Post-Tour Blues vs. Festive Cheer!
It was a wonderful tour experience – I was able to travel most of it with my beautiful family and sate that empty feeling of the lonely hotel room/promoter’s sofa, after all your temporary friends have taken the last bus home, muttering of early starts to the office. I’ve not updated you all about the tour! Mainly due to having some quality down time gorging on mince pies, and strolling in the crisp winter sun, through long shadows and country air. I’ve emerged from the chocolate induced coma to recall my travails:
Having said I was able to tour avec ma famile, the first couple of weeks I was solo through France and Spain…
After one sleep off the big plane I was Eurostar bound and shuttling through the Chunnel to Lille Europe. L’il Europe. First stop, Lille. To play a show for good old Nico. I also meet, for the first time, some players who are on Crippling Lack. Timothée Couteau, a talented cellist, who will be improvising along with me that night, and Olivier Minne, one of the drummers on the record – will be playing guitar in the opening act tonight (Walter Brückmann). A wonderful evening. Tim cello’d the heck out of the set, and there was some audience participation as a fairly inebriated pair dragged a settee to the front of the stage area, to the consternation of the rest of the audience. They had assessed a boundary that needed crossing from audience into performance. I proceeded to sit down with them, giving a personal serenade. Who knows? Maybe we planned it?
Pleasant budget hotel with a decent breakfast buffet before a leisurely day in Lille before getting the train to Le Mans. I’m staying with Raphäelle out in Le Mans, with a mind to try to record some new material (no more to be said about that for now, we’re reviewing a fairly odd amount of guff, destined for the cutting room floor).
Next show is in a lovely sandwich shop (Le Sandwicherie) at the back corner where an old bakery used to be, for a very small crowd. It’s my first time to the City and it was a nice reception. The local beer (just a couple – trying not to be boozing for the sake of my voice) and the food were delicious.
The subsequent shows were also intimate. My first ever visit to Nantes was a great show to eight people. One of which was barely six months old. I’m not sure, but I think she knew some of the lyrics. The city is a delight though. A pleasant walk around the Japanese garden was a nice gentle pre-gig potter. Trying not to booze on tour is pretty difficult when you like the taste of decent beer, and some of this continental stuff is pretty snazzy.
Paris was a difficult one to get off the ground, but eventually Olympic Cafe came to the rescue. Not many in and a spontaneous addition of MaJiKer beatboxing along with me made for a unique and interesting show – some magical moments. But I always find Paris a tough crowd. I’d been gallantly escorted through Paris earlier that afternoon by the delightful Adrian Crowley. What a pleasure to catch up with him. At least his niece thought my show was one of the best she’d ever seen! I flopped down to sleep on a kindly donated sofa, my host, Raph’s friend, had been at God Speed! around the corner (ah! that’s who stole my audience!). I had to dash off early the next morning to get a plane to Madrid – where I was playing that night.
Luckily I was treated to a surprise earlier flight than I had remembered booking (I’d got confused), so there was plenty of time provided I got to the airport in time. Sorted. Got to Madrid with time to spare. Check in – Spain always sorts out decent hotels! – showered and fresh – The lovely Eduardo shows me to the venue.
This is what the general consensus was regarding that night’s performance: Not sure if the review is 10/10 for my show or the review itself
Eduardo took me for some proper standing-up spanish food. melt-in-the-mouth lemon marinated shark nuggets, deep fried squishy seaweed, simple mixed wild mushrooms, etc etc. What a delight.
A lovely fill of buffet brekkie in the morn and I trundle back to the Airport to pick up the hire car. I’m off on a little solo road trip!
I pick up a car – a little smaller than expected, but my trusty steed for the next five shows/six long drives. Well the first drive is not too long, just a couple of hours or so up to Valladolid. Passing over icy peaks where my ears popped. I’m struck by how many raptors circle to skies along these journeys. Kite, eagle, buzzard and hawk. I’m generally the only thing on the road for much of the drive. Great headspace.
Valladolid is famous for the storks nesting on the big old architecture. I don’t really have time to seek it out – by the time I’ve squeezed into the hotel parking crevice, shoved my stuff into the room, and had a cafe con milk, it’s time to trek through the dimming streets to the venue. This gig has been a mysterious secret location for the punters until today. Turns out the owner of the bar is newly licenced so doesn’t want to push it with the authorities. I’m shown the space (by my lovely host Juan, who’s hosted me twice before up in chilly old V-town) which turned out to be a small mezzanine area – an exclusive 30 people maximum get to sit up here for my show, and weirdly, the bar downstairs remains open as usual. I battle the sound of bustling bar, while the bar down there heckles up at the mezzanine. Actually the show went pretty well! Juan and his pals show me their favourite little bar for a couple of drinks to cap off the night.
The next morning, after a hearty buffet, and a cheery crowd of Japanese tourists flooding the foyer in synchronised map check – all broadsheet city maps spread out like umbrellas in a kind of am-dram interpretation of a Busby Berkley set piece.I set off to Vigo – the car emerging from the crevice unscathed. Some of the landscape is breathtaking – but I’m not in a position to photograph it, lest I swerve into a ditch. I’ve no expectations from this gig – It turns out it was a kind of punt by the promoter which didn’t pay off – they sold 10 tickets and not all of them turned up – I played to a row of six people on the seating one side of the room and three or four standees. I thought it was actually one of my best sets ever – but there will be scant, if any, record of it! I leave Vigo (too early to sit down for breakfast) with memories of fried squid sandwich and a bad full of water and juice – the guy at the venue took pity on me when I told him about my drive the next day. And so – 8 hours straight to make it to soundcheck in the south of France! I know from experience that this is the norm for US, but I’m not sharing the driving if that makes for a little sympathy?
Highways all the way, fast through undulating hills and high plains, 0n into Basque country where the roadsigns suddenly become even more incomprehensible. Into tunnels as I bypass all the potential wonderment of thenorth coast. Through the western Pyrenees into Basque France. I arrive in a grey and wet outskirts fading industrial docks area, and a beautiful church looming in the dusk. This edifice, shell, now provides a space for art – an exhibition of culture, sound and sculpture, into which me and banjo player Colin Faivré must insert a performance. He plays first with his signature, illuminated from inside, baritone banjo. We play shoeless on a carpeted area – I point my voice into the acoustic space – it manipulated the show into a drawn out ambient affair. What a lovely event. François and family kind hosts.
The next day I must hightail it to Zaragoza. I’m meeting Eduardo again. The drive was glorious – heading into evening sunshine through open landscape of Spain and being the only car on the road most of the time. The auditorium was a nice size although I may have had too much stage – I continue to use the toy megaphone thing Greg Butler lent me, but often is losing it’s impact and the sound goes thin, most likely due to fading batteries. So it becomes even more an incongruent factor in the performance. What fun!
(the thing – don’t tell Greg – is now completely defunct. I opened it up and the circuitry has all degraded – it will need a very expert solderer or new circuit board)
My final show in Spain is a collaborative ‘encontre’ with dance Pepa Cases, in Castellón de la Plana. We’ve not met or practiced. It turned out to be a delightful evening. Pepa bursts in the room as I’m playing and interprets the music in a dance performance that plays around with my space – peeping through my legs and adjusting my mix and cables, as I remain in my performance. And of course, it is always a pleasure to catch up with the very nice Jose Luis.
I speed off in the morning without any time to wait for breakfast – I’m dropping the car off at Madrid airport to catch the plane back to England.
Hold on for the … Next episode