Sunday, 6 February 2011

tour diary: the final chapter

It occurs to me, around 6pm on the evening of the 28th of January, that I might have been a bit ambitious regarding the tour scheduling.

I mean, sure, to the outside world it might look like my eleven-plus-one date tour taking place over fifteen days is leisurely, even slack, but the days where there weren't gigs were spent at work at my desk doing stuff. Plus, some of the days where I did have gigs were also spent at work too. In all, from the opening date on the 17th to the last note in Kingston on the 31st is one big blur.

But if I had to have a favourite leg of the tour, this is it, and the reasoning is simple. A sell-out hometown show (though "there's room for at least twenty more at the bar" was apparently uttered by Sid, and if anyone from Health & Safety is listening in, I'm sure it was in jest), a farewell to Addistock in Birmingham the next night, a headline London show that wasn't unattended, and a release-day instore launch at Banquet in Kingston.

And since the weekend was a blur, so will this blog be. Reading was the best possible start, outstripping Bristol (sorry Bristol) for the title of most rambunctious crowd. The Rising Sun was a hive of bodies, so great in number that even as main support Quiet Quiet Band graced the stage, there just wasn't enough room in the venue for those who wanted to watch, a sad fact which eventually led to me restructuring the stage for my own set, and one in which I successfully remembered all the words to 'No Name #1' after my Bristol embarrassment.

Having directed Barry to embroider all the scarves in the world with my name on for this hometown show, the gig passes with me forgetting to ever mention the merch, but aside from that things go swimmingly. Barry fits in so many Nick Clegg jokes into his set that I make a mental note to never make any again lest we all sound like one-track records or painful anti-establishment clich├ęs, which is a shame as I still had about four held in reserve.

Still, good times - nay, great times - are had by most and the afterparty takes us to the After Dark, one of Reading's best kept secrets and my favourite haunt both due to the friendly staff, lack of trouble and proximity to my house, where Barry unleashes some powerful dance moves that earmark him as the next Louie Spence and no mistake.

This joy is not recaptured the next night in Birmingham, as we all bid farewell to the Addistock series of charity shows with a tear in our eye and too much beer in certain people's stomachs. Originally intended to be a one-off gig in aid of Macmillan nurses, it accidentally turned into a regular occurrence which these days is too much of a job to maintain for the one-man show that is Mr James Addis. I'm sure I speak for everyone involved when I say thanks to him for the memories, including the famous Addistock house party on the Lockey/Thief/Marwood tour back in the summer of 09 when I ended up clothed in an empty bath and Barry ended up playing 'Hey Ya' under the stairs. Youtube will not let us forget, no matter how much we want to.

Highlight of the night was.. leaving the city centre. I know it sounds harsh, but there were two FA cup matches in the city that day, plus auditions for Britain's Got Talent the next street over. When we turn up to the pub venue at 6pm the front doors are bolted. Enough said.

To be honest, though, there was more trouble in London than there was in Birmingham, as I accidentally try to run over curfew and attract the attention of the manager and his desire to protect his licence. It's a good day in all, and is attended by enough people to make the place not seem deserted (which, on a Sunday in London, is a pretty decent effort), including Jim Bowes of Josaka and lovely wife Ruth, plus James Ewers of My Luminaries. After the light parties of the previous two nights, my throat has an irritating scratch about it, and with a staggering five acts on the bill we soon run late. I decide to limit damage to my voice by only committing to half an hour from 10 to 10.30, but I run a minute or so late on my own set, so as the soundgirl gives the universal fingersignal for one more song, a bristling figure appears behind the bar to contest and we end up having some discussion/argument over the top of the crowd before some applause ripples out and that is, sadly, the end.

It turns out that it's also the end of my voice, which is a bit of a shame with one date to go, and I head to work on Monday morning - release day, no less - feeling like I've swallowed a claw. Thankfully, the good people at the pharmacy that neighbours my workplace have a secret supply of Vocalzone, and we're back in business for one more night.

And what an end it is. For those nearby Kingston who have never been to a Banquet Records instore: go. Apart from having the most indie-credible staff this side of New York, the actual service this bunch offer to the music scene is something to be marvelled at, with both a record shop, clubnight/venue and a successful webstore at their disposal, they truly know what they're doing and have a faithful following. Kingston itself is like the bright lights of London condensed down into a town that apparently used to house ten record stores including all the chains, with Banquet being one of the few left alive (and locally attributed to killing off the HMV Group).

But joking aside, their finger is on the pulse. Order a record from HMV or Amazon and you eventually get it with a packing slip and a receipt. Order one from Banquet and you get a handwritten note/love letter and sometimes further recommendations of other stuff you'll like. You don't get service like that with Amazon, but hey, everyone loves The Page You Made, right? The instore itself is fun. My throat holds out fine, we roll through just six numbers, and they even let me play 'District' without anyone cutting me off due to a curfew.

And then, it's over. A two year journey finished with the pluck of a note, and we're done. The album's out, many are signed, and then it's time to go home courtesy of a very welcome lift from Mr Richard Sanderson.

Thanks UK.
b. x

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