Blog: Juliet’s Mirrorball Diaries (Spring 2010)
5th April 2010 | Juliet
So far we are in Edinburgh in this blog. We stayed at a mental asylum that had been done up into a posh hotel, it had a smoking bothy with a gas fire and leather arm chairs outside in the courtyard which made Larry very happy. Inside there was a whisky lounge which was a great venue to meet Billy Sloan, Scotland’s John Peel, to do the interview. Later at the gig a streaker rose up out of the crowd wearing just camouflage undies, surfing across peoples heads towards the stage, legs akimbo, thumbs up and a mad grin on his face, he looked very happy…Soup was tomato, spicy and fine. The first time playing the new songs, but started acoustically with Tim and Larry doing Sit Down.
We are back doing this tour bus thing. Zooming across the UK in the night. Listening to Mark’s iPod tunes blasting in the back lounge, drinking Rioja, and talking about sounds and space and things that happened in the gig, randomly eating baked potatoes heated up with mayonnaise and taco chips with salsa by Orla and Wilf, our on the road chefs. We have Thomas in charge this time, and I am giving out the sheets that tell us where we are, what day it is and what is happening when. Just given Larry his Thursday and yet it’s only Tuesday; this is because he is going away tomorrow. So if he doesn’t know what is happening Thursday, so be it.
Today is Tuesday.
6th April 2010 | Juliet
We travelled after the show to Newcastle and woke up near the river overlooking the big silver building that glistens in the sun. Architectural marvels of the north.
Went to Viv Westwood’s and Tim got kitted out with Thai-style fisherman trews, black and tailored and funky; great staff.
Gig at Newcastle Academy, leek and potato with a few carrots in the mix. Got to get dinner over quick before the fans come in as the main bar is our dining room. Watched Unkle Bob, great support. Lots of space, banjo, bass. Newcastle audience were as joyful and patient with all the new stuff. Jim forgot how to play Shine. Larry says in almost 30 years of playing with him he’s never known Jimmy to have a mental block on a tune. Now back on the bus heading to Sheffield, back lounge full with Mark’s sound system, lots of big love tunes from the old days, singing along to Dusty, Roy Orbison, James Brown, Temptations, Doobie Brothers. Larry is editing his photo blog as we speak. Till later.
Alan Partridge, formica, and functional
7th April 2010 | Juliet
Wednesday is day off. Unfortunately the “boutique hotel” doesn’t have a gym so it’s a bit of a walk to workout. Breakfast scenes are a bit Alan Partridge, formica and functional. Scrambled eggs rubberising alongside pink sausages glistening under golden sun lamps. There are no dried apricots or grapefruit segments. More of a minimalist approach.
Larry missed breakfast and popped home to Manchester and had a big dinner with old friends. Tim went to the Peak District heading for the hills with his family up near Derwent. It was a beautiful day. Drum tech Nick went to the gym and after a workout ended up doing bindirobics, a form of Bollywood workout. (This sounds the most exciting.) Dave went shopping. Mark went to eat fantastic Indian food.
That was the beginning
8th April 2010 | Juliet
Sheffield soup was Minestrone.
The dance floor is so sticky its like someone washed it in golden syrup. Gig started in the balcony. Tim climbed off the edge and Larry got lost with his guitar in the crowd. In the end there was a little dance party in the small bar at the back with Larry and a few of the crowd. “I lost Tim,” said Larry. That was the beginning.
The set had less new songs tonight. Tim said, “It was the first of the gigs that fully landed. The first two were still discovering edges and solid ground and trying to get the balance between originality and playing what a lot of the audience want to hear. At the Sheffield gig I felt it fully come together, whereas in the first two we were discovering our way.”
Chippies ‘n takeaways
9th April 2010 | Juliet
Today is Friday. We are on the bus pulling into Preston, boarded up houses, chippies ‘n takeaways out the window. Just came in from Sheffield. Bit of snoozing, cups of tea and M&S snacks. They do a good pot of Greek salad.
Magically we have arrived an hour early. Soup is not ready so we are off to the hotel to check in and gather ourselves before soup and soundcheck. It’s mushroom. No wheat no dairy.
Unkle Bob did a fantastic set with their beautiful harmonies and clear sound. Chloe, the bass player, looked like a tango dancer tonight.
“Sit Down, take the weight off your brains,” said Mel, telling Larry to help with this blog…
- Larry’s long lost cousins turned up who he hasn’t seen for a long time which was nice..
- On the kicking ‘k’ of ‘comes’ in Laid, Larry felt in a cabaret mood and took to slinging his guitar on his hip and doing a new dance.
- There was an aftershow with loads of guests and party people from Manchester.
- Back at the hotel there were the last few songs of a wedding party. They were playing “Oh What A night” when I got back, but by 12.30 it had all gone quiet, much to Larry’s displeasure ‘cos he was in the mood for a hokey cokey.
The set changes every night. Tonight added Top of the World with the mirrorball taking its moment. Good spirits all round.
To Cambridge from the North
10th April 2010 | Juliet
Saturday’s day trip to Cambridge from the North. Mary Hopkins is singing, “Those were the days, my friend,” as breakfast happens; it’s early start today. Pink and white confetti on the drive. Early swim or last minute rush. We’re leaving at 10:00. Long drive to Cambridge.
Boaters and punting on the river as the big bus pulls into Cambridge and its gleaming spires. The sun is shining, as are the people. Cambridge Corn Exchange has a floor that isn’t sticky, perfect for a foxtrot. The McDonald’s is disguised as a bistro down a delightful street off the square… Jamie’s Italian is across the road. But catering has worked miracles again, starting with a carrot and ginger soup. A beetroot and orange salad with horseradish… And there is gnocchi or mussels etc. Chocolate mousse frenzy.
Soundcheck is done and it’s time to get ready. Jim and I take the fresh airs, a quick walk along the river. Bicycles come in “sit up and beg” upright style. We discuss how Cambridge square differs from Market street Manchester…compare and contrast….
It is Sunday and the sun is shining
11th April 2010 | Juliet
It is Sunday and the sun is shining.
It’s Day Off day today.
Tim lost his virginity today in Cambridge… today he watched his first full episode, or thereabouts, of American Idol. “I’d previously snatched ten minutes and reacted to it in the way that Christopher Lee reacts to crucifixes, but this time I made myself watch the whole thing. I get the appeal, how you end up liking one or two of the contestants, identifying with them and then are drawn into the contest. But the impact that these shows have had upon the music culture is pretty appalling, as Simon Cowell said (ironically i keep calling him Simon Callow), ‘It’s a short cut to fame.’
“Making music to become famous is a pretty poor substititute for making music because you have to, because you have to express yourself, your place in the universe or you’ll go crazy. Obviously many people have made music with the motivation of becoming famous, but now it seems to be the only reason, and one that is justified and accepted by the culture. Simon Callow [sic] has done to music what Rupert Murdoch did to newspapers. ”
Now Tim and his mate Steve have gone off to walk round Cambridge and watch Alice in Wonderland…the sun is still shining.
THE PINK PRINCESS and BORAT……….
12th April 2010 | Juliet
Today is Monday… watching Borat on the bus.
On the way to Southend. Looking forward to some sea air. It’s a bit cloudy.
Yesterday went to Jamie’s Italian (here you can buy the books and other memorabilia, including napkins that look like glass cloths). There was no queue tonight. The puddings were good as was the organic red wine. Pumpkin risotto was a bit overdone, soup-like even, and the clam spaghetti had somehow mislaid all but four of its molluscs. Jamie, what’s going on? Where are you? Your kitchen needs you.
Larry has instructed less about food, so here’s what else happened on Day Off in Cambridge. The London people had gone home. But back in Cambridge there was a trip to Alice in Wonderland (Tim and Dave) and a walk round the bookshops of Cambridge by Jim. I went and got some Japanese acupuncture from Michael from Ely. He went for the Kidney Mu point. The sun shone all day.
Tour Manager Thomas used to tour manage Amy Winehouse. Now he’s got Mia and her family (including Saul) and deals with the big and small things that matter. Here’s an emergency that came through from London:
“Hi Juliet. Hope you are enjoying the day in Cambridge! Mia is really upset because we forgot her pink princess bag and plastic bag from Boots with pink nail varnish and make up products in the production office. Do you know if the crew or Thomas saw it and brought it? Love from us all. Ana xx” (Mia’s PA/Mother)
Thomas got it. Crisis over.
Driving along the seafront of Southend there’s the Las Vegas Grill, Circus Circus, Wimpy (retro or what) Sunspot Amusements, a fish ‘n noodle bar (?), and Kim’s Tattoos & Piercing… so much to do and see. There’s a big funfair out on the water, and the pier, and the Breakwater Café…there’s palm trees, the sea is grey..the sky is blue. Everyone is excited to see the sea.
Reunited with her pink princess bag, Mia and her entourage head for the sandy beach. James are doing a soundcheck. She kicks off her pink shoes and leaves them by the pink princess bag before running carefree towards the sea. A creative session of hectic sandcastle building ensues, before she returns to her P.A. for a wet wipe. With a busy evening ahead, Mia knows it’s important to keep her blood sugar levels up, so she leads the group towards Rossi’s ice cream and refreshment bar where she takes a few pink and white straws to play with while she waits for the lady to serve her a pink ice cream. She has it in the tub with the cornet upturned as a garnish. She heads back to the venue to listen to the soundcheck. She passes through security without needing to show her pass. She lost it somewhere a few gigs back. It doesn’t matter. Everyone knows her. Wearing Freddie’s lime green headphones… Enough of that, it’s time for a movie. She heads back to the tour bus where she takes over the whole of the back lounge reclining on the leather seats to watch Night At the Museum. It’s about monkeys and dinosaurs and she loves it.
Tea tray and cinder toffee
13th April 2010 | Juliet
Monday sweetcorn chowder made without cream, but with soya cream, so everyone was happy but they didn’t know why…
Tuesday woke up in Southend in a seaside hotel. We were given a variety of houses to share. Ours was a semi-detached converted into hotel rooms, complete with the tea tray and cinder toffee on a plate covered in cling film. Jim said it was great and had to put it in the bin to stop himself eating it.
We went for a walk on the Esplanade beside the sea picking up fossil-like shell things. Then it was time to go to Bournemouth (French onion with optional cheesed croutons). We listened to Sun Ra and his Arkestra singing and playing Disney, hi ho hi ho….its off to work we go…and pink elephants on parade.
Met two fans who travelled from St. Louis to see James. They are making the most of it and doing three shows while they are here. They must win the prize for the furthest travelled…
“I tried to do the Paris Hilton…”
14th April 2010 | Juliet
We travelled after Tuesday’s Bournemouth show. The charismatic James Walsh (Mr Starsailor) did the supports at the seaside venues. Checked in at 2am to a hotel in London.
The missing coat of many mirrors has been found. This is a miracle as it has been missing and after following several leads has been delivered to the hotel, into my wardrobe. It’s a weighty object, and Tim tries it on for size after breakfast before it gets sent for a bit of mending.
Day Off turned into a very busy promo day in London. Stayed in a hotel near James Street. Day started with a rush to the BBC to play some songs and chat with Lauren Laverne. Tim, Jim and Larry and Saul – almost a one man band (doing drums, violin and guitar). A mini pared-down James.
Larry got papped by three journalists with big long lenses. “I tried to do the Paris Hilton half side-on pose but it didn’t work,” said Larry. “I think they thought I was Tim.”
Jim, Larry and Saul went for a pub lunch with Meredith who helped with the photos. Tim did some other interviews in Soho and then they all met up at the BBC with various regional programmes. Dale Winton, Alvin Stardust, and Mark Lamarr all said hello, and Tom Robinson popped his head round after Lauren Laverne had done her interview.
Early evening was an interview with Dermot O’Leary. Then it was back on the bus and a journey to Bristol, checked in to hotel late… meanwhile Andy went to see the Sun Ra Arkestra. There had been a soup deficit and everyone was very tired when we finally got settled in to another hotel this time in Bristol.
Heaven’s Chimney and no spicy food
15th April 2010 | Juliet
Thursday apparently. We wake up in Bristol at the Hotel du Vin.
The showers are like trying to stand under a waterfall, dynamic powershowers which won shower of the tour award. But now we have to switch hotels to another hotel in Bristol.
Tim has a sore throat. We go to see an acupuncturist to get some Chinese medicine, herbs and acupuncture. Dr Wu tells Tim to keep drinking loads of water and avoid spicy food and of course air-conditioning. All that singing in the BBC was a bit drying.
Tim gets needles put in the sides of his throat (ST9) and one in CV22, “Heaven’s Chimney” (at the base of the throat above the suprasternal notch), this one looks a bit scary. The chill out point yin tang is needled between the eyebrows as well as points on his wrist (Lung 7) and hand (“Great Eliminator”). An extra point near “Welcome Fragrance”, bitong, is used to clear the sinuses.
Tim is left to relax whilst the needles clear the Heat. Mr Wu thinks plenty of sleep is a good idea (if only). And Mr Wu makes up the herbs to go….
Now it’s the afternoon. Tim is asleep. Next it’s courgette and Parmesan soup and soundcheck.
So Bristol …they did the gig then came back for the encore. Tim said to the audience, “I never knew Bristol was so….. sexy. I always thought Bristol was cool and sophisticated.”
Then Ring the Bells…….
16th April 2010 | Juliet
LG: The next written blog is care of Simon Phillips, our keyboard tech and artanarchist/dj extraordinaire
I asked Simon to do Friday….he is the crewman who stands stage left and does things with keyboards, etc. I was too busy running round in circles (literally) through the corridors of this beautiful round building….
Over to Simon:
“I wanna go home.
Woke up in my bunk outside the Albert Hall at 9:30, which means I woke up too early. Bugger.
Don’t mind not sleeping, it just means I spend more time hanging around in catering annoying Orla and Wilf, grazing on food I shouldn’t be eating.
Feel like I’ve put on about 5kgs since the start of the tour.
After too much brekky and then eating scones with jam and cream, it’s time for me to do some work.
No such luck, more hanging around to be done.
I live just down the road, i could have nipped home and had a the luxury of a bath, spoze I should be used to that grubby tour feeling though.
Set up Mark’s gear and taped a mic to his new melodica, fixed a cable and a few other exciting bits and bobs.
Really looking forward to the show.
The Albert Hall is a funny venue, it’s round and acoustically rubbish but always a great gig.
To be honest last nights show will be hard to beat. Larry getting stuck on the crowd barrier and then his bezzy mate Tim (heartlessly) tacking the piss out of him was one of the many highlights on this tour.
I need to clean up and then polish mark’s melodica!
Hope you enjoy the show.”
17th April 2010 | Juliet
There’s a football on Jim’s top bunk. He won it this morning at Sky’s Soccer AM in a celebrity shoot out. I think Jim and Tim did an interview there as well as kicking a ball. Anyway as all these things it’s on Youtube: Jim’s penalty glory.
The rest of us had gathered in the foyer of a rather grand hotel that seemed like the set of a Jack Lemmon film. The kind of hotel where a lady in a fur coat cradling a chihuahua wouldn’t have looked out of place. A silver coaster appeared at breakfast to rest the bottle of water on. Very proper.
There had been a great aftershow and extended party the night before after the Albert Hall so there was general sleepiness as we set off just after 11am…
We picked up Tim and Jim from the Sky place somewhere, heading north.
It’s a long way to Liverpool. Time for sleeping. The 12-bunk sleeper bus is perfect for some shut eye. Pull the curtains and snooze the time away…..Getting in or out of a third storey top bunk requires minor gymnastic/mountaineering tactical moves, ideally the ability to do vertical standing splits.
‘How to Lose Friends and Influence People,’ a comedy, is on DVD in the back lounge. There’s a bit of snacking and footie-watching in the front lounge. Then we are there in Liverpool.
The pre-soundcheck soundcheck [sic] by some of the crew is taking place in the big hall at Liverpool. A sunny splash of Stevie Wonder and a bit of Led Zeppelin, and yes it’s Chloe from Unkle Bob on bass.
I’m making fresh pressed juice in the dressing room. Tim’s had a pint of carrot. “No Dave, don’t pour it yet, too much celery, more apples…” Add some last minute limes.
In catering there’s minestrone and the Saturday papers.
There’s some filming, an interview with Tim and Larry on the brown leather sofa backstage and then it’s dinner and back to the hotel for a power nap. Then back to the venue, time for on-stage soundman to put the ears in, wires attached with stripper’s tape. Belt and a box. Hat runs on stage, red wine runs on stage, Larry’s camera runs on stage. Coat of many mirrors runs on side stage.
Larry and Tim go walkabout, starting the show with Sit Down. But nobody does. Larry appears stage left, plonks his black box into my hands, and disappears into the darkness; I pass it to Benny who passes it to Simon Soundman who lays it to rest next to the control panel. The show takes off . “The gig was fairly uneventful,” said Larry afterwards (wot no doing the splits on the barrier tonight?). The crowd were AMAZING…”
Tim pauses to tell the story of the coat of many mirrors. The original heavy black wool coat was left to Tim by his dad. Later a clairvoyant told him his deceased dad was wondering what happened to it. Realising the coat could be put to use, Tim got the coat fixed up with the many mirrors. The song to follow is Porcupine.
And then the gig is done and it’s all happening in the dressing room, which conveniently has access to a rooftop smoking area. Loads of people come in. All the band are there mingling and chatting, friends, family, fans. Unkle bob is there too. Ali, who organised composer Joe Duddell’s orchestra/James collaboration before Xmas, is there. The ‘glitter girls’, three women in themed silver glitter togs are there; first spotted outside the Albert Hall on the steps on Friday, they have got to the aftershow. One of them makes a cup of tea.
There is champagne, diet Coke, and a fridge full of cold ones. Crack open a bar of Green & Blacks, made for sharing. There’s a couple of fans who have done the whole tour, staying in hotels and seeing every gig. They seem very happy. Happy as Larry even who is grinning from ear to ear chatting away…
Meanwhile everything is packed away. The coat of many mirrors is covered in its black protective outercoat and hung in the flightcase wardrobe; black suede shoes rest beneath.
The whole stage is being dismantled by men in baggy trousers who appear from everywhere and work real fast at clearing the lot away. A truck outside gets everything shunted into it super fast. Lots of zooming heavy things on castors.
The mirrorballs have gone back to bed, wrapped and cushioned in flight cases. Tucked up. Goodnight.
Blackjack in Patras
29th April 2010 | Juliet
Thursday is an early start: 5 am for me. Somehow we all fly into London and meet for the Athens plane. Luckily the volcanic ash has subsided sufficiently.
It’s a long day, a long drive at the other end to Patras. Our driver points out the sights. That was the mountain, on the right, where Oedipus hung out. And that is the water between the lands… Oedipus was a bit accident prone in family matters.
The three hour plus road trip was punctuated by a stop at McDonald’s to try to find a wifi hotspot to download the latest mixes of the tracks for The Morning After. No success there.
The road has one and a half lanes for a while, it’s busy endless highway.
The hotel-cum-casino looks a bit flash and overlooks the sea. We zoom off to eat somewhere with the locals from Radio Mojo. I pop out for a look at the sea.
Larry blew all his per diems at the blackjack table in under an hour. He was getting free drinks for the lads, who were cheering or booing as the cards were turned. The longer Larry played the game, the longer they got free drinks. The female croupier was giggling at us so much at that point she was replaced.
30th April 2010 | Juliet
Friday. Why do hotels often have a curtain hook, far left or far right, missing? Where does the curtain hook go? Maybe they run off with missing socks…? The sunshine’s out early; time to walk on the beach. Saul and Andy are swimming already.
There’s a great view of the three pointed Rio-Antirrio bridge, the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge, spanning the Gulf of Corinth. It’s beautiful against the blue sea and sky.
Then there is an interview at Radio Mojo downtown. I go out to the Farmakeia on an errand to buy an icepack and some reading glasses.
Back at Radio Mojo, Tim and Jim are being interviewed by Christos. Christos is asking the interesting questions and it’s all quite a discussion, when I pop in the loo, then turn the key and find I am locked in. The key just turns round and round and round. It’s lost its grip but I am not ready to die just yet so keep turning as instructed. After several attempts by the woman behind the door, who keeps starting the instructions with,” Just relax,” then, “Turn the key four times to the left.”
We go through this five times before she suggests I pass the key under the door. There is no ‘under the door’. There is a tight fit like a refrigerator. There are no windows, just white tiles. I am effectively locked in the bog….which is starting to feel like I am in a refrigerator and everyone has gone home, and left me probably to die…soon.
However, I obediently keep calm, and then there is another voice…a Greek man this time…Andreas from Radio Mojo. “Keep calm (always Sweedy), turn the key to the left two times, and to the right two times”… I do this and bingo…
Shaken but not stirred… A good Martini could almost have been in order but someone gave me water.. Keep calm and carry on…
Then a trip to eat the local fish food…prawns piled high, mussels piled high , octopus legs everywhere, and then just in case, a squid came to the party too. Me and Jim went for a legless Greek salad.
The coat of many mirrors had travelled too, and was found crumpled in a heap at the base of the wardrobe, ready for Porcupine. And there are no cuff-links on Tims shirt following its trip to the dry cleaners… Where do cuff-links go? Maybe they join hotel curtain hooks and party…
The show on Aristotelian Street was amazing. A huge indoor arena, with not too much smoking but a lot of singing and dancing from the crowd. Yes, in Greece they smoke indoors. There’s an aftershow at a swanky bar down at the port. Ana was in charge.
Ευχαριστούμε τον κόσμο της Πάτρας … περάσαμε υπέροχα!!!
(My lovely Greek friend wrote this and it says ‘Thank you everybody in Patras, we had a wonderful time!!!’)
Feta in the Olympic Bathroom
1st May 2010 | Juliet
Saturday. Long drive to Athens, two minibuses. I am sandwiched in the busy one, in the front between Iannis and Vassilis. Saul is making us laugh, doing a monologue as only he can. This passes an hour or so. Then a debate on the most sexed-up music of all time. Barry White wins hands down; Donna Summer and Dr. Hook get a point too. There are also a few jazz funk disco tracks that only me and Dave know, and for some reason all the words come flooding back to other entries.We stop for a snack and a coffee. I get the last spanotirokopita (spinach cheese pie) and offer to share it. Everyone else grabs a bagel. Coffee and cigarettes etc… We are officially in Greece; smoking is in. Sometimes it almost seems compulsory here, it’s part of life’s syllabus.
Today it’s May Day. There’s a riot and clashes with police in Athens. Now in the hotel, it’s on TV. A sombre newsreader is spreading the word on the streets. But outside for the cafe society and tourist shops, it’s business as usual. Some of the band get to see the magnificent Acropolis out the window. Scooters scoot by and the view is a hot city. But there are important things to do and a bit of room shifting, and then all is done and we head to the gig to sound check and eat some Greek food, dolmadakia avgolemono (small stuffed vine leaves in egg and lemon sauce). Thank you, very nice (nostimos).
Outside the Tae Kwon Do Arena, the venue, the bootleg T-shirt sellers are having their take on things. It’s really busy and the driver whizzes round past the harbour of yacht-type boats, and then we are there. The dressing room is a large bathroom with large communal showers and open plan loos. There are no windows. Catering is down the corridor in a similar setting.
There is some ironing activity being done. Jim invents a way to work out while ironing using a vertical iron. Biceps and triceps all done. Could this be the future for men and ironing? Anyway there is steam and much switching between super hot and super cool settings as creases are well ironed out.
Then the handle simply comes off the dressing room door, and we are all locked in this mega bathroom situation, again there are no windows. Just before they go on stage….hmmmn, a few glances of ‘oh dear, oh very dear’ from those who have noticed, and somehow magically it is opened from the outside…
Aftershow is in catering another Olympic-sized bathroom with Heineken on tap. A stylish Greek woman wearing pearls, no less, asks me, “What is this? Feta in the bathroom?”. Exactly. Indeed there’s a row of Greek salads with feta there on the table in this bathroom.
The after-aftershow took place in the form of Taki’s birthday do at a restaurant somewhere. I missed it. Finally got under cover at 3.30am. Then it’s 6am and the alarm is doing something alarming. Repeating itself endlessly and getting louder and louder as if it’s drunk…what’s going on? Oh yes another flight… Gather myself with small Greek (coffee) and fly south…for my next assignment..Again Greece…the deep South..where the internet doesn’t work often so it’s a car ride to the mountain village where there may be a connection.
Οι James προσδοκούν να ξανάρθουν σύντομα στην Ελλάδα…
James look forward to coming back to Greece soon…