19th, Room 40, The Amsterdam Hotel Brighton, 10.31 am

And it was indeed a good show - none of us were happy with the Reading gig do this one has put us right back on track. Excellent.

The Concord 2 is a classic old venue - when we arrived Nick from Burning Picks was there to take some photos and to generally be of assistance. I met him on the Wingmen tour, he's a splendid fellow and a great photographer as these pics show.

Earlier I went to GAK to buy some fingerboard oil and switch cleaner and then went to the excellently-named Wai Kika Moo Kau for a burger - I like Brighton but it's a bit hippyish for me, maybe not the mod temple I always expect it to be. Oh well. As I say the show blew away any doubts about the previous night (which wasn't bad, we just thought that it could have been better) and it's set us up well for Portsmouth tonight. 'Twas great to see Tony and Andy from The WitchDoktors, and the lads from The Assassination Bureau, and my old mate Simon from The Newtown Neurotics - they've got a documentary film called 'Kick Out!' coming out in September which should be well worth a watch, not least because I'm in it!

Check out is at 11 and breakfast finished at 10 so I'd better find a sandwich if I'm going to...

Saturday 20th, Room 232, Travelodge Portsmouth, 11.51 am

Crikey - we're leaving at midday. Where does the time go?

A great gig. More next time.

Sunday 21st, Room 232, Travelodge Letchworth, 10.20 am

Today we leave at 11. Where does the time go (slight return) eh?

An enjoyable show at Club 85 in Hitchin last night, although slightly blighted by the ghastly hippies who were masquerading as the crew. Don't smoke dope all day boys, you'll get nothing done... oh, you got nothing done. Still Andy 'Human Punk' Chesham was promoting so everything went well in the end - T.V. was as great as ever, and even though I say so myself we really got hold of the show. Excellent. Now it's time for a quick walk across to Costa (we're on a distant industrial estate) then to get everything together for the ride up to Derby and a return visit to The Hairy Dog. T.V. is on at 5.30 with us an hour later - it's a matinee show! 

Tuesday 23rd, at home, 5.16 pm

So - where DOES the time go?

I've been asleep much of this afternoon. I'm not ashamed! I'd woken up at 7- something this morning genuinely wondering where I was. This happens my friends, this happens. 

There's lots to mention while I can still remember it.

The East Street Bar in Brighton after our gig. 'It's student night' said the doorman. 'We're students' said Segs with a straight face as the afore-mentioned doorman smiled and let us in and Segs added 'See you in 20 minutes when you're throwing me out'... well it had been a great gig, and Portsmouth was great too, with a snippet of 'How Soon Is Now?' for the recently departed Andy Rourke making it's way into 'In A Rut'. We added that in Hitchin and Derby too, where public transport finishes at 8.30 on a Sunday evening hence the early show. T.V. was tremendous - why don't we play with him all the time? - and we were pretty good too as this footage shows. We managed to get a couple of drinks at The Blue Jay next to our hotel after the show - and that closed at 10 o'clock. It must be a Derby thing... and it was light when we left the venue. Weird!

Oh - and I finished 'Diary Of A Rock 'n' Roll Star', and very good it was too. Last week I re-read Zoe Howe's excellent Lee Brilleaux biography 'Rock 'n' Roll Gentlemen' which I last read when we toured Australia and New Zealand a few years ago (what a poser eh? I mean, I didn't have to mention that did I? Well... actually... I did!) and which highly amused Segs at the time as I apparently somewhat adopted Dr. Feelgood's legendary 'time for a jolly up' approach to touring - in other words I suggested a visit to the bar at pretty much every opportunity. Subliminal messaging perhaps? This week I've got Nick Kent's 70s memoir 'Apathy For the Devil' for company which I've not read before and so am very much looking forward to reading. 

It's a sold out show at The Water Rats in King's Cross tomorrow night, which will also feature an 'exclusive' playback of our new acoustic album and which promises to be quite a night. From there we play York, Dunoon, Sheffield and then back to The Water Rats for an added show - that's a lot of miles isn't it? Still at least I won't wake up wondering where I am.. or will I? Let's see!

Thursday 25th, Room 208, The Linton Hotel, Luton, 9.27 am

Well - that was an 'interesting' end to our evening. But more about that in a minute.

The Water Rats - shouldn't that be Water Ruts? - always promised to be a night to remember and I'm please to say that it more than lived up to expectations. Packed out - maybe oversold? - and beyond hot (surely they could have turned the air conditioning on?) the show was everything we hoped that it would be and more. Much audience and indeed band merriment occurred throughout the show despite the heat, In A Rut' included a breathless burst of 'Love Song' for the recently departed Algy Ward, and even the fact that our dressing room was three floors up (at least! I lost count at 65 steps!) and the fact that the bouncer on the front door was roundly unpleasant to all and sundry couldn't dampen our spirits. But maybe the most interesting moment in the show was also one of the most unexpected... one chap over on Segs's side of the stage was a particularly good dancer, to such an extent that Segs inverted him up onto the stage during the last song of the evening 'Psychic Attack'. It was only then that I realised that it was Peter O'Connor, the noted actor that appears in the promo video for said song - so if you were there you saw a live performance of the video. Strange but true.   

And if you weren't there you can see said performance here - isn't Pete great?!?

A classic evening. And then we got to our hotel. These WhatsApp exchanges say it all -

What's this all about with the student beds?

It must be comedy night. 

I'm on the verge of getting a cab home...

I feel like I've been arrested!

I've slept in worse - Guatemala I think...

I've just seen Tony Handcock's landlady.

Breakfast finishes at 9, court at 10, leave at 11 subject to sentence. 

I'm soothed by the sound of them building the gallows.

And then, in the morning - 

Bed was actually comfortable although the rubber undersheet was a nice touch as were the circling helicopters. 

I feel like I've been operated on. 

Prostrate examination imminent. 

You get the idea.

More First World problems? Maybe... it think it was the shock of there being no bed in the room when we arrived at sometime after 1 am - Kaleb had to show me that it came down from the wall. It's great being old... it turned out to be ok although I've got a really sore neck from sleeping awkwardly; that said the breakfast was good so it's time for a shower and to get everything together to leave for York at 11. Another new venue tonight, and it's Dave's hometown...

Friday 26th, Room 11, The Pavilion Hotel York, 9.38 am

Ooh - vegetarian sausage. If ever there was a not-always-good-option option it's vegetarian sausage. But if it's recommended by Dave Ruffy, all bets are off. Superb. And out new friend Sean the waiter saw Soft Machine at The Crescent a few years back and loved it. A good start to the day, and a good gig last night in front of an enthusiastic audience at a splendid venue. 'In A Rut' included 'Nutbush City Limits' in tribute to Tina Turner, and it was great to catch up with Matt, my old mate from a previous life, he was on top form and is still out gigging regularly which was great to hear. 

We're playing at The Punk On The Peninsula Festival in Dunoon on the West coast of Scotland today. That's a long way away isn't it? We're off at 10 - pack your bags Leigh! 

Saturday 27th, leaving Greenock

Welcome to the Ruts D.C. tourbus. 

To be pedantic, the Ruts D.C. splitter van. These are very prevalent in the rock 'n' roll world (maaan!) as they are ideal for transporting disenfranchised musicians and there equipment from town to town. Usually there are 9 seats - 3 in the front and 2 rows of 3 in the middle section with luggage and equipment in the back section of the bus which is divided off (hence the term 'splitter') from the front and middle sections. In the middle of this bands the 2 rows of 3 face each other with a table between them; sometimes both the rows face forwards so fairly obviously there is no table in this bus.

So - who's in the bus and where are they? Well...  Spike is driving - he's also on sound (Dave the sound engineer left us after the Derby gig as he's away working with Kris Barras) as well as tour manager and more. He's brilliant at all all of it. Also in the front is his son Kaleb - he's now looking after our backline, and is even on merch as well some nights. He's brilliant too. Behind Spike sits Segs and behind Kaleb sits Dave while I'm at the right in the back row facing Segs. The table has 5 receptacles in it - they house, left to right as I look at them, a small unopened bottle of water, a half full (or if you prefer, half empty) bottle of Merlot, an open small bottle of water, a nearly empty bottle of red wine and a large bottle of water with the top off. That's fairly typical for us, and that water bottle could cause me a problem or two of Spike has to brake suddenly so I'll have a look for the top in a minute. The River Clyde is to our left - the tide is out - and it's about 5 hours to Sheffield where we're gigging tonight. The radio on in the front and the mood is relaxed - and why not? It was a great gig in Dunoon where we were made most welcome by promoter Iain and our friend Dave Ralf who was working at The Punk On The Peninsula Festival. We repaired to The Argyll Hotel for Guinness and a setlist discussion - we've been playing for 85 minutes whereas this was an hour show - when we returned to the festival Millie Manders And The Shut Up were sounding good. I had a bit of time to catch up with Ruts fan extraordinaire Mark McCulloch and his wife Shona before Church Of Confidence took to the stage for a boisterous performance. There were no dressing rooms - maybe we're the only band that gets changed for the show? - so we had to use the van which suddenly didn't seem be quite as spacious as it had felt up until that point in proceedings. 

Ooh - it's those First World problems again...

We went on at 8.35 - the tent was full and getting fuller and by our third song 'You're Just A...' it was packed. A large stage meant that Segs and myself could indulge in what we often call our 'Paul Simonon moves' (well, he's the coolest man ever isn't he?!?) with much merriment all round. The only downside to the show occurred when we swapped instruments for 'Despondency' - as I passed it to Segs the guitar strap came off. Closer inspection showed that the end pin had actually come out from the guitar. Bugger! Kaleb sprang into action immediately, passing Segs my spare guitar, finding the end pin and screw on the stage and repairing the guitar in time for the next song. What a splendid chap he is! 'In A Rut' once again featured 'Love Song' (cue mass pogoing from the punks) and 'Nutbush City Limits' (cue mass confusion from the punks, although the girls danced!) and after the show we all agreed that, in Segs's words, we'd blown the roof off the place. Iain the promoter was pleased too, presenting us with a bottle of Glen Scotia whisky which we chose to sample on the ferry back to Greenock. With predictable results. 

To Sheffield!

Sunday 28th in the bus heading South passing Junction 26 of the M1, 11.44 am

I suppose it was bound to happen sometime (slight return).

A bad gig.

Actually it wasn't a bad gig, just perhaps not quite as good as the rest of the shows on the tour. I'd not been to The Corporation before - they kindly 'leant' me some Superglue which I used to plug the screw hole for my Les Paul end pin with the aid of several small pieces of Marks & Spencer wooden cutlery procured at a motorway service station on the way to Sheffield. Rock 'n' roll eh? I must fix it 'properly' sometime soon. 

(Incidentally if this sort of thing happens to you and your guitar cocktail sticks or toothpicks are really good, as are matchsticks. Don't say that you don't learn anything here!)

Soundcheck was... ok... the monitors were shall we say, a bit iffy, Dave's being particularly so. But it'll all be ok later won't it?

We decided to visit The Brown Bear, a favourite haunt of ours when we are in the area - Dave suggested a cab, Segs was on the phone so he said he'd follow along later. We'd just got there when we received a text message from Segs to say that Kirk Brandon had been taken ill and was in hospital. He's an old friend of theirs and they work together in Dead Men Walking so it was worrying news. 

We went on at 8.45. Dave has been going on first to get himself settled behind the drums and usually gets what Segs and myself waiting in the wings often refer to as 'The Ruffy Cheer' - which tonight didn't happen. Or maybe we just can't hear it from where we are? We walked our to a smattering of vague applause - perhaps we've overplayed the area lately. We played well but received a muted response interspersed with people shouting for old Ruts numbers. My monitor was off, or very quiet, or something, but at least my strap button stayed on my guitar... we finished with 'Babylon's Burning' to a few seconds of applause then silence. As we walked down the steps at the side of the stage to the sound of our own footsteps Dave said 'let's leave it there' so we did. No encore.

Back at The Mercure it's time for a few drinks and some mad stories from Spike to go with some from Dave and Segs. That's more like it. 

Today it's sunny and the mood is good. Back to London Town and indeed back to The Water Rats. Good

Monday 29th, at home, 5.19 pm

And there it was, gone. Again. 

But what a tour, and what a way to finish it. We returned The Water Rats for a show that more than made up for the one in Sheffield the night before (which apparently wasn't that bad after all) and which saw a couple of changes to the set - as many people had come to more than one show we replaced 'No Time To Kill' with 'Back Biter' and 'Caught In The Kill Zone' with 'Music Must Destroy', both good choices I thought. I've spent most of this afternoon asleep - of course I have! - so now I've got some washing in and have bags to unpack and things to put away. But what a great three weeks we've had, due in no small amount to the excellence of our touring crew - Dave and Dale early on and Spike and Kaleb for the latter part with Liam and Ceri appearing here and there too. We thank them all, and we thank you if you came to a show.

It was good though wasn't it?!?

So now what? Well as previously discussed 'ElectrAcoustic Volume 2' is due out in August in time for The Rebellion Festival, and we've got gigs coming in for The Autumn and even (gulp!) some new song ideas coming together... forwards... as ever...

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