Here we are in July. A fair bit has happened since the last blog… I’ve been on the road again for another three-date Jadis tour and there’s been a less welcome happening in the local music scene.
Jadis Day 1: Southampton
The first week in May saw the white van pulling up outside my place again for the UK leg of the Jadis 2018 tour. The usual suspects were there, including Boris, the sound tech from De Borderij who had driven all the way from the Netherlands to Bishops Waltham, in a Fiat Panda loaded with sound gear, to accompany us.
The first date was a local gig at Talking Heads in Southampton. Familiar territory for me, but until then, I’d not been backstage. As usual with the Jadis guys, get-in was a breeze. All was set up in good time, with ample opportunities to play with the random instruments that decorate the walls before the doors opened and the public were allowed in. Being a local gig. a lot of the crowd were friends and family of the band, which made for a proper warm and appreciative audience.
The gig, pack down and get-out were as seamless as the get-in and we left for a night in our own beds. Which was my downfall. Getting home in the early hours I made the decision that there was time for a quick whisky before bed. I set an alarm to get up an hour before pickup, and turned my usual alarm off so it didn’t go off while I was away and wake the lodger. A great night’s sleep ensued. I came round and glanced at the alarm clock briefly. I closed my eyes whilst the newly awakened brain took in what the eyes saw. Eyes immediately sprung open at the moment of realisation. I’d set the alarm for the following day, and the van was leaving my place in 15 minutes.
The next 15 minutes were very much like the opening scene from ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. It was a bloody good job I’d packed my bag the previous evening whilst enjoying the whisky. I arrived at the van with wet hair, wearing a hastily assembled mismatch of clothes, with barely a minute to spare. Much laughter ensued from the occupants of said vehicle as I regaled them with the story of the last quarter of an hour, on our way to collect Widge, Steve and Aid (support for the tour who was staying with Steve).
Jadis Day 2: St Helens
We stopped at the services just short of the M6 toll booth for a most welcome break (although it wasn’t actually a Welcome Break…). The services had a toilet that didn’t need a fistful of euros to use, and there was breakfast, in the form of bloody McDonalds. Twice in a week for me, after about 10 years of abstinence. I was not happy, but I forwent this in order to consume something solid. After this, I felt vaguely human again.
That night’s venue was the Citadel in St Helens. A former Salvation Army building now housing a nice little performance space. The dressing room was behind the stage, accessed via a flight of steps, and Lol even had his own lighting booth at the back of the rake on the circle. A truly god-like view of the whole establishment was possible from Lol’s little room.
As the UK gigs were largely self-promoted, we didn’t have the luxury riders of the continent. No perpetually full fridges of beer, no lavish meals laid on for staff and crew. At St Helens, I got the job of walking to Asda to buy our booze, whilst on the catering front, we ordered pizza (second night running).
Good friend of mine and daughter of Norm, Poppy, lives in Manchester, and was only to happy to work alongside her dad in the ‘little shop’ after returning from the takeaway with a veritable leaning tower of pizza. Soon, it was time for Boris to head to his desk and for Aid to head to the stage for another set of great self-penned acoustic songs.
After a swift changeover, the guys were on. Absolute clockwork. As usual, I made sure I was in the dressing room when Steve and Andy left the stage so Widge and Gaz could do their duo section. Steve and Andy appeared and were immediately plied with cold water and fresh booze. Job done.
We checked into the Premier Inn at about half one, then following a good night’s sleep and a fryup, it was time to head for London. As we roared down the highways of Britain, stopping occasionally for sustenance and lavatorial facilities, Norm put the radio on in the van and I was tasked with finding local radio for traffic updates. This proved harder than it sounds, so we settled on Radio 2 where Paul Gambaccini’s Pick of the Pops was playing. Cue a rather dodgy version of Pop Muzik by M, emanating from the front to confused passengers behind, as Norm and me sang the ‘alternative’ version.
Jadis Day 3: London
We arrived at The Dome in Tufnell Park and after a quick negotiation with the venue, moved round the corner to a slightly smaller space, sister venue, the Boston Music Room. We were soon set up and the third day of ‘let’s get pizza’ happened. At this point, myself and Widge decided we’d had far too much cheese and bread based food for one weekend, so I popped off to find a kebab shop. Which was a bloody good thing, as the pizza man didn’t have many pizza ingredients and had to go to the shop when everyone put their orders in. After some choice words from Andy, the guys returned to a dressing room containing a keyboard player and a drum tech looking very full and satisfied, with the wrappings of two kebabs on the table.
The gig went well, even with the lighting set to automatic as Lol was gigging elsewhere. After rapturous applause and a very well received encore, the tour was over. Apart from the putting-away and driving home. I got home at around 3, happy that my “don’t forget the bloody keyboard stand” sign had been observed throughout the tour and we got back with the same kit we took out.
I really do like this touring lark. New places, new people, great experiences and great friends. And having this great cover stuck in my head on loop for three days.
Back to Southampton: Farewell to the Chain
The beginning of June presented the end of an era on the Southampton music scene. Perennial favourites 71 Chain had decided it was time to call it a day. Their farewell gig was at the South Western on the 2nd of the month. All the longstanding Chain fans were there to hear the classics for the final time. The guys went extensively through their repertoire, playing as well as they ever have. There was no disappointment at that gig.
A small crowd from the Bowman appeared, with me, Luke, Emily, Roger and Mark soaking up the final dregs as the 71 Chain towel was wrung out. The last song was, as it had often come to be, Sea Shepherd. Rog and I were summoned to stand somewhere vaguely near a microphone to add that Shantyhead touch for the last time.
Much beer was consumed. Many memories were shared. It was a great, if somewhat subdued, evening. Thanks, Chris, Ryan, Adam, Paul and Mongo. We’ve really enjoyed what you did as 71 Chain. I am looking forward to what the future will bring.
Whilst standing at the bar in the South Western, I noticed a lady standing adjacent. We were both trying to get the barman’s attention, and in a bit of a ginger solidarity moment, we went in for the kill, got his attention and got served. On the drive home, I realised where I’d met her before. She was Jo Long of Jo Long and the Pure Drop, reviewed on this very blog last year!
The next Friday, Jo was playing at the Maple Leaf Lounge Sessions at Talking Heads in her duo, with Rick Foot, the double bassist from Pure Drop. The duo are known as Foot / Long (still expecting royalties from Subway…). It had to be done. I set off for Southampton wearing a bowler hat (it’s a long story, but they sing a love song about someone with a fixation on an ankylosaur (yes, the dinosaur). The song mentions covering up one’s head with a kitchen bowl to look like said creature. I wasn’t going to be walking around wearing a kitchen bowl, but a bowler hat… Yeah!
It was an excellent gig in the Maple Leaf setup of three acts, two sets each. Foot / Long have a great acoustic sound with Jo’s chilled mellow guitar and silky smooth heartfelt vocals accompanied by Rick’s mesmerising double bass, played with a skillful combination of every conceivable technique; plucking, bowing, harmonics, the lot, all in one song. As acoustic duos go, I could listen to these guys all day. When it came to the ankylosaur song, I passed the hat over to Jo. Had to be done. One day, I might take a kitchen bowl… I look forward to catching up with Jo and Rick soon!
One of those dodgy animation things again… Jo in the hat…
So what’s on the cards for the future? Levellers in Winchester Cathedral and Wickham and Victorious festivals… Watch this space! And until then, keep rockin!
Almost forgot… Truck update for Raj: Running a bit rough at the mo, but running. Still four wheel drive, took it off roading on Salisbury Plain the weekend before last, and to Devon last week. So far, so good…