Cambridge Corn Exchange

11th November 2014 | Larry

Super League Grand Final, Old Trafford

11th October 2014 | Larry

Feria del Hogar, Lima, Peru

5th August 2014 | Larry

Pills ’n’ Thrills and Bellyaches

5th August 2014 | Andy

For our final gig of the summer, just when we thought it was all over – we are sent on a journey half way around the world to play in Peru.

We played there once before, in 2011. By all accounts an amazing gig in an amazing place – I wasn’t there.

I had an operation on my foot which was in plaster and I was not allowed to fly without having it removed and then being pumped full of blood thinning drugs. Danger of deep vein thrombosis, the doctor said.

No such problems this time. There was a different concern – it was a schedule that was going to knock us all for six.

We had just come off stage at Umbria Rock and had to leave this beautiful region of Italy at 2am on a coach. It was a long drive to Rome airport, from where we flew to Amsterdam before making the 12-hour flight to Lima.

A 22-hour journey in total!

How were we going to do that? Apparently Matt, our tour manager, had recommended to some, that they have a word with their GP and get some heavy-duty sleeping pills.

Zopiclone seemed to be the drug prescribed. A ‘Z-drug’ thought to be less addictive and habit forming than benzodiazepines. Although daily or continuous use is not advised – it says on the packet.

The idea was to knock yourself out with one of these on the flight to Peru, in order to get 5 to 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I wasn’t convinced. Whenever I have had sleeping pills, they make me feel groggy and they knock me out, but it doesn’t feel like proper sleep. “These ones are different,” I was told.

I held out against them and went for the red wine option, which, along with a heavy article in New Scientist magazine on pigeons and quantum cosmic connections, should have me nodding off in minutes.

It did – but I spent the whole journey nodding off and waking up. I never got more than 40 minutes continuous sleep at a time.

The Zopiclone-poppers all reported a refreshed decent sleep. I was jealous. I was definitely going to try one on the way home.

We landed in Lima in what seemed like a hazy brown fog that engulfed everything. Was this pollution?

There was a small group of fans at the airport wanting photos and autographs. We got into minivans and were accompanied to the hotel by a Police escort complete with motorcycle outriders!

Wow, this felt like pop star stuff! Wasn’t it in Peru that the boys from One Direction were caught on video having a spliff and laughing at their Police escort?

We found out, however, that the escort wasn’t because of our imagined importance as international pop stars. It was to do with getting us through the rush hour traffic quickly. What could have taken 90 minutes ended up only taking 30 and the escort ended up accompanying us on all journeys during our visit.

The Police were ‘Policía de Tránsito’, a special transit police, whose job was to take rich important people through the traffic quickly. Maybe this is the future in western countries as our cities get stuck with traffic and we have a growing gap between the rich and poor. Actually – Let’s hope not!

The concert was part of a big, open air, civic cultural fair that is held annually over two weeks to bring ‘joy to families on Independence Day’.

The venue was engulfed in the same brown fog, that we now discovered was ocean mist. We were actually right beside the Pacific Ocean, which was just the other side of a large wall.

Chris, our lighting designer, tells us that the mist has got into the lighting rig and that there are loads of stage hands out there with hair dryers desperately trying to dry it out!

Jackets on for this gig. It is cold out there. This felt strange after all our hot summer gigs in the northern hemisphere. We were now in the Peruvian winter and the dressing rooms had heaters on.

The audience was amazing and Tim went crowd surfing on ‘Curse Curse’ and was bobbing around on an ocean of raised arms that seemed to sway underneath him but somehow keep him up.

It was chaotic but Tim never dropped a note! There was concern that he was still intact and complete on his return. However after close inspection all was present and correct.

This was the last show of the summer and we all celebrated afterwards. What a way to finish! Here’s to November! Just the long flight home to do now.

I was looking forward to trying a Zopiclone pill and getting a decent sleep.

Steve, our monitor engineer, never made it out the hotel and was declared too sick to travel. It was food poisoning. We all started to wonder what it was he had eaten that the rest of us had not.

We had all eaten pretty much the same. Catering at the venue, breakfast at the hotel. There had not been any time to go out, explore and see – let alone eat – anything different.

Slowly… one by one… we succumbed. I ended up in the toilet on the plane home filling paper bags!

Five of us ended up with some sort of stomach bug / food poisoning, but we couldn’t work out why some people had it and others not.

Another summer jaunt finishes with a nightmare journey home, and I am reminded of last years final journey of the summer, when our tour bus broke down and we had to haul our bags along the motorway verge to the services to pick up another vehicle.

And……… I never did get to try the Zopiclone!

24 hours in Rome, by Owl.

4th August 2014 | Juliet

[Owl is part of Mia’s entourage. He accompanied her as her mentor and guide on her trip to Italy.]

Dictated by Owl…

James had lent us Jules for our trip to Rome, and Yash has lent us his chauffeur. Hopefully we won’t get into any more scrapes.

Our chauffeur is lovely Italian gentleman who drives smooth and relaxed. We feel very safe. Me and Mia snooze in the back. Jules in the front, and Ana beside me. Jules and Ana can’t stop talking – nonstop.

We drive past the festival site at Massa Martana, past Bastardo, and past the yellow fields of sunflowers. It’s a smooth ride.

Our journey from Rome to Umbria had a been a bit too exciting, what with the time of night, the darkness and general confusion. But luckily I am a night bird.

When we arrived in Umbria I hung out with some bats that had been ousted from Andy’s room. They were partying on the roof.

Trouble started again after the nice Italian chauffeur dropped us off at the hotel with good reviews online. Ana had booked it as it looked very nice, and it was.

However our hotel was already full, and we were moved to some dodgy rooms above some offices down the road. It was called the annexe and was accessed through a lot of iron gates and keys and buttons, and a very old open plan lift with pulleys and straps that made it work. ‘We have these in Portugal too,’ said Ana cheerily as the four of us squeezed into the pulley-controlled cage.

The rooms were boiling and the air very still. There was no air conditioning, and opening the windows meant that pizza fumes came into the rooms from somewhere down below in the inner courtyard.

Jules had a word with reception. Sylvia said there was nothing they could do, but she gave us all free breakfast and a discount.

Given the heat of Rome and lack of air conditioning in the dodgy rooms, this could have been a bit of a feather ruffler.

After a gelato event we went on a city tour on a big open air bus and saw all the sites. My head was turning 190 degrees by then just to see it all. I gave myself neck ache with all the excitement.

The parliament square, the fountain, the castles, the Coliseum, it was all there. I wanted to fly out for a visit but we were meant to stay on top of the bus. Ana jumped off for a cigarette but this wasn’t really allowed. The bus stopped a lot and went slowly.

It was very exciting to be in Rome. To see all the little Cinquecento Fiat cars old and new, and see the Carabinieri looking so stylish. The slim men of Rome wore nice shirts tucked in, and their trousers fitted better. The women of Rome were all very chic too, in dresses not too short and just the right amount of accessories.

Mia bought a pink parasol, as the heat was heating. A perfect accessory.

My legs were aching too and my claws are not built for this kind of adventure.

We popped to the Vatican zone and saw where the people gather, and then walked down a cobbly street and ate pizza, the second of the day. A pizza too far?

Musicians played accordions whenever we were eating in Rome.

Exhausted, we headed back near Castel Sant’Angelo through the night market, to the boiling strange rooms for sleep. But it was all too hot.

Down the corridor, in a bolted room next to the main door that kept slamming as people came and went in the night, Jules watched a ’60s black and white Italian film before breakfast as she could not sleep. She likes the fashions. She drank lots of tap water in the toothbrush cup.

We wondered how everyone was doing in Peru, and if they had arrived, and worked out that they probably were asleep….

Next day we got lost and walked for miles. Mia was very tired and Ana smoked a packet of cigarettes by noon, followed by an octopus and salad in the Piazza. Mia ate a chocolate gelato or cornetto (nuts scraped off first) every two hours. There was also more pizza. Jules kept drinking the bubble water which she likes but seems to have salt in it….

The architecture was beautiful. I had to keep myself from flying off to the stuccos to see it more closely.

At lunch, Jules had to have a word with a waiter who served half a tomato and some diced buffarello calling it a Salad Caprese. Honestly, do they think we are tourists or something? He gave us some espresso and almond biscuits to keep us quiet. It didn’t.

We went to visit the Trevi Fountain but it was all covered in scaffolding, not like in the movie at all.

Soon it was time to go. We were taking the flight from Rome Capucchino to Edinburgh. We had another long night ahead. I love flying….especially through the night.

We are looking forward to hearing the adventures of the band and crew in Lima….


Umbria Rock, Massa Martana, Italy

3rd August 2014 | Larry

A Stage with a View

3rd August 2014 | Juliet

Sunflower fields of smiling yellowness line the strada, as the bus heads up north from Rome. Then we see a sign for the festival at Massa Martana and adjoining village Bastardo.

We are staying further north, toward Perugia in Torgiano. A meal is planned in the local family run restaurant. From outside it could be a Berni Inn, but inside it’s like an art gallery full to the brim with diners. Porcini features, and there is every which way with finest homemade pasta. It’s Saturday night and the place is full. Saul has booked a table using his finest Portuguese somehow. Everything is stylish, lush and delicious. Salads, olives, platters of antipasti are flying around attached to waiters’ inner arms. We choose, and finally close our menus to show we are ready.

Wild mushrooms on the grill look like brown jelly fish bodies, gelatinous and meaty. Truffle oil is present. The pasta is yellow from the egg yolks, the sauces are oozing. There are sand castles of aubergine parmigiana, and crispy breads beyond any ciabatta seen this side of the channel.

Everyone is there except Tim and Davo. Dave was probably stringing.

Jim’s ravioli is full of creamy walnutness and dusted in some kind of mushroom shaving. It’s THE dish. Everyone wants some but they aren’t having any.

The house salad is Nonnos. It has pear in it, and pine nuts. Nonno himself is our waiter. He is pleased when he takes the order. This is a joyful family run trattoria, and the food is full of love….

We run the fridge dry of tiramisu. Then it’s coffee and home.

Sitting by the terrace, a nightcap is taken. Armagnacs. Drink two litres of bubble water.

Andy appears, looking kerfuffled, to say his room is full of bats after leaving the windows open… He has a quadruple Armagnac to settle his nerves before heading back to sort it out.

I am hoping any minute now Ana and Mia will arrive from Scotland. It’s to be a surprise for Saul. But he goes to bed before they arrive.

They get there at 4am, after a Blade Runner style perilous delay on the streets of Rome central.

I warn the nice man at reception in my best Spanish (useless in Italy) that Ana is going to need a key to Saul’s room. He replies in English(ish) that he understands. “Your husband is in room 31.” Er not quite. Give up. Sleep.

It is a surprise indeed when Mia jumps on Saul’s head in the dark at 4am. He thinks he is about to be killed by an intruder.

Next day, Andy Warhol is at breakfast. Oh, and there’s Paul Weller looking sharp. His shoes are light blue.

We drink gallons of lukewarm cappuccino, dunking croissants, adding plum and vanilla jam where appropriate.

The Charlatans played last night, and Weller. Tonight it’s James and the Kaiser Chiefs.

There is swimming at this lovely Umbrian spa hotel. The spa does treatments involving wine. There is something called Vinotherapy available. This is real. Oh yes, they can rub you with grapes or you can have a bath in wine. The antioxidants prevent ageing. It is written about in the extensive brochure.
Mark refuses an offer to chip in for a Vinotherapy session for him. He prefers the direct method.

Andy, currently aka ‘Batman’, approaches the pool for his Olympic swim workout.

Tim calls….and we go for lunch at Nonno’s, as he missed it last night. Nonno isn’t there today. But the food is as thrilling. Tim has the jellyfish mushrooms, spinach, and the pork done with apples and chips.

He orders a crema catalana, which is more like a crème brûlée, arriving on fire…burning brown sugar crispiness. There is enough to satisfy a family of four. He eats a corner and announces that any more and he will turn fluorescent yellow. Yes.

A huge thunderstorm breaks out. Tim does the setlist, and I read a cookery book about Italian cuisine from the shelf nearby. Zuppa di fagioli (bean soup) is on page 1.

We borrow a brolly as this rain is on for a while, and head back through the village, where everywhere you look is a postcard from Umbria. Back to the wine cellar hotel spa.

Later the gig. It’s a small do as it’s a brand new festival. The setting is a field in the Umbrian countryside, with an incredible church nearby.

The atmosphere of the festival is wonderful. Nothing is a problem. James are pioneers. Even Glastonbury had to start somewhere.

A delightful event and a wonderful setting. There are photos and autographs to be done after the show.
Then it’s back on the bus ASAP for the 2 hour window of sleep or Armagnacs before heading off to Rome to get a flight to Amsterdam and then on to Lima.

At 1.45am, deliver a semi-sleeping body and its things to the bus, and then help strong Ron with his endless boxes and cases full of band gear. I vow to start working out more as even the little cases weigh a ton.

Finally at 2am they are gone. All who remain are Ana, Mia and Owl…..

Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset

2nd August 2014 | Larry

Lulworth Castle in a fetching shade of blue

2nd August 2014 | Juliet

‘Today we leave you in the capable hands of Mike, FOH sound engineer…’

It’s Thursday evening when the crew and some of the band board the tour bus at Kings Cross to head south to Dorset for our show at Camp Bestival. We’re travelling the night before because, as James are headliners on the Friday night, we get to do a soundcheck early in the morning. This is a rare luxury, as usually you have half an hour to wheel the gear on stage, strum a few chords, hit a few drums and launch into the set.

By the time we arrive at the festival site I’m already in bed, trying to get some sleep ready for the 7am start. I wake up before my alarm goes off and head downstairs to find Ron and Nick already up and raring to go. After a cup of tea we head to the stage to meet the local crew who are full of joy and ready to help unload all the band’s gear from the truck.

We’ve done quite a few festivals in foreign countries this summer where we take the bare essentials but rent larger pieces of back line equipment locally. This can be pot luck, and the quality and sound of the rented drums, amps and even guitars can vary a lot. Today we’re using the band’s own gear which makes things much easier for me and Steve, the monitor engineer.

Nick, Ron and Davo get on with setting the gear up on risers, ready to be wheeled into position, while tour manager Matt heads off to catering to fetch breakfast for us all. I end up with a strange combination of bacon and veggie sausage, but it’s very welcome all the same. Steve and I wait around for the local sound crew to show up, but it turns out nobody told them we were starting at 7. They turn up at bleary eyed at 8 and we finally get on with setting up mics and monitors.

It’s a textbook soundcheck and we’re done by around 10. Steve and I save our mixing desk settings for later, positions of all the gear on stage are marked, and everything is wheeled backstage to make way for Horrible Histories to set up. Much as I’m tempted to stay around and watch this, I head back to my bunk on the bus and grab some more sleep.

About an hour before our stage time, Matt informs me that there will be a guest guitarist on one of the songs. No problem, Davo will set up the spare guitar amp and we’ll wing it.

Half an hour before stage time the preceding band’s gear is wheeled off stage and replaced by ours. We check all the inputs are still working and away we go. It’s quite a subdued audience, certainly compared to some of the European festivals we’ve done over the summer, but they enjoy the set.

Towards the end Jonny Marr joins the band on stage to play ‘Come Home’. This goes down really well and later there will be lots of tweets and Facebook posts about it.

At the end of the set, Chris lights up Lulworth Castle in a fetching shade of blue and Nick, Davo and Ron pack up most of the gear into the truck but separate the ‘bare essentials’ into the fly pack, as tomorrow morning we head off to Italy. The bus leaves for Heathrow at 4am for an 8am check in…

Latitude, Henham Park, Southwold

20th July 2014 | Larry