Monday, 31 August 2009

Off Tour Blues.

It's always the same and I should know it by now, I've been doing it long enough ....
This summer has been quite an extended bout of touring, traveling and shenanigising.
Since February it seems we've been on the road with short breaks in-between (or we'd be dead).
You go away, come back and simply get ready to go away again.
This time though there's a sizeable break and it for the first time in months not a show to be done at the weekend. While this is grand in a way as batteries can be re-charged, friendships re-kindled, work caught up on, etc etc it's also a weird feeling, not bad per se, just weird ....

Touring has such a regimented routine (we as much as possible given the entourage). You know where you should be and when (to a certain extent given the moods of the certain airlines who shall not be named). You know what time the shows going to start. You know pretty much to a tea what food's going to be in the dressing room because the rider was sent in months before. Your days are pretty much mapped out for you.

Take yourself out of this environment and it's a bit of a shock to the system. The blues start hanging around, boredom creeps in .... and there's one other major, unquantifiable factor .... come around eight p.m. (when the venue doors would be opening) there is no slow creep of adrenaline into the system which no matter how fucked you are after all the traveling and lack of sleep dispels all the fatigue and anxiety of the day and lets you know that once again you are going to see your favourite act hit the stage very shortly and (in my case) thrive on the vicarious pleasure of being part of making the whole thing happen.

So, you come off tour, you go to the pub, you then go for a marathon sleep and remain in bed the whole of the next day attempting to re-arrange certain parts of your brain into normal, mundane life but it just won't click back together all that easily, takes a few days at least. It's now three days since Moscow and only now I'm getting back to 'normal'. Without sounding like a 'sixth form rebel dick' you do have to adjust to the fact that, no, it's not a hotel room your in, no, bloody Mary's do not constitute one of your 'five a day', no, there's no room service, no, there's not a van waiting outside to take you wherever you want etc etc ..... but at least the plumbing's familiar and less dangerous.

So .... what to do?
1. Make a list.
2. Go through every e mail from the previous ten days to make sure none are un-replied to.
3. See friends and family neglected by absence or fatigue.
4. Catch up on films and video games ..... essential.
5. Swim.
6. Eat well.
7. Get ready for some more great shows ahead.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Только Возвращенный Из Москвы.

I am often found reading menus ..... mmmmmmmn!

Traditional Russian 'bread necklace' and some traditional Russian fans.

Comrade Boabie, Peter Dohertski & Commissar McMeldrew.

I like this picture.

Rooftop breakfast cocktail hour.

Our chum Keys.

A terrible holiday snap.

The first of what turned into many.

Goodness me what a week. I am very glad to have been away but very glad to be home.
What a hoot Moscow was!
Normally our flights this Summer have been one or two hour jaunts with the odd connection here and there but when you're on a flight with a movie you know your going a long way!
Good old BA beckoned at the respectful hour of 1 pm and formalities over we boarded for Moscow!
I think everyone was rather excited. It was the first time to Russia for myself and Comrades Boabienov and McMeldrewvitch. Peter had been there previously on a poetry exchange as a lad and was equally thrilled about the trip. So, off we set having gotten ourselves in the mood courtesy of a fantastic Bloody Mary in the Terminal 5.

You may not know this (nor really would you wish to know) but I love airline food. I once had an idea to open a restaurant serving airline grub in airline seats. The waitresses would be dressed as super saucy trolley dollies and I could parade around in a Captain's uniform. Three different kinds of food e.g. economy, business and first. Sadly I never quite got round to it but ..... never say never. Anyhoo, I was most pleased when Comrade Boabie's appetite failed him and I got to eat the other half of his quite disgusting pasta dish while watching Star Trek ..... aero-heaven!

4 hours later and we descended into Moscow and our feet touched foreign territory. It's weird but you can almost smell that you're a long, long way from home. Generally different countries have a different feeling about them but there are certainly similarities. In Moscow though you felt the differences outweigh the similarities palpably. From the cyrillic writing to the physiognomies of the people in the airport. Everything was different and quite exciting. One thing that wasn't different though is that if a suitcase will be missing it'll be mine .... and it was.
The bloke behind the desk may as well have had a ten foot square sign behind him saying "Fuck Off! I Have No Interest WHATSOEVER In Your Lost Luggage So You May As Well Piss Off Right Now!" I eventually found it in someone's office who I had only just been explaining my predicament to and had neglected to tell me ..... funny that .... hmmm.

Anyway, luggage recovered off we tootled through customs and were met by a rather sweet welcoming party of fans. Quite how they knew which flight we were on is anyone guess. I think they realised that we would probably fly in the day before and were just staking out any flight coming from the UK. Such devotion was rewarded by a few free tickets, autographs and photos which Peter handled patiently. It's funny sometimes, fans come up and politely ask for photos which is lovely but some other people resort to some very odd methods to take a photo when all they have to do is ask. Quite rude some of them. There was even one later in this trip who's put up a really creepy secretly filmed clip of Peter arriving back at the hotel from what looks like the vantage point of a plant pot. Very creepy, gave me the heebie jeebies when I saw it.

Anyway, did I mention that we were staying at The Ritz? I know to some of you that this may seem a little extravagant but to gentlemen of our calibre it's the least one should expect when jet-setting internationally. Quite plush is the old Moscow Ritz and bang on Red Square. Peter popped off for some rest and relaxation while The Boabie and I, accompanied by McMeldrew, were guided to a local hostelry. We were treated like kings and not for one second allowed to put our hands in our pockets by our most generous of hosts. I think they started getting a little worried after the 5th horseradish vodkas were sunk .... I believe The Boabie started to get frisky at this point so we thought it best to get back to the hotel.
I was then taken on a midnight tour of Red Square and the surrounding environs by one of our kind hosts, took some really bad photos and then retired to my suite for a luxurious sleep (once I'd figured out how the light switch worked).
Oh, nearly forgot to say hello to Keys (a man you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of). Keys was in town with Snoop and from the photograph I am sure you can work out what his job on the payroll is. However, he's a lovely man and didn't even kill The Boabie when he came at Keys with a lethal corkscrew / lockknife combination. What a gentleman.

Awoke surprisingly bright eyed on gig day to the telephone ringing. Mr Doherty suggested breakfast cocktails in the rooftop bar and who was I to refuse. Swiftly we were joined by The Boabie and McMeldrew who were simply thrilled to enjoy such a liquid breakfast. I suppose this was the beginning of what was yet to come. Wonderful fun!

I shall now attempt to upload some snaps and perhaps discuss the events of later in the day at a later juncture.

Friday, 21 August 2009

The Realm Of The Unknown.

Been away for a bit some may have noticed or not noticed depending on whether you give a tinker's about this rambling stream of cobblers. However I suppose I'd better get the excuses out of the way first.

My lack of posts may have had something to do with being a feckless swine, this I cannot deny but on the other hand this summer has been so jam packed with fun and games that I simply haven't had the time to concentrate on posting. Shame really because the aforementioned fun and games have been some of the best times and I really should have documented them.

By way of an excuse I'll fill you in on the general make up of my week.
rise about 5 am and fly to Heathrow, Gatwick .... a London airport.
Mooch about bit constantly checking watch and mobile for incoming distress signals from The Boabie or McMeldrew. Grow increasingly agitated as check-in closure approaches with no sign of my compatriots (I'm exaggerating slightly for effect here). Breathe a hearty sigh of relief and greet my fellow travelers. Head, by way of passport control and security, board a flight to some far flung part of Europe and try to catch up on some shut eye. Note: for Babyshambles shows the procedure is virtually the same with simply a larger traveling party.
Arrive, touch down, clear customs and enter arrivals to be met by a smiling fellow (unless you're in Milan) who has obviously been doing the agitated, 'will they won't they' two-step while nervously waiting to see if we made the plane.

Drive for an hour or so to the hotel, check in, do what you do in hotel ..... look in cupboards, try and operate the plumbing, look under the bed, play trampoline on the bed, try and find an english speaking TV channel, look out the window, set the A/C level, reset the A/C level when you begin to develop frostbite, massage your toes back to life, empty every single bottle of toiletries into the bath, run a bath at full pelt, fight the foam monster, have a bath, parade around your room in bathrobe and slippers pretending you're posh, lie down, drift off and wake up with a START because you just realised that the ground transport is there to take you to the festival site.

Arrive on site to see some mighty relieved looks on the faces of the promoters, inspect the dressing room (portakabin) and rate it on a sliding scale of one to ten .....
One = commonly referred to as a 'Glastonbury' (until they upped their game last year) with two folding chairs, one case of beer (no fridge), two bananas and a multipack of Walkers ..... ten = the 'Lokerse' (Belgium) style veritable villa / compound of adjoined portacabins with numerous ante rooms, priest holes, showers and I believe I stumbled into our own personal wine cellar at one point.

After the initial rating of the facilities it's time to mess about eating meat sandwiches i.e. sandwiches with a meat filling and the bread replaced with a different kind of meat or perhaps a canape of several different kinds of meat wrapped round a pickled gherkin (one of the 'one a day'), crack open a beer and wait for show time.

Hint for young bands doing their first European shows ..... The Swiss and the Belgians are extremely proud of their chocolate and as such, as a rule, leave several bars of top quality confectionary in every dressing room. Resist the urge to gobble it all down, rather than gorge yourself, you should take it home for your mum and tell her it is the finest that the airport shop had to offer. This will soften the blow when you hand her the festering, steaming, polythene bag containing your laundry.

When in France they are as proud of their cheeses in a similar way. In an odd way this again softens the blow for your mother when presented with the laundry bag as she will assume it's the 'posh' cheese which is reeking rather than your underpants.

Show time: I won't bore you with my biased opinion of the shows because I am obviously going to say how wonderful they are (and indeed that's because they are) so I won't (but they are).
Normally after the show McMeldrew, Peter and myself get all self congratulatory about how great it was while The Boabie tidies our stuff off the stage. We then normally either have a little foray to test the water of the festival beyond the haven of backstage, rendezvous back at the Kabin then drive back to the hotel laughing and singing Chas & Dave songs and Flower Of Scotland very drunkenly and loudly and badly to a bemused and smiling (unless in Milan) driver who pours us out into the lobby at which point we become the burden of the hotel staff and no longer his happy problem.

This is inevitably when either The Boabie or McMeldrew suggests a nightcap. Strangely enough this is always in the Boabie's room .... ostensibly because we can smoke in there but I suspect other, darker reasons why it's never McMeldrew's although that's not a subject best discussed here. Feeling that it would be churlish to allow these fine men to drink alone I often avail the of my company (just for the one of course) and eventually find my bed around 5 am just in time for LOBBY CALL!

Cue frantic rushing around looking for the lost shoe, a titanic (yet noble) struggle prising certain people from their bed and jumping in a van which will shuttle us to the airport from whence we sally forth to our next destination.

The remainder of the Saturday follows much the same pattern as the Friday as does the Sunday. The flight on the Monday morning usually finds us deposited with a thump back in Blighty and bidding our respective farewell and adieu's and looking forward to the following Friday when we'll do exactly the same things yet in different places and with different smiling drivers (except in Milan).

I wind my weary way back to Scotland pleased and contented, head back to small town local, have a beer with some fellows who care not a jot for my 'jet setting', home for some dinner and asleep before my head hits the pillow. Wonderful.

That just about sums my summer up apart from the odd time we've been out for a week of this or more. It's more or less the same except the festering laundry bag is somewhat more pungent upon my return. But luckily we'll have been to both France AND Belgium on that trip.

Normally the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are where I try and squeeze in my normal management tasks in preparation for the next foray into the realm of the unknown. I won't bore you with a description of this.

Sooooo folks, as I type this I am en route to London to hook up with the boys for some fun times at the V festival. I shall be remaining in the South prior to our jaunt to Russia on Wednesday and I hope to be able to be more vigilant about this blogging lark. I'm promising nothing but hope to deliver something.

Oh bloody hell. I am bored. I thought I was going to be able to publish this by the power of the dongle but it seems my dongle isn't quite so powerful as I had first imagined. It's somewhat depressing seeing this constantly search in vain for a signal as the train whizzes through the countryside. Not quite what I signed up for but then again so very few things are.

I've read my papers, I'm even up to date with all my outgoing and incoming e mails, my books finished, my PSP has been purloined (but that's a whole other story, at least I know who the tiny terror currently beating up the aliens I should be beating up is and it's in a good home ..... for the moment my son, for the moment). There really is very little else to do when traveling if you don't bring your own fun or friends.

Solo traveling has it's benefits if you are good at sleeping in transit. However, I'm only good at that after an inordinate amount of alcohol and I'm not in one of THOSE kinds of moods today. Had this been the West Highland Railway I suppose I could marvel at the deer running over Rannoch Moor or the bleak, desolate beauty of the Highlands, passing a retail park on the outskirts of Crewe doesn't have the same effect I am sorry to report.

So, a list of the bestest, most beautiful sights I have seen while on tour.

1. As the road curves to the right on the way down to Montreux from Zurich. The foothills open out into a vista which is simply stunning ..... the blue of the lake giving way to the major, snow capped alpine peaks on the other side of the lake from the town itself.

2. Now many think I am lying here but one of the most exciting things I have seen was in a relatively mundane setting. On the road into Aviemore passing numerous sheepfields with slightly wilder country behind I saw, I swear, a large jet-black cat stalking sheep. It was definitely feline and about the size of a medium size dog, maybe a labrador. That freaked me out and everyone thought I was lying as I screamed them to come down from the lounge. Inevitably by the time they dragged their arses down it was way behind us and I was labelled a crackpot. It happened I tells ye!

3. Travelling through the Brenner pass as the sun rose. We had a driver who was a lovely man but quite advancing in years. We were convinced that he was going to die with his boots on and determined that we rather leave our mark in 'rock 'n' roll' folklore via the music rather than being the boys he took with him. So it was my watch to sit down the front with him and boy oh boy I am glad I did. For anyone who's never done it, go there, do that drive .... incredible.

4. The Swedish forests in their unrelenting and continuous, uniform dullness fascinate me. Driving mile after mile on well kept roads with nothing on either side but pines blurring green I find hypnotically relaxing. Some others may find them spectacularly boring but perhaps you're just less DEEP than me maaaaan. Ha!

5. I remember some of the most spectacular drives I've ever done not for the beauty of the scenery and the attendant flora and fauna but simply for the rash, reckless and downright dangerous way we did them. Non stop rolls to a. Copenhagen - Scotland (non-stop apart from petrol), Madrid to London (non-stop apart from petrol) and Glasgow - Munich (non-stop apart from a detour to a lunatic asylum would have been more appropriate). The Glasgow - Munich one is freshest in the mind. Sheer idiocy.

I remember asking the tour manager how the hell he expected us to manage it. He simply smiled (while he still could) and opened a cupboard to reveal one of the most spectacular stashes of booze I have ever had the pleasure to fire into like a dog eating beetroot in my entire life. We either spent three or four days on that bus (I still don't know). It was like Das Boot ..... dark, emergency lighting, blacked out windows, curtains permanently drawn. We did not leave it once until our final destination was reached, not even on the ferry (which I believe is not strictly adherent to maritime law). Time melted, people were passing each other like ghosts. If you asked the time you also had to ask if it was the daytime or night. A spectacular effort of sensory deprivation rendered timeless by SPECTACULAR alcohol consumption. When at last we de-pressurised the cabin the first touch on German soil was the enamel of the tour manager's two front teeth through his top lip as both feet remained on board and his face hit the concrete.

Happy days!

I should inform you that I have just realised with one hour left to go on my journey that free, Wi Fi (or Wee Fee if you're French) has been available my whole journey!

Bloody Fucking Bastard!