We’re Leaving… Where Are We Again…?
Everyone knows that touring in a band is glamorous with a capital G. The sex, drugs, rock and roll, autograph sessions, adulation from the crowd and TV sets out of hotel windows… only it’s not! When the highlight of the day is finding the dressing room, or even if the venue has a functioning toilet and that the promoter has bought food that didn’t come from the remainder aisle in Asda (Hedgehog and Pickle sandwich anyone…?), it tends to tarnish the idea of a tour being a cross between the last days of Rome and a quiet Wednesday night round Keith Moon’s gaff.
What follows are my observations from the recent COVENANT UK tour where my band ANALOG ANGEL were main support. No names have been changed; it would be pointless as the perpetrators are fairly identifiable. After this you may heed Noel Coward’s words and not put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington…
Day 1 Minus 1
…And actually minus about a further 60 plus days of prep for the off. There are so many things to arrange and what appeared to be loads of time ended up nearly not being enough. Transport, hotels, merchandise (hey it’s a tour, folk would want T-shirts, right?), cables, lots and lots of cables, that thing that does the thing and a setlist all had to be agreed.
With all this in place it was the traditional pre-tour curry with the chaps from COVENANT and associated friends at our local Indian. Everyone was impressed by the paper dosa and the large quantities of beer provided by the ever convivial promoter Barry Douglas. So to bed to not sleep wondering if I had packed that cable and drumsticks….
Day 1 – Glasgow
Hometown show and all the pressure that brings from performing in front of assorted friends and family. The venue for the show, The Classic Grand, is one we are very familiar with having played here dozens of times over the years. Sound and lights are some of the best for a hall this size in the UK and we are confident of kicking off the tour on the right note (just usually played in the wrong key…)
Typically of an opening night on a tour both bands are a little slow setting up at soundcheck but once ready, the consensus is we are sounding good. We are joined tonight as a local support by ADVANCE who at check premiere a fantastic version of MADONNA’s ‘Frozen’, which garners much applause from those gathered. Then begins the first of many hours of waiting around. Derek goes for a walk, John rests his voice, I bugger around playing games on the iPad and Tracy buffs her latex.
The show goes well with the audience dancing away and few mistakes on my part, which is a rarity, The new song ‘Cradle To Grave’ is particularly well received with special mentions being given to the live drumming. Our post performance debrief concludes this tour is going to be fun!
Load out brings the realization we have more kit with us than ever before so will need careful management to ensure we don’t leave anything behind (We at some point leave something behind)
12 noon call for the bus tomorrow so to bed, I am sharing with our merch guy / photographer / tour monkey Mark Walker so manage to get ‘some’ sleep… As I said ‘Bin Boy’, if I wanted woken at 4am with a light in my face I would have slept in a nearby bush…
Day 2 – Manchester
One rule learnt by friends on a tour last year was DON’T leave your gear in the van over night, it’s too much of a magnet for n’er do wells and rapscallions, so the day, as will the rest on tour, begins with much up and down stairs in the hotel to load what is quickly christened The Turd Bus.
Safely on board, we begin the drive south to Manchester. Originally the 3rd show on the tour, it was swapped with Newcastle as PLACEBO are play there this evening which would have the inevitable impact on ticket sales.
We have played The Academy 3 before, but this doesn’t mean we forget how the service lift worked when loading in with the associated hilarity this brought. The stage is pretty tight for 4 bands but as always, we make it work and the show goes down well.
Having almost shown my not unsubstantial bottom to the crowd whilst taking the equipment off stage, it was decided that I would probably not wear the kilt for the rest of the tour, there are many sensitive souls present after all.
We say hi to a load of folk at the merch stand and we catch a fair bit of COVENANT’s set for the first time on the tour. They are on fire. Eskil prowls the stage whilst Daniel and Andreas throw out some of the hardest hitting live electronics I have ever heard.
Over a beer afterwards, it is agreed both bands are quickly hitting their stride. So off to bed, which provides more issues as the hotel has put us in double rooms! AA are a close knit group but not that close! By the time we resolve this glitch, it’s almost 01:30; exhausted we crash…
Day 3 – Newcastle
We head slighty back north today to the Student Union at Newcastle University. The venue is massive with an equally large sound and light rig. Rico, COVENANT’s ‘lampy’ is in his element and lights up the stage at soundcheck like the end scene from ‘Close Encounters…’
We have the luxury of our own dressing room with a nice selection of beers. After struggling with the in house wi-fi, we settle down to wait for show time by basically messing around on Facebook. Archie, our good friend who is acting as both driver and crew is a little thrown when asked to help Tracy into her latex outfit for the night, we tell him we all have to take turns and he suggests auctioning this role off on subsequent trips. He is quickly promoted to manager…
The set goes well tonight with the crowd really getting into the swing of things by the 2nd number, and it’s good to see so many familiar local friends in the audience.
Paul Russell from EURASIANEYES pops along for a beer and a natter and we all take turns manning the merch which is, we are happy to say, flying off the tables. None of us can really get over the fact folk ask for us to sign something that isn’t a confession, but we spend a good 30 minutes at the end of the evening doing this and posing for pics. Then its back to the routine of load the Turd Bus, unload the Turd Bus at the hotel and bed.
Day 4 – Birmingham
The day dawns with us just missing breakfast by 2 minutes and to enforce the fact we can’t come in, the waiter closes the door on us with Derek and Archie in the dining room eating away. Ours is the last laugh however as we decamp to a local pub for Fat Boy Breakfasts which put the smile back on Tracy’s face…
Once all aboard the TB, it’s a short jaunt down the motorway to Birmingham. En route we meet another band at the service, MARMOZETS, and we have burgers and share tales of venues we are both playing on our respective tours. There is a weird camaraderie between bands on tour when paths cross, the same thing happened with the metal band DEATH in Manchester where their tour manager, a very large and heavily tattooed American gent, even asked to buy a T-shirt whilst we compared parking and toilet paper at stops around the UK.
The venue is what estate agents call compact and bijou, and it becomes quite apparent that logistically it’s going to be a challenge getting off stage safely as we need to drop gear off stage and outside the ladies toilet! We work out a guarding strategy and the set goes well. The hall itself heats up very, very quickly and it is an extremely sweaty set. We finish with the whole crowd bouncing along to some vigorous JB dancing and even calls for an encore.
We decamp to the entrance foyer of the downstairs hall’s balcony which has been put aside as our dressing room… see I told you, its all glamour, where we do a couple of interviews, again something we still cant get used to being asked to do.
At the end of the evening, this area becomes an impromptu club when Eskil appears with the remains of both bands’ riders and a boombox, and holds a party. The sight of about 20 folk dancing in what we named Eskil’s Cupboard (the most exclusive nightclub in Birmingham that night or really any other) is one that I won’t forget in a hurry, no matter how hard I try. This continues on the bus, with the music of choice being Stockholm Swedish Black Metal, Archie isn’t a fan…
We continue the ‘party’ back in a room at our hotel with beers and tales of the old days and its then off to bed. Tomorrow is the big one we have been told, London…
Day 5 – London
We arrive at the venue in good time only to discover the details given for load-in are wrong, so have to hang around for an hour before we can get the gear in.
Bizarrely it transpires Tom, tonight’s engineer is from Glasgow so we work out who are mutual acquaintances from back in the day and swap updates on what they are doing these days. A top guy and good giver of sound! My girlfriend Helen is joining us for the last 2 dates on the tour so I pop to the station to meet her, it’s all very brief encounter, and we join Tracy and some friends for some very tasty Vietnamese pre show food.
It’s a big stage and hall and JB in particular takes advantage of the room during our set and especially the empty drum riser, though he gets a bit of a shock I think when Rico triggers the dry ice up his left trouser leg!
The room has a load of friends in it which drives us on to the best performance of the tour so far. As a happy birthday to our favourite online electronic music publication, Del and I wear TEC T-shirts and I thank both Chi and The Electricity Club for the support they give us and the scene. Even that gets a round of applause!
Sadly some friends got stuck in traffic so missed us, but we play with Martin and Anais from the VILE ELECTRODES later this year so resolve to make amends with much beer at that point.
A trip to Mark on the Merch stand brings the news that we have sold out of all the CDs we took on the tour, thanks to all who bought one, we are still in shock! We repair to the dressing room to celebrate with some very potent digestif supplied by photographer extraordinaire Andreas Lechleiter which goes down a little too well.
Once again kit back to the hotel and bed… is it almost all over already…?!?!
Day 6 – Bristol
Tonight, we are joined by our friends SINESTAR as local support at The Fleece, a proper old school venue. You can tell this by how sticky the floor is! That it’s under threat of closure from a developer of nearby flats is a disgrace as there are all too few places like this to play in the UK nowadays. I would encourage everyone to sign the petition to Save The Fleece.
All bands soundcheck quickly and we get ready for showtime by having a beer and a chat with assorted members of MESH and also the ever supportive Deb Danahay and Martin Mann who joined us on the Turd Bus from London. Much of the day is spent remembering and then forgetting the code for the dressing room door until Archie suggests taking a photo. See, management potential…
SINESTAR kick proceedings of with a storming set. I have seen the chaps play many times and they just get better and better, great band and mates.
Again we play well; sadly we are really hitting our groove just as the tour ends. With the last drum beats of ‘Cradle To Grave’, it’s over, all too quickly. No-one seems to notice John almost falling off stage or that I play completely the wrong thing on one solo being put off by both Tracy and Mr Brown.
We expect to be able to have an end of tour drink at the hotel, but sadly it’s Sunday and the bar is closed. So various bottles etc appear in the foyer along with Eskil’s famous boombox and a DIY party is held. I head to bed with my girlfriend Helen who has been making sure I have been misbehaving, and I have work in the morning…
The Day After The 6 Nights Before
Tracy isn’t well, I have to go to London and everyone else has to head back to Scotland or, in COVENANT’s case, the airport. We part with sadness but also a fair sense of pride at a tour well played.
ANALOG ANGEL would like to thank COVENANT for their gracious invitation onto the tour, Archie Lining for driving all over and back, Mark ‘Binny Boy’ Walker for merch duties and photos, Frank Drake, Barry Douglas and Kev Morris for promoting such fabulous shows and all our friends, old and new, who turned up to support us, sing and dance and buy a T-shirt…
Same again next year…???
ANALOG ANGEL’s album ‘Trinity’, along with the new single ‘Your Breath’ are available via https://analog-angel.bandcamp.com/
Text by Ian Ferguson
Photos by Ian Ferguson, Mark Walker, Martin Mann and Andrew Garley
4th April 2015