October 2011 with Falling and Laughing
Saturday 22nd October - London - The George Tavern
So our first date was in London and because I've just moved here to The Smoke, my lady Laura and I volunteered to put the whole shebang on. We got one of our favourite venues (the crack-den/beaut George Tavern in Whitechapel) and some bands we love to play with us (No Plato & hearts!attack). We maybe got a bit carried away and decided to make a big thing of it with a name and that: Night of the Triffids, and started spray painting canvas and standing outside of venues in the wee hours handing indie-pop heroes pieces of paper.
To our surprise shitloads of people turned up and it was amazing. The tour 'posse' all arrived in dribs and drabs as we set the place up, banner and all, and the late kick off meant it was pretty rammed as No Plato grabbed everyone's attention with an amaze set despite a stripped back line-up (no drums). We went on next and it seemed to go ok (people cheered?). Then it was Falling & Laughing who were of course excellent, though from the door I had to stare through many legs and midriffs to see Daryl on drums (Dunc invisible behind shoulders). Seem to remember him comparing himself to Adrian Chiles on more than one occasion. The rest of Ace Bushy went on at the end to do a cover of our good friend David Leach's song Twenty Two which was AMAZING and i was a tincey bit jealous watching on from the door (they'd learnt it in my absentia).
Then it was hearts!attack who were the right side of drunk and shambolic to be totally wicked and excellent. Definitely remember Darren from the band being carried in the air across the venue at some point. Fall Out Make Up Djed after and they kinda had to clear people out at 3am cause everyone wanted to stay dancing. Mass sing-along DJ highlights - Enormous Pop by The Wendy Darlings & I Blame Gravity by The Sock Puppets in partic sent a certain circle of bodies bouncing off one another. We went back home and played table football until very early with Danny Ershov's kindly donated Icelandic liqueur. Tour go!
Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th October - Oxford - The Port Mahon
DAY TWO was Sunday and a day off to recuperate and to gather our thoughts. We had breakfast in London; Paul ate black pudding for the first time and said it was like a breakfast man's stuffing. In the end I didn't recuperate because I got in a car crash with David Leach and then went to practice because I'm a martyr and am not very good at what I do so need to attend practices no matter what; I am only just off probation. We did a shabby practice and went home to get some rest before the next 6 days straight gigging!
On DAY THREE I went to Simon's for about 11am, he was there with Paul and Jerrer Shep; they started watching Match of the Day 2 and I ate an apple pie and asked after the van which had been picked up by SL, JS and DV that morning. Simon told me that you could stand up straight in it, so good for partying, which was a relief. I tried hastily to put my Tour Mixx onto cassette because it had transpired that the van had a tape-deck, not a CD-slit. It later transpired that the van ate indie-fag mixtapes for breakfast and so months of work went to shit. It's okay though because I'd grown to hate all the songs on it anyway.
Dunc Vern arrived with the van and we hit the road! We picked up Bas from the House with the Yellow Door in Aston and went past the window that Gracie D took a photo of last time we were in a van. Then we went to Oxford. We got there in good time; Darryl and Nic showed up and Dunc bought some vinyls from somewhere on the famous 'Cowley Road' such as This Many Boyfriends. There was a blip when Jeremy went to park the van and the handbrake got stuck in the 'on' position, in the road. The van was full of character but luckily Jeremy was fuller of character, so managed to pull it off (ha ha yeah).
It was a lovely gig; we were supported by Mark Noble who was a lot like Darryl, but Irish, so great. Everyone, especially Jeremy, sang that bit from Ring of Fire when he did a cover of it and it was heart-warming. Falling and Laughing were a big hit with the largely celebrated-Oxford-muso crowd, because they're brilliant. Recently I learned six chords and ever since I've enjoyed watching guitarists' hands as an equal. But Dunc uses nearly all of his fingers and they're not even anywhere near each other and his chords don't resemble any of mine. And when he uses a capo, it's not because he can't do a bar chord! Woah. And when they play and then when Dunc tunes and Darryl speaks I do that thing like when you watch your favourite film with people who haven't seen it before, and Alabama is making kung-fu noises, and you look at them to check that they're reacting rightfully and are in love with her, because you're in love with her. Then we played and it was fun! We listened to 'The Gift' all the way home which reminded me of my childhood because my Dad used to tell us the story as a cautionary tale. It was also cool and long which confused Paul enough to ask 'Is this still the Velvet Underground or the van breaking?' He's the funny one.
Tuesday 25th October - Birmingham - The Victoria
Hooray! After laying down for most of the morning in Simon's lovely new house, we all meet up for a mid-tour practice to work on Album # 5 songs. I was particularly happy with how Avoid Steel Girders In The Autumn was turning out, as it may well be the obscure petty insecurity anti-Murdoch wank I've been trying to pen for five years.
Dunc was on van duty for the day so we ambled to the Victoria and awaited the arrival of everyone. The line-up was pretty stellar (well, we got to choose it!) so it was great to see our old friends and finest purveyors of 'wonk-pop' (not my description) The Jelas, who were on tour themselves, and to meet the Runaround Kids.
Yours truly contrives to miss Falling & Laughing due to the surprise appearance of a famous fanzine editor and ensuing discussions of pyjamas and Sachin Tendulkar, but catch the aforementioned Bristol trio who are sounding super lush as always. Watching Colin swoon could be behind my eyelids and I'd be happy. Runaround Kids up next and as expected really enjoy them; like a Wakefield Johnny Foreigner would be a lazy description but....Then we play! It was the same as usual I would imagine, we thrashed around and screamed, people either looked bemused or happy, some people from Simon's work were there and chanting his name in silences which was amusing. Oh, and in practice earlier I'd learnt a tepid little keyboard line for "22." Hooray! We played it last. Hopefully it didn't ruin it too much...
Everyone went home. The Jelas stayed at Simon's and laughed at us as we fell down ravines in Lego Batman over and over and over again. I got to stay in Simon's bed so it was a good sleep.
Wednesday 26th October - Sheffield - Red Room
DAY 5 was like tour for real because we were staying over at people's houses from now on and had to start planning where we were going to do our 2s. The Jelas had stayed at Simon's so I tried to get there as early as possible in order to soak them all in. We watched 90210 and Colin did some edgy and dissident commentary which was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for. Then we went to the park where there was a passionate game of football: Colin, Nat and Aled of the Jelas vs. Darryl, Jerrer, Simon and Paul of F&L and ABS. The Birmingham lads won, actually, which was deserved if only because Paul took many blows to the face and to the dick. The match was cut short due to the sad news from Dunc that the Runaround Kids had had to pull out of the Wakefield show tomorrow and that the promoters were not keen on putting the gig on at all without a local band and thus an audience. We took this in our stride and everyone who had friends located in the north went fishing for a pity-gig.
Finally we went to Sheffield, still in high spirits. We were all way excited as we were playing with our friends The Sweet Nothings and the lovely lovely Lovely Eggs. We bought some dark rum for the van and began drinking it; Paul bought some tampons. We admired the Lovely Eggs merch (the prettiest and best merch I've ever known) and also admired their soundcheck. Paul is a champion schmoozer and the only one that can talk to adults with any conviction and managed, over the iphone, to bag us a free venue in Manchester the following night! Such a guy. The Sweet Nothings were fantastic as ever and ordering their songs from most protest-song to most love-song made for a rousing and totally charming set. We played and it felt cool and buzzy because I think it is when you play with bands that you love, and you want their fans not to think you're shit and also THEY might be in the room at the time but you've no way of knowing with all the lights so you try really hard and also I think the sound guy actually let me use my Bigmuff pedal on my Casio this night. I had never seen The Lovely Eggs before, though several of the others had and as promised, they were mad incredible at playing and as good in between playing. They did 'Oh the Stars' and Holly went wandering for booze and looked straight into my eyes which was a thrill as you can imagine. They make you want to cry singing 'Fuck it oh yeeeeaaaaah' as you realise it's the most sensible and right-on-est thing you ever heard when a second ago you were just like 'aw this is gnarly and whimsical' which is a hellova knack I think; silly music is meaningful magical alright. I stole their setlist and it's a work of art. While this was happening and a bit after, Jerrer got quite drunk. We all did really (not Basith) but Jeremy was a lot louder about it. It got his creative juices flowing though and he wrote a ballad called 'Laura Street's Ahead' about a beauty who is also above-averagely aquatically talented. It's something, you'll hear it. We performed it at the side of the road, many, many times.
Pete Green let us stay at his house, a wonderful thing and a wonderful place, on one of Sheffield's hills. He also let us drink his liquor and play his ukulele and he put on a Ramones indie-pop covers compilation and he paid us in plums. His cat purred when it was near to Bas. I might have just been superdrunk but I remember somebody asking how old the cat was and Pete Green said that he's immortal and Bas said 'How long's he immortal for?' and I found it VERY funny. I'm not drunk now and it is very funny. No, BAS is the funny one. (This is why I should never have been asked to do this.)
Thursday 26th - Wakefield Manchester - Ducie Bridge
So with the venue sorted in Manchester we wake up in Pete Green's lovely house all full to the brim of a feeling to make something of our last minute venture. After a quick drive in the van to take him to work we head to Staples to get shitloads of stationary to make shitloads of flyers and posters to flyer the shitload out of Manchester later. We get loads of paper and cardboard and write subversive notes on sample laptops and scribble pads and decant to Rosie's diner around the corner with scissors and prit sticks coming out of our ears. The resulting poster was pretty amazing I reckon and we had an excellent unhealthy brunch. Rosie's, Hereford Street = ace bushy recommendation.
Anyway so we (Dunc) drove to Manchester, lamenting Wakefield as we flew past up the M1 under the grey and then lauding the M62 and all its Pennined delights (unexpected tour bonus! Tallest motorway in England, steepest, and the wonderful Stott Hall Farm, which lays between carriageways and is a lovely reminder than you can, just about, still tell big people to fuck off).
So we got their early and found the Ducie Bridge pretty easy, sat in the shadow of the MEN Arena on a street corner, and frankly, it was lovely. Hugely affable manager gives us all a free pint of warm cider and any Wakefield distress has evaporated into cheery relief. So we ourselves evaporate into the Manchester sog to flyer with no real aim other than to hang out next to record shops in the Northern Quarter and maybe hit the university campuses. We got rid of them all I guess but perhaps the suffocating sky took it out of us a bit, though Daryl made an excellent attempt at getting our heartfelt plea onto 6music to no avail. We found a Chinese buffet though which was all you can eat and quite reasonable.
ANYWAY, I digress; we all float back to the venue with the smartphone boys social networking last minute pleas to the max. Sound check happens and yeah, some people turn up which is lovely, including Daniel Orr, who used to be in a band with Daryl yonks ago and has come down last minute from Kendal/Lancaster/somewhere to play and through his obvious nerves is really ace and makes us all happy again that somehow we salvaged this show from nothing. Our friend Anna of Middle Ones fame has also arrived by this point which is enough to put a smile on anyone's face, and we're all mumbling reminiscents before Falling & Laughing play, playing for the first time this tour the one that should make you feel like yr watching the OC, or something, and it's really good, and they sound really really good. We play next and I personally have a mare, sticks flying half way into the venue, blood sploshing all over Daryl's kit, cue nosedive and not enjoying it so much. Hopefully no-one noticed and by the time I'm driving everyone back to Anna's house everything's okay again and I get the lucky 'staying in Daryl and Nicola's wicked hotel' card so a bed is most welcome before the big drive to Edinburgh tomorrow. SO, gig saved! Next gig...
Friday 28th October - Edinburgh - Henry's Cellar Bar
On DAY 7 we were going to Scotland. Last time we went on tour we went to Durham and that was the furthest north Simon had ever been so we were all pretty worried about him today; his sickly southern disposition meant that he was in grave danger of becoming like that kid in the Secret Garden (not because there's anything wrong with Scotland, because there's stuff wrong with Simon) but he was okay.On our way up we managed to stop at Tebay! There were loads of gorgeous ducks there. It's really difficult to park a van in Edinburgh, really really hard. Jeremy was driving and was brilliant, even if when we finally did park, the woman in the car behind was 'looking at [him] like [he was] a fucking alien.' Before going to the venue we went for a drink of what Jerrer assured us was a traditional Scottish lager, Kirin Ichiban Shibori. We felt really Scottish, it was dead nice. So then we loaded in to the Cellar Bar which was a really cool venue and met Flea Monkey who were very lovely girls and excellent when they played and brought free bananas as their merchandise. I still get their song Isn't it more fun to think about love, than to actually be in it in my head loads of the time despite having only heard it that once over a month ago, which I think means it's technically the best pop song ever written. Then we played a really fun gig. I think that I think that this was the best Falling and Laughing show. Simon, Bas and Jeremy had to leave because they were staying in Dunblane with some really kind hosts and it's pretty far away from Edinburgh. Paul, Dunc and I watched the Starlets and all cried or at least had pre-tears during their last song, Tenterhooks; it was preeeeetttty special. Afterwards, Andy and Dunc deejayed in a really great way and you could tell that they're semi-professionals. And then Paul and I deejayed to very little effect, though our friend Edinburgh Paul smiled encouragingly when I played some Jens for him. I had a great time though and afterwards when we went out for a cigarette, the bouncer also told us how much he had enjoyed the deejaying, but when pushed it turned out he liked up until about 3 is the magic number, which was the last song that Andy played before we came on to DJ :( Paul tried to steal nearly a whole pint of lager as we left but the bouncer got him. Dunc and I argued with Paul about his frankly appalling views on Wall-e and fell asleep. In the morning we walked past the Edinburgh School for the Deaf, it looks really magnificent and I like that.
Saturday 29th - Durham - The Fisk Tank
We love Durham. It seems everyone we know in Durham wants to leave Durham, and hey, it's naive and ignorant to make a judgment on two visits a year, but for us part-timers it's a beautiful city and we are always treated so well there. This was no different. Picturesque drive down the coast from Edinburgh left us with enough time to see the city and sort out our Halloween costumes for the gig, yours truly wasting ten minutes of his life hiding in the corner of the packed costume shop listening to Wolves lose to Man City on the radio.
The Fish Tank is a wonderful corridor-esque venue above a fish and chip shop. JC of Discount Horse fame put the show on and made us a lovely veggie spaghetti bolognaise. As microphones made their way to the venue we all costumed up. Bas was the best I feel as an uncanny Robert Smith. Eve was Serge, our drum cat. Paul went as Nicky Wire in a dress. That was pretty sexy. And Simon was a flower. Daryl was the frighteningest of scary clowns and Dunc the ghost in packman.
T Shirt Weather were first on and were really ace - skatty pop-punk i guess, in a really good way? Falling and Laughing then played which was pretty terrifying what with the costumes above. They played requests and it was pretty sad hearing those songs for the last time in a while. The highlight of our set was my constant mask changing flummoxing Paul (Simon Cowell to Iron Man in particular) - though the Eve did have to remove one at some point mid-song as my vocal mic didn't really fit. We also started the set with "Laura Street's Ahead" - the song we created late that Sheffield night, due to the presence of a certain someone, which will probably/hopefully be its only live outing ever.
It being my birthday come midnight, we all proceeded to make fast work of the liquor at the bar and throw shapes to the awesome disco provided by JC and co. Laura had arrived from London to surprise me earlier in the day which was totally totally amazing and Simon and Eve conspired to very kindly request that Seventy X Seven by Brand New was the song that turned me 26, which was a pretty euphoric club sing-along. Seem to remember Bas and I clothes-lining Eve by accident, to which she incidentally makes the same noise as when scoring a goal at table football, and everyone going nuts to the Jurassic Park theme tune. A fitting end to a totally brill week. Let's do it again Falling & Laughing!
 Mangum, Jeff (1998) Oh Comely