We got the maps out, we drove for miles now…”
December 7, 2014. No comments.
My new favourite quote has to be: “You’re the best thing to happen to us since 1945. We can’t even get a full page spread of the ‘Oliver Cromwell’” – John Adams, Carnforth Station Heritage Centre Manager.
And also “I’ve waited for years to see you live. So glad you came all this way” Colin at The Milton Rooms.
These are the kind of encounters that make it all worthwhile.
But for anyone that thinks touring is a breeze, here’s a few things to watch out for: Picking up a PA (thank you The Bookshop Band) to drive 800 miles or so and then not having much room left for the instruments and the musicians needed to play them.
Picture a woman who’s legs don’t fit in the front (with a blanket on her knees), throwing snacks at a smaller woman who’s right arm is in a sling (also with a blanket on her knees) and you get the general rock’n’roll picture. It’s not very conducive to band chatter either, just text me for another biscuit or some painkillers – which somehow I managed to aim through all the gear onto Beth’s lap nearly every time! I suppose I did have about 13 hours to practise….
Mike had another 4 hours on top of that. Setting off as he did at 9am and not stopping – except to re-pack the van twice and maybe have a brief encounter with a motorway services toilet – until we reached North Yorkshire. Grey, drizzly, cold, and with still an hour and a half to go as a result of an accident and jams up the M1, the promoter rang me, worried about what to do with the audience. Did we want to cancel? You can imagine how well that went down after 10 hours on the road…
She kindly rang round the Whole audience to explain the situation and they all got treated to a special show that began with the get-in and an exclusive soundcheck – completed in record time. Luckily the sound man was well organised in advance and did a great job. When time is of the essence it’s important to be resourceful….
Instrument stand broken in transit? Fixed with a hair grip. Cellist’s dress zip stuck when we are due on stage? Guitarist comes flying to the rescue with a handy sewing kit.
After the stress, rushing, and lack of food (our lovely dinner’s all wrapped up and put away for later), something about the sewing scenario outside the toilets made us feel quite giggly. Then we heard Radio 4 coming through a speaker somewhere…. no, no, in fact it was coming from my handbag…so I turned off my mobile, and we went on stage.
Then we got to play a gig. What a relief!
We swapped travel stories with the audience – which of course, given the album we are currently touring, couldn’t be more appropriate… “Here’s a song about being a travelling musician” “This one is called ‘Long Drive…’ etc etc. We didn’t do the ukelele song cos of Beth’s injured arm but she played cello as beautifully as ever.
After the gig we went to stay at a farm. Except it didn’t look anything like a farm – which baffled me, but not enough to ask questions – just eat some welcome deli quiche and pickles, and negotiate who got the room with the butterflies on the mirror. I have also Never in my life seen so many boxes of Cornflakes.
Anyway, our hosts were lovely and we arose from our respective and hard-to-leave beds after a brief sleep into Saturday. The big day! Bringing the album home to it’s place of the same name! (with earache and a bit of a cold of course. Such is winter timing. And although putting the two gigs together seemed like a good idea, there’s not really any way ACROSS… especially as we were diverted off the A1M due to rumours of some explosives on a bridge. But we managed to wiggle our way round to Cumbria and headed south just as the sun began to break (briefly) through the clouds.
Somewhat distracted from the big moment of arrival, by needing the loo and a coffee, I was given the warmest of welcomes by John the manager. Steve, the photographer had been waiting some time and was concerned we would lose the light. Adele the videographer and I discussed cameras, as Beth and I got out the van and changed boots and applied make-up then and there. Well it seemed silly to waste time going inside, and the constantly touring Beth only had gig clothes so I lent her my coat – the one I wore on the album cover. A bit big, but still.. Then we ran around the platform doing a photo shoot.
Inside I spotted all the ‘Brief Encounter’ merchandise, old suitcases, and a small cinema. Beth and Mike ordered soup in the famous Refreshment Room, then Adele set up some lights and cameras for my interview, which we filmed whilst they unloaded and set up the PA. We did a brief soundcheck and ran up the road to an hotel for a brief meal and to discuss the filming briefly, and briefly write the set-list. Then we realised there was still the small matter of the actual gig. Brief change into concert clothes and after a wonderful introduction we took to the stage.
We played in what used to be the waiting room – derelict until about 12 years ago. Afterwards there were lots of happy friendly people buying CD’s and signing up for the newsletter, and John gave us each some goody bags full of Carnforth paraphernalia. Then we began the mammoth task of de-rigging and packing the van. It seemed even fuller now somehow, so John happily took another box of CD’s to sell in the gift shop. I would probably have begged him to take them anyway for comfort’s sake.
Then a couple of hours drive to the moors and our ‘tour’ home in the north. Instructions to find the keys included fairy lights and pots and bushes, and then we unloaded all the PA and instruments into the house, sat down and had a drink. A brief sleep, then up for our 9am breakfast invitation. Eggs, salmon, bacon, two lovely ladies, sunshine, a big dog, and talk about muscles and music and arnica cream before the long drive home…
I fell onto the sofa and stared aimlessly at Facebook. Mike finally got home to Devon in time for a pork roast, and Beth, although she didn’t make it back in time for her rehearsal, had a good gig anyway. But what none of us knew at the time, is that her ARM HAD BEEN BROKEN ALL ALONG!!!
My bandmates are AMAZING people. The people that support us, promote us, and come to the gigs have been wonderful. And who’d have thought all that would happen because I made up a song after seeing some photos of a few derelict trains?
Laura: I might be a musician. Alec: Never. You’re too sane and uncomplicated. Laura: I suppose it’s a good thing to be uncomplicated, but it does sound rather dull. Alec: You could never be dull.
Making music for a life may not be terribly sane and is seldom uncomplicated, but it is most CERTAINLY never dull.