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Other Stuff: On The Road (on broken rails)

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At the tail end of the year 2000, i went on tour, and it was a REAL tour this time - gigs in the same week and EVERYTHING. Here is what happened.

October 26th - The Boardwalk, Sheffield

me, rocking the house

"Don't bother using the car Mat," i said, "We can go on the train, it'll be much easier." OH what foolish optimisim, for the first day of the TOUR coincided with the first day of "Emergency" speed restrictions on the train i.e. Railtrack proving that, just when we thought they'd fucked us about as much as they could, they were going to fuck us about an awful lot more. THUS my planned arrival at the Boardwalk at 6.45 turned out instead to be 8.20 - ten minutes before i was due on. A quick gulp of beer, very hasty tuning up, and i was ON. Needless to say, the haste and lack of BEER made this feel a bit unusual, and to be honest i can't remember much about the gig itself at ALL. Afterwards there was time for another pint, before it was HO! for the wonderful trams of Sheffield and away to the University, for a VERY long night of DANCING on Pound A Pint BEER. Good things: 80 miles from home you can dance how you like, and people in Sheffield are ACE. Bad Things: the next morning.

November 1st - The Jug of Ale, Birmingham

I arrive at the venue just in time to witness the last band do a 45 minute soundcheck ("band" refers to two blokes, one with guitar, one on keyboards, by the way), ended only by the guitarist stomping off to his mate's to get a new guitar. Meanwhile in the bar, Bloke from Ocean Colour Scene turned up! More excitingly, so did my brother, who hadn't been to one of my gigs before and was fearing the worse. All collected, we returned to the upstairs bit, only to find that band back, doing another half hour of soundchecking! Soon it was SHOWTIME, and the crowds had swelled to 7 people... Arthur, who promoted it, was MOST apologetic about the lack of audience at the start, but as i so WISELY pointed out, this was FINE, as throughout the set people drifted in, and by the end there was a CROWD. Unusually, i had INCREASED the audience as i went along. It was a thoroughly enjoyable half hour, for me at least, and afterwards i even SOLD some RECORDS! Crazy huh? AND i even got PAID! So, a GRATE gig all round. Watched a bit of the middle bloke, but when he LOUDLY CHASTISED the audience for talking (where did they think they were? A PUB?) and told them they should listen carefully, because "this is FOLK music", we knew it was time to take our leave. ACE night though.

November 6th - Princess Charlotte, Leicester

TRAINS seem to have become a theme of the tour - a planned nip down to London in the day time turned into a NIGHTMARE BEYOND COMPREHENSION - EIGHT hours! On trains! Thus it was a slightly flustered Hibbett who dashed out to the Charlotte, and who was to end up drinking lots of BEER to compensate. The gig itself, however, was nice and easy - about twenty minutes, knocked off to about ten people, rising to a few more towards the end. The weirdest bit, really, involved Lazarus, which of course i did in my usual stylee. An hour later the (brilliant) Brave Captain ALSO did Lazarus... in almost EXACTLY the same way that i had. Could Mr Carr have heard my radical reinterpration? Probably not, and we didn't get to say hello after as they all hid in the bus, but it was a Pleasant Night Out all round, only slightly marred by the next morning when i remembered exactly why i try not to drink too much in the Charlotte.

November 7th - The Bull & Gate, London

a bull & gate sign, at the bull & gate

Heavy of innard, i was at least prepared for - oh yes - TRAIN MADNESS, and felt quite lucky to only spend three hours getting to Kentish Town this time, for a gig which turned out to be MENTAL. THE KIDS were in full attendance, and by that i mean ACTUAL KIDS, pals of the other bands, who heckled, joined in, and BELLOWED at the end of the first few songs. It was an unusual reaction... i think they were taking the piss to start with, but my dears i WON them round, especially doing "that one about banks" (as a young lady who had actually seen me before called it), and utterly prostituting myself by doing "It Must Be Love" AND "Boom Shake The Room" right at the end. Looking out, i could see My Lot looking a bit stunned by proceedings, but i bet not half as stunned as I was! The madness continued after, when i SOLD RECORDS! About 12 singles (which hey, is a LOT) and a couple of albums to boot! The now traditional "You Are Very Brave" comment was made at the bar, and THE KIDS generally LAPPED it up. The fact that the last band, Foam, bucked all convention by being DEAD GOOD would usually have shocked me, but this time there was little surprising me left, and it was HO! for Camden Palace, where even the LondonNESS of it all only caused a LARF. Next morning i found that good old Midland Mainline had solved its timetabling problems by simply CANCELLING all trains to Leicester, but it didn't seem to matter so much this time.

November 9th - The Old Angel, Nottingham

Action Special

HO! For the BUS! What simple joy it was to use a public transport system that departed on time, arrived on time, was vaguely clean, didn't insincerely apologise every ten minutes, and didn't treat me as a moron beneath it's contempt just for using it. Buses, they are the future.

Anyway, i arrived at the venue to find that the day's lengthy discussion about who had to go last had been settled by Frankie Machine turning up too early and having to do first soundcheck. AHA! Also found to my DELIGHT that Steve from Chemistry Experiment was doing a solo set, which was ace, especially the way he kept saying "This next one will be rubbish", and then being really good. My set felt weird - did an extra long SHOUTING one, and everyone STARED at me. It was unnerving. Then Frankie Machine were, as expected, BRILLIANT beyond comprehension, i got all moved, recovered enough to blag a lift to the Blue Note, and sat suffused with JOY. My overwhelming HIGH was only increased when someone came over and said he really liked the album, which he had paid good money for. Wahey!

So, what have we learnt over the course of these dates?

1. All those in charge of Railtrack should be fired immediately, and then forced to visit every single person who has been fucked about by their rank incompetence, and apologise. Travel arrangements must be undertaken by train, obviously.

2. I really really like doing lots of gigs in a short space of time.

3. Dead young audiences buy more records than older ones.

4. People who complain that the audience is talking during their set should find better ways to make them stop, like actually being worth listening to.

5. Alternating between BEER and coca cola before going onstage is a REALLY good idea.

6. When people say "Get here all right?" they are being polite, and do not wish to hear a ten minute lecture on The State Of The Railways.

All in all then, a pretty good week and a bit. As i write, on the morning after Nottingham, i can see myself doing this a lot more, and hopefully getting myself booked up for another dash pretty soon. On the BUS.
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