Blog: Summer Lovin’ With Juliet & The Gang (Summer 2013)
The Teddy Bears’ Picnic
13th June 2013 | Juliet
Thetford is probably trickier to access than a gig in Greece or Spain… We converge from all angles, whiling away endless hours by plane and train from all corners of the United Kingdom. It’s very beautiful over in Norfolk, not that far from Cambridge(ish).
The 15th century Bell Hotel is one of the most haunted inns in the UK. We are staying there. Brilliant. Dad’s Army used to stay here too and film in the village. It’s quaint and homely and the bed is big enough for Captain Mainwaring’s platoon, but is rationed to only one overstuffed, wonky pillow.
The stage is set in a beautiful hidden Emerald Forest…awash with capable tree-tending men in khaki.
We gather in a white MASH style tent and drink tea and cream of tomato soup (vegan option available on request). Then a nice Ben Fogle type leads us through a clearing to the wooden ‘little house on the prairie’ dressing room.
MR HAT IS BACK. He has been released from his main band and is on loan to James for two days.
Frazer King arrive in a retro stylish matte black bus. Gaz is reassuringly in charge.
There is a long soundcheck then a lengthy meeting to discuss the hand-baggage/setlist compatibility issue… (Jim suggested socks, underwear and a spare T-shirt could be on the rider following lo-cost flights to unusual locations on a Tuesday night.) Will the guitars, violin and trumpet be better with their own seats on the plane? Probably.
Meanwhile Tim has a painful shoulder following a bite from a black widow spider. (In California, not this temporal haven.)
Vinny and Freddie take to the skies on the rope walk. It’s an adventure called Go Ape and makes for a dizzy turn just watching them ascend the emerald treetops…towards Rachel, who seems to live in the trees, and also wears khaki.
Later in the production office tent, Vinny and his mate come running in saying they have discovered some bags of white powder up a tree in a field. A Famous Five moment – what could it be? Unsure, Vinny reassured us he hadn’t touched it, “just in case of fingerprints….”
Frazer King played an amazing gig despite them being in a new line-up and Nathan’s guitar breaking before he went on. If you don’t know Frazer King yet you will…they are brilliant.
Lewis was Dressing Room Man. He was so thorough he even cleaned the juicer mid-evening. It seemed as easy as rinsing a teaspoon. We talked about PNF stretching.
James’ gig went fine and the band tried out some brand new songs. The forest surrounds made a fantastic setting… iPad was onstage for freshly pressed lyrics. “Leave a little light on…”
Much later, yet another helpful man in khaki explained that he had tasted the white powder and it was flour… Very strange goings on. A mystery job for Scooby Doo perhaps…?
Finally back at the hotel bar in the small hours. The crew were mostly there too, as were Frazer King, and Geoff had popped down from Newcastle in his turquoise car.
We hung out in the hotel foyer for some time. The man on reception started to tell tales of the hauntings. Something chilling about a bathroom door…and a trap door and an old painting…
Across the courtyard looking up to the first floor was a party. And the hotel manager asked if that man in room xxx was with us? Who could it be? A party? Jazzy….
LG on Fraz Kinky
13th June 2013 | Larry
The fabulously funky Frazer King have had a few upheavals of late, so it was great to see them charm the James forest folk away from the bar/food stalls with their uniquely tuneful brand of agit-pop on Thursday eve.
The new line up brought new life to some older tunes (Poorhouse and Faith In The Community esp.) that made me want to throw away the versions I’ve produced with them and start again.
The ever shambolic Nathan (vox/gtr) rendered his guitar useless 5 minutes before goin’ on stage by botching a simple nut-tightening job! So he had to wrestle with my old Gibson ‘brown top’ (sic). Most folks wouldn’t have guessed it but I reckon Nate thinks he lost that fight.
Proof that, like James, the Frazers are also acolytes of the “Gettin’ away with it, all messed up” manifesto.
Back at the Bell Inn, the hilariously ‘haunted’ 15th c. coaching inn (give us a break, this is 2013 ffs), the only things going bump in the night were the 1970s plumbing, and drummer Jack’s fist hitting the reception desk as he found out that he had to wait 2 1/2 HOURS!!!! for a taxi back to his bed for the night (a big black bus deep in the heart of the forest). Ah well, nothing to do but drink the bar dry till the wee hours of the morn, as his band mates travelled back north to their own beds.
Thankfully, Dave’s mad mate Jazzy Geoff, (internationally renowned Majorcan DJ and occasional Jon Bon Jovi stand-in) held court in his 4-postered room (complete with smoking balcony) so that Jack and his friends could get cross-eyed in comfort until the ‘only’ cab in the county arrived…bang on time!!!
And finally inner echelons of Wembley
22nd June 2013 | Juliet
Not sure what the score was tonight at Wembley. I did ask Jim to do this blog, being football eloquent and all, but he was too busy. …So here goes…
Long taxi ride from St. John’s Wood where the band are resident and recording, round the houses, and round the outer, and finally inner echelons of Wembley…Oh look there’s Nick and Ron, James’ top techs, but we’ve got to drive anticlockwise round inside the stadium. So near yet so far…it takes a while…the place is massive.
First things first. Soup. Courgette and roast garlic. Score 10.
We got England’s dressing room suite with baths galore and pissoirs lined up… There are huge black and white posters of important football moments. I heard Bobby Charlton mentioned a few times, and that’s England’s manager there…when they won the World Cup.
A lengthy run down corridors to the stage, where soundcheck happens. Mr Hat has the sound sorted, even for Out To Get You which is getting an airing this afternoon. The stadium is huge. Security and crowd control are getting into positions. Catering is down the very long corridor and there is a private tent room decked out in red white and blue for The Killers’ aftershow. We take a peek, it’s done up in red white and blue and two corgis sit still as stone near the door. Theme England. Sofas upholstered in the Union Jack, cupcakes and red fruit platters. Strawberries and cherries ….and Rioja….
The multiple pots of red geraniums mark the way to the stadium enclosure. Landmarks established.
Later, watch a bit of James. They don’t ‘leave a little light on’ cos time was short. Out To Get You got an extended longplay version.
As for those Killers with batteries fully charged…they play a long energetic set at full power. Watch from the enclosure near the red geraniums. So many mobiles are photographing, the place is ablaze.
There are a lot of friends and family passing through the dressing room, and by 11pm, all that remains is a platter of dried apricots and in the fridge a solitary Magners. We leave it for Andy.
At midnight we hear of a secret Killers gig at the Garage. Some people go…including Larry whose energy for a party is legendary…….
The corgis are whisked away under each arm of a waiter at about 12.30 from the Union Jack clad bar…The Killers zip away into their carriage at about that time too… as for me, I had already turned into a pumpkin……
The flip-flop approach
13th July 2013 | Juliet
Weather in Wales: scorchio. Weather in London: scorchio. The band and families head for the Super Wayfarer train which wings its way from London to the far side of North Wales. I jump on in Crewe; all aboard the Friday night train to the country of Wales. We zoom through Chester and Colwyn Bay, and on and on along silver beaches and clear glistening skies until we make it to Bangor.
There a golden bus awaits us, and we head into the night to find the hotels which have agreed to have us. It’s five to eleven and there is just time for a visit to the curry house where all curry, regardless of its species, is red and extremely sweet. But it’s time to get into the hotel before the front door is well and truly locked, and we are already keeping the lady in charge from her bed. “Breakfast is over by 9.30,” she warns.
It’s morning. Head to the high street (Y Stryd Fawr) in Criccieth – ‘the pearl of Wales on the shores of Snowdonia’ – for a stroll. Enter the hardware shop where Ana and Mia and a parrot called Milo are screeching/laughing in unity. They buy an outsized fishing net and head for the beach with a small cluster of children. There is swimming and fishing….
Late morning head off to soundcheck in the golden minibus. It’s boiling at the site. It’s all about wakeboarding, but there is no sea here. The stall holders are setting up and there is a superb retro stand awash with Hawaiian shirts and 50s swim shorts. Tim buys a gingham red and white shirt of super crisp cotton, but can’t dance in it.
Pierre is doing the onstage sound today. There is a lot of extra semaphore on stage.
After a lot of feeling hot hot hot we head back to the hotel and sit in the garden, and talk to the unusually textured Labradoodle dog Dougal who has come on tour too. He has his own transport, as he belongs to Dick and Vivian who are in charge of front-of-house sound. Dick is doing the sound (at last minute) and the other two are here for a break. Mia is in heaven once she meets Dougal, and together they trot around the beer garden.
Evening has arrived. I do the counting. There are only five. Andy has his own minibus after his gig in Liverpool last night with Spaceheads, and Larry is somewhere on a beach.
Soon there is a gig. There is football and table tennis in the enclosure. There is make-your-own-pizza. There were flip-flops called Gandys, but now they are all gone. Tim gets some dark green ones, Saul goes for black. Mine are the colour of Absinthe. Jim doesn’t do flip-flops.
There are two stages and each band gets an hour. Echo and the Bunnymen are there. Basically one band stops and the crowd whizz sideways to the other stage. “It’s the flip-flop approach,” explains Hannah, who has keys to dressing rooms and is in charge. This flip-flopping means it’s music non stop. The stages are set up ready to go while another band is on. Clever.
During the gig I bother Hannah a lot trying to access ice for a football injured mini-Tim (his son), and trying to locate essentials like coffee and carrots.
There’s a big whoop when Sit Down comes on but I am still chasing up ice and a medic…
The next day we take the golden bus back to the station, and a very long coastal train ride home via mega-Tesco Bangor. Aboard we have a picnic, croissants and Jarlsberg, blueberries and peaches….there is picnic chaos and those with reserved seats nearby decide to sit somewhere else….for now at least.….
It’s a long way back to Euston on the Super Wayfarer…
And of course the backdrop. Prague is beautiful.
27th July 2013 | Tim
“Don’t say Czechoslovakia. It’s called the Czech Republic.” Max Dingel’s words of advice ring in my ears. Apparently Whitney Houston said “Thank you Spain” during a gig in Lisbon and has never recovered.
Some of us arrive a day early to acclimatize. Jules and I go walkabout from 9 till 1. Conga lines of drunk Europeans bearing t-shirts emblazoned with “pub crawl” bustle the streets. Stag party groups dressed in recognisable fancy dress, in case they get so pissed they can’t find each other, falling over in the streets. Maybe that’s the ‘pub’ in ‘Republic’.
And of course the backdrop. Prague is beautiful. Hansel and Gretel architecture, cone-topped churches with ancient astroglade clock faces. The ‘Czech Republicans’ seem to take this tourist invasion in their stride, after all it seems to be the main industry.
We eat some traditional Czech food. Roast pork knee with dumplings made of poured concrete that threaten to sit in my stomach for most of the summer. Like a snake consuming an overlarge prey. I think I need to go lie down now.
We walk past a wax museum with Charlie Chaplin looking forlornly down at his scuffed and holed shoes. The homeless here begging for money kneel, and have their faces pressed to the ground in a prayer of desperation. Judging by their takings, this doesn’t translate well with the western tourists who need some eye contact to incite empathy. Two doors down from the wax museum is the museum of torture where a bedraggled wax figure sits in the stocks. I’m not quite sure who goes to see a museum of torture; curious thirteen year old boys or a stag night drunken dare?
It’s over thirty degrees. The streets feel very safe despite the absinthe bars. We stumble upon a beyond kitsch shop sprouting gaudily colored Art Deco kitchen utensils.
We had our last day in the studio yesterday. The new CD is going brilliantly. But today I am crashed out from the intensity. Most of my lyrics come in the night so I haven’t slept well for four or five weeks. You have to go a little crazy to get that stuff. Max Dingel (real name) will now play around with what we’ve recorded and present us with mixes in a few weeks time. Our hopes are high that this record will sound unlike any other that we’ve made.
River party! Greek style
1st August 2013 | Juliet
We all met at Thessaloniki airport and whizzed away on the coach, up high to Kastoria where we stay overlooking a huge lake. It was a three and a half hour journey by road and everyone was a little bit tired.
Giannis and Dimitris had arranged for the meal up the road. A feast of Greek starters, all veggie – much to Larry’s approval – followed by an array of meat that could have fed the whole town.
The town is a centre for furs, and centres around a lake. It’s very hot, in the high thirties, despite being way up in the mountains.
A road sign warns of bears and wolves.
Next day we go soundcheck riverside in Nestorio. It’s an open plan show with main stage next to the river. People are jumping off rocks and swimming, and there is a led Greek-style Zumba going on in a field. A crowd of Greek men and women shaking, stepping, and spinning to Latin and North African beats.
Soundcheck is done. Back to the hotel for swimming and chilling.
Then it’s time for another meal, this time across the lake. It’s agreed that the best food in the world is Greek. “The MOST food in the world,” adds Jim. This time it’s full-on fish and sea creatures.
A pair of pelicans swim by on the lake. Then it’s back to the festival.
The festival is mostly Greek musicians. Thanos played and then an upbeat Greek cabaret band….who just couldn’t stop….
There is dressing room talk of releasing a double album called Shit Storm where all the songs begin with ‘S’. Stutter. Star. Stand Stand Stand. Sound. Sometimes. Sayonara. Strangers. The Shining. Senorita. Semaphore. Seven. Shooting My Mouth Off.
Finally a set list is collated… Curse Curse and Moving On are in, and Jam J was played as well as a run of songs beginning with S. Say Something with its double S went down best.
Afterwards Tim recalls, “I was under the illusion that it would be an intimate five thousand in a moon lit wood and so wrote a set accordingly. When we got out there, it was a bacchanalian enthusiastic beautiful mob of ten thousand wanting to party. We switched a few songs round mid set to accommodate. Though probably should have done a few more.”
We managed to do the gig with very little equipment. “This was a hidden positive,” said Saul. Half the gear had gone up to Scotland due to complicated logistics of three rural gigs in three countries in a week.
During the gig, Saul put on so much mosquito spray he managed to give himself third degree burns, but not get bitten.
“There was something so innocent and idyllic about the whole festival set within such a natural environment,” says Tim.
James love playing in Greece. The audiences are fantastic.
Bella’s birthday bash
3rd August 2013 | Juliet
Sleepless and back to Gatwick along the escalator, Geoff had something to say: “It’s all very well, but I’m looking forward to a proper cup of tea and some dunkworthy biscuits.” Geoff is the lampy, he makes the show light up. He also shares his passion for tea, often.
But when that tea moment finally comes, all settled on the tour bus, a kettle overloads the inverter and blows the bus lights. We revert to the microwave for boiling water. It’s wrong, but needs must, and Geoff commences the tea ritual with great concentration, brewing to perfection and adding a dash of semi-skimmed. There is a film of brown slime round the mug.
We stop and collect Mia and Vinny en route. The traffic is intensely slow down south, but eventually we zoom off at a maximum 62 miles an hour towards the high north of the UK – Inverness-way in Scotland. Through the night with a clandestine midnight meeting at Lymm truck stop to pick up a new bass for Jim, hand delivered by special crew.
We wake up in a field. Mark has just asked Geoff to make a cup of tea…with milk in first. This causes consternation and confusion for Geoff. Especially as Mark is from the North, Preston.
It’s a lovely field and it’s a bit overcast, but the sun is peeking through the cloud. Saul has a shower with a bottle of Buxton and a splash of Korres coconut milk shower gel….
Sip on a double Blackcurrant Lemsip to enable breathing…there’s a cold aboard….
“Do we wave the tea bag at it,” asks Geoff? “It’s about softening the tannins,” explains Mark. Geoff follows instructions, but looks confused, breaking off to helping Vinny work the toilet door.
There’s a mesh over the toilet hole to stop solids….enough information.
“Is this a proper sink?” asks Vinny… It has a hole, yes.
Pale pallid tasteless tea is a no no. “There is no point,” says Geoff. “You’ve got to make an effort.”
There’s a young Scottish bloke in catering with a full Scottish breakfast – black pudding and all – and a pile of bright strawberries on top. So there, top tip for all budding celebrity chefs.
Tim is still asleep. Soundcheck is soon.
Jim has just arrived as if by magic as he is now a local.
The pipe band will be playing ‘Flower of Scotland’ at 11pm.
We don’t have our first time front of house sound man here for soundcheck. He had a gig last night in deep southwest England and we are way up high north in Scotland. Oops.
The lighting rig is set up for a TV show on BBC Alba.
This is the second time James have played Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival and this is Bella’s 10th birthday bash…. Everybody loves being there. There’s happy music on the stage, a Johnny Cash and June Carter tribute band get the place going, and lots of happy music follows. We wander about, do our work and chill in the sun. The Tartan Heart is great for families too with lots to see and do…
Meanwhile Larry has a great adventure….he is off drinking Pimms and eating walnut cake with the lovely lady Leonie….
The wonderful Aly was managing the stage. Once James were done, he gently ushered friends and family back as a horde of steaming pipers and big drums took over. Vinny and Larry sang sharing a song sheet and Saul dashed on stage naked except for a kilt…
In the morning Larry recollects, “After a great set, watched the amazing fireworks display and joined the pipers in a rousing ‘Flower of Scotland’, me and Vinny singing from the same sheet. Then on to the big fire on the hill ’cause “they’re burnin’ Big Louis tonight”… The rave in the ruined chapel was manic, but the kids wanted silent disco which was hilarious :-). Great day AND night.”
Time to get cool in the pool
8th August 2013 | Juliet
Heute wir sind in Österreich.
We took the train from Manchester and meet the others at St Pancras. The tour bus is stuck in traffic and we wait for two and a half hours watching the world go by. Finally it arrives, and we set off to Dover all 16 of us.
We have missed the ferry but Woody books us on another one. We go on deck and then head for the family bar as it’s the only one open.
Disembarkation Calais, a 12 hour drive via a pit stop in Switzerland, then into Austria. Mountains and mist and chocolate-box houses out the window.
Poolbar is an old swimming bath set in the grounds of an old school. The disused pool was turned into a club for parties in the 80s. Then it became the Poolbar Festival, which has been running for 20 years. Tonight James are headlining.
Soundcheck includes run-throughs of Play Dead and Dream Thrum.
Feldkirch is where we are. It’s a picturesque town of cobbled streets, churches, and fountains spilling forth mountain spring water. We wander through the alleys and squares looking for some football trainers for Tim. Tourists for five minutes.
Outside the elegant hotel where we have landed for the day, the church bells chime on the quarter hour. “Good job we are not staying here,” says Tim. It’s a ding too far.
And before we know it it’s time to head back for the gig. Time to get cool in the pool, as Holger Czukay said.
Kurt, a longtime James fan (17 years), has traveled over from Germany to see the band. He is chatting to Dave over a post show beer. I pile the copious rider – huge platters of cheese and cold meats and enough bread to run a soup kitchen – into a basket, as well as bunches of redcurrants and white currants and a rainbow of berries. But how to get this to the bus? Kurt flexes his muscular frame and hauls the whole lot in one swift move. “No problem,” he says.
Meanwhile the gear is being dropped from this second floor stage onto a forklift and into the truck. From side stage it looks like it is being lowered into an abyss.
Showered and watered, at 3am we set off overnight through Germany. Spirits are high.
And now it’s breakfast time after a night on the bus. Andy and Dave are eating Vollkorn Amaranth-Müsli with rice milk and blueberries as they share their recollections about the gig.
“The stage was bathed in a beautiful blue light as the set started with Out To Get You. An adventurous opener. The audience blew us away from the word go. They were smiling, ecstatic, with amazing looks of wonderment. It was so good to see the audience so enthusiastic given that we hadn’t played Austria for a long long time.” says Andy
“They lifted us to rare musical moments – the extended end to Sit Down, and an amazing wah wah violin solo on the end of Dream Thrum. They even carried us through mishaps like Tim’s mic going on and off at the beginning of the set.”
“Tim invited a stage invasion and some great shapes were thrown on stage in Laid.” Dave adds.
Thank you Austria.
Übergroße Hose and a fabulous night in the woods
9th August 2013 | Juliet
We are in the Club Lounge of the Pride of Kent, a large shipping vessel heading to Dover. Six of us are taking breakfast in the lounge, where toast arrives in solid silver racks and pots of tea are served in fine china.
Three nights on a tour bus and now it’s English breakfast on the ocean wave. We look out on the platinum horizon and imagine we are on a cruise as we bid adieu to the continent. Homeward bound.
Larry was last off the bus at customs and gets a cheer from the customs staff. He is clutching a fresh steaming brew.
As we come round in the Club Lounge of the Kent, it’s still the middle of the sleep for us. Slightly dazed we recall the events of the 30th Haldern Pop Festival.
The day started with the writing of the blog. It was a work of poetic beauty thanks to Andy and Dave’s fine lines but then, eek, as we pulled into the festival site the computer said ‘no way’, flashed and crashed. Even Mark couldn’t find the file which was flashing blank. An emergency rewrite followed.
The Haldern Pop Festival has been going for 30 years. Nearly all the village is involved in making it happen. “It was very nice,” said Jim. “I had some pasta with chanterelles which was nice too.”
Tim went off to watch Bear’s Den play in the packed Spiegeltent.
The sun was shining. Tim bought a festive cowboy hat.
Much later I went in search of ironing equipment in the production office. The helpful German woman offered to take the Übergroße Hose (very wide trousers) off me to get them professionally ironed. They were too wide to fit along an ironing board in any available space.
Dave is transfixed by an old nautical poster. On it, a sailor suggests to a little boy that perhaps he should run away to sea.
That fine evening in Germany there was a fire going backstage and a vodka bar in a teepee-like wooden structure. Chic was playing ‘Everybody Dance’ and we did. Then the DJ played ‘Bella Ciao’ and some Balkan Beats.
Dave needs Tabasco on his black pudding. Our waitress Hazel found some and brought it over.
Hazel brought some more warm diagonal toast. “Don’t put honey on your shirt,” said Jim buttering. (There had been a honey spillage earlier, pre-gig, on Andy’s red stage shirt.)
The set list had been edgy. Moving On and Curse Curse were next to each other for the first time. And all was well. The band before James were late going on and coming off so there was a delay getting on stage, no fault of the band.
“What a fabulous night in the woods,” says Larry. “It felt as if the whole crowd smiled as one.”
Harry, one of the sailor-waiters, came over to inform us that we were seeing land but we were currently heading to Ramsgate not Dover to avoid an oncoming vehicle. Just then the smoked haddocks with poached egg arrived.
“But what is a kipper?” piped up Andy.
Tim invited anyone who wanted to dance up onto the stage for Sometimes.
A lot of men got up including a man with a hat with lights on, waving a red sausage balloon overhead.
Then Jesus came down and danced with Tim……..
Two centre camping break
17th August 2013 | Juliet
It’s festival season. This means that many bands get together and go on a weekend caravanning holiday. Well it’s a two centre camping break. South and north UK. The caravan is a tour bus. It has a kitchen. It has a toilet, of sorts. There is a toaster. There is a kettle. There are not enough mugs and an extremely small sink. Saul pours mouthwash down the toilet in an attempt to freshen things.
There are beds called bunks. On this vehicle, one of the beds has an inner surprise box as a feature. You don’t find this out till you get in the bunk and realise this camel hump is just where your upper back goes. A freak bunk. It is not normal to have this box structure in a bunk. There is nowhere to go, you are on the open road. This was Shabby’s bunk tonight.
The caravanning band families all end up parked up in the caravan park for the day. They leave and head for an enclosure. There are things to entertain their inner children. Make-up stalls and hair twiddling tents where professionals can make you look, well, not like you, and attach false eyelashes that make you feel like you just walked into a swarm of flies that headed straight for your ocular regions.
There are cocktail stalls selling slush puppy cocktails in pineapples. These should be taken with caution. It tastes like pina colada – well like sweets really…..but can cause a sudden chemical rush.
Here there is a separate camp for Beyoncé. She is far away from all of us others. But we are happy, the sun is momentarily shining and there are bands to watch. Oh and look here’s Paloma Faith. Now she looks amazing, like a cross between Carmen Miranda and a Chinese empress in the highest of heels…
Then we watch Jessie J.
Later it’s Beyoncé… Due to endless drizzly rain in the field, some of us return to base to watch Oh Brother Where Art Thou in the back lounge.
And tomorrow it’s the same in the North…. But first we’ll hear from Nick, James’ drum tech for many many years….
‘Twas a grey day at Chelmsford
17th August 2013 | Juliet
Readers we hand you over to Nick, James’ current longest standing onstage crew member, for our camping weekend at V Festival. Part I…
V is for Very late bus call at 23.00 on Friday night, and Beyoncé Very late getting her booty onstage! James were Very early on the bill and this meant a Very early start compared to the two other appearances at V since 2007.
‘Twas a grey and altogether ordinary day at Chelmsford, where Virgin Inc had rustled us up a Very juvenile breakfast. Rustle being the operative word, as we were led to a portakabin full of mini boxes of kids cereal. We sat outside, where I realised that I don’t do breakfasts that can blow away on a windy day. I like my first meal of the day to hold its own in a brisk north-westerly! When faced with this scenario, I recommend covering your Coco Pops in thick yoghurt before pouring most of them into the nearest Red Bull dispenser. Yuck!
Anyhoo, high on tiny sugary round things, we (the crew), set about our chores as we were onstage at the ungodly hour of 2pm – give or take an extended clap-along to some long forgotten set closing Scottish pop anthem! There wasn’t room to swing a kitten behind the scenes, as Mrs Carter needed a few lights to illuminate her huge talent!
Before we knew it, and with Shabby at the helm once more, we were rolling on the risers like rabbits in the headlights. Larry’s main guitar at this point still had precisely no strings on it. Mat Skinner how did you do it?
The V-goers were still arriving and Very punctually, so did the band – all present and correct! Some of them looked like they had also suffered from a blustery bowl of Rice Crispies!
The set included just enough of the right songs for 45 mins at such a sedate time of day.
It was over in the blink of an eye, allowing us to pack all the toys away and Paloma Faith’s penguin-suited crew to set up her giant golden pineapple stall onstage. What to do with the rest of the day? As I’m steering clear of the saturated fat dripping from the grim reaper’s ancient scythe, I had all the fruit, veg and fish that my meal ticket would allow, before the long preparation I go through before watching the worlds biggest pop star do her thang. I slept!
By 9pm, a fine drizzle had descended on the event. Ron ( in his pack-a-mac) and I ventured out into the crowd and took up our position, and waited a Very long damp 20 mins overtime for Mrs C to show us what she was made of and what her choreographer and costume designer had to offer. I gave up after 30 mins when she spiralled into ballads. By now I had spent so long amid her faithful fans that due to some kind of Poundland osmosis, I had an overwhelming desire to apply for a job at a Swansea call centre!
I ran for my life back to the bus. By all accounts I should have saved my curiosity till the end of her set where she revealed her big buns, sorry…I meant guns! I was not Crazy In Love with today or Mrs C but had higher hopes for Tomorrow. Hopefully they would play it!
V is for Victory
18th August 2013 | Juliet
And on to our second installment penned by drum tech Nick…
Sunny Stafford! A Very lovely day! With all the dos and don’ts learned from yesterday and with some sunshine on proceedings, today was going to be altogether better. We were, dare I say, more over-prepared than a scout group on steroids!
As the V-goers were already on site and raring to go by the time James came onstage, this was going to be a Very different show. The audience was Very big, Very receptive, and the band played a Very good set. Curse Curse went down Very well. Mark’s Crouch End House Mafia keyboard line struck the right note with many of the day-glo face-painted, daisy headbanded, giant pink animal-eared weekenders. I had my own little fan club when I dropped some Very hot cheese hip-pumping moves stage right with Mel & The Sensational Melettes; but I have a very good teacher and an extraordinary natural salsa!
It’s very hard to comment on the subtleties of the performance as I spend most of my time behind the drum riser looking at, well… the back of things mainly!
That was it in a nutshell from yours truly’s perspective. A mass raid on the catering tent for our takeaway treasure, then the Northerners went North, the Southerners went South and within a few hours it was all a dream. In the end V is, as always, for Victory!
So many men in such close quarters
23rd August 2013 | Juliet
We are all aboard that bus again. It’s a choppy changey night. The Southerners got on first. Saul is in my bed so I am in Mat’s bed. Mat goes ground floor, which he prefers anyway. Shabby is in Tim’s bed and Ana is in Jim’s. It’s late. We collect Dave on the way to Holyhead. Dave then takes Ana’s bed as its the only option. It’s hot inside this chrysalis…..
And then we are at sea; the bus stops for a long time. There have been some owl noises on board. Bleeping and twooting. It’s somebody’s breathing apparatus.
Jim said this must be a taste of what it must be like to be in prison. But where is Johnny Cash to cheer these Fulsome folk? So many men in such close quarters. The twooting continues. Like a night in hospital ward, sleep becomes elusive and soon we get off the bus and go up on deck for an egg on toast.
Ron demonstrates his seven minute core workout using his iPhone app. There are press-ups and dodgy star jumps on deck. A few planks and side planks on a slippery deck help the morning to come into focus.
Mat the guitar tech has stayed asleep. Locked down below deck. A claustrophobic nightmare.
Sleepless but now in Dublin, we dismount the bus which departs to park up somewhere far away. Jim stays on hoping for that missing bit of sleep that will make for a more normal feeling.
Matt the tour manager got the bunk with the box in it and is feeling its effects but remains cheery.
At 2 o’ clock Tim arrives looking fresh and ready for anything. He drinks a carrot, ginger and beet juice and then some aloe vera.
The Olympia theatre is lovely. All old gold and red and friendly staff who love what they do….
A mouse runs across the floor during Tim’s pre-gig workout in the attic room with the window.
There is cream of mushroom soup downstairs.
There is a soundcheck and a V.I.P. question and answer. Tim talks about the 80s on the tour supporting The Smiths…about breaking down in the little camper van and the police helping with getting some petrol etc.
National Potato Day. Oh the glamour of life on the road!
23rd August 2013 | Juliet
Over to Mat…..who is our guest blogger for tonight…he usually works with Elbow but is with us this summer….
Stuck in an everlasting queue in an attempt to get through customs to Istanbul, I reminisce about my last weekend with the wonderfully chaotic world of James that I’ve been part of since April ’13. It’s certainly been a highlight of my career so far. So the last weekend I’d promised to spill my beans in the form of this blog.
It was National Potato Day that weekend in Dublin, after spending the evening in my watery grave (it’s what we call it when you stay on the bus in your bunk while on the ferry) – being the fact that if anything was to go horribly wrong i.e. sink, then there’s no way out! Still the image of my bunk slowly filling up with water doesn’t deter when sleep is to be had!
So NPD (national potato day) started with a lovely soup at the Olympia; well I was only informed of its lovely potato essence, as it was all gone by the time I got to it, just a few drying sandwiches curling at the edges was all I got. Oh the glamour of life on the road!
I’ll surely miss the unpredictability of this fine bunch, from the gruff Northern voice of Larry, never knowing what guitar he may want next (even in the middle of songs), nights up with Andy listening to Portuguese folk music on the bus to Geoff’s legendary tea making skills. Things I won’t miss – seeing Tim’s freshly worn undies, casually flopped around the dressing room, the set list only coming to my hands 2 minutes before changeover, and those damn tour bus appliances (not mentioning any names) never bloody working – a standard I hasten to add! Still I’ll miss you lot and now my life has been enriched by James and crew… Till next time. Over and out…I only hope I’m not met by tear gas wielding police if we finally get through passport control.
To the moon and back
24th August 2013 | Juliet
Shabby was arranging the fun-sized Honey Loops and Coco Pops tidily in the bus kitchenette as I brought in the cheese and cold meat platter from the dressing room. “Whats that?” asked Shabby. Posh chutney… “No chuckra (sic), we don’t want chutney. It’s going to end up in the bin.” Okay…
It was 11.15PM as the bus pulled away from Belsonic in central Belfast. Suede had followed James and we watched from the steps at the side. Across the square, people in flats held balcony parties and got a free gig.
I ran the Merlot found amongst Tim’s dressing room rider (he doesn’t drink) up to the back lounge and left that bus for good. Phew. I’d grabbed a spare ‘day room’ to overnight in, and an hour ago bought an expensive flight back over the water to avoid the jet lag of the boat trip…..
It had been a busy day. Ralph had come over to do a photo shoot with the band in Belfast. Tricky moment trying to find the words for P.S. for Tim just before he went on stage. They were gone, lost, let loose somewhere on a stage in Dublin.
I taped up the production box which seemed to have exploded into shards of plastic. Half a roll of gaffer later, all was well. The box contains some of the James words treasure. Laminated lyrics, but not in any order and missing P.S. As I taped, Tim was singing it word-perfect.
Pleasant Sunday morning in Belfast; sun shining. Waved Tim off to the Americas as he set off to take his first flight of the day. Didn’t go to the Titanic museum yet. Interestingly, the Titanic was engineered in Belfast, the helpful concierge man explained, but it set sail from Southampton. Random but true.
For those that weren’t flying out of Belfast, the journey back revolved around drivers hours and strategic planning – things like unloading heavy things at the music storage place before it shut. This meant there was a boat journey at 3am.
On Bank Holiday Monday, news broke that the bus had broken somewhere on the M6. It had been a perilous journey across the Irish Sea in the small hours. Most of the party stayed asleep in their bunks between 4 and 7, in a locked down vehicle area under the ship. A few had got up to lay in the lounge and then realised that was a bit of a bad option too. It was a queasy time and some German travel-sick pills, whose instructions and dosage were anyone’s guess, were taken.
Finally back on land…. Dave was dropped somewhere in Wales and the Manchester team were dropped off next. By 10am, Geoff was back in Rochdale drinking copious amounts of tea and buttering toast at his own kitchen table.
Then, not long back on the road, with most asleep, there was a huge bang that sounded like a bomb had gone off on board the bus… It was near Stoke on Trent. The driver pulled over. Twiddled with the air brakes. And set off again…. Another huge bang and then stop near some fields on the M6.
The vehicle had had its day, and the remaining London team headed off and out overland. There was Ron, Shabby, Andy, Saul and his wife Ana, as well as Nick – who reportedly clutched his quinoa salad throughout – as they jumped over walls and stiles, dragging cases and stuff towards a service station.
Finally a taxi came and ferried them to London. They are all alive and well. “The feeling of an overnight ferry trip and the shock of the bang left me with a touch of jet lag, as if I had travelled to the moon and back,” said one survivor.
What became of the Honey Loops remains a mystery. We will never know. It was a breakfast that never happened.