Sunday 30 May 2010

HI-ON PLYMOUTH - March 26 2010

This one didn't start well.

I had totally failed to book the day off work to get down to Plymouth, and the powers that be had decided to send my entire office on a 'team building day' in the city. The upshot of this was that I wouldn't be able to get away until 4:00pm to get down to Plymouth. Which is a bit of a long way on the train. Time was against me, but not quite as much as it would be against Speed 'my entire life was in that car' Harris. More of that later.

These 'team-building' exercises were being carried out largely in a basement underneath the Slug & Lettuce on Wardour Street. When I surfaced at lunchtime my mobile phone revealed a worrying number of missed calls from Adrian 'bit of a problem' Swift. Knowing something must have gone wrong (it always does in this band, somehow!), I frantically tried to call him back to no avail. In lieu of Swifty, I called Bruce 'fancy learning the bass?' Dugginson who would be sat next to Swifty in the Van of Wonder and Safe Arrival in Plymouth. Duggers informed me that Mister Harris' motor had decided to throw a wobbler about 40 minutes from home, and that it was unlikely that he would be able to get to Plymouth in time for the gig.

All the equipment was in the van, so it was a matter of finding a bass player just in case. I ran through the songs in my mind to see if I could find any black holes where I didn't know what the bass line was. Having played the part of all three Maiden guitarists (and, on one faithful night, stood in for the singer!), it seemed only right and proper that I should have a go. Thankfully the news soon reached me that Speed was on a bus headed for Swansea, where he would join a train for Brizzle and then another for Plymouth. The sight of Speed Harris on public transport is a rare thing indeed, and the image gave me some giggles for the rest of the day.

I was released from our team-building event (after a bit of haggling with the boss) a little early and found myself on the 4:00pm train out of London Paddington to Plymouth. Four and a half hours, and a few phone calls later, I arrived. A short walk to the venue saw me arrive just as all the gear had been set up - splendid! Eddie 'I hear you're having trouble' the 'Ead was in fine form at the bar as I walked into the venue, which was going to be a rather intimate affair.

The stage is about the size of a postage stamp, surrounded on all sides by a banister-like contraption. Even with myself, the drumkit, Swifty and Duggers on the stage there was no more room. Most of the night would be spent rooted to the spot! Not that this bothers me as I'm not really one for legging it about the stage (unless in's just so freeing!).

After checking everything was working alright, we retired to the cellar which doubled as a dressing room. Nicko 'soul brother' McBrain Jnr entertained us with some rather amusing videos while we twiddled our thumbs and waited for the arrival of the bottom-end of the band (as it were!). During this time, Mr Dugginson and me went back upstairs to briefly entertain the crowd with our acoustic machinations. I had made the mistake of playing a Marillion riff in soundcheck, and one fellow prog fan in the audience was rather loudly requesting some more of this. Maybe next time!

Speed eventually arrived with the entire contents of his car in a rucksack. The poor bugger had been cooped up on a train like a battery hen, and didn't look too pleased. Unfortunately we didn't have time to lament, so we quickly wigged up and got ready to hit the stage. Against all odds we played brilliantly. Being restricted in movement has it's positives in terms of your actual musical performance, with no tripping over cables, or being thwacked in the face by errant bass guitar headstocks to worry about you become a little more focussed on the task at hand. The punters seemed to be having a whale of a time, though my thickening dark facial hair provided some amusement when framed by the light blonde wig!

After the show we ended up having a few beverages before packing down the gear and heading off to the Travelodge. Delighted to be back on the 'Manic Cushion', I had a splendid nights sleep. In the morning we were all dropped at the train station, with Mr Speed leaving first while Nicko and I waited patiently for our train back to London.

Thanks Plymouth! At time of writing we're going to be back visiting you for two nights in February 2011, and I for one can't wait. Thanks also to Eddie and Mrs Eddie, along with the friends they brought with them whose names have yet again escaped me!

Until next time...
Dave 'all the beer in the cellar....for me?' Hurry

HI-ON EUROPE - Eindhoven & Antwerp, 19/20 March 2010

So here we were again! Off to Europe in that wonderful Van Where Nothing Works Except The Engine!

As is usual on these Euro trips the band were converging on Manic Towers. The van rolled up as I was enjoying a splash of wine, and the Speedmobile rolled up a short time later with Eddie in tow. I had stocked up on beer and pizza (the fuel of every band worth their salt) and we dug in while Speed 'it’s all about the sphincter control' Harris entertained us with all the stuff he finds on the internet and Spinal Tap's mighty composition 'Saucy Jack', which was to become the theme tune of the weekend.

Despite needing to get away early in the morning, we still managed to sit up til silly o’clock. I remember Unencyclopedia causing a fair few fits of laughter as we went through the articles on our various locales before coming across the Iron Maiden article. "If the fucking roadies can’t give me a realistic 200-foot manger, then I can’t stand on stage and sing for a little while!" An instant classic, and a line worthy of our splendid frontman Bruce 'basting yourself in your own juice' Dugginson.

Departure from Manic Towers...


Breakfast P&O style...


Up and out in the morning, and fuelled by coffee, we rolled forward for a rare on-time arrival in the port of Dover. This leg of the last trip had featured some utterly appalling accidents in the botty department from one Speed Harris. The air turned brown, faces turned green and the dead of Kent turned in their graves. Thankfully all was quite from that thunderous anus, and for the first time in recent years we actually made it onto the ferry we’d booked. Reeling from the shock of this we joined the queue for P&O's huge, ludicrously expensive, full English breakfast. Adrian 'clotted cream disaster' Swift and I wandered off for a well deserved pint since Speed had agreed to do the driving on the other side of the channel. Top man!

Ten minutes later we arrived in Eindhoven.

The Rambler is a fine looking venue on the corner of the high street opposite Eindhoven railway station. Typical, I thought to myself – my journey to a gig often involves a long train ride and a long walk – this would have been a (very) long train ride but hardly any walk at all! While Nicko “Stumpy Joe” McBrain Jnr and Speed loitered at the front of the venue for a while, the rest of us sauntered over the road for a sneaky stein of ale. Yours truly is not a lager drinker, but on the continent somehow the beer tastes purer. It’s a good job too, as we were there for quite some time waiting for signs of life at the venue. We were three or four pints to the good by the time we saw movement over the road.

The "moody life on the road" shot


Arrival in Eindhoven I...


II: Post-arrival tab time...


III: Post-arrival beer time


After loading in and soundchecking, it appeared there were some problems with the power stage left. This could have made for an interesting night for Mr Swift, whose bells and whistles would reset every time the power fluctuated! Thankfully this was speedily resolved, although we were then informed of a 11:00pm curfew. 11:00pm! The support band didn’t finish soundchecking until 9:30pm, so this curfew was immediately discredited. Said support band, 'Bulldozer Breed', were quite something. Somewhere between Manowar and L. Ron Hubbard.

After the support band were done we came downstairs to find that a horde of friends from Nijmegen had made the journey to come and see us!!! We were all utterly over the moon to see all our pals from Rockcafé Backstage, and we instantly knew this show was going to be a killer.

Onstage at last, the tiredness got the better of me on a couple of occasions (fingers not responding to solo requests, feet not hitting the right pedals etc.) but by and large we played a blinder. The folks from Nijmegen got right up the front and really gave us some much needed energy, which was amazing – it simply wouldn't have been the same without them. Despite my best efforts at saving his life, Eddie 'sorry lads, I’ve got to do a runner' the 'Ead went after Sooty with his knife once again. Poor sod.

2 Minutes to Midnight - Live at The Rambler, Eindhoven

We were very kindly kept in booze by the venue for the evening, and it wasn't until 4:00am that the Jägermeister came out. Hic. There was some other concoction, the name of which has been stolen away from my memory, but whatever it was it wasn't good! We eventually set off for the hotel with our friend Melvin in hot pursuit. Melvin has a tendency to catch up with our Mr Swift on these European trips and causes all sorts of trouble. Thankfully he was left somewhere over the border and we arrived at the hotel intact. There was some argument over who got to sleep with the snorers (Eddie and myself), and I seem to recall there was already someone in one of the rooms we were allocated. Hilarious. I coughed up some funds which allowed us to stay in the hotel until much later than checkout time, which allowed us some precious hours of sleep not usually afforded to us on these trips.

The next morning/afternoon Eddie, Duggers and I went for a walk around to see what we could see. After enjoying a sophisticated luncheon of omelettes and wine it was time to ensure everyone else was fit and ready to naff off. Which of course they weren't! The rest of the lads grabbed a sophisticated luncheon of their own before we took the uneventful journey to Antwerp.

After lunch...


We arrived at De Rots Rock Concern just as a bit of a bar-room brawl was reaching it's conclusion. After humping in the gear (shuffling around the melee and avoiding errant trams as best we could), I buggered off with Swifty and Duggers to find somewhere to park the van. In a dazzling display of intelligence and orienteering, we got spectacularly lost on the way back. It should have been simple, as we only took about two turns out of the venue! On the plus side we did get to see a bit of Antwerp, which is a fine mixture of narrow cobbled streets, main roads and the odd square. The boys nearly lost me as I spied an Irish bar on the other side of one particular square, but I was reigned back in rather sharpish as time was not on our side. All roads lead to the gig, and around a few more corners we found ourselves back at the venue.

Eddie wants more metal...


A big church...


A big statue (thanks to Duggers for perspective...!)


After setting up our gear, we were informed that the curfew here was 10:00pm - a whole hour earlier than the poorly observed restrictions in Eindhoven. This curfew was set in stone, however, so as soon as a tasty dinner of Rice And Stuff had been consumed the support band, Pitched Black, blasted onstage at 7:30pm. Finishing up just after 8:00pm with a rendition of 'Anarchy in the U.K.' (especially for us!), the poor buggers were constantly heckled by one of the brawlers from earlier with shouts of "666!". He'd soon get his wish, and as soon as the stage was clear we wigged up and rolled the intro tape at 8:30pm. We kicked Belgian botty, let me tell you - the crowd really gave us a warm reception and we all played our socks off. Oftentimes on these Europe trips, we don't get a lot of sleep so even by the second gig we can be physically exhausted. Having had a fairly good night's sleep between gigs, this time we were rested up and firing on all cylinders. It rocked.

The venue had provided us with a number of drinks tokens, which were quickly decimated after the gig. We were sleeping upstairs in the hostel above the venue, so the gear got packed down but left onstage in favour of a spot of drinking. I started in on the rum and managed to clean the venue out of Havana Club. A heroic effort, I felt! By the time I moved on to the vodka, only Swifty and Eddie were left standing with me. There may have been some Jäger. There may have been some sausage. There was most definitely some more Sooty abuse. The poor thing is going to need counseling soon. I don't remember going to bed, but I certainly woke up in one.

Sooty goes in for "The Finisher"...


Hanibal Swift & Groucho the 'Ead


The next morning, I led a rather groggy Mr Swift out in search of the van. It's a good job he didn't venture out on his own, he would have gone completely the wrong way down the river! Either that or he would have disappeared into the Marmite Cafe, never to be seen again...

I rode shotgun all the way to Calais, earphones buried in my ears enjoying some Pink Floyd to accompany the rather boring visages of the motorway. Border control at Calais was a complete farce. Our passports were checked no less than four times by four different operatives. I don't know whose passport mugshot looks a bit shady. Messrs Harris and McBrain both look decidedly grumpy, while Duggers is grinning like a loon and the rest of us look decidedly normal. Who knows, but we were all decidedly hacked off by it all by the time we managed to get in the queue for our boat. In no time at all we rolled up outside Manic Towers, where it transpired that Nicko Jnr. had tried to have me sleeping bag away! Cheeky c*nt.

Swifty's new home


Almost home...


Here endeth another story. Thanks to both venues for their kind hospitality, we hope to see you again soon! Extra special amazing thanks to all the folk who made the trip from Nijmegen to see us - words can't express how much it meant to see you all there. I hope it didn't take too long for Carola to recover from filing her Chunder Report!

Until next time...
Dave 'leave Sooty alone!' Hurry