Sunsets on Empire, Raingods With Zippos, Fellini Days and Field of Crows are now available in the Fish Shop!
It’s a wrenching feeling leaving the house and clambering back on a bus to head for foreign climes! That last minute house check, counting the cats to make sure they haven’t stowed away on the bus, going through the list of things that had to be done and racking your brain to remember all the bus extras! The big pillow so I have the bus one to put between my legs to stabilise my spine a little was one of the main ones. On discovering my bunk at the end of a corridor that made a coalmine seam appear bright and spacious I knew I was going to need every comfort I could rally. I had been allotted the forward bunk, second tier which formed the base of the “U” shape with the base facing direction of travel and the back lounge at the other end. This would mean being rocked back and forward in the braking and acceleration. There were other options but I decided to try the forward bunk on the first night. To get in I had to sit on the edge and squeeze roll back and uncurl after a swivel through the square hatch that faced up the entire corridor. Hard to maintain any decorum in that position with the other corridor dwellers!
The rolling tumbling exit down the farm drive and out onto the open road just after midnight and a last call from home to my lady in Germany gave a sense of going on an expedition. The garden, now hidden back in the darkness, would be in the best shape I would remember for a while and leaving the veg I’d been growing and nurturing for months and which I wasn’t going to get the chance of cooking was one of the few disappointments.Everything had been signed off that needed to be signed off before I left and the checklist that had seemed a daunting set of tasks in the morning had all been ticked off plus! Elspeth and Gregor were now in charge of the fort!
Getting used to moving around on the bus is something like acclimatising to the interior of a submarine being depth charged. Dampening the knee joints and adopting that infernal crouch as if you are in a trench under the observation of snipers becomes quickly reflex and the pain of the first “bus bite” when your hairless head is shaved by a sharp edge is enough of a reminder for a day or two. I felt like Gandalf visiting Bilbo’s home on the hill.
A few wines and some fine company in the back lounge set me up for the Planet of the Apes unsteady lumber down the corridor and after a few attempts I managed to get into my bunk. It was wider than the others but I soon found the motion of the forward facing position meant that I was being rolled about more than I could handle. On top of that the fears crept in. If we hit something I would have all the merch stacked in the 2 empty bunks coming at my head and feet with the impact from the other side creating a fish sandwich. The thought of trying to extricate myself from the small exit in that event started to gnaw at my head and I decided next day to move to one of the spare bunks and fill the forward bunk with merch. The movement wouldn’t be as severe and sleeping feet forward provided just a small sense of security. I woke up, duvet out the bunk, spare pillow at my feet, airless in the dark with a back that suggested a medieval torture session had taken place in the night!
Outside it was sunny and the beautiful sight of a twinkling Mersey river and a near empty esplanade touched by a warm light breeze couldn’t have made for a better view from the back lounge. Wallasey, the Wirral and the Floral Pavilions, our first touchdown.
As I gathered myself and tried to straighten out my back in the back lounge I head the first of the day’s stories from Shaun, the FTC (Fairy tale creature). He had been suffering from bad guts for the previous few days and a night having his stomach being massaged by the shoogling bus had not helped. He’d woken early in dire need of relief and with the bus chemical toilets out of bounds for solids and the venue still not open he went in search of a private spot. The thought of the FTC wandering back streets looking for gardens and the prospect of someone looking out a bedroom window to discover a 6 foot gnome like creature shitting in their leeks had us all in stitches. The beach was considered but CCTV cameras deterred that plan. A copse of bushes revealed a drunk tramp who engaged the now distraught FTC in conversation. Luckily banging on the venues load in doors bought someone to the rescue and the FTC was saved the ignominious prospect of being arrested on our first day for gross indecency. His bad day had just begun as he was about to find that there were major cabling and connection issues that would stall the afternoon and push soundcheck beyond doors!
Tara and I took the opportunity of the load in and stage set up to grab some breakfast at the Seabreeze cafe just down the road from the bus.The old photos on the wall were fascinating and the waitress gave me a pile of illustrated books to thumb through when it was obvious I was interested in the history of the place. The glorious era of Wallassey had been in the early part of last century and the place was now mostly unrecognisable from the halcyon days when the tower, higher than the Blackpool version,stood over the huge twin towered ballroom and cinema that drew thousands of visitors across from the city on the river ferries. Tara and walked the Front and we had an idea to get the Hero camera and the head strap and make a video of all the band on the funfair dodgems nearby to use on the back projection. The idea was soon dampened when we returned to find the soundcheck derailed by technical problems with Foss’ keyboard pitch wheel damaged and Steve’s rig acting up! Added to that Angus was having hassles with the back projection which was only pushing out in black and white! Stage times had been announced on the ticket as 7.30 and we were already at 7 with no full band running songs! Dinner had also appeared so musos and crews were working shifts on stage in order to get fed. The eventual run throughs for PA were short and 15 minutes later we were ready for stage with the audience funneling in. The planned video intro was aborted and our stage entrance was slightly clumsy and the set up for “Perfume River” too long! It was the traditional first night misfire and having a seated audience made the performance feel even more under scrutiny . I wasn’t relaxed until about half way through the set and we were all still coming out of rehearsal mode and concentrating on what we were playing rather than the performance.
I was smiling inside when the songs from “Feast” were applauded as they started and the reception to them was very different to the May tour. we were obviously a lot more confident with them all and they say a lot more comfortably in the set list this time around!
I won’t go into specifics here but the set list although close to the May tour has a few additions that make the flow within the show a lot smoother and less bumpy. I wasn’t really focusing as much as I would do on the crowd reaction as I was concentrating on my singing and working the voice. There was a wee bit tiredness in bits but I was really pleased how it stood up to it’s first full outing and at the end of the night there was no sense of strain. The medley allowed us to break free and get the audience up on their feet. It was a rousing rendition and we took the 2 encore songs with aplomb!
I was unsure of how we had done but it became very obvious when I got reports from “out front” and from conversations Yatta and Tara heard around the merch stall that we had scored very highly indeed!
A quick shower after show, a call from my girlfriend and then out to the foyer for autographs and photos with some fans and a chat with old friends bottle of Savvy in hand.My first night was almost over and the result was chalked up on what will be a very big board!
Back to the bus and assuming the position. A few glasses in the downstairs lounge with Robin, Steve and Foss before a climb upstairs to the bunk corridor. I’d moved my berth in the afternoon and now the merch was forward above Yatta’s bunk. As I bounced along the corridor in the darkness my head raised slightly into the space where the air vent was and then the pain came on! The forward face of the vent skimmed the top and back of my head like a cheese shaver and I felt that neat roll of skin above the wet and tender spot that registered my first serious “bus bite”. It was so fucking painful I had water in my eyes! To make it worse the area is directly at that part of my head that comes into contact with the rear wall of my bunk everytime the bus brakes or I turn over in the narrow confines of my travelling coffin! I reminded myself to start wearing a beanie when moving about!
I woke in Pontadarwe, the pouring rain like soft shrapnel on the roof of the bus. It was 1pm in a deserted Welsh valley town on a Sunday! Day 2, gig on and I’m feeling good.