Tuesday 31 July 2012

HI-ON NIJMEGEN - 18 & 19 May 2012

Whoops - took me a little while to get around to this one!

Picking up where we left off, the Tremendous Titans of Tribute (that's us) had put our heads down at my gaff for a few - and I mean a few - short hours of sleep before we were off to Holland-land.

Caption competition time...!

I've had a few a rude awakenings in my time. On one pre-university holiday with pals, a friend of mine took to waking us all up to with Edwin Starr's "War". But nothing quite prepared me to wake up to the sight of Bruce 'ran out of bog roll and had to waddle to the ladies' Dugginson towering over me [insert height joke!]. I can't remember what it was he wanted, but perhaps that's for the best. I got up to make the coffee and rally the troops to ensure we were out of the door on time. Which we were! We're always slightly amazed when we get to Dover and haven't missed our ferry!

The rest of the journey was relatively smooth. I have vague recollections of visiting the gents for a Sit Down with Eddie 'shopping for blood' The 'Ead in a neighbouring cubicle, singing as much of Rod Stewart's "Sailing" as we could remember. I recall Adrian 'what the F**K are you playing?' Swift discovering a new energy drink named "Go Fast!", which was to Red Bull what White Lightning is to Old Rosie. There was a bit of a scrabble to find some motion lotion - we were running on fumes by the time we got to the first petrol station on the continent (fill up in Calais next time if you're worried, Swift!). Then the only battle ahead was finding somewhere to park in Nijmegen! We arrived a little early, so went to find ourselves a beer at our favourite bar on Grotestraat.

Of course, when the sun is out, the first thing we all do is take pictures of whatever we're drinking...

Beers out of the way, we headed to the Rockcafe Backstage to start off the business at hand. It was so good to see all our old friends again - the minute you see Astrid's welcoming smile, you know you've come home! Theo tweaked the dials while we made a racket, and prepared ourselves for the evening. I went off to find myself some chips and mayo, and wandered back around showtime.

Friday set list:

Caught Somewhere In Time
2 Minutes to Midnight
Sea of Madness
The Number of the Beast

- Seventh Son of a Seventh Son - 

Infinite Dreams
Can I Play With Madness
The Evil That Men do
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
The Prophecy
The Clairvoyant
Only the Good Die Young
Run to the Hills
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
The Wicker Man
Bring Your Daughter... ...To The Slaughter
Running Free

I did not have a good gig. Just before my very first solo of the night, right there in the first song, a string went. Of course, my backup guitar (the old "Manic" guitar) is less than desirable compared to what I'm used to playing, and I've never quite tweaked the sounds in my rig to make it sound passable. Thankfully, Duggers and Eddie are LEGEND - legging it downstairs during the instrumental break in Infinite Dreams to get one of Swifty's spares and getting it all ready for a quick guitar change-over. Duggers literally got back onstage just in time to start the last verse! I nearly shed a tear. The rest of the show went reasonably well, and after the show I got the chance to catch up with all our pals. The drinkies rather got the better of a couple of our number, as good-natured as it was I was a little worried we'd have to break up some fisticuffs! Then it was back to Carola's to sleep it off.


Awakening the next morning to an absolutely beautiful summery day, I was set to task preparing coffee (as, of course, is tradition). A tasty continental breakfast was laid on by Carola, and all in all we were having a wonderful time. It really is like coming home - good friends, good traditions, good times! It's so easy to fall back into the rhythm of the place. After breakfast we took a walk into town (as, of course, is tradition), and went for a wander in the Kronenburger Park not too far from the Backstage. Eddie reveled in the history, while I lazed in the sunshine. Soon, it was time to go and get Eddie some more fake blood and something slightly more hellish than a tattered green mask to put his sweeties in. We all look forward to our sweet delivery during Eddie's "Satan" spot in "...Beast"! "Let's go shopping for blood!" said he, to which I said "Hey, that's a pretty cool name for a song!". Dethklok. Look 'em up. Steve "we can have beer now?" Harristopolis and our erstwhile tubthumper went off to watch the football, while the rest of us had some more beer!

On our travels around Nijmegen this year, we had sighted, on numerous occasions, something that announced itself to be the "Maxi Fun Bus". To the untrained eye, this was a rather awkward looking combination between six bicycles and a bar, which had severe trouble with corners of any type. To those in the know...it was a clusterfuck. It still did look like Maxi Fun though, and we had a good chuckle watching it try and get round the rather phallic statue just off Bloemerstraat. We all traipsed to the riverfront hoping to find a decent bar, but failing rather miserably we headed back to Grote Markt (pushing through a rather colourful gay pride parade en route!) to settle down for beer and food - Wiener Schnitzel !

More beer...!

Back at the venue, Duggers and I worked on a short acoustic set to open up with. The main set tonight had been chosen by the good people of Nijmegen on our behalf, and was an absolute belter!

Acoustic set:

Wasted Years
Infinite Dreams
Arc of Space

Saturday set-list:

Aces High
The Prisoner
Die With Your Boots On
Remember Tomorrow
Flash of the Blade
Still Life
Strange World
Murders in the Rue Morgue
Children of the Damned
22 Acacia Ave
Back in the Village
To Tame a Land
Charlotte the Harlot
Iron Maiden
Where Eagles Dare
Flight of Icarus
Hallowed be Thy Name

The acoustic set was warmly received, and the main set was absolutely blinding. I had one minor catastrophe to speak of: the beginning of Still Life bears a striking resemblance in arrangement to the beginning of To Tame A Land. Your humble narrator found himself playing a transposed version of the melody from the former of the start of the latter. This was one of only 2 "false starts" I can remember in my history with this band, and it elicited a rather shocked and colourful blast of language from our Mr Swift! Thankfully I managed to laugh it off and we got on with the show!
It's always with a slight pang of sadness that I start packing down my gear after a Nijmegen show. However, as is of course tradition, we always end up partying until the small hours (regardless of what time we've got to set off!). I was feeling a bit glum, and had decided not to drink too much as it usually just serves to deepen the mood. Despite this, it's hard to say no when Astrid plonks a bottle of....well, plonk, in front of you. And then another. I sat and had a really lovely chat with Astrid, which somehow is something I've never really managed to do in all the times we've been there. She's a real pleasure to talk to, as is everyone who frequents Backstage. Nicko 'someone hand me a rope or a shotgun' McBrain finished the night asleep on a bench, and I ended up taking the second bottle of red wine to bed with me....bad form, Manic!

"So, a drummer walks into a bar..."

We said another teary goodbye to Carola and hauled ourselves down the motorway back towards Calais. I think I managed to sleep most of the way, and despite our best efforts we did indeed miss the ferry!

All our heartfelt love to all our friends at the Backstage - you are the reason we keep coming back!

Until next time,

Dave 'horrible, horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE botty' Hurry

Monday 11 June 2012

CARPATHIA - Boston Arms Music Room, London - 25 May 2012

"What do you mean Mr. Right could be sitting beneath this ad?"

Once upon a time, there were five smelly boys who played some long songs and did some gigs. They were really smelly. Sometimes they smelled so bad, they were forcibly removed from moving vehicles. This is their story. It smells...

Gig number three with extreme progressive metal outfit Carpathia had been in the book for quite a while. This chapter of the tale begins on the searingly hot day prior to the gig, whereupon your humble narrator was lucky enough to stumble out of his Dartford office at the same time as a colleague who just happened to be driving to Boringwood. Huzzah. Perhaps the only time I have ever been relieved to be getting in a car and heading around the M25 to a Watford postcode. This act of kindness landed me in proximity of the rest of the band well within time for our pre-gig rehearsal. 

Tom "it's a bit like one of those magazines where you get to build your own remote control car, or cybernetic pleasure slave..." Atherton was nearly home and very kindly let me into his humble abode (once I'd removed the remnants of Cornetto from my beard) while he went off to teach a youngster how to beat the skins 

[ALERT! ALERT! Smut Detector! Drums. Hit the drums. He went off to teach a youngster how to hit the drums. That's better ]

Once the rest of the band arrived, we set off in the Athers-mobile to the rehearsal studio, where we found Tom "my farts have got a direct line out of my pants" Sullivan already messing about with guitar sounds.

I haven't got any pictures of the gig, so here's a photo of King Crimson.
Looking as if somebody just farted.

I wasn't feeling particularly rock and / or roll, having done a full day at work and not really eaten anything, so I was glad when the rehearsal went reasonably well and was over relatively quickly, giving Pete "titties of love to you too, sirrah" Mannion and I plenty of time to get back to the station before the last train. There began the adventure - Sully dropped us off, only for us to quickly discover that the station was shut! The reason given was a power outage in the area. Curious, given that the high speed train had just gone past. Ever the man of action, Pete got straight on the dog to Sully and in no time at all we were dropped off at Stanmore tube. I got back to London Bridge in the nick of time to get home for some kip before getting up for work again the next morning. It's a hard life.

I couldn't get out of work for the Friday morning due to some poor scheduling on my part, although my afternoon was clear. As such I found myself at the venue before anyone else, even the staff, had arrived. I took this as a sign from Dog that I needed a pint, so off I went to the Aces & Eights bar across the street (after deciding that the Boston Arms itself was a bit raucous for me at 5 o'clock on a Friday afternoon). When I walked in, I suddenly realised that this was the very establishment in which Tom & Tom had asked me to join the band, some fifteen months previously. Another sign from Dog! 

One pint of the black stuff later, the 'phone rang. The Toms had arrived and the load-in was beginning. As I picked up the first bit of gear I saw Paul "a pair of yellow EYEEEEEES!" Nazarkardeh walking towards us with his Phyrexia band-mate-cum-promoter Elliot in tow. I believe the organisation and promotion of this gig had been a joint production between Elliot and the very lovely Jesel, who had put us on at the Hatfield Forum in March. Paul and Athers would be playing in two consecutive bands on this occasion, which has the added benefit of making changeovers between the two a bit quicker. Paul was a bit worried about whether he'd have enough energy to cope with playing two sets, but as a fellow who frequently plays near 2-hour shows with Hi-On Maiden, I respectfully told him to man up (although I suspect he works a lot harder than I do on stage!).

"7 out of 10, could try harder" - Sully rates the facilities...

As we were the only band to bother to turn up for a soundcheck, we got things rolling with the illustrious sound-man Tony. Everything felt a little bit keyboard-heavy onstage, which is a strange feeling as at rehearsal I'm usually struggling to hear myself somewhat. As a guitarist, I have a bit of control over my onstage volume. Unfortunately, when it comes to keyboards, I have no control, at least for now. Any advice fellow ivory-ticklers reading this blog can provide would be gratefully appreciated. I don't really have the where-withal to lug around my own dedicated monitor!

With the sound well and truly checked we loaded gear off and waited for proceedings to start.. Premature Birth (who, ironically enough, arrived late) got things off to a blinding start, with some brilliantly humorous growled introductions. TrenchHead brought hardcore to the masses, and while they aren't really my thing, they were tremendously good. Both bands had created a wonderful atmosphere, and during the latter's last number I headed to the downstairs store-room to get ready to drag my gear back on-stage. It was time to get it on.

Set list:

Wherever The Silence Dwells intro
Truth Of The Moment
Solitary Red
Tearful, Part II
Finding It Hard To Contain

From the very first note, I knew I was going to have a good gig. The low piano notes with which I enter "Truth..." rumbled the floor (and, in turn, rumbled my 'special place'), and once I was into the main riff organ parts, there was no stopping me. I even added my own little death metal growl to the start of the vocals (wait 'til you see the video...!). The whole number was a great deal of fun, and the rest of the show followed suit. We'd drawn the biggest crowd of the night so far, and we were determined to give them a show. Once again, Paul failed to get over to me for our guitar-keyboard harmony lines at the end of 'Finding It Hard...", this time due to a general lack of space. I am simply going to have to get a key-tar...

...or maybe not...!

That big fat last chord faded away to rapturous applause, we said our farewells and we started to pack down. The very lovely guitarist from TrenchHead came over to express his thorough enjoyment and amusement at the amount I seemed to be throwing myself into the gig - "You looked as if you were living every single note!", said he. I was! 

Once packed down, I found myself a pint and settled in to watch Phyrexia. If I had looked like I was having a good time onstage, I had nothing on those guys. Paul and Elliot were windmilling with admirable aplomb, and the rest of the guys were just as much fun to watch (and indeed listen to). I'm fairly sure all their songs were about dragons. 

Unfortunately I couldn't stick around to check out the headliners Necroriser - this gig was simply on the wrong side of London to stay the course. For the second night in a row, I found myself on the Pisshead Express out of London Bridge. Praises be it was a Friday night with no work the next day!

Look out for videos from the gig to be posted soon on that there Interweb. 

Until next time, lots of love.

Christopher "the concentrated evil of Captain Kangaroo" Harrison

Sunday 10 June 2012

HI-ON SWINDON - 17 May 2012

I've got so many blogs to write, I wasn't quite sure where to start. It's like walking into the bathroom in the morning; do you void your bowels first, or do you break with tradition and clean your gnashers before doing anything else? Or maybe just go straight in the shower, but when you're in there, what gets scrubbed first?

Hash tag: First world problems.

So I thought I'd start with the weekend of 17, 18 & 19 May 2012. This particular foray was one I'd been looking forward to for some time, as it meant visiting two venues which are always highlights for us; not only did we get to visit our fine friends Andy and Tiggy at Riffs Bar, but then it was off to Nijmegen - our home away from home.

Comfort cushions - for those aching bott-botts on the road...

First, the minor problem of getting us all together in one place. Since Steve "we can have a beer now?" Harristopolis joined the ranks, this has been considerably easier. No longer do myself and Nicko "Swindon, I am in you" McBrain Jnr have to trek from railway station to railway station; we merely have to meet the bass player in NW6 and hop in the car. Bostin'. This is even better now he's finally hacked the radio in his second-hand Vauxhall. Rush. Rush, all the way.

Before I'd even left home, however, came the telephone call I always expect, nearly always receive and often dread. Adrian "it won't start" Swift got on the blower to inform me that, no sooner had he picked up the van and stopped for motion lotion, he'd broken down. As starts to the weekend go, it wasn't quite as bad as "Er, we can't get to Guernsey", though it was less than desirable. Thankfully, a short while later I had another call to let me know he was on the road - "We'll be astronomically late, but we'll be there" was the word. With a sigh, I set off to meet the skin-beater.

As I emerged from the exit at Queens Park, some sort of altercation had taken place; there was a blur of tracksuits running off into the distance, accompanied by some colourful language from a young lady left behind. Rather than become embroiled in any criminal investigation, I suggested to Nicko that we move a safe distance away. Thankfully, 'Arry arrived within minutes and we were on our way. An update from Swifty told us that he wasn't even in Leeds yet. Time for an extended junk food break, then.


We arrived at Riffs Bar in plenty of time, and settled ourselves in. I took up residence on the piano with a cup of coffee, and was quickly appointed 'The Doctor' by Andy & Tiggy's little'un, whose beloved doll was suffering from a number of minor injuries requiring my undivided attention. Bless. From then on, it was a long wait for Swift. Punters started to arrive, including my good friend Boba Fett who I have not seen for a number of years. Mr & Mrs Eddie arrived, and the word came that the van would roll up at 8:30pm. "All hands to the pump", said the text message. And it was!

A very beleaguered-looking Adrian Swift wheeled some gear in, with Bruce "Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t, and more sh*t! Knackers!" Dugginson in tow. The next fifteen minutes or so were a blur of equipment and noise as we rushed to get the show on. Then it was upstairs to get changed before "Doctor, Doctor" rolled and we were on.

Setlist: (it went something like this...!)

2 Minutes to Midnight
The Trooper
Still Life
Infinite Dreams
Murders in the Rue Morgue
Wasted Years
Back In The Village
Run to the Hills
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
22 Acacia Avenue
The Number of the Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Iron Maiden
Fear of the Dark
Bring Your Daughter... ...To The Slaughter
Running Free

The view from the chod.

It was LOUD. And it was good! We had a blast on stage; the relief at finally making it, after what had to have been a frustrating day for Duggers and Swift, was palpable, and the rest of us were just pleased to be back doing what we love doing. Steve The Greek was, once again, an absolute pleasure to share the stage with, and the crowd at Riffs didn't disappoint. Even on a Thursday night, the people of Greatfield know how to rock.

The load out was typically dull apart from one rather memorable moment whereupon I decided I'd be able to manoeuvre the bass cab out the narrow corridor and up the steps by myself. I took a little bit of a waspie, and "Manic's Massive Tumble", as it came to be known, quickly passed into legend.

The original plan for this Thursday had been to get to Swindon, get on, get off, and get back to mine for some kip. It didn't quite happen that way - we arrived at my gaff at 4am, and had to be up in around 2 hours. It was a sad sight; watching these poor, beaten troopers stumble, zombie-like, into my flat. Nicko wasted no time making sure he laid claim to the one available bed, with the rest relegated to the floors of Manic Towers.

On to Nijmegen!!!!zzzzzzzzzzz

In Part Two, beer is drunk!

Dave "didn't say anything good enough for a diary nickname, but fell over once or twice" Hurry

Saturday 21 April 2012

New York 2012 - Part 1: Introduction

Or, "What I Did on my Summer Holidays, by Christopher James Harrison, aged 27 and a bit"

The flickering needle jumps into red. New York crawls out of its bed.

A bit of a departure in terms of subject matter, this blog here. I've had no gigs to speak of recently (and I'm not sure there's much else in my life left to blog about), although I've had a terrific time of late. More of that in a little bit. 

Incidentally, since you asked, I can next be seen onstage with Hi-on Maiden at Riffs Bar in sunny Swindon on May 17 before we head off to Nijmegen, Holland to make a racket at the Rockcafe Backstage. I believe the next Carpathia gig is on 25 May at the Boston Music Room in Tufnell Park. July, August and September are looking pretty busy for Hi-On, and I recently had contact with one Lee Abraham who is writing his next prog-rock masterpiece which should feature some six-string gymnastics from your humble narrator. All in all it's shaping up to be a rather nice year for me musically. 

Apart from various weekend jaunts to Ireland and mainland Europe (musical and otherwise),  I haven't really had a proper holiday since I went to Stockholm for a week in June 2008. In fact, unless you count Christmas periods, I haven't really had any extended break from work since then either. So when my grand friend Sasha "it wasn't a rock - it was a rock lobster" Zivojinovic decided to take his beautiful lady to New York to see the Blue Man Group and invited friends to join them, I had to give it some serious thought. 

I've been meaning to return to the east coast of the USA for many years. I haven't been out there since 2008, and have some fine people whom I count as true friends in residence in the various states on the eastern seaboard. For three years in a row, 2006-2008, I visited on Labor Day weekend for a few days of jamming and hanging out with said fine people, but since then I haven't made it for various reasons. On top of this, I've wanted to see New York City for some time. The sights, the sounds, the smells. 

No-one else had elected to join Goc "better start packing...oops!" Kaboodle & Sasha on their trip, and while I didn't want to be a third wheel I really did want to go. After a bit of rumination (and a lot of brow-beating from Sasha, who needed a guitar-shopping partner!) I booked up, and the departure date rolled around a couple of months later.

Spotting LOST numbers at airports always makes me a little trepidous...

There's something moving in the sidewalk steam...

The day before we were scheduled to depart, I was suffering. There's a line in a Pain Of Salvation song, which I'm probably misquoting, but which sums it up quite well - "It all catches up on you when you slow down". It was no surprise to me that I would get laid low with some Devil Bug after a few days off work. In the words of Super Hans, I was being sick out of both ends. I even managed to yak in the street on the way back from the doctor, which is up there with one of the classiest things I've ever done. True to form, I plonked myself on the sofa and started watching my Stanley Kubrick DVDs, which for some reason always make me feel a bit better when I'm ill. Thankfully, come the evening, the torrent had stopped coming forth and I packed my bags ready for the 5:40am taxi call.

In a wi-fi enabled taxi (who would have thunk it!) and in the quiet of pre-rush-hour London we made it from SE13 to Heathrow in under an hour. Once checked in and through security, we did what every self-respecting holiday-goer does, and went straight to the pub for beer and breakfast. I opted out of the booze initially, still feeling a little bit delicate after the previous day's vile extrusions. However after a cup of coffee and a sausage sarnie I was right as rain. Onward to the flight!

Most of the flights I've taken in my life have been fairly uneventful. My very first was to Guernsey as a child, and I've loved it ever since. The most memorable thing that's happened whilst airborne since would probably be on a family holiday to Florida in 1997. After a 9 1/2 hour delay at Gatwick with two children, my mother was presented with a miniature bottle of Bacardi and an even smaller can of Diet Coke. This sent her, blissfully I would imagine, straight to the land of boozy nod. I still remember that day. I was given a fiver and sent to the bookshop, where I bought myself a copy of Douglas Adams' "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul". This proved particularly memorable given the amount of time we'd spent delayed in that great cathedral of despair, as the first paragraph reads thusly:

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression "As pretty as an airport." Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort. This ugliness arises because airports are full of people who are tired, cross, and have just discovered that their luggage has landed in Murmansk (Murmansk airport is the only exception of this otherwise infallible rule), and architects have on the whole tried to reflect this in their designs.

This flight to New York was colourful, to say the least. I was seated (after swapping seats twice to accommodate couples who were determined to sit together) next to a very slight lady who had more holes punched in her than anyone I've seen outside of a Slayer gig. Security must have been a nightmare for her. She was very nice, and we had some rather engaging discussions about music, art and her kids. Complimentary drinks and the first meal came, and after the second complimentary glass of red wine the poor lass conked out. I settled in to watch a film on the seat-back screen, but before I'd got very far my companion groggily awoke and began to frantically look around for something to be sick in. I scrambled out of my seat to allow her to rush to the ladies for what would probably be a photo-finish. Unfortunately the facilities were occupied, and the couple seated by the bulkhead had the floor in front of them decorated in short order. For the rest of the flight I was on constant "get out of seat" alert, but thankfully she seemed to simply need to sleep it off. Sasha was not so lucky, and found himself seated next to a middle-aged lady who was clearly under the influence upon boarding, and who proceeded to a) nick vodka from the bar whenever no-one was looking and b) spill every single drink on Sasha. How she got on the plane in that state is a mystery to me, but the staff dealt with both the resident alcoholic and the lightweight in seat 63 with cheerful aplomb. My dear friend seemed mostly well for the remainder of our time together, apart from a slight wobble on the runway at JFK (as the second airsick bag came into use, the first fell over onto the carpet narrowly avoiding my shoes). 

Into the queue for the predictably humourless border control fellows, we couldn't wait to get out of the airport and on our way. Once admitted, we took the AirTrain all the way to Jamaica Station and then began to navigate the subway system. While it is an enormously simple system to navigate when in full control of your faculties, when you've been on the go for as long as we had it seemed monolithic in difficulty. We asked a harassed looking transit cop (fresh from what had to have been a frustrating encounter trying to explain to someone the difference between "uptown" and "downtown"), who sent us in the right direction. Eventually we emerged into the New York City sunshine at West 103 & Broadway. Goc and Sasha went to their digs and I trundled down Broadway to my own to try and wash the flight off of me!

"And I'm hovering like a fly, waiting for the windshield on the freeway..."

In Part 2, our intrepid international inhabitants tromp through Central Park, irritate some joggers, spend a ludicrous amount of money on fruit-related gadgetry and discover something in a toy shop that makes them grin like the jet-lagged loons they are.

Until then,

Christopher "here comes a bikini whale!" Harrison 

Soundtrack to this blog:

Budgie - Hammer And Tongs
Spock's Beard - Walking On The Wind
Gentle Giant - In A Glass House
Frank Zappa - Shut Up 'N' Play Yer Guitar Some More
Karmakanic - Turn It Up
Marillion - Chelsea Monday
Iron Maiden - 22 Acacia Avenue (live)

Sunday 25 March 2012

CARPATHIA - The Forum, Hatfield - 22 March 2012

Sully was so happy to have such a wide choice of toilet...

My second gig with extreme prog-metallers Carpathia was set within the extremely pleasant grounds of the University of Hertfordshire.

The night before the gig, we undertook a final rehearsal. Tom "we've got multiple poo-ers!" Sullivan had been writing lyrics and melodies for 'Solitary Red', which had up until recently been known simply as 'Fifth Song' and, at our last gig, had been entirely instrumental. During the rehearsal we fine-tuned vocals and solos, while adding final polishes to the other two tracks to be aired at the gig the following evening. The rehearsal itself went very well, with everything sounding suitably monstrous, so we downed tools and packed up the motor ready for the next day before heading back to Carp HQ.

Tom "toe, ball, down" Atherton, Sully and I settled down to watch some splendidly unsettling Asian cinema with a bottle of vino and a bar of Fruit 'n' Nut. It doesn't get more rock and roll than that, kids. I made myself a makeshift bed out of bits of sofa and kipped down at silly o'clock.

Just a few hours later, I felt the Toe of Sully prodding me in the back. I groggily looked up and he uttered two, beautiful words - "Bacon sarnie?" Conveniently forgetting that I'd given up meat for a month (oops) I wolfed down the sliced pig sandwich and slurped lethargically at the cup of tea that came with it ("It's decaf tea, but it's Cravendale milk so that kind of makes it OK"). If only everyone I plied with wine and choccy woke me up with breakfast...

In case you were wondering, yes - the photo is the right way up.

After Sully left for work I must have nodded off again, because I was then woken up by Athers with a pain au chocolat. Second breakfast! Just like the hobbits! All I had to do in return was help him out with carrying his shopping back, which sounded like a bargain to me. The toilet in the boy's flat has not been working too well recently, which has had some deeply unpleasant results - in fact I'm fairly confident that new life forms will emerge from the murky depths any day now - so Athers and I took advantage of the comparatively pristine environment of Tesco's customer toilets to dispose of our solids and effluvia. Shopping was followed by lunch and the triumphant return of Sully from werk. The boys introduced me to Metalocalypse, an animated series sending up heavy metal, which after some initial puzzlement caused me quite a few lulz. Then it was time to hit the road.

It turned out the gig was even closer to the boy's flat than their own studio. En route, I had received a text message from Paul "I feel like a Disney princess!" Nazarkardeh who had plonked himself in a dressing room. By the time we arrived, he'd been kicked out of the dressing room which, apparently, we weren't allowed to use. After loading the gear in we were sent to the staff room to chum around with other bands and staff until it was time to soundcheck. Peter "a PhD...in boats" Mannion and I were delighted to find all sorts of coffee paraphernalia dotted around the room, although it took us until the kettle had boiled to realise that there was no coffee. Sigh.

Ziltoid wanted to pose with Black Polaris.

Soundcheck was going to be a bit late given that headliners Mordecai had been delayed in arriving, so we kicked around backstage. Venue staff and fellow bands were delighted that they had an opportunity to pose with Ziltoid, who is proving to be something of a hit on this gig circuit.

Eventually it was our turn to make some noise, so we went onstage and plugged everything in. One of the quickest soundchecks of my life followed (rather along the lines of "Give me some guitar"....*guitar noises*...."OK, thanks. Bass?"...etc.) which was especially welcome as we were now running dangerously close to the doors opening. A quick verse of old favourite 'Truth of the Moment' to ensure monitors were good, and we were off again. While piling our gear in the backstage area we were advised by the health & safety patrol to move all our gear into the dressing room. The dressing room we'd already been removed from that we weren't allowed to use. Splendid!

During soundcheck, we had the bright idea of getting the band logo displayed on the screens dotted around the stage and bar areas. The logo resided on Tom's phone and needed to find it's way to the sound man's computer via a USB stick. Thusly, while Sealed In Scarlet and Atopia were gracing the stage, an extremely silly chain of technology needed to be constructed in order to get the logo where it needed to be (Tom's bluetooth wasn't working, so he emailed it to Pete, who bluetooth-ed it to my laptop, where it was then loaded on the USB stick from within my keyboard and delivered to the sound man before being taken back to put back where it belonged...!).

Carpathia in heavy flow...

Then it was time to hurriedly load everything onstage and get going. Predictably, from a student metal crowd, Ziltoid got huge cheers and cries of "I demand your finest coffee, humans!" when I brought him out and tied him to his microphone stand. The intro tape rolled and we were off.

The set list

Solitary Red
Tearful, Part II
Finding It Hard To Contain

I'd normally find a half-hour gig slightly unsatisfying, having been in Hi-On Maiden for so many years and played so many near-2-hour shows. However, this music sounded fawkin' HUGE, and the atmosphere onstage was infectious - I was a huge sweaty mess by the time I came off stage from the copious head-banging I'd been indulging in. The re-vamped and re-vitalised intro to 'Solitary Red', with Sully's best black metal screams really sounded like a mission statement, and from there the set just flowed superbly. My drum pads stayed firmly attached to their stand, the cowbell rang out, I could hear myself through the monitors, and each of us played our socks off. The slightly frustrating thing about playing keyboards is the inability to move around the stage. I'm used to being able to wander over to stage left and rock out with the other guitarist, or go and pull silly faces at the drummer. Instead I had to settle for people coming over to visit, and doing silly dances in the short bars where I have nothing to play in an attempt to get a chuckle out of Athers. I did get a visit from The Onion, which was very pleasant, but Paul fared less well trying to get over to my side of the stage for our harmony lines at the end of 'Finding It Hard...'. I think he tripped over Sully's cables!

Onion and Nazgul give it some.

After the show I headed straight for the bar, full of self-accomplishment and adrenaline. Oh, and a desperate need for Guinness. Just after Black Polaris (my favourite band of the night - heavy as f***) took Hatfield by storm, Athers and I set out with Ziltoid to plug Carpathia's new E.P. (which can be purchased here) around the venue. Fairly soon after I realised that if I didn't leave soon, I wasn't going to make it home. This galvanised the band into re-packing the gear and fleeing the scene. Sorry for killing the night early, lads! If it's any consolation, this is what I saw on my way home (amongst the customary vomit):

Last train out of London Bridge - all aboard the Pisshead Express!

As ever, I'm looking forward to the next one! Unfortunately my Hi-On gig schedule has already scuppered a potential date in Brizzle, however I'm sure there'll be plenty more coming up. Any venues interested or any bands with tours booked looking for a support act, get in touch!

Until next time,

Christopher "what are me words again?" Harrison

PS: Gig photos courtesy of Adam Pirmohamed and the University of Hertfordshire Alternative Music Society.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Blast From The Past - HI-ON MALBOROUGH & SWINDON - 30 April / 1 May 2011

Time for a graveyard smash!

Perusing the gig list just before leaving on that beautiful sunny bank holiday Saturday...

(a sunny bank holiday weekend? In England?)

...it occurred to your humble blogster that there are an awful lot of gigs in the South West in the early part of this year. This means a hell of a lot of driving for Adrian “practical van hire?” Swift, a lot of staring at the motorway for our other two Northerners, and some epic train journeys for yours truly and the young’un. This particular journey was quite easy, though it could have been much worse. Nicko “lengthening his wang” McBrain Jnr had booked himself on a later train than I, and had elected to be picked up by the passing van in Exeter (there’s more to the van story...I’ll get there in a bit!). I was to go to Plymouth, then double back on the tracks to the nearest station to the gig (Ivybridge). However, the night before I was contacted by the effervescent organiser of the Monster Mash, Martin “I’ll do some poetry” Cording. The conversation went something like this:

Martin: “Where you do want picking up?”
Me: “Ivybridge, please!”
Martin: “How are you getting to Ivybridge?”
Me: “Via Plymouth.”
Martin: “You silly c*nt. Get off at Totnes.”

Unfortunately, my train went right through Totnes, so I ended up detraining at picturesque Newton Abbott and being very kindly picked up by Joan and Jim, Martin’s mum and dad. I’d been out the night before celebrating my birthday in classic Hurry style (imbibing an awful lot of ale) and was not exactly full of conversation, so I was delighted to sit back and listen to Jim’s tales of life on the barbershop quartet circuit on the drive to Malborough. Safely deposited at the venue (the first, as ever), I was privy to Quad Damage’s soundcheck and the first pint of a keg of Tribute, kindly donated to the event by the wonderful folk at Cornwall’s St. Austell brewery.

The van arrived. Well, I say “van”. It was more like a box of Tesco value dental floss on wheels. Selectadrive, who have served us very well over recent years of van hire, had unfortunately run a bit low on big vans. Our intrepid leader did the best he could, and the best he could was not quite fit for purpose!

Not so practical...

We loaded out all the gear into the backstage area and started to set up onstage. The boys all looked road-weary and rather fed up, in stark contrast to my unusually chipper demeanour (Tribute make Hurry feel nice). Steve “blowjob joke here” Haggis had set off at some ridiculous hour from Glasg’ae’, and Bruce “the vomit comet” Dugginson seemed to be suffering from the more acute effects of motorway hypnosis. Young Nick had ridden in the back for the hour’s drive from Exeter, and had stepped blinking into the sunlight apparently disbelieving that he’d survived without being beheaded by an errant cymbal or two. Brave soul.

A few pints later and it was nearly show-time. I’d been steeling myself, as Malborough would be the debut of the brand new wig. Constant Readers may remember a problem arising in Plymouth whereupon my headpiece had taken a waspie atop Eddie’s Prong, leaving me with what Swifty termed “a fanny” on my head. That wig’s swansong was in Canning Town, having served two bonces admirably (both myself and Michael Krispe of Hulloween had played beneath it’s fragrant locks). My new syrup is named “Ashley (in Spring Honey)”, and is a marked improvement on it’s predecessors.

The winking what?

After a few hairy moments (pun absolutely intended) during opener Aces High, I settled in to the gig and played really well. ‘Aggy had, as he kept (and continues) to remind us, lost a fair deal of weight recently and was bounding around the stage with aplomb. Poor Duggers wasn’t feeling all that well and had to depart from the stage on a few occasions to shout lunch, and Swift (shattered from the long drive no doubt) was also feeling somewhat the worse for wear. Despite these setbacks, we played a blinder and went down really well amongst a receptive charity gig audience. The night was in memory of local musician Dave Sharp who had succumbed to cancer in June 2009, and in aid of a memorial fund providing music opportunities for local youngsters. It was an absolute honour to play, and to be so warmly received and well looked-after by organisers and punters alike. Cracking night, even if Swifty and Duggers needed St. John’s Ambulance attention afterwards! After packing down, we retired to Martin’s pad where we were treated to a supper of tea, Jammie Dodgers and koftas before turning in for the night.

Dave Sharp
20 April 1971 - 27 June 2009

The next morning we were taken for a splendid breakfast at local cafe The Meeting Room (thanks to the good folk there for laying on the grub and opening a bit early for us after a heavy night!). Then it was time to assess the problem of getting 5 people to Swindon in a 3-seater van. That’ll be me back on the train then, with ‘Aggy in tow! We were dropped at Totnes and said our farewells to Martin and Alice before boarding the next train to Bristol (where I believe we passed, like ships in the night, super-fan Spook!).

After a quick coffee at Brizzle, it was on to Swindon. We ended up in The Queen’s Tap, which was a site of happy drunken memories for your humble narrator. In it’s previous life it had been a rock pub, and I had seen our old friends Ironically Maiden a few times there). A quick call to Swift confirmed that the road-bound members had arrived at the venue, and in no time at all the Practical van was outside the Tap waiting for us.

I didn't take any pictures of Swindon, but here's an idea of how silly it is.

Riffs Bar is always a highlight of the year, with Andy and Tiggy always going out of their way to look after us. This time was no exception, and after loading in and sound-checking we were sat down and fed a beautiful dinner. A number of support bands had been roped in this time to help fill the place up on a bank holiday Sunday, and it bloody well worked. In no time at all it was show-time, and we hit the stage. Another awesome gig at Riffs Bar to a packed crowd and two encores! Swifty’s amp didn’t enjoy the last song though – it’s fuse blew halfway through!

After packing down I said cheerio to the lads and was borne away in the KISSmobile by Eddie “Satellite 15 is the best thing ever” the ‘Ead and Mrs Eddie to their nearby pad, and in the morning I was dropped at the station for the last leg homeward (the very last journey I ever took with my Young Person’s Railcard....sob sob!)

An excellent weekend – two gigs, with two very kind sets of organisers looking after us, topped off with Eddie making me a bacon sandwich! Class!

Until next time,


Dave “cheer up you miserable c*nts” Hurry

Sunday 26 February 2012

Blast From The Past - CARPATHIA - The Unicorn, Camden - 27 January 2012

Working hard at rehearsal...

Can it be that I've now "blogged" 3 weeks in a row? Great googly moogly.

Around this time last year, I went out for a drink with some fine upstanding young gentlefolk with whom I attended university. Thomas "where's me capo?" Sullivan and Tom "how does this all go together again?" Atherton were a couple of years below me in age, but their work ethic was rather more spectacularly advanced than my own. I had once been told I was a lazy academic and would forever be an "underachiever", so I took that wonderfully positive thought and ran with it, blossoming into the high-potential, low-output twonk that many of you have come to know and tolerate (fret not, I have since shirked that limiting belief and become all hippified and self-aware - still a twonk sometimes, though!). No such words could be used to describe these two; both were dedicated, committed and driven to achieve everything they could in music. I nicked Athers to play the drums for me during my last year, and developed a very comfortable musical rapport. Sadly, at the end of my third year of university I went back down south and continued to do, well, very little on the whole, while they stayed in the sunny Midlands and honed their composition, performance and teaching skills.

When I learned that the chaps had moved to Norf Laandan, I was delighted at the opportunity to catch up. I soon found myself, Guinness in hand, merrily catching up with the lads in a pub just by Tufnell Park tube station. I was soon invited to go and stand outside (so Sully could get some fresh smoke in his lungs), and before I could say "they're bad for you, you know?", I'd been asked to join their band, Carpathia, as keyboard player and additional percussion / guitar / whatever-else-needed-doing. I've never been very good at saying "No" to joining bands, so of course I agreed. A year of sporadic rehearsals followed while Sully wrote, recorded and notated, and eventually there was a gig in the book.

Even Ziltoid needs to rehearse...

And so it came to pass that my first gig of 2012 would not be with Hi-On Maiden, as is usually the case. I found myself wandering up Leighton Road with keyboard and stand in tow on a grey January Monday about to embark on a career as a keyboard player.

Readers of my past gig diaries may have noticed a pattern emerging. Just as I'm about to leave, or as I've just left, I will invariably get a telephone call from Adrian "chortle" Swift who's left something behind and needs me to nip to a shop and pick up a replacement. It came as a reassuring surprise, then, to hear my phone chirping away and find it was Sully asking me to bring along a couple of things which had failed to find their way into his gig bag. Textbook.

Sully eyes up some talent in the front row...

Arriving at The Unicorn, I remembered that, on the very night I'd agreed to join this band, I had left the boys in Tufnell Park to walk to this very venue to catch the last of Silent Front's set. Ah, the circle closes (ya da ya da). Taking this as a good sign, and combining it with the fact that I'd missed the load-in and all the gear was onstage, it was a very cheery Harrison that headed straight for the bar and bought everyone a drink and a pack of Monster Munch. I'd decided to be deliberately careful in terms of the "state of refreshment" I would allow myself to get into, and limited myself to one or two before going onstage. I can find my way around a guitar after copious amount of alcohol without too much trouble (providing I can still stand up). However, I had no idea what impact it would have on my keyboard skills, and in the interests of avoiding Les Dawson-esque cringe-worthy foul-ups, I erred on the side of caution. I managed to resist the temptation to drink myself silly while we all waited patiently for our beloved drummer, who was trying his best to put the "HMS Atherton" together from photos he'd taken of it all set up. Hah!

After setting up and soundchecking, we settled back to let the support band do their thing and prepared ourselves for the first gig. The boys have been gigging together for years, but Carpathia hadn't been dusted off for a year or so. With myself joining the ranks, and a brand new guitarist in the shape of Paul "Punning hell" Nazarkardeh, it might as well have been a new band. I would have normally been bricking it at this point - I usually get very shaky and nervous before playing keyboards in front of an audience, as opposed to the confidence I have developed in playing guitar and singing for people. However I had managed to relax myself enough in the company of some fine friends who had made the journey to see us, and in no time at all it was gig o'clock. "Doctor, Doctor" rolled out of the P.A. (by my request - after nearly ten years of gigging with an Iron Maiden tribute band, I can't get ready for a gig without hearing that song), we took a breath and walked onstage.

Peter "onion" Mannion looking eeeee-vil...

The set list

Solitary Red
Tearful, Part II
Fallen Angel (King Crimson cover)
Wherever The Silence Dwells
Finding It Hard To Contain

The nearly hour-long set flew past in a flurry of downtuned guitars, electric piano and wilfully ostentatious rock-keyboardist gurning. I had an absolute blast. There were some humorous moments - particularly memorable was the moment I hit one of my drum pads so hard it fell of the stand! - and our intrepid leader Sullivan had a few issues with his MIDI gear which seemed to have lost it's MIDI-mind, but all in all it was a well-performed and well-received set which was worthy of the work that had been put into it. I wasn't quite ready to stop; in fact, I believe my first words to the lads after the show were along the lines of "When's the next one?"

There's talk of a gig in Coventry next month, and all sorts of other plans in the works for this band. I'm quite excited to be a part of it all.

So, when's the next one?

Until next time,

Christopher "got a new theremin sound!" Harrison

First time I've been onstage without a wig in a while...!

PS: Gig photos courtesy of "Metal" Tom Webster. You can read his review of the gig on Thrash Hits by clicking here.