“Shlumpers gets that.”
20th April 2013 | Juliet
Vinny had promised to be guest blogger today, but was very tired on Sunday after assisting TM assistant Kerry with the VIP guests and attending the gig. He is back at school today and so his blog is on hold for another day.
Meanwhile Jim and Saul sang Don’t Wait That Long opera style at soundcheck in honour of Il Divo and Peter Rudge.
Went for walkabout round Brixton. There was a wig shop and shoe shops with crocodile slip-ons and shiny red brogues… A wig was bought… there were some good sounds on the streets.
After the show Vinny found some Heinekens when none were available at the aftershow, and brought them to the bathroom where Jim and Dave were hiding behind the ironing board. “You can get £400 an hour as a tour manager” said Vinny. “Shlumpers gets that.”
Brixton Academy I
19th April 2013 | Larry
19th April 2013 | Juliet
There has been a lot of tweety talk of trousers and under-trousers. And I suggest a shopping trip as we are in the shopping capital of the UK. But such plans are thwarted, as Tim wakes with a sore throat and needs some very specific Chinese herbs to help this. Could I find Watermelon Frost, and pop out and get it? I scour and scratch the internet and phone a few Chinese herbalists…
It’s 11am. Jim and Larry are outside the hotel waiting to go and do the Absolute Radio interview with Pete Mitchell. Saul can’t make it as Tim’s replacement, as there isn’t time cos he is home in north London hinterlands. So Jim and Larry will go. Jim suggests I go along as a stand in and tell a few anecdotes. Yeah right.
The very tricky Watermelon Frost is located not far from Leicester Square. We take a cab, zooming along Kensington High Street and the Albert Hall. Deluxe shops smile at us and there we go past Lady Di’s old stomping ground.
Last times James played London we were with orchestra and choir and Joe Duddell’s arrangements at the Albert Hall. That was 18 months back.
But today it’s Brixton Academy, which used to be the Astoria Cinema a long time ago, and is a beautiful art deco building in the heart of Brixton. But that will be later, now it’s China Town. Soho.
Tim pops upstairs for a herbal consultation with the ‘professor’ and I pop downstairs for a 10 minute shoulder rub while-u-wait.
This shoulder massage starts with some alarming pressing on the lower spine. Fearing an imminent spondylolisthesis I stop her mid track. “Er, enough of that,” I say to the girl with the white coat since removed and now wearing a skin-tight, brightly squeezed minidress in zigzag patterns.
A good pummelling pinching and hacking of the shoulders follows. Better. But why the New Look dress?
Meanwhile upstairs at the shop counter, the bill for the herbs is settled. They seem to like the cash upfront here. Another assistant comes down to help with the weighing and counting. She is dressed in a mini too. And long socks and high heeled shoes. She is the auxiliary. The chief weighing lady takes a white mask across her face and weighs and counts things out in packets for Tim. We look on amazed. This is the second amazement following the naming of the three-figure sum for the herbs…
Tim points out the interesting posters on the wall. A lot of it seems to be about men’s potency issues. In fact this place seems to have taken that as its theme. It’s all about Herbal Male Tonic which can help “man’s best friend … quick results with no side effects after taking” etc. Crikey. There are also some posters of a tank demonstrating its gun in various positions. You will have to imagine, as Larry does the photo blog and he wasn’t there for full documentary footage.
Wrapped in cellophane there is a purple package which is said to contain Rose Star Toning Pants. “What are they?” asks Tim as if I would know. The writing is all in Chinese and there is a picture of a man in black shorts. I take it down off the top shelf in the waiting area but am none the wiser.
The weighing and counting continues.
And then we are off with the wonder drugs in a black cab to Brixton. The cabby is playing a radio station where they are doing a country interview. Tim is getting involved in lyric analysis. There is talk of living in a trailer park and some racy words of kissing boys or girls. “Is that allowed in country songs?” asks Tim.
Then The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down comes on and the cabbie turns it up and we sing along. …I don’t mind a choppin’ wood but I care if the money’s no good just take what you need and leave the rest but they should never have taken the very best…… Memory is a strange fish.
Virgil, now that’s a good word. Then Mark Bolan takes us to the seventies…
In the corridor Tyrone suggests some ginger and honey drink. Ah yes, memories of the cold venue in Portugal one autumn evening, where the crew nearly took a turn with frostbite and it was ginger and honey drinks that kept them alive. An old but effective remedy used in the Himalayas when the sun has taken his hat off of an evening.
Soup is cream of mushroom and an option of no-cream version. There is chicken soup to ward off a cold for Tim too.
Brixton is being ‘backed’ and I head out down Coldharbour Lane for some items. Handkerchieves are found in Morleys. A shop like the old days. Like going down Bon Marche back in the late 60s. The helpful girls on the perfume counter tell me where I might find some Weleda and I head off past the market. Brixton is alive and kicking, sounds and action spilling out of the shops. It’s vibrant and I suggest to American Chris he pops out for a wander. “Maaan it’s craaaazy,” he reports. (Chris says this anyway whatever’s happening, but it’s good to hear him say it today.)
Back at the Academy the soundcheck is on.
They do Alaskan Pipeline with Ellie but the song doesn’t make it through to the set list. The soundcheck has a few questions.
Kerry is sorting out the wardrobe. There is a plastic sword (telescopic) in there, an iron, the black suede shoes, Dave’s outrageously immovable weights (which he is wont to pump with some bicep curls just before going on stage), and assorted wires, Marks melodeon wrapped in a towel with gaffer binding, many shirts, a T-shirt that belongs to nobody, and some turquoise socks that Tim grabs in passing, “Oh I wondered what happened to those.”
Anyway it’s all tidy now. There are named drawers. It says ‘herbs’ on the top drawer and ‘weights’ and ‘shoes’ and things in lower drawers. Old wiry coat hangers are shed along with bits of wires and broken bric-a-brac.
So now I can locate the Chinese nuts at the drop of a hat.
The dry-cleaning comes back wet. Damp waistbands on trousers. The hairdryer is on full and the production office becomes a steam room. Kerry is sniffing the trousers. Yes they definitely smell of dry cleaning fluid.
Dave Brown the lyric-meister and one of James’ biggest fans forever, has helped Kerry to sort all the lyrics as he knows better than anyone what all the songs are called. There is now a big file of songs with Post It notes on them announcing their titles. Kerry has organised everything. There is talk of lamination, and a big folder with lots of words in lots of different fonts.
Vinny has arrived and wants a piña colada (no rum) for old times’ sake. We go and try to find the coconut. Vinny asks whether the coconut milk will be fresh. Alex promises coconut for tomorrow and I promise to get the juicer to press some apples later, when the band are not exceedingly busy getting changed and ready to go on stage in the juicer room/dressing room.
With the possibility of fresh juice and a cocktail tomorrow, Vinny decides to stick by my side and help with running up and down the stairs for about half an hour. We run to the tidied wardrobe and run to production, we run to the bus, we run to production, we run to catering, we run with some lyrics, and we run to get a canister and we run and get the packs. One for Andy one for Tim.
Andy gets his and Tim gets his own attached and I apply the bulldog clip.
Later it transpires the pack did not work. That’s kind of serious. Anyway the gig was good despite this major hitch.
Smiley Neil is in the dressing room with his Mrs and asks, “What soup is it?” (See above.) He is smiling. He even says it was the best James gig he’s seen in 20 years and smiles again.
Peter Doherty’s new manager is there. We chat about shiatsu around the world and clicking spines. Then just as he is leaving he adds as an aside to me, “…the trousers……………?”
Thursday was day off.
18th April 2013 | Juliet
We came from Bristol to London in the big bus.
We ate noodles.
Bristol Colston Hall
17th April 2013 | Larry
Translated, the lights live in space ships
17th April 2013 | Juliet
Ben has worked for James for the past four years as lighting crew chief.
He can’t type fast but is an award-winning lighting technician so…
Here we go…
Ben’s day In Bristol…
“Woke up at 7.30, which is late as usually it’s 5.30am to mark out the stage at 6. We had a smaller show today. It’s a theatre.
“But today was a good day, because we have a full arena sized show into a smaller venue which is podtastic. The lights in the roof are in pods, and we’ve got 8 pods to keep all the lights safe. They have homes like their perches. These pods are so versatile that on this whole run they adapt at each venue so we can either hang two, four or eight, or just one. They are all individual.”
Ben is so in love with his light situation he beams as he describes this wonder of the universe …
Translated, the lights live in space ships.
‘Are you a climber Ben?’ I ask. “Yes in real life too. Yes, I have to climb to focus the lights for the band during the show.
“This involves a harness, full body harness with lots of gear. I’ll be on dimmers or front of house with Chris who is our lighting designer.” (Chris plays the desk pinball style.)
“It’s go go go all day then show time, then go go go until we load the trucks for get out. Then we’ve got to stack the boxes high, four wide and two high, nice ‘n tight to fit it all in.
“My job is a jigsaw puzzle and I have to put it together everyday, and take it down and put it away to come out to play again tomorrow. The crew are the puzzle builders. But we can’t do it without Alex and Will who are cheftastic.
“I work with Jon my dimmer man, and Chris the lighting designer, as well as local crew to help us put together the puzzle.”
16th April 2013 | Larry
Sheffield in springtime
16th April 2013 | Juliet
Dave wore his new spring white shirt and the sun shone in Sheffield today.
The venue was squashy and smelt curiously of horse.
But the soup was so good that the recipe is here (thanks to Alex).
For those who don’t know and are new to this, the day for the band usually starts again at 3ish with soup. There had been a micro photo shoot and some listening to mixes on the bus and receipt sorting, but not much action till the afternoon. Matt tour manager has his own office on the bus, a bothy upstairs with deskette.
Thai Sweet Potato Soup (not suitable for those who don’t like coconut)
4kg sweet potatoes
5 medium white onions will be OK
1 head of celery
1 garlic bulb
Big piece of ginger root
Lemon grass, about 4 sticks
Red curry paste
Coconut milk, 10 tins
2 litres of vegetable stock
Roughly chopped fresh coriander, big bunch to serve
Limes x6, juice of, add at the end
“Sweat it down in olive oil, add the coconut milk and stock and boil, add lime at the end and blitz,” said Alex.
This makes approximately 2 buckets of soup. Adjust quantities accordingly or feed the street. The soup is vegetarian – fish sauce or other life forms have been avoided.
So there was a soundcheck, and then the VIP soundcheck with questions. Then EATB did their soundcheck and their show.
Meanwhile Tour manager Matt, waiting for Tim to find some lyrics, has a flashback of school disco and has an 80s dance moment.
The football was on in production office. Bulldog clips were collected.
The ever shifting set list of James was sorted and the ironing board, which was folding, was put up for shirt action. Tim made a backing track for the auditorium, found the words, got them printed, had a kip and then it was showtime. The swap-over of bands is very short. The Chinese medicine nuts are brewing in the cup on the side. Put in the ears and attach them, threading the wires firmly with blue bulldog clip. Not too tight and not too loose. …………The head must be free to move.
Tomorrow we’ll have a guest blogger. There will be no recipes.
15th April 2013 | Larry
I am Ron. (A Day in the Life of Ron the Keyboard Tech)
15th April 2013 | Juliet
Hi. My name is Ron and I am the keyboard and trumpet tech for James. Although this is my first official tour as a tech, my connection with James commenced many years ago when Saul managed and produced my then band Unkle Bob. I played keyboards in Unkle Bob and we supported James on their 2008 North American tour. However, I was also convinced to set up the drums and keyboards for James on top of driving the RV – it was a real baptism of fire. But a lot of this UK tour has been an unknown for me – in fact I had to e-mail Juliet to find out what I should wear!
Yesterday was our first day off which involved remaining in my hotel room, directly opposite St. James Park, while watching the rioting Newcastle fans below throwing glass bottles at the police.
Today is Monday and we’re at the Newcastle O2 Academy. The morning is quite relaxed for the backline techs. The tour bus picks us up from the hotel at 11am and drives us to the venue. Once the stage is ready, local crew with ten times my strength lift cases up the ramp and leave me to assemble the complex keyboard rig with its web of cables and queues of pedals. One wrong connection and the whole thing will explode. I move on to the trumpet rig and meticulously tape all cables up nice and tidy. Then it’s lunch made by the great Wilf and Alex.
Once set, the band arrive for sound check and fingers crossed, everything works and all is in the exact same position they left it in from the show before. Kerry the Production Assistant makes sure we’re supplied with set lists and cracks the whip if we’re doing things wrong.
It’s show time and all goes to plan tonight. No exploding amps or falling over microphones. It’s a successful show as far as the techs go.
As soon as the show ends, we pack down as quick as possible and the local crew return to load the truck. We then go to the tour bus for some after show sandwiches. I climb into my bunk with its own light and power socket and travel through the night to the next venue.
Days are long as a tech and you have to pay very close attention to detail however it’s very rewarding when the band play a great show and you play a small part in making it all work.