Monday, 17 January 2011

a tour diary (pt 1)

Is it really a tour if, here, today, on day three, I'm in my house and I've been to work all day?

No, it's not. Exactly. After Leeds and Cheltenham started us off nicely, today really was the bluest day of the year as the papers predicted. Train chaos, little sleep, work. I spend all day at my desk preparing myself for something terrible to happen on this poorest of all Mondays, but the worst that happens is I stray to the cash point and have my drinking plans for the next ten days torn from under me. I text Oxygen Thief to tell him it'll be beans for the rest of the tour. He texts back to say in no way will I be eating just beans due to their legendary, gaseous properties.

I text him to tell him real life is, and I quote, "gash".

I fight for most of the day to prevent myself from smashing my head through my own monitor to inexplicably crunch on some diodes that I imagine are inside. It's not that I'm unhappy with what I'm doing, but post-tour (or in this case, mid-tour) I often have to fight the daily urge to throw myself through a window and run off to live feral somewhere where responsibility and annual leave cannot find me.

Yes. Essex.

It's not always been like this. Before today, for example, it was Saturday and Sunday, the former a bazillion-hour trip North - yes, even North of London - to the North Yorkshires for Suzie's birthday and an evening of poetry and music in a pub whose original inhabitants are no indicator of the night ahead. The pre-club crowd. You know the type. But not the bookish students quaffing dirty cider, but the brand-wearing, preened, all-upper body and eyes. Despite this seeming to be a fairly old-man pub by origin, tonight they're listening to some kind of crazy rave as they watch the sport on the LCD TV and the girls barely move lest the one piece of material across the shoulder holding their dress up might no longer function correctly and give the guys on their way to the country's most run-down toilet something to think about. Truly, we are on the toilet circuit tonight.

But later we're back, and they're nowhere to be seen, the landlady now playing the fruit machine with little company save for the student types in the other bar, a few loiterers here and there and some metal where there previously was dance.

This, it seems, is more my kind of place.

The show is good, the poetry brief but fast-paced. I'm always all too conscious of playing what are essentially birthday parties but the guests are polite. I meet up with Barlow and Frank/Ian of Moon and Back Music for an interview using a video camera in place of a dictaphone. I assume control and point it at the floor and occasionally at the interviewers. This is not quite the way it's supposed to go. We chat about Reuben, my failure as a music journalist, how Frank/Ian once got so drunk he got lost in a forest and, once lost, realised he had more beer in his bag so drank his way back to civilisation. They ask me a question about Frank Turner and I don't thank him enough but then I never fucking do. I pretend Xtra Mile want to break my legs if the album doesn't do well in the hope that they can tell I'm joking.

Then, the after-show. A whirling carousel of dancing and cocaine and prostitutes and the next morning, a crushing sense of disappointment that we forgot to arrange any of the above and instead went to a nice man named Peter's house, drank tea and made sure not to get anything on his pristine cream sofas. Suzie has a migraine but we somehow stay out til 3ish. Me and Barry curl up on the sofas where Barry seems to do okay but i can't sleep. I can never sleep currently.

In the morning, half-stupid from the tired and an almost-hot shower, somebody stumbles across a book, The Mystery Method, a guide to picking up girls in scientific detail with flow charts and acronyms and game plans. It is incredible, hilarious, alarming and sad all at the same time, because it's either the driest piece of comedy ever written or it's.. whisper it.. serious. I do my best to take it in cover to cover. One of us checks the Venusian Arts forum (for indeed, the disciples of the Mystery Method are Venusian Artists, and not just wankers) and regales us with field reports from forum users including one young foreign man who appears to have no experience with women, and so when presented with a scenario not present in the book (ie. a girl in a club taking him to the bathroom and letting him watch her pee), can only freeze up.

There are reasons why this book should never fall into the hands of anyone stupid enough to believe it.

Alas, it's time to go home. Ish. First: Cheltenham, and a catch-up with Mr Jim Lockey, he of the Exclamation at Asterisk Hash EP and these days a married man. We arrange for him to headline the show before he arrives to stop us, and we flip a coin for who goes on first. It's me.

I'm actually fine with this as it's what I wanted. I'm so tired I swear I could sleep anywhere, which is funny to me because I'm well aware that I can't do that. We go out for dinner with Tom George of local record store RISE and him and Lockey play off each other in a surprisingly married fashion. I realise I wasn't present at Jim's wedding and just assumed he's married Daisy and not Tom. It's all a bit surreal, so I pull on a thread on my new striped, practically-made-for-me woollen scarf that my girlfriend got me for Christmas, only for it to pull open into a gaping hole. Kev consoles me with news on how his girlfriend can sew it up, whereas I moan sullenly and feel like I shouldn't ever get it repaired, merely wear it around my neck like so for all to see, a reminder of how I might have a new album out soon but I am, ultimately, still a penis.

Show-time arrives, and so do people much to my delight. The promoters here are savvy and friendly, and Slak itself is an incredible independent bar, the like of which Reading just doesn't have. Good decor, nice lighting, little stage, 100 capacity or so. I take to the stage first and, being tired, concentrate not on what I say nor what I play and it all falls into place like I'm some stand-up pro channelling the spirit of Stewart Lee. No-one buys any merch but the door takings are good. Jim Lockey hates his performance but he sounded fantastic, Oxygen Thief also in fine stomping mood.

With such a warm, friendly crowd, it makes you wonder why a few hours earlier, when we rolled into Cheltenham with the windows wound down low and the volume up high, pumping out the soundtrack from The Karate Kid that not one passer-by raises a smile.

Post-show, it is time for Barry to do what he does best: put his life on the line so that I can make it to work the next morning. We reach Reading about 1am, and he then heads in the other direction back to Bristol where he must also work. He offered to do this. The man's a nutcase. He admits to having to stop for a nap in a service station in order to stop himself from dying on the way back and I feel pretty bad that one day I'm going to flip out and kill him in order to increase his album sales.

So that brings us up to date. Tomorrow: Bristol.

As a side note, I found out today that my favourite TV show, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, isn't just off-air over the festive period, but instead the TV channel More4 have opted to not renew the licence and just buy the weekly round-up, The Global Edition from now on, to be screened late at night. Don't worry, they offer us, Channel 4 have a new satirical TV show called 10 O'Clock Live starting this week, we can watch that instead. It's got Jimmy Carr in it.

I am not long for this country.

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