Sunday 22 November 2009

HI-ON NIJMEGEN - 23 / 24 October 2009

First off, apologies for the lack of a Stafford diary. Since then I've been phenomenally busy (I'm even writing this Nijmegen diary two weeks after the fact!) and simply can't remember half of what might have happened. I did get as far as nickname generation, the most notable of which were Speed 'cake sex!' Harris and Nicko 'she's got a flap out' McBrain Jnr. Draw your own conclusions as to what sort of a diary that one would have been! Moving on, then...


The absolute highlight of the year for us Maiden tribute geeks is the now annual trip down to eastern Holland to play at the Rockcafé Backstage in Nijmegen. This is the third year on the bounce we've piled in the van and driven the long road out of Calais to get up there, and this year we had something a bit special in terms of setlist. But more on that later.

The weekend began for me when this weekend's van of choice, a Mercedes Sprinter kitted out inside with lovely comfy seats, DVD player and Playstation 2, rolled up outside Manic Towers. After marvelling at the interior and making all on board a cup of coffee, I sat down with Bruce "it was raining fanny" Dugginson to work on some arrangements for a short acoustic set that we planned to roll out just prior to the Maiden set on one or both nights. You may recall from the Harlow diary that, with Speed "Nijmegen to Calais in ten minutes" Harris arriving late, Duggers and I took it upon ourselves to entertain the crowd with a hastily thrown together acoustic set. While this was well received, we each knew we could do better with a bit of work. We came up with some cool arrangements, particularly 'Still Life', so look out for more potential acoustic sets in future!

Acoustic rehearsal I...

Duggers acoustic


Manic acoustic

After all this acoustic twiddling we wandered down into the town centre for a spot of grub. A nice cheap Chinese later we were in the pubs for a drink or two. Question Time was on, which I for one have never seen playing in the pub before but it seemed every pub in Dartford was hanging on Nick Griffin's every word. What a lovely town. Still, it didn't help that a couple of his opponents were equally blithering idiots. Back home for a nightcap then off to bed for an early start. I tried to get a bit of kip but knowing Mr Harris was arriving at 4:00am I just couldn't drift off. After letting him in I kipped down for what seemed like 5 minutes before it was time to leave.


Trying to get the rest of the Hi-on boys motivated to move in the morning is a mission. Amd, as such, we missed the ferry! En-route to Dover, Speed's botty was on fine form. The windows steamed up, the seats changed colour and many of us didn't dare breathe in for fear of toxic exposure. Such utter foulness I have not experienced for quite some time. Speed looked very pleased with himself, it has to be said. I've just looked at my Twitter feed from that morning and my one utterance read thus: "Oh God. Speed's arse is the devil. I WANT TO GET OUT."

"Bugger off!"


Hand of Duggers points the way...

That way



The ferry ride went swimmingly, with that holiday feeling sinking in. (I've just noticed I used 'swimmingly' and 'sinking' in a sentence about a ferry trip - what?!). The non-drivers amongst us had a beer while Eddie 'an egg too far' the 'Ead enjoyed a full English and a massage. Luxury! Upon returning to the van we were slightly alarmed to find that the bugger wouldn't start. Some sort of collapse of the starter motor, apparently. A bump start proved successful, and the journey continued until Speed stalled it a little further up the road. Ace! Thankfully it started on it's own volition this time, and we were on the road again. Several driver changes, two countries and some questionable sat nav direction later we arrived at Rockcafé Backstage a bit later than we had intended.

Greeted by the ever bubbly Theo and the wonderful Astrid, it felt like coming home. Last year Mr Dugginson had some issues with the monitors, and the fact that he couldn't hear himself onstage at all over Nicko's noisy tubthumping and the guitar noise necessary to overcome this. This year, however, no problem. In fact, it was quite spooky. We plugged in, turned on and played - somehow it was absolutely perfect!! Duggers looked beside himself in happiness, so that was one worry over with!

After that it was back to the fantastic Carola's place to get some nosh before running back to the venue for the show! Bruce and I opened proceedings with the acoustic set, which I believe included 'Still Life', 'Jerusalem' and 'Journeyman'.

Friday night acoustic set...

Acoustic friday

Then it was off downstairs to wig up and get on with the Hi-on business. This Friday night in Nijmegen we were treating the punters to a performance of 'Somewhere in Time' from start to finish. This was an idea I was particularly excited about, though slightly daunted as certain songs had turned out to be a little more of a challenge than I thought, particularly 'Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner'. Brown trousers time then!

Friday night I...



Live 2



The whole set went down an absolute storm, with the crowd going utterly mental throughout. I was moderately horrified to see Eddie come out brandishing my pal Sooty, but thankfully he remained unharmed and survived the ordeal. We all came off stage feeling that we'd just done something quite special, so that set list might find itself back on the stage some time soon.

Afterwards we retired to the dressing room to start making inroads into the fridge full of Dommelsch. I wasn't particularly in the party mood, it has to be said, though I did make the effort to get up there and have a word with some of the enraptured public.

Master McBrain about to take a waspie...


I do so love that bar - it always seems to be full of the most wonderfully kind and generous folk. Young Nicko 'Queen of Alpen' McBrain Jnr took a waspy or two after over-indulging in the fabulous cough syrup known as Jägermeister, while I seemed untouchable by booze. I think I was more tired than anything else, though not a patch on Adrian 'Grolsch written everywhere' Swift, who had done a hell of a lot of driving and fallen asleep at the wheel a number of times through Belgium. Whoopsie! Once Astrid had escorted the last of the revellers out of the bar we headed back to Carola's where I promptly headed for the loft (where us snorers are banished to) to get my head down.


Day Two in Nijmegen began with a hearty European breakfast of bread and meat. Including some meat that you just can't bite into, as I discovered after loading up a sarnie with it. Even more amusing was watching Mr Swift do the same thing even after a warning from Speed! Nicko chowed down on his favourite Slag, while I went for the healthy cracker option. The aforementioned drummer and bassist then went off for a kickabout in a nearby park while myself, Duggers, Swifty, Eddie 'I like the furry stuff' the 'Ead and Carola went wandering around Nijmegen looking for some stage gear for our tall lobotomised friend.

Tonight's gig was to feature a performance of the entire 'The Number of the Beast' album, and as such it was decided that Eddie needed some devil gear for the title track. A trip to a fancy dress shop turned up the campest mask and pitchfork combo ever seen, but not quite as camp as Mr Hurry's specs of choice! Can you say 'Elton John'?

Camp specs...


While out and about we absorbed a little of the history of the town, ate some fish and Swifty even found the time to hump a church (something he rarely gets the chance to do these days, poor thing). We found a nice bar just over the road from our favourite shop in the world, Nijmeegs Jopie Dumphandel, where it appeared to be Manic's round. Happily everyone decided that they wanted a Coke with their beer. And a packet of crisps. That's the last time I offer to buy a drink without giving an upper limit! Another round later (thankfully not mine) it was time to head back to the venue via another Dugginson photo opportunity. I'll let the pictures do the talking in this diary I think!

It's (nearly always) Manic's round...

Manic's round

...and it's goodnight from him...


Back at the venue it was time to run through the tracks on 'The Number of the Beast' that we don't normally cover in the average set. This classic album features many set list staples, so not a massive task. We had to get 'Invaders', 'Gangland' and 'Total Eclipse' up to speed. As much as the average Maiden fan may dislike 'Gangland', it's a hell of a lot of fun to play. Deceptively complicated, it took a little bit of work.

After this it was once again back to Carola's for another slightly rushed dinner (bloody nice though - rice and stuff!). The acoustic set that night featured 'Out of The Shadows' and 'Strange Death in Paradise', amongst others. It's great to play the Bruce solo stuff, as Duggers and myself both love it and it's a nice treat for those in the audience who might know it. Time for 'NoB', as it were!

Saturday night acoustic set

Acoustic Saturday

Saturday night I...



Camp Eddie


Bloody Eddie

Another storming gig, with a slightly older audience it seemed (perhaps a result of the older album we were performing). It was never quite going to live up to the night before, which will forever remain in my memory as one of those eeriliy good gigs (right up there with Penzance in early 2008). Nonetheless it was a solid performance and a great reaction. Once again Nijmegen, you are fucking great!

Once I'd come down from the gig, I packed down my gear and proceeded to get utterly rat-arsed. I remember very little of the evening past that point, though I do remember having to jumpstart the van again. Which was quite amusing, given the state of us all!

We all woke up a little later than anticipated the next morning, so again it was a quick exit from Carola's place. Thank you again Carola for all your kind hospitality! Speed floored the van all the way through Europe and we ended up a little early for the ferry which was quite an acheivement! Top stuff. I spent most of the journey there conked out, and when I did awake I couldn't shake the feeling that my insides were very soon to become my outsides. I managed to keep it all down and somehow decided a curry on the ferry would be a good idea. It didn't seem to do me any harm but I certainly felt even more ropey on the ride from Dover to Dartford!

Homeward bound...


Upon the return to Manic Towers, we parted ways and I conked out. Thank God for Mondays off!

Nijmegen just keeps getting better every year. We'll have to think of another quirk for the two-night setlist next year. Until then, UP THE 'KIN IRONS!

Dave "just off to pop something on the shelf" Hurry


HI-ON Harlow - 18 September 2009


(apologies for the lack of photos...if you want to see this in it's full glory, visit where Swifty added some rather splendid photos of our favourite lady!)

A gig I can get to without sacrificing any time off work is a rare thing. Even for a close gig I need to get the train into London and then from there to wherever we’re playing, which means half a day gone. On this occasion, the nice people from our Ipswich office were stuck down in Dartford on training and offered me a lift to the gig on their way home, taking a slight detour. Top shelf!

I should have known something was wrong. The M25 was crawling towards the M11 turn-off, which I knew in my head was simply a typical Friday afternoon on what is the second largest ring road in the world. However there was a sense of foreboding, which I cast aside as the turn-off came and four miles of clear M11 lay before us. I don’t spend a lot of time on the road in this band these days (doing most of my travel on the rails) so traffic jams are thankfully few and far between in my experience. Not so for Speed '1/4 mile an hour' Harris, but more on that later.

I wandered up to the venue entrance and spied Adrian 'sausage squad up the blue end' Swift pulling up in this week’s Selectadrive van of choice, thankfully void of windscreen crack. As it turned out, I had arrived just as the load-in had finished. Bargain! I made my heartless apologies and took a walk inside. Entering through the bar I was delighted to note that The Square had a nice selection of ales! Wychwood’s 'Bountiful' was on the guest tap, alongside a couple of Adnams beers. Mr Hurry was in for a good night! Then it was off to the stage to find Nicko 'they only had the large ketchup' McBrain Jnr setting up his kit. I hopped onstage and did my set-up as quickly as possible. I have a couple of loose jack plates on guitar and amp, which is a sound nightmare onstage but which I’m sure Mr Swift will sort out before the next gig (wink wink, nudge nudge) as I have no access to my Hi-on gear between gigs. Once set up I retired to the bar with Bruce 'I don’t know the words' Dugginson for a cheeky pint and a punt on the jukebox. The folk who work at The Square are a lovely bunch, and so the usually tedious processes of setting up and soundchecking/tweaking were no trouble at all. Given the curfew at this venue isn’t until 3:00am we had time on our side. Quite lucky, really…

Just before we started soundchecking, we called up Mr Harris to find out how his journey was going. We immediately wished we hadn't. The M25, which I believe had been described as 'a car park', was a little bit jammed up. Still, he wasn't far away from the turn-off so we soldiered on with soundcheck with me standing in for Speed to get his volume levels sorted out the PA. We also had a nice jam with one of the staff members on bass, whose name escapes me (sorry pal – rubbish with names and worse with faces!). Perhaps an hour later, we called Speed again. He'd moved forward, yes, but only by about a quarter of a mile. Time was marching on, as we had been slated to appear onstage at around 9:15pm. We wandered off for some grub, came back after another hour and the update was just as bleak.

At this point, Brucey and I started sorting out a short acoustic set to entertain the crowd with for a bit in case the bassist didn’t make it. At about the time we were supposed to go on, Speed had just cleared the motorway (possibly by driving so fast he actually went through everything) and would be there in about 40 minutes barring any other spectacular traffic failures. Brucey and I went on anyway and entertained the crowd with acoustic versions of 'Tears of the Dragon' (a Dickinson solo tune), 'Still Life' and 'Children of the Damned'. Totally unprepared and almost completely unrehearsed, we were certainly both browning the insides of our unmentionables but enjoyed the time onstage. Always handy to have something like that up your sleeve, and with a bit of work it could be something quite special.

I had disappeared off to the bar to say hello to some friends in the audience when, lo and behold, I was given the news that Harris was here. What should have been a four-hour journey had turned into a ten-hour journey, and that, coupled with the prospect of driving back afterwards due to morning work commitments, meant that our Mr Speed was not the happiest of boys. No time to stand around contemplating our misfortunes, however, so we wigged up and legged it out onstage.

A pretty solid performance to my memory, apart from the end of 'Heaven Can Wait'. If music had a smell, that would have smelled quite rotten! It’s all well and good checking out a set list before you go on, but more often than not you find yourself on-stage racing towards a section of a song and suddenly realising you can’t remember how to play the bloody thing! Still, we received high praise from the audience in the bar after the show. Eddie 'metal please!' the ‘Ead was in attendance, and went to town on us with the theatrical blood – I think we all had our arms sliced up. He even threatened poor Sooty!

We didn’t have to pack down the gear until the next morning, so a few drinks were in order. Myself and Swifty found ourselves at the bar quite quickly, ordering a pint and a Jägermeister. I myself rather over-indulged in the latter, and as such from here-on out my memories are very hazy indeed. I remember waking up the next morning in the McBrain guest suite, eating a bacon roll and then the agonizing pain of loading the gear back in the van down a flight or two of stairs. Everything else is a bit of a blur!

An enjoyable gig that almost-nearly didn’t happen. Nothing seems to be going quite to plan this year! Thanks to the crowd in Harlow, thanks to Eddie and a special NO THANKS to the M25!

Until next time,
Dave 'Darth Gers' Hurry

HI-ON YORKSHIRE (or simply HULL) - September 11 2009


Well well well boys and girls. This one is a bit of a tale!

Manic's weekend began with a three-day business trip to Liverpool, which conveniently located me in the right half of the country to travel across the Pennines and find myself in Yorkshire. Wednesday afternoon saw me in the splendid Dolphin Music store just around the corner from Liverpool Lime Street station. I went in for strings. I came out with a new acoustic guitar! Still, you can't win them all. And it's lovely! A three-hour train journey from there to Hull via Manchester followed, and I was duly met at the other end by Mr Adrian "Zippy McBride!" Swift. A trip to Asda was necessary to pick up a bit of dinner, a bit of Jäger and a bottle of unmentionable elixir for Swifty's vanity purposes. I'm sworn not to disclose the exact nature of this potion.

This was to have been a three gig weekend. Upon my arrival in Liverpool I began exchanging emails with Mr Swift to be told that Knaresborough, where we were due to perform on Saturday evening, had been cancelled. Another stroke of the bad luck which has plagued Hi-on this year. This weighed a little heavily on me, but I was still looking forward to the two that remained in the book. My anticipation was revived somewhat when Swifty and I pulled into Withernsea and had a listen to the almost-final mixes of our forthcoming 'Live at the Wharf' CD, recorded at Tavistock in the earlier part of this year. After some dinner and a bottle of the good stuff, we kipped down for the night.

Sooty nicks the Jägermeister!


Next morning we ventured out to pick up the 'Van of Not Quite So Much Terror' from Selectadrive in Hull. This particular LDV is the one van in the fleet not clobbered up in Selectadrive branding, as they've been trying to shift it on. Thankfully that means we get it at a reduced price, which came in quite handy in the end. Once we got the van back to Swift Heights I gave him a hand loading the van. This is a new experience for our Swifty, as he normally has to do this on his tod the day of a gig and drive a long long way. This weekend however, everything was that bit more local. Soon after humping all the gear, a rather unsettling phone call came from the promoter who had organised the gig in Wakefield. "There's no power at the venue", he said. Twenty minutes later a generator had been found and the gig was back on. "Phew", thought I. Hah.

While this was going on, Swifty got hold of Bruce "the finisher" Dugginson to get the number for the chap providing the P.A. for Wakefield. Somehow, Duggers managed to give Swifty the phone number for one Nicko "the lips" McBrain Jnr instead, who's real name is shared with the P.A. chap. "Hello, is that Joe?" said Swifty, The answer being yes, Swifty begins to describe the situation at the venue and says to arrive at 5:00pm. A completely innocuous conversation from our young drummer's end, yet Swifty didn't quite clock that he was talking to a member of his own band! "That sounded rather a lot like our Joe", he proclaimed upon putting the phone back in it's cradle. Numpty!

We set off for Wakey about an hour after we meant to, due to Swifty spending Dugginson-like hours in the shower. Close to the venue, my mobile begins parsnipping like there's no tomorrow - the call sign from Mr McBrain Jnr. Nicko filled us in on the look of the venue. No power. No lights. Not a soul in sight.


Swifty and I arrived shortly after and did find someone home. The power had been cut off that morning and Joe' the P.A. man, had advised that the generator was barely sufficient for the lights, let alone a full Maiden tribute band, P.A. system and the pub. Despite the best efforts of the promoter to find another venue, the gig was pulled there and then. For Speed "you idiot!" Harris, who had driven the 300-odd miles up from south Wales and already had a stressful few weeks, it looked to be almost the final straw. The evening was rescued somewhat by Duggers gee-ing us up and taking us to a charming little pub round the corner where we were met by my local pals Eddie's Mum & Dad. A good time was had by all, even if we were drowning our sorrows - we even happened upon a bingo-style pub quiz! Bread and dripping was served, which looked like more calories than our drummer had consumed in his life! After a skinful four of us drove back to Swifty's for another skinful, while Dugginson retired to his homestead. Good times!

More Jägermeister. We like it you know!


The next morning brought with it a trip into Hull town centre for bass strings, plasters and grub. Wandering through the shopping centre towards a panini which tasted like it had been essentially soaked in lard, we shucked off the despondency and looked forward to a gig that would almost definitely maybe sort of might just go ahead. I wouldn't have minded being at home - it was, after all, my parents 28th wedding anniversary - but we made the most of it. Swifty gave us his history of Hull, including the city hall where Maiden played the first gig of the Piece of Mind tour, ostensibly Nicko McBrain's first gig with the band. That nugget of history dealt with, we dived into Bad Dog Music where I contemplated the second guitar of the weekend, but ultimately decided that it was a bit excessive. Time to go back to Withernsea and generally loaf about until it was time to leave.

Then it was time to leave. Mr Swift's mother was piled in the Speed-mobile with the rabble while Swifty and I commandeered the van. En route, I was enlightened with more of Swifty's local knowledge - apparently folk from West Yorkshire who holiday in sunny Withernsea are known by the locals as "diggers", given their proclivity for building sandcastles. Who knew? Wikipedia does. However, Wiki tells me that "digger" is an affectionate term. This is not the impression I received! Rolling up outside the Springhead, memories of old came upon me. Thursday 4th March 2004 was the first (and last) time I was here, playing my very first gig with Hi-on as a 5 piece. A number of three-guitar gigs had gone before, but this was the first where I was flying solo as Manic without Adrian Swift. As I began to set up my gear on the other side of the stage I reflected on the five-and-a-half years that have elapsed since then. A lot has happened since then. I remember getting a frosty reception into the band from everyone except the lovely Dave Hurry II and Speed. It was a hell of a band to join, largely as they'd been together with that line-up for such a long time. Things got better but I never felt the warmth in that version of the band that I do in this one. After the gig, Duggers said to me "Something magic happens when this line-up gets onstage", and it's an utter delight. Well, it is when the gigs happen!

Pre-show brandy to warm up the vocal folds


Doctor, Doctor please...

Doctor Doctor

This one, however, went off without a hitch. The Springhead has had a hard time of late, but a positive change in ownership and a bit of a spruce-up seem to have turned the corner slightly with everyone who works there much more optimistic about the future. Not a huge crowd, but a bloody loud one. Bruce commented that bigger crowds sometimes don't make as much of a racket. My over-riding memory of my time on stage that night is Swifty waltzing over to inform me the next number was to be "Wratchchild". Just as Bruce announced "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner"!! Splendid. Two different setlists onstage. Makes for a bit of a minefield! Thankfully the two didn't wildly vary. I had a few issues with the lights, as for some reason they seemed to be cancelling out my fretboard markings sending me into a Hurry Flurry of Brown Notes. Despite this, a good night was had by all. After packing down, Mr Harris sped off back home while the rest of us piled back to the coast.

Hi-on Maiden make a new friend

New friends

The next morning started with me completely failing to wake up in time to help Swifty unload the van in order to get it back to the lovely people of Selectadrive by 10:00am. Oops. Sorry pal. By the time I did emerge from the bony bed in the back bedroom he had already returned and the coffee was a-brewing. I began to revel in the delights of my new acoustic guitar while Swifty took the other two in the back room to show off one of his new toys. I ventured forth to find Mr Swift at the helm of his flight simulator, attempting to fly from Leeds to Manchester. This was all quite impressive until he attempted to land. Hitting the runway a little bit late and 'forgetting' to brake, he ended by pulling back up into the air and apparently shearing through a plate glass building. Top! It'll be some time before Swifty takes on Bruce's flying schedule, I fear.

We drove back into Hull and dropped young Nicko off for his train home. My train was a couple of hours after, so this trinity of pretend rock meandered into the city centre for a pint or two. Once firmly seated in Ye Olde Black Boy (a rather nice pub to the memory of William Wilberforce, the Hull native who led the movement to abolish the slave trade and who lived just up the road from this establishment), we all got rather too comfortable. I ended up missing my train (what a shame) and the three of us stayed in the boozer (what a shame). After a couple of Hobgoblins Swifty took us on a tour of Hull pubs, of which there are many. Duggers was adamant that we would find a curry house - easier said than done, apparently! After asking half a dozen locals and wandering about for what seemed like a lifetime I took the initiative to ask the internet where to go. We ended up in a restaurant a stone's throw from the train station chowing down on quite a nice curry. Opting not to get the bus we cabbed it back to Withernsea and took up seats in the Alex. All in all, it made for a night out that none of us could really afford after the abortive weekend, but it was a great laugh and a chance to get some quality drinking and socialising done without worrying about gigging or driving.

The next day Swifty drove Duggers and I back into Hull to pick up the car and say our goodbyes. Mr Dugginson kindly dropped me off at Leeds station, knocking about £40 off me train travel, and I was on me way.

We certainly made the best of a crap weekend. Cheers to all who came to The Springhead, sorry to all who came to The Strafford Arms, and a big thanks to Swifty for putting us up for the weekend.

Until next time,
Dave "cabbage crates over the briney!" Hurry.