24th August 2013 | Larry
To the moon and back
24th August 2013 | Juliet
Shabby was arranging the fun-sized Honey Loops and Coco Pops tidily in the bus kitchenette as I brought in the cheese and cold meat platter from the dressing room. “Whats that?” asked Shabby. Posh chutney… “No chuckra (sic), we don’t want chutney. It’s going to end up in the bin.” Okay…
It was 11.15PM as the bus pulled away from Belsonic in central Belfast. Suede had followed James and we watched from the steps at the side. Across the square, people in flats held balcony parties and got a free gig.
I ran the Merlot found amongst Tim’s dressing room rider (he doesn’t drink) up to the back lounge and left that bus for good. Phew. I’d grabbed a spare ‘day room’ to overnight in, and an hour ago bought an expensive flight back over the water to avoid the jet lag of the boat trip…..
It had been a busy day. Ralph had come over to do a photo shoot with the band in Belfast. Tricky moment trying to find the words for P.S. for Tim just before he went on stage. They were gone, lost, let loose somewhere on a stage in Dublin.
I taped up the production box which seemed to have exploded into shards of plastic. Half a roll of gaffer later, all was well. The box contains some of the James words treasure. Laminated lyrics, but not in any order and missing P.S. As I taped, Tim was singing it word-perfect.
Pleasant Sunday morning in Belfast; sun shining. Waved Tim off to the Americas as he set off to take his first flight of the day. Didn’t go to the Titanic museum yet. Interestingly, the Titanic was engineered in Belfast, the helpful concierge man explained, but it set sail from Southampton. Random but true.
For those that weren’t flying out of Belfast, the journey back revolved around drivers hours and strategic planning – things like unloading heavy things at the music storage place before it shut. This meant there was a boat journey at 3am.
On Bank Holiday Monday, news broke that the bus had broken somewhere on the M6. It had been a perilous journey across the Irish Sea in the small hours. Most of the party stayed asleep in their bunks between 4 and 7, in a locked down vehicle area under the ship. A few had got up to lay in the lounge and then realised that was a bit of a bad option too. It was a queasy time and some German travel-sick pills, whose instructions and dosage were anyone’s guess, were taken.
Finally back on land…. Dave was dropped somewhere in Wales and the Manchester team were dropped off next. By 10am, Geoff was back in Rochdale drinking copious amounts of tea and buttering toast at his own kitchen table.
Then, not long back on the road, with most asleep, there was a huge bang that sounded like a bomb had gone off on board the bus… It was near Stoke on Trent. The driver pulled over. Twiddled with the air brakes. And set off again…. Another huge bang and then stop near some fields on the M6.
The vehicle had had its day, and the remaining London team headed off and out overland. There was Ron, Shabby, Andy, Saul and his wife Ana, as well as Nick – who reportedly clutched his quinoa salad throughout – as they jumped over walls and stiles, dragging cases and stuff towards a service station.
Finally a taxi came and ferried them to London. They are all alive and well. “The feeling of an overnight ferry trip and the shock of the bang left me with a touch of jet lag, as if I had travelled to the moon and back,” said one survivor.
What became of the Honey Loops remains a mystery. We will never know. It was a breakfast that never happened.
Olympia Theatre, Dublin
23rd August 2013 | Larry
National Potato Day. Oh the glamour of life on the road!
23rd August 2013 | Juliet
Over to Mat…..who is our guest blogger for tonight…he usually works with Elbow but is with us this summer….
Stuck in an everlasting queue in an attempt to get through customs to Istanbul, I reminisce about my last weekend with the wonderfully chaotic world of James that I’ve been part of since April ’13. It’s certainly been a highlight of my career so far. So the last weekend I’d promised to spill my beans in the form of this blog.
It was National Potato Day that weekend in Dublin, after spending the evening in my watery grave (it’s what we call it when you stay on the bus in your bunk while on the ferry) – being the fact that if anything was to go horribly wrong i.e. sink, then there’s no way out! Still the image of my bunk slowly filling up with water doesn’t deter when sleep is to be had!
So NPD (national potato day) started with a lovely soup at the Olympia; well I was only informed of its lovely potato essence, as it was all gone by the time I got to it, just a few drying sandwiches curling at the edges was all I got. Oh the glamour of life on the road!
I’ll surely miss the unpredictability of this fine bunch, from the gruff Northern voice of Larry, never knowing what guitar he may want next (even in the middle of songs), nights up with Andy listening to Portuguese folk music on the bus to Geoff’s legendary tea making skills. Things I won’t miss – seeing Tim’s freshly worn undies, casually flopped around the dressing room, the set list only coming to my hands 2 minutes before changeover, and those damn tour bus appliances (not mentioning any names) never bloody working – a standard I hasten to add! Still I’ll miss you lot and now my life has been enriched by James and crew… Till next time. Over and out…I only hope I’m not met by tear gas wielding police if we finally get through passport control.
So many men in such close quarters
23rd August 2013 | Juliet
We are all aboard that bus again. It’s a choppy changey night. The Southerners got on first. Saul is in my bed so I am in Mat’s bed. Mat goes ground floor, which he prefers anyway. Shabby is in Tim’s bed and Ana is in Jim’s. It’s late. We collect Dave on the way to Holyhead. Dave then takes Ana’s bed as its the only option. It’s hot inside this chrysalis…..
And then we are at sea; the bus stops for a long time. There have been some owl noises on board. Bleeping and twooting. It’s somebody’s breathing apparatus.
Jim said this must be a taste of what it must be like to be in prison. But where is Johnny Cash to cheer these Fulsome folk? So many men in such close quarters. The twooting continues. Like a night in hospital ward, sleep becomes elusive and soon we get off the bus and go up on deck for an egg on toast.
Ron demonstrates his seven minute core workout using his iPhone app. There are press-ups and dodgy star jumps on deck. A few planks and side planks on a slippery deck help the morning to come into focus.
Mat the guitar tech has stayed asleep. Locked down below deck. A claustrophobic nightmare.
Sleepless but now in Dublin, we dismount the bus which departs to park up somewhere far away. Jim stays on hoping for that missing bit of sleep that will make for a more normal feeling.
Matt the tour manager got the bunk with the box in it and is feeling its effects but remains cheery.
At 2 o’ clock Tim arrives looking fresh and ready for anything. He drinks a carrot, ginger and beet juice and then some aloe vera.
The Olympia theatre is lovely. All old gold and red and friendly staff who love what they do….
A mouse runs across the floor during Tim’s pre-gig workout in the attic room with the window.
There is cream of mushroom soup downstairs.
There is a soundcheck and a V.I.P. question and answer. Tim talks about the 80s on the tour supporting The Smiths…about breaking down in the little camper van and the police helping with getting some petrol etc.
V Festival, Weston Park
18th August 2013 | Larry
V is for Victory
18th August 2013 | Juliet
And on to our second installment penned by drum tech Nick…
Sunny Stafford! A Very lovely day! With all the dos and don’ts learned from yesterday and with some sunshine on proceedings, today was going to be altogether better. We were, dare I say, more over-prepared than a scout group on steroids!
As the V-goers were already on site and raring to go by the time James came onstage, this was going to be a Very different show. The audience was Very big, Very receptive, and the band played a Very good set. Curse Curse went down Very well. Mark’s Crouch End House Mafia keyboard line struck the right note with many of the day-glo face-painted, daisy headbanded, giant pink animal-eared weekenders. I had my own little fan club when I dropped some Very hot cheese hip-pumping moves stage right with Mel & The Sensational Melettes; but I have a very good teacher and an extraordinary natural salsa!
It’s very hard to comment on the subtleties of the performance as I spend most of my time behind the drum riser looking at, well… the back of things mainly!
That was it in a nutshell from yours truly’s perspective. A mass raid on the catering tent for our takeaway treasure, then the Northerners went North, the Southerners went South and within a few hours it was all a dream. In the end V is, as always, for Victory!
V Festival, Hylands Park
17th August 2013 | Larry
‘Twas a grey day at Chelmsford
17th August 2013 | Juliet
Readers we hand you over to Nick, James’ current longest standing onstage crew member, for our camping weekend at V Festival. Part I…
V is for Very late bus call at 23.00 on Friday night, and Beyoncé Very late getting her booty onstage! James were Very early on the bill and this meant a Very early start compared to the two other appearances at V since 2007.
‘Twas a grey and altogether ordinary day at Chelmsford, where Virgin Inc had rustled us up a Very juvenile breakfast. Rustle being the operative word, as we were led to a portakabin full of mini boxes of kids cereal. We sat outside, where I realised that I don’t do breakfasts that can blow away on a windy day. I like my first meal of the day to hold its own in a brisk north-westerly! When faced with this scenario, I recommend covering your Coco Pops in thick yoghurt before pouring most of them into the nearest Red Bull dispenser. Yuck!
Anyhoo, high on tiny sugary round things, we (the crew), set about our chores as we were onstage at the ungodly hour of 2pm – give or take an extended clap-along to some long forgotten set closing Scottish pop anthem! There wasn’t room to swing a kitten behind the scenes, as Mrs Carter needed a few lights to illuminate her huge talent!
Before we knew it, and with Shabby at the helm once more, we were rolling on the risers like rabbits in the headlights. Larry’s main guitar at this point still had precisely no strings on it. Mat Skinner how did you do it?
The V-goers were still arriving and Very punctually, so did the band – all present and correct! Some of them looked like they had also suffered from a blustery bowl of Rice Crispies!
The set included just enough of the right songs for 45 mins at such a sedate time of day.
It was over in the blink of an eye, allowing us to pack all the toys away and Paloma Faith’s penguin-suited crew to set up her giant golden pineapple stall onstage. What to do with the rest of the day? As I’m steering clear of the saturated fat dripping from the grim reaper’s ancient scythe, I had all the fruit, veg and fish that my meal ticket would allow, before the long preparation I go through before watching the worlds biggest pop star do her thang. I slept!
By 9pm, a fine drizzle had descended on the event. Ron ( in his pack-a-mac) and I ventured out into the crowd and took up our position, and waited a Very long damp 20 mins overtime for Mrs C to show us what she was made of and what her choreographer and costume designer had to offer. I gave up after 30 mins when she spiralled into ballads. By now I had spent so long amid her faithful fans that due to some kind of Poundland osmosis, I had an overwhelming desire to apply for a job at a Swansea call centre!
I ran for my life back to the bus. By all accounts I should have saved my curiosity till the end of her set where she revealed her big buns, sorry…I meant guns! I was not Crazy In Love with today or Mrs C but had higher hopes for Tomorrow. Hopefully they would play it!
Two centre camping break
17th August 2013 | Juliet
It’s festival season. This means that many bands get together and go on a weekend caravanning holiday. Well it’s a two centre camping break. South and north UK. The caravan is a tour bus. It has a kitchen. It has a toilet, of sorts. There is a toaster. There is a kettle. There are not enough mugs and an extremely small sink. Saul pours mouthwash down the toilet in an attempt to freshen things.
There are beds called bunks. On this vehicle, one of the beds has an inner surprise box as a feature. You don’t find this out till you get in the bunk and realise this camel hump is just where your upper back goes. A freak bunk. It is not normal to have this box structure in a bunk. There is nowhere to go, you are on the open road. This was Shabby’s bunk tonight.
The caravanning band families all end up parked up in the caravan park for the day. They leave and head for an enclosure. There are things to entertain their inner children. Make-up stalls and hair twiddling tents where professionals can make you look, well, not like you, and attach false eyelashes that make you feel like you just walked into a swarm of flies that headed straight for your ocular regions.
There are cocktail stalls selling slush puppy cocktails in pineapples. These should be taken with caution. It tastes like pina colada – well like sweets really…..but can cause a sudden chemical rush.
Here there is a separate camp for Beyoncé. She is far away from all of us others. But we are happy, the sun is momentarily shining and there are bands to watch. Oh and look here’s Paloma Faith. Now she looks amazing, like a cross between Carmen Miranda and a Chinese empress in the highest of heels…
Then we watch Jessie J.
Later it’s Beyoncé… Due to endless drizzly rain in the field, some of us return to base to watch Oh Brother Where Art Thou in the back lounge.
And tomorrow it’s the same in the North…. But first we’ll hear from Nick, James’ drum tech for many many years….