Wednesday 6 April 2011

HI-ON CANNING TOWN - 26 March 2011

At last, a gig on my home turf!

Saturday 26 March had loomed large in my calendar for a good few months. It’s not often that we manage to find gigs in our illustrious capital city. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that London venues simply won’t pay what it takes to get us all together in one place. We’ve done a few fanclub / special event type shows in recent years at the Ruskin Arms (Iron Maiden’s spiritual home) and just about managed to get ourselves there and back, but this is the first “regular gig” in a long time to take place within the sound of Bow bells.

My day started with a bit of forward planning. A few days previous I had been taken ill with a Devil Bug, and having recently moved it struck me as a grand idea to go and sign up with the local witch doctor. Upon registering with their fine service it became apparent that my passport had expired. With a trip to Nijmegen beckoning in a few short weeks, I was racked with a bout of loud expletives (much to the horror of the poor receptionist at whom they were directed) and went home to ask the internet how one goes about renewing one’s passport. Saturday morning was spent putting that research into practice at the local post office, while also picking up a more suitable dress shirt to match, as best I could, what Dave Murray is wearing on Iron Maiden’s current tour. It was also incumbent on me to pick up an “emergency wig”; rabid readers may recall an unfortunate incident in Plymouth resulting in what Adrian “d’yer want the good news or the bad news?” Swift affectionately summed up as “looks like a fanny on yer head!”. With a brisk jaunt around town on Saturday morning put behind me, I walked home and set about getting my stuff together for the gig.

Arriving at the venue a refreshing 30 minutes or so after leaving home (thank you, TFL!), I came upon various members of our support act for the evening. Ghoad are a Saxon tribute band, who have been together as a classic rock covers act for the better part of a decade but who recently turned their talents to the tribute world. Their genesis sounds awfully familiar – a pre-existing band notice that their beloved band are poorly represented on the tribute circuit and decide to try their hand at it. We wish them the best of luck for the future! Ghoad’s Manager Andy Findley filled me in (as it were!) on the situation – there was no-one to let us in until a bit later. The Bridgehouse II is the relocated spirit twin of The Bridgehouse, a seminal rock venue in the East End throughout the seventies before being shut down in 1982 and razed to the ground in recent years. Iron Maiden themselves played there in the early days, and the Bridgehouse II is there to take it’s place. A small room on an industrial estate in the wastelands of East London, it seems a slightly surreal place to find a venue.

Half an hour later, the Unbranded and Slightly Damaged Selectadrive Sprinter rolled up with the rest of the band aboard. Bruce “I’ve just done a rather awful trump” Dugginson was complaining of cramp, having had a rather uncomfortable journey, while everyone else looked in decidedly chipper moods. Speed “fugg may owld boots!” Haggis wasted no time offering me up as a sexual favour to the support act in order to get me a lift home (charming!), while Nicko “dum de dee dee dum de dee dee” McBrain Jnr was devasted to learn that there were no eateries nearby. Honestly. I don’t know where he puts it all.

We quickly set about lugging all the gear up the stairs (always fun, I can tell you!) ably aided by the Ghoad boys. By this time it was a mere 90 minutes to doors opening, so I tried to set my gear up as quickly as possible. Sound-check duly ensued, and we ran through the two numbers we had prepared especially for the gig (including the rarely performed Purgatory and the never-before performed Back In The Village – oh, you lucky people!). Both went off without a hitch, more or less, and were received raptly by the pre-gig audience! We cleared off to allow Ghoad to sort their stuff out, and I promptly decamped to the bar. By this time the doors were almost ready to open, and punters started trickling in. I escaped to the outside (where it was colder than expected!) to quietly sup on my pint of Guinness. While I waited outside with the lads, various friends and family appeared. As I said, it’s a rare thing that a gig occurs anywhere near my locale, and when it does my nearest and dearest jump at the chance to see me and my be-wigged colleagues knocking out the choons.

Ghoad brought Saxon to the masses, and in no time at all it was our turn in the “dressing cupboard”. Not wanting to waste any time (punters would be wary of the last Tube departing just after the midnight hour) we bounded onstage to “Satellite 15...” and got on with the show. We played a blinder, with the rarities well-received and the classics being greeted with utter joy. I had one or two marvellous personal moments with mates of mine popping up in front of me on stage right singing right along with me, which was a real treat. I had one slight nightmare at the end of “Hallowed...”, trying to go for the crash-ending but finding my fingers seizing up so what actually came out was a flurry of mishits and Brown Notes. Rather embarrassing! Recovering from that, we rounded out the gig with the encores and said our on-stage farewell while Eddie “Mother of Mercy’s me favourite” the ‘Ead couldn’t resist tearing my dying wig from my bonce and giving me a good slice with the blood-soaked knife. A job well done, although let me tell you it was bloody loud. Even with my slightly-less-than-rock-and-roll earplugs in, my ears were buzzing the next day. I hope the punters have recovered!

I packed down my gear and, having missed the last Underground train, was kindly offered a lift home with the departing Andy and Nibs from Ghoad. This, I’m assured, had nothing to do with ‘Aggy’s inferences earlier in the evening! I’m not usually one to wimp out of loading out the gear (with one notable exception at The Brook, though I still maintain I was busy drinking at the bar and no-one told me the load-out was in progress!!!), but it was such a nice feeling to be at home on the night of a gig without the slog of a long journey home the next day. I arrived home and promptly walked round a mate’s house to continue the party! Splendid stuff.

On a personal note, a huge thanks to all the friends and family who came along (with or without ear protection!). Special thanks to Goc for marshalling the Facebook hordes, to Ross and Sasha for providing me with faces to melt down the front, and to Corey for coming along even though he can't stand Maiden! Kev, Beth, Mike, Mum, Dad, it was properly lovely to see you there. Thanks to Eddie, Mrs Eddie et al, and to the fine chaps of Ghoad.

Until next time, UP THE ‘KIN IRONS

Dave “are you pimping me out?” Hurry

Saturday 5 March 2011

HI-ON PLYMOUTH - 25 & 26 February 2011

Back at The Junction! Ever so slightly less than a year since our last visit, we return to our favourite venue in Plymouth. The journey began far too early for my liking. Train travel these days is becoming more and more extortionate, and in an effort to reduce costs (thereby ensuring everyone else gets that little bit more of a cut after expenses) I opted for the cheapest train. Which arrived in Plymouth about three hours earlier than necessary, and had me out of bed at 8:30am on a day off with one thought on my mind – "Who’s fucking idea was this?"

I met Nicko 'I, er, uh, um, errr' McBrain Jnr at Paddington just as the screens directed us to platform 8. My ticket said "Coach B, seat 82A". The seats in coach B ended at number 80. Well then. Junior quickly located two empty seats in the quiet coach and we parked our behinds. In all it was a slightly surreal journey. The sky slowly turned from bright clear azure to dismal grey as the rain started pelting down around us. The announcement that the coffee shop was open was accompanied by an over-zealous canine passenger, intent on broadcasting his thoughts on the matter to the rest of the train. I managed to reduce the residents of the quiet coach to fits of laughter by advising that they not eat the burgers. In hindsight, a quip about hot dogs would have been better. I believe the relevant internet term is 'lol'.

Normally, when en-route to a gig or just before I leave, I invariably receive a call from Adrian 'no glass, I’m from ‘Ull me' Swift. These calls nearly always start "Er, 'ave you left yet?" which is followed, nine times out of ten, by details of something that’s been left behind or news of some disaster that has befallen another member of the band. Examples of this are littered throughout the gig diaries – anything from a lack of spare guitar strings to Speed 'my entire life was in that car!' Harris' spectacular troubles getting to Plymouth last time. So I was not surprised to get a call when Junior and I were about an hour out of Paddington. He was just winding me up though – everything was a-OK and the lads had stopped for a wee while in Tamworth.

Pulling into Plymouth at 2:30pm, Junior and I immediately went in search of lunch. The lad needed to find a towel for those wet moments onstage, and I was looking out for a suitable grey shirt to match the clobber of my Maiden namesake. Nothing doing, unfortunately – the slightly-too-light granddad shirt would have to do for another gig or two. If anyone reading this has any leads on where Mr Murray gets his gear, give me a shout! Deciding to cut our losses, Nicko whipped out his iPhone and tried to find a route to the venue. After trying (and failing) to get our bearings, we jumped in the nearest cab! Unfortunately there was nobody in at the Junction. I suggested a pint (surprised?). Nicko spotted a friendly looking pub in the distance, so it was into The Fortescue for a pint of SA. This turned out to be the only pint I paid for all weekend!

We headed back to The Junction to find Chris, the proprietor, had arrived. After taking us through the various changes the venue had gone through in recent times, he sorted us both a drink (very kindly!) and we waited for the rest of the band to appear. We weren’t waiting long. While ensconced in my laptop and the quest for a shirt, I heard the dulcet tones of Bruce 'thunderknickers' Dugginson. The Selectadrive van of choice for the weekend had delivered the remaining members, so it was time to load in and make some noise.

The Junction, in my memory, had the smallest stage of 2010 for us. Ever so nice, then, to arrive at the venue and find that the stage has moved to the other side of the venue and become ever-so-slightly larger. I was delighted to discover that this meant that stage right puts me right by the bar.

C---chug-a-chug---D---chug-a-chug---E---chug-a-chug – "GUINNESS PLEASE!".

A very easy soundcheck followed, facilitated by Nathan the Sound Man’s handy mantra of "plug in, turn up, leave the front of house to me!". Chris had told me of some recent woes the venue had encountered with the P.A. system, which had been mitigated for this weekend by hiring certain bits of gear in. Everything sounded fantastic, both onstage and off, and so we ran through a few songs to check that everything from the rehearsals the weekend before had sunk in. We must say a big thank you to Darryl and Pat for once again coming down to take some video footage of our sound check. This proves to be a valuable aid to critiquing our sound and performance, and tweaking anything we feel is not up to scratch.

Video courtesy of Darryl 'Ross Halfinch' Stubbs

We ran off to the Travelodge to book in, and returned just in time for The Journeymen to take the stage. Swifty was on acoustic duty on Friday, leaving Saturday night up to me. The boys went down a storm – it was nice to watch this bit of the show and gauge crowd reaction, which was superlative.

Then in no time at all it was wig o’clock. Therein lay a problem – it seems that Hurry’s syrup had taken something of a waspy! My trusty blond locks now featured a (rather appropriate) bald spot on top! Time to buy a new wig I think. After a few un-PC 'Hurry on chemo' jokes, the intro tape was rolling. This is the first time for us using 'Satellite 15…' as an intro, and as a result none of us knew precisely when to start making our way to the stage. We ended up stood there like lemons for a good minute before having to come in on that first chord. Never mind!

We were bloody good. This was Steve 'don’t open the fridge!' Haggis’ first chance to show us what he’s got onstage, and he didn’t disappoint. Despite a couple of unable to hear the vocals difficulties due to the wobbly monitor system, we played a blinder. The 'Somewhere in Time' album part of the show went down a storm, and I remember particularly enjoying the harmony sections of 'The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner' and 'Déjà Vu'. The atmosphere from both the venue staff and the crowd had put us squarely in our comfort zones, and Eddie 'the new album is great!' the 'Ead put in a fine appearance much to the delight of the audience. Again, thanks go to Kelsey Fox, an up and coming Plymouth-based film-maker, for bringing along her camera to film the entire first night. It was also nice see our good friend Amy George in the front row, camera in hand, belting out the lyrics along with the fine Mr Dugginson!

Post-gig there was a good deal of merry-making and chatter with the punters. A good number of friendly faces from previous gigs here and throughout Devon and Cornwall had returned, and a splendid young chap by the name of Claude had come all the way from Luxembourg for this weekend – what a star! We piled in the van and headed back to the digs for some well deserved kip.


Saturday morning (well, afternoon) came around in no time at all. Bruce 'crash test' Dugginson and Nicko 'every fist I can find' McBrain Jnr had opted to get their own room as the rest of us snore too loudly, disturbing them from their beauty sleep. Divas. Fully rested (and still a bit wired from the excellent night before) we took a wander into the town centre in search of some grub. A functional Wether-lunch was taken, and with Spook from the forums in tow we continued our exploration of the town. Steve 'Ann Summers? Now you’re talking!' Haggis took a tour of the charity shops looking for a replacement buckle for his guitar strap, but all I wanted was a cup of coffee. After a fair bit of wandering about we finally sat down for a coffee and a tasty treat. Then it was back to Mutley Plain in search of a pint. The kind proprietor of the Dog & Duck (over the road from The Junction) gave us a round on the house in praise of our performance the night before – very kind, thank you sir!

Adrian 'smells a bit like crab-paste...and Pedigree Chum' Swift took Junior and Duggers off to collect the van while 'Aggy, Spook and I wandered back to The Junction. A few more casual beverages were consumed and a few songs run through before retiring upstairs to get ready. It was my turn to wield the acoustic, and true to form Duggers and I pleased the crowd with our takes on Still Life, Blood Brothers et al (including, once again, our tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio).

We hit the stage just after 10:00pm with the classic 'Live After Death' opening four, and a couple of new ones before performing 'The Number of the Beast' album in it's entirety. This album is chock full of classics we play at near enough every gig, but the inclusion of 'Invaders' and 'Gangland' (as well as 'Total Eclipse', removed from the album at the last minute to the regret of the band) kept things fresh. Eddie 'tag team shit!' the 'Ead had dusted off his prong (ooh err!) and put in a spectacular performance during both The Number of the Beast and Iron Maiden. Again, the punters and the venue were absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere was positively electric – it's so easy to underestimate how much an audience brings to a performance, and far too easy to forget that it's an intrinsically symbiotic relationship. The gig flew by, and I think we all could have quite happily gone on much longer. Still, we must always leave them wanting more!

Video courtesy of Jess 'more cloudy cider please' Tilley

Leisurely packing the gear down with a few drinks after the show, we almost didn't want to leave. Duggers and I managed to get ourselves into a rather advanced state of refreshment, while 'Aggy and Junior (as well as the driving Mister Swift) stayed rather more sensible! After several hours of party and chatter we said our goodbyes and managed to kip down at around about 4:00 A.M.!

In the morning, with 'Aggy complaining that he felt hungover despite having barely touched a drop (old age, mate!) we came to life slowly, divvying up the readies and making our way to the van. Junior and I were dropped off at the train station (about an hour and a half before hour train!) and the rest of them started out on the long journey north. Four and ¾ hours of train later, we pulled into London and went our separate ways. I got home at about 6:00pm, still on an absolute high.

This crowd and this venue reminded us all of how much we love doing this. Thank you The Junction, and thank you to the fans!

Dave 'egg in the nest' Hurry.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

HI-ON REHEARSAL……WAIT, WHAT? - 19 & 20 February 2011

Well well well, boys and girls!

After a sensationally lazy year of not-really-writing-diaries-due-to-general-procrastination-and-disillusionment, Mr Hurry has pulled his socks up, pulled out the stops (and pulled on various other things to salacious to mention in these pages) and is back on the diary writing bandwagon. Or, should I say, tribute bandwagon.

I’m frequently not as witty as I think I am.

Apologies must go to faithful readers (if I had any) and to the rest of the band for the dismal lack of effort on my part last year. I fully intend to make up for it this year! The gig itinerary is looking healthy for 2011 with several special gigs in there already (those pre- and after-show parties are looking particularly tasty to me right now).

So, 2011 has arrived! The first order of business, as those of you who stalk us around the internet will no doubt already be aware, is to announce the temporary absence of one Mr Speed “I Love Frubes!” Harris. Our trusty stage-left-then-stage-right-then-stage-left-again whirlwind is taking a break from the tribute circuit to concentrate on his master’s degree, with which we wish him all the best of British luck. Our stand-in for the year is a veteran of the Scottish tribute scene, having played in Maiden Scotland (and having been in a Marillion tribute as well, much to Mr Hurry’s delight!). We welcome Steve “take my bare arse!” Haggis into the fold.

With a new member to break in and some album-themed gigs in the pipeline, it seemed opportune to have a rehearsal or two. Adrian “fancy a Mr Whippy?” Swift dutifully booked us two days in a rehearsal room in Leeds, which seems to be the most central location for us now (that’s right, we’ve really swapped a bass player in South Wales for one in Glasgow – things in Hi-On Maiden don’t really make all that much geographical sense these days!). After booking my travel I set about refreshing my memory of the songs that were coming up. Our next two gigs feature full album performances of Somewhere In Time and The Number Of The Beast respectively, and certain songs which we don’t regularly play needed a bit of topping up. Wrapping my fingers around songs like Déjà Vu and Invaders reminded me of just how much I love doing this.

And so it came to pass that on a cold February morning I was to meet our esteemed tubthumper Nicko “sex on toast” McBrain Jnr at Kings Cross. Far too early in the morning to reasonably function, we grunted a few incoherents at each other and headed for the platform. Doing some revision en route got us both suitably woken and geared up for the weekend, and in no time at all we’d pulled into Leeds and piled into Swifty’s motor. Mr Swift had managed to leave various near-vital pieces of kit at home (including his amplifier and Nicko’s cymbals), though luckily half of my amp was available and the rehearsal studios could provide splashy splashy bits of metal that go craassssssssssssssh in the night. Splendid.

We first clapped eyes on ‘Aggy (as he will now be known!) in a misty Travelodge car park. The intention had been to check into the room and then naff off to rehearse, but sadly there was no-one about to let us in so it was time to roll. We were already late (I’m still not entirely sure how that happened) and arrived at the rehearsal room to set up somewhere between 2 and 3.

It took us all a good few songs to warm up, but once we’d got going we were on form. ‘Aggy made it look easy, despite professing that his hands were seizing up on him at the beginning. We had all contributed to a list of songs that we felt we had to focus on, but much to our surprise we sailed through damn near all of them. I made plenty of mistakes (it seemed I had been a little over-confident in my memory of some of these songs!), but by and large it was all gelling together very well. At 6pm we downed tools and headed back to check in, before going out on the lovely town of Yeadon for a hearty Italian meal and a glass of soup or two. It was nice to have some time to get to know ‘Aggy, and to introduce him to our particular brand of idiocy!

The next morning, after a disappointing Morrison’s breakfast (I’m sure it was better last time, chaps!) and a brief trek to The Tarn for ice cream on a chilly winter’s morning, we were straight back in the room for more. After a short while we were joined by Bruce “not around long enough to say anything stupid enough for a nickname” Dugginson, who led us through belting renditions of everything on our “Songs To Worry About” list in record time. With an hour to spare, and having run out of songs we weren’t sure about, we packed down and headed off early (some earlier than others, eh?!).

After fond farewells, I was shipped back to Leeds station for my homeward journey (Junior had opted to stick around with Dugginson for the evening). I conked out on the train and woke up just in time to stagger back to Hurry Towers.

And there you have it. Firing on all cylinders for the Plymouth weekender, the Hi-On train keeps rolling.

Until next time,

Up the Irons!

Dave “did I leave it in the pub?” Hurry