Archive for the ‘Touring’ Category

Warm days and smiling friends.

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

On the face of it, the lyrics to surf trip couldn’t have been less appropriate than when we sang them at Green Man last week. A song about sun-kissed, carefree days at the beach… well, look a little closer, pilgrim. Surf trip is about surf trips with friends, not about surfing. It’s about being surrounded by people that you love and trust so that even if you fall off a surf board or set out across pointy rocks, you know they’ll catch you if you fall.

So as we trudged through the mud to get our gear to the stage, I was smiling because that is where I want to be, warm days and smiling friends. Laughter and new experiences shared.

Confronted, earlier in the week, with flood warnings for the festival, it would have been easy to be disappointed. The mood at our Thursday night run through was great, though. We’ve come this far and we’re getting used to… I was about to type ‘marching into the unknown’ - I think ‘shambling off, half-arsed, with no plan’ is a little closer to the truth. This was certainly much less daunting than driving towards the channel tunnel in our ubercampenbussen a few years ago.

Having a gig the next day, I was equally prepared to camp or not to camp. That was the question. The huge swathe of tents crammed together in the mud like a slightly festive refugee camp was enough to make up my mind. I was, however, looking forward to seeing Roo put up his tent. Roo was clad in wellies, shorts and a long waxed jacket - making him look like a really posh flasher. I imagined the imminent construction of his tent was going to resemble a Tourettes-afflicted country gent raping a hang-glider. I was denied this joyful spectacle when it took us so long to find Roo that he’d befriended a couple of families nearby and they’d helped him to set up. Roo and Jen had already charmed their new neighbours sufficiently to drag them along to the gig, so with the prospect of friendly faces in the crowd we squelched off in search of food and a stage to play.

This gig had come courtesy of the wonderful people at Geek Pop - do check them out when you‘ve a chance. We were greeted by the ever-smiling face of Hayley and introduced to the crew of Einstein’s Garden. It was a rather fetching little section of the festival and I imagine than in the sun, it would have been a little grotto of paradise. The other great benefit of the sun would have been that it would have taken a little stress off the Solar Stage, where we were about to play. A solar powered stage in the foothills of the Brecons, in August. Yeah, we know. Surely hydro-electricity would have been the way to go? We could have had a lightshow that would have been visible from space…

We’ve played more competently, we’ve played more fluently but it was still a decent performance, I felt. What mistakes there were seemed to go largely unnoticed by our small but perfectly formed audience and even though the quieter parts of the set were accompanied in a somewhat avant-garde fashion from the next stage along, there seemed to be nodding, foot tapping (well, splashing) and general signs from the onlookers that traditional festival gift for the unappreciated artist - the plastic bottle of piss - would not be winging our way any time soon.

There were some memorable moments: Caleb’s first solo, straining our sustainable power source to its limits, actually made me jump. Not as much, however, as the litre of cold water down Roo’s back in mid song made him leap sideways. What sticks out for me personally, though, was that for most of the gig, we seemed to be ‘in the moment’. It’s so easy, sometimes, to walk on stage, tune up and then disappear into a furious world of concentration and self-consciousness and then before you know it, it’s all over and all that’s there to tell you that you played a gig is a damp shirt and ears ringing from standing too close (within a kilometre) of Caleb’s amp. Last week, though, we seemed to be chatting, communicating and laughing together. I don’t know what the audience made of it but I had a whale of a time. I’m also fairly sure that I saw a whale swim past me one time.

The ‘above and beyond’ awards definitely go to Rob, for trekking out to see us; to Harry, for joining the band for ‘Kiss the Girls’ and most of all to Jen for managing to be president of our fan club, the drummer’s hot groupie and watchful mother simultaneously in a noisy swamp without her smile slipping the once. Kudos to you all.

Big shouts also to Hayley for the gig, to Ellen for organising us, to the technical and hosting crew of the Solar Stage and to the other artists that shared it with us. You’re all fab.

Another burst of kit-lugging, then a pleasant little interlude as we were permitted beyond the velvet rope for artiste’s catering, a hugely welcome, cosy meal in a warm marquee filled with laughter and chat.

Then home and my single sombre note of a wonderful day.

On the way home, being tailed by Rob, we were mere seconds behind an accident. The carriageway blocked by a serious collision, as we waited, more and more police, ambulances and fire trucks turned up. I’m happy to report that nobody was killed: I’ve learned since that a man was hospitalised with an abdominal puncture but no fatalities - although that was what we were gradually beginning to suspect as the wait continued. In an oddly complementary musing, as we waited, Rob and I struck up a conversation with a sergeant in the Welsh Guard, back from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was struck by the abrupt and unnecessary tragedies that can snatch us from each others’ lives. Moments like that can leave me feeling transient, ephemeral - I was glad that I was standing with a friend. I felt anchored.

I suppose that pretty much brings me full circle. It was very much a Layers experience. Next year - more festivals, bigger stages and perhaps just a little sun…?

Layers out.

Emerging, blinking from the shade…

Friday, August 6th, 2010

…of an indecently long interval between blog posts.

Ten thousand much deserved apologies, gentle readers; here at Layers HQ we do realise how difficult life can be made when your ransom notes are shriven of the sesquipedalian flourishes that so few other band blogs provide. As much as we would like to believe that death itself would not stop us from reaching out to touch our friends (not in an overly familiar way, you understand…) the reality is that mere preoccupation is enough to gum up the works for months.

But we’d like to think that this very preoccupation has been worthwhile because we’ve not been idle. No siree - those observant members of our fan base (at least, the subsection of such still allowed access to a live Internet connection rather than having printed bulletins slipped under the cell door) will have noticed a glorious new website. New content is still arriving on a week-to-week basis, subject to gaps in Caleb’s sandwich schedule, and should continue to do so on a basis commensurate with our blog updating (which now that Neil’s remembered the password, may be more frequent than recent, tumbleweed-strewn months would suggest).

What only diehard fans (ie, stalkers) will know is that some of the creative activity holding up bulletins has been of the biological variety (and no, we’re not talking about the contents of Neil’s fridge). Both Caleb and Rupert are proud, second-time fathers. Being men, none of the band (fathers included) know any of the important details like weight, sex, name or species of the offspring in question but we’ll try to get one of the mothers to get back to you all on that…

And what are we emerging into, as we slink shamefully from beneath the dank shelter of relative obscurity? Well, we’re two-thirds of the way into our summer festival programme; the best, we’re hoping, very much saved until last as we play the Green Man festival in two weeks’ time. Not that the gigs leading up to it haven’t been great: the Tetbury Fiesta was true to form - a laid-back gig in the sun. Thanks especially to everyone that turned up to the acoustic spot and for all of the kind words that were offered. Then last week we turned up at the SOLAM festival, near Chippenham. Usually when someone describes a gig as ‘intimate’ it means that there wasn’t room on stage for the drum kit and there was no bastard there and, we’re forced to admit, it was beginning to look like one of those nights. No sooner had we got ourselves squeezed in, though, than a friendly, appreciative group filtered in and reclined on the cushions, joined in a little bit of banter and made us feel right at home.

There were some cracking bands at SOLAM and if you missed the whole thing, shame on you - check it out next year.

So, what’s in the future? Well, we’ve got some new material coming on line: ‘My Father’ has been gigged and seems to be garnering some praise, ‘Wasted’ had it’s début outing at SOLAM and already looks like it could become an audience favourite. More songs are in the pipeline, including what looks like a viable version of the long-awaited ‘Red Roses’ and we’re hoping to have a whole ‘post-belly’ set together by the end of the year. Stranger things have happened.

More updates from Layers HQ soon (honest) including ‘Wasted’ lyrics (if nothing else, it will help me to remember them…) and hopefully pics on the site soon.

Stay in touch! (I know, that’s rich, coming from me…)

Layers out.

The city that never sleeps (pt2)

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

When is a music tour not a tour?

When the band’s not all there. Great as it was exploring the sights, sounds and (frequently garbage-tinged) smells of New York, it was never going to feel quite right without the rest of the band there. It came as some relief, then, when another expensively-crafted text message manifested itself to say that Caleb and Paul had arrived and that Sheena and Lorraine were eager to experience all that New York had to, er… sell.

Whilst Doug and I had been picking up a few essential supplies, such as inoperative voltage converters (more on that to follow) Caleb and Paul had been trying to find the seediest bar near their hotel. They’d done a reasonable job, too. No matter, once Doug and I had struggled through the downpour and had a beer in our hands, all seemed right with the world again and we felt like a band.

I’d been vaguely concerned that Doug might feel like an outsider - in himself and to us. Roo has always been such a big part of what we do and who we are and we knew that the trip wasn’t going to be the same without him. One beer was enough to allay my fears; whilst we still missed Roo’s presence and energy, Doug was very much a part of the band, taking the piss and joining in with the good-natured character assassination, persecution and verbal belittling that is The Layers on tour. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

It as an early exit to New Jersey for the two of us, as we’d vowed to spend a little quality time with Jeff, our host. We purchased some imported English beer and got in just in time to watch the Olympic gymnasts defy logic and gravity and not have one single inappropriate thought about the young ladies in the spandex outfits. Not one. No siree.

Finally it was gig day. There was a touch of tension in the air. Doug and I said goodbye to our hosts and made our way into the city. We’d decided to splash out on a hotel for this one night - easy transport and a comfortable night’s sleep would be much needed. We couldn’t find anything in reason on the island but found that the hotels in Brooklyn were strangely affordable. It was with some trepidation that we made our way there - only to be immediately upgraded to a rock-star suite (had the heard of The Layers?) in the Brooklyn Bridge Marriot. It was huge, folks. We immediately ditched our afternoon plans in favour of a swim, spa and power nap. Then, pausing only to hurl a tv through the window, it was time to get to the gig.

Bar M1-5, in the Tribeca neighbourhood, could well be mistaken for a shithole from the outside. Half-way down a grim, graphitised street adorned with skips and piles of garbage. Inside, though, we were pleasantly surprised to find a lively, friendly bar.

Jigsaw Soul were already setting up on stage - a great bunch of guys, as it turned out, and a fantastic band. They put on a performance quite unlike anything that we’d ever seen before, complete with dance, special effects and some great music. Clearly local favourites, they were going to be a hard act to follow.

With the stage very much set up for the preceding band and only a rudimentary PA set up, we had some struggles with this one. Some songs were pretty good, others sucked. The sound on stage wasn’t great and we had trouble hearing each other. We came off stage not dejected but very much aware that it wasn’t the greatest gig we’d put on. Typically, that was the gig that we were having filmed by Caleb’s old friend Meredith - who’d come all the way from Washington DC to do the filming. We knew we had better in us and so we did what any great band would do and went drinking.

Dawn broke over New York… we completely ignored it, having only got out of a burlesque bar in Greenwich Village an hour or so previously. Noon broke and found us stumbling about our rock star suite with the stoic and uncomplaining Meredith, who had decided to surf the couch (which, as we discovered, folded out into a full-sized bed - seriously, we do highly recommend the Brooklyn Bridge Marriot. You could get six people in that room easily)

A traditional American breakfast of pancakes, bacon, eggs, syrup, burgers, corned-beef hash, more pancakes, sweet potato fries and we were ready to… well, sit around and belch, really. Then we had a last day in New York before reconvening and heading to Kenny’s Castaways in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Kenny’s is an entirely different set up, a quality sound system, manned on the night by Zack, who demonstrated great finesse on the sound and was a huge help. It’s much more a dedicated music venue with a touch of our ‘home’ venue, The Vaults about it, and we immediately felt more at home.

Still, some concerns raised their heads. A little like the evening at the Moira in Utrecht, the preceding acts were all pretty laid-back. First Soren Anders - theatrical, soft-spoken and quintessentially Greenwich Village, played piano with a cello accompanist and treated us to warm, witty songs with immaculately matching intros. Then it was Radio Free Carmela and the Transmitters - acoustic Americana. Very easy on the ear. Carmela herself is fantastic - friendly and energetic and delighted to meet other musicians. Finally Darren Ockert - an Englishman in New York himself, treated us to a set of slightly theatre-influenced songs, full of clever lyrics, piano, bass and drums.

We took the decision to chill out the set list a little and hastily rearranged it with the light, acoustic material at the start and some semi-acoustic, laid-back versions of some of the others gradually leading up to the ear-bleeding material that we usually inflict on our audiences. It was a gamble…

…that paid off. We got a warm reception and the set tied together beautifully. The acoustic start was relaxing for us and the audience alike - a good thing, because the lead up had been a panic of missing equipment (thanks to headline band Furmurthur and to Zack for helping out with that) and inoperative guitar effects. In the end Caleb had to do without his usual computer-controlled, liquid helium-cooled, turbo-driven effects unit and go old-school with nothing but a borrowed distortion unit. He was, as ever, brill, of course.

This time we were tight, the sound on stage was good and we got into our groove. We really felt that this time we did ourselves justice and warranted the invitation to play over in the US. It was a great experience and, as an added bonus, Meredith had delayed her trip (in her hangover-addled state it took little in the way of arm-twisting) home to film again, so there is actually some footage of us playing well.

As Furmurthur did their thing we were congratulated, hugged, slapped on the back and generally approved of by the other artists, the crowd and even Zack, the engineer. Praise from a house sound man is always a good thing - these guys get to see the best and worst of live music.

Then it was time to piss on the dogs and crawl in the fire (I’ve never understood that expression) as there was a jet being filled up with aviation fuel, piss-poor meals (and infectious diseases, as it turns out) and whining children at JFK. Caleb and Sheena displayed the patience and tolerance that will surely see them through a hundred years of happy marriage by allowing me and Doug to shower in their hotel room and then, still slightly pissed and very tired, it was back to the airport.

As I tried valiantly to sleep through the whiny little arsehole kicking me in the back on the way over the Atlantic, I had some time to reflect (in a sleep-deprived, mildly hallucinatory fashion) on the week. It was a very different experience to Europe. Perhaps if they had allowed us to fly the aeroplane ourselves under the command of a bossy sat-nav unit… It was less of a road-trip and more of a holiday with a couple of gigs. Not a worse experience but a less intense one. Certainly the gigs themselves were different; the crowds were less focussed on the artists and more there to party with their friends - a more similar experience to playing in the UK. New York, too, for all of its pace and strangeness, is obviously not as foreign as the places that we drove through in Europe. It was different without Roo and different because we weren’t so dependent on each other. Nonetheless, I dozed off with that familiar, dopey smile on my face. We are still The Layers, even when we have to fill in again, even when we’re hit with adversity. We can still rock, we can always laugh.

Next? We’ve got the UK gigswap, songs to finish, songs to record and Carmela really wants us to go and play in Florida in March. Sounds like a pleasant alternative to the early spring drizzle of the UK, I have to say…

Layers out.

The city that never sleeps… (pt 1)

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

From the city that never sleeps to the town that doctors say may never regain full consciousness. It’s quite a come-down, I can tell you. There are really two parts to this story, so I’ll do a bit of regaling now and fill in the rest when I have some pictures.

On Sunday the 10th of August, Doug and I were getting ready to fly to New York. All was not well; at the time we still had no place to stay, no guarantee of a backline and had only the flimsiest idea of what was going on. Unlinke the European tour, nobody had been able to get out there and check out the scene; we were flying blind.

Undaunted, Jops and I packed our trunks and, pausing only to go and do a little acoustic cameo at the Nelson, set off for Heathrow airport. I’d opted for the cheap parking option, meaning a detour via ‘Purple Parking’, an operation that asks you to leave your keys in the car. This does provide a few lingering suspicions that even as you pull away in the minibus, your mileometer is being disconnected, minicab plates being fitted and the interior being carefull photographed so that all that will be there when you arrive is some suspicious tyre wear and a lingering smell of ‘feu orange’…

The customary horrors of airport security and airline food breached, in what felt like no more than 96 hours or so we were breathing the fresh clean carbon monoxide of New York. With no idea of what was going on, we checked the e-mail inbox and were overjoyed to find the offer of a couch from Jrff Ruhle, of New Jersey. To get from JFK to Morristown, New Jersey means travelling on no less than three different rail systems, each with different pricing, mapping and ticketing systems, to travel a physical distance of around 40 miles.

Jeff was putting us up at his parents’ place, a lovely, timber-framed house out in the woods. We were phenomenally lucky to have a twin room to ourselves. We made ourselves at home and went back into the city with Justin and Kurt, two college couch-surfers from Tennessee.

New York is an amazing place to eat. All human life is there, explaining the crowds, the smell and, fortunately, the cuisine. We dined well in Greenwich Village and marvelled at how little it cost. This was a theme for the week - giant portions of fine food at rock-bottom prices; Caleb was in his element.

Lady Liberty - trenchant satire or an idle moment with a marker?

For Doug and I, there followed another two days of walking the streets of the city. There’s a lot to see and a lot to do. New York is so big, so full and so busy that it seems to distort time, somehow. perhaps, like mass distorting Einsteinian space-time, if you cram so many busy people into one space, time gets shortened, contracting like a watch approaching the speed of light; the sheer speed of life in New York seems to compress the seconds. The days flew by.

We were surprised by a lot of things in New York - it feels like a safe city (or Doug and I are just oblivious to peril) - even at three in the morning in some fairly seedy districts, we never felt intimidated or endangered. Even when a huge guy came over and accosted us, all he wanted to do was give us his hip-hop CD. Finding out that we were musicians from the UK he was thrilled to bits, shook our hands and offered to promote us!

In spite of what I’d heard, it’s a friendly city. Almost everyone that we met was open, talkative and interested to meet us.

It’s an exhausting city. Between the heat and humidity (which we were informed was mild for the time of year), the crowds and the size, getting around really weras you out. I slept like a log in New Jersey at night, lulled by the army of cicadas making an industrial noise outside.

As much fun as it was to wander the city, we both new that the trip wouldn’t really begin in earnest until Caleb and Paul arrived.

part two to follow.

Exciting tour News.

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Yes, of course you’ll know by now that we’re playing in New York this August and that we’re very excited about it.

Latest news is that a second gig has been added to the itinerary, we’re playing in Greenwich Village in Kenny’s Castaways, a venue which has hosted Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and a host of other illustrious musicians.

Details of the two events can be found here:

Friday 15th, Bar M1-5:

http://newyork.going.com/event-356679;CouchCrash-Open_BarDancingLive_MusicAfter_Party
 

Saturday 16th, Kenny’s Castaways:

http://newyork.going.com/couchcrashsaturday

Be there if you can!

 

Layers out.

Introducing…

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

As he’s joining the band on a short-term secondment, it would seem only polite to introduce our adoring fan to Dusty Jopling: thinker, drinker, tinkerer and drummer extraordinaire.

Jops enjoys a rural cuppa

Jops enjoys a rural cuppa

Born Dusty Jackson to a showbiz family, a swift escape in early childhood and a change of identity bought Doug to Preston where he swiftly gained qualifications sufficient to propel him to the hallucinating spires of Loughborough University. There he played drums with the Waterpistols and met a young singer called Neil. A meeting that was to have grim consequences for both men and for music in general.
Doug’s meteoric (i.e, plummeting rapidly from a great height) career then led him to Birmingham where he manned the skins for SwampManGirl between bouts of design work in the exractor fan industry.
After several depressing years of having to earn a living, the two were reunited and shared a house in the bucolic, antique-trading backwater of Tetbury where, in between drinking excessively, offending neighbours and freaking out houseguests, they found time to write ‘Multiple Choice’ and ‘ShadowPictures’.
Doug’s fate then led him to the USA, Malaysia and finally the tropical paradise that is Leeds, where he took up the sticks for The Revelator Band - a pirate blues-rock outfit that sadly foundered in stormy seas recently. On the plus side, this freed their drummer up to fill in for the Layers in the USA, so every cloud…
Nobody knows where Doug’s life will lead next, apart from an old Gypsy woman who read his palm at a fete a few years ago but she refused to tell him the details after he tried to pay her with Monopoly money. She was later killed by a bus that she hadn’t seen coming.
We’re delighted to have Dusty as a temporary Layer and hope that it won’t sting too much when we have to rip him off and discard him.

Yes, I know that we keep going on about it…

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I’ve been trying for a while to write something more considered than the blogs that I kept on tour.
What I’ve ended up with is more of a personal musing and so it seemed appropriate to stick it in my own blog. The views expressed herein do not represent, etc…So if you want my two pennies-worth, it’s right here.It’s a bit of a marathon.

Anyway, I’ll try to stop going on about it now, I think I’ve got it all off my chest.

Touring by numbers.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

I’ve been meaning to work out some of the salient facts and figures for the tour, so here’s a brief numerical guide to our adventures in Europe.

0.78 countries visited per day

1 song written in tour bus

1.3 drummers per gig (average)

4 countries played in

5 band members featured

6 most countries driven through in one day

7 countries visited

14 minutes - longest interval without Caleb’s snoring waking anyone

18.5 km/h average speed throughout tour

18.6 number of times Roo had to pee on the bus on a typical journey

119 gallons of diesel used

120 number of other people’s beers that Duke wandered off with

443 average km per day

4207 km travelled

Some of these are rough estimates. The one I find weirdest is that, on average, day or night, performing or eating, we were averaging 18.5km/h. We were told any slower and the bus would have had a bunch of illegal immigrants hanging off the back of it. We lost the last one when his near-side plimsoll blew out on the motorway just outside Bruges. There are lots of things that numbers don’t tell you. We can’t put a figure on the kindness we were shown. We can’t quantify just how much fun we had. Although we could probably estimate the number of amazing people that we’ve met, we can’t give you a number that tells you just how amazing they are.

There’s one other number; nebulous, waiting to be fixed. It’s the number of seconds until the next time we do this. And it’s ticking away…

By Caleb…

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

I have just finished reading what Neil has written about our adventures in Europe and thought it about time I finally do as asked and add some of my own thoughts to the blog - Neil,if you are reading this, the inadaquacy I feel in even trying to write anything next to you is overwhelming.I sit at work (clearly not working) and think that all I have now are the memories of the people, the travel and most of all the music.  I also sit and wait for my couch surfing registration email so that I may keep in touch with all the people with whom I shared a beer and song over the last few days.

Thinking back to when this tour was first mentioned, I remeber feeling that it would be a nice idea but was unlikely to actaully happen - So many good ideas get lost in the monotony of everyday life.  However, behind the scenes and without my knowledge work was being done to bring it all together and make it happen and one day it was reality.  I still dont think I beleived is was real until the tour bus pulled away and we waved goodbye to our loved ones.

The travelling has been good.  The friends I knew I had in the band have now become even more important to me.  There are not a whole lot of people you can spend 9 days on a small bus with and still be laughing but we did it and with barely a crossed word or a frown between us.  I was going to write that this type of camaraderie is down to tolerance but now that think about it I actually belieive it is more likely down to trust. Trust that they will be there when you need them, trust that they will be honest with you - both when you have slipped up and also when they have done something stupid themselves.   It is this that made the trip special in the first place.  New friends made along the way are the icing on the already ample cake.

The gigs were simply spectacular.  One thing about the layers is that we love to play - we dont always do it to the best of our ability but we dont quit. Even over the space of our last four gigs we have moved on furlongs as a band.  I truly look forward to our next UK gig where we can put what we have learned to good use and wow a different crowd.  Utrecht lit the fuse of an explosive tour and despite the last minute rush, everything came together for The Layers European debut.  The musicanship we were introduced to in Moira was stunning and at first I thought we might scare the crowds away with our bumbling UK sound.  I could not have been more wrong.  The nerves soon slipped away and The layers were playing Europe !!

Bach in Vienna was a step up again.  The same collection of outstanding muscians in a deeply atmospheric venue all backed by a responsive and eager crowd.  No nerves this time. More space and a chance to rock Vienna to it’s core which, in my opinion, we did.

Rupert hurting his back was a dreadful blow and an unexpected early conclusion to his tour.  Speaking with him on the phone the day afer he arrived home broke my heart - I dont think I have ever been confronted with such sadness in my life.

The pardubice gig was overshadowed by the fact that we were only three quarters of where we should have been and had Duke not stpped up and leant the songs I dont think we would have been so well received.  I dont think it could have been eny better with a stand in drummer - the only way we could have topped it would have been by having Roo with us.  In the end though we managed to do what Rupert has been urging us to do for months now and we put on a show for the crowd.  That one was for you Roo.

And finally, the long trip home - plenty of time to think and reflect and get our thoughts in order - plenty of time but not really enough.  Thoughts of friends we may not see for a long time to come, memories of crowds dancing and cheering and of stages oozing talent.

I really only have one last thing to write.  These blogs have, up until now, been exclusively written by Neil and he praises us and encourgaes and often insults us (i will assume in jest) but he seldom receives the praise he himself deserves.  So, Neil, for you energy and committment, your boundless talent and endless humour, your beautiful writing both here and in our songs; for the music you write and the passion with which you perform it, we thank you.

D’yer want some soup?

On tour III - Pardubice, we love you…

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

It is late. I sit with a small glass of Irish whiskey and try to think of a way to sum up all that has happened over the last eight days and I can’t; it’s simply too much. So it’s back to headlines, fleeting impressions and the random reflections that pop into my head for a while until I can produce something more considered.

Let’s start with this: Thank you Pardubice - you guys rock! What a great crowd: you made us feel like rock stars, you made us feel like friends - nobody could ask for a better audience. Our thanks to Viktor, the guys in Funktomass, our sound engineer, our photographers and new fans. And those strange Hungarian brothers, whoever they were…

A mile from home, driving our bus down the final stretch of road, we reflected that twenty four hours ago we were on stage in front of that wonderful crowd in club Ponorka. All of a sudden, it barely seems real. I realise that I’m going to be sat here one evening soon and suddenly feel an aching sense of loss: I’ll want to be lugging my amp down another set of stairs in a foreign bar, to hear Tommy singing in Russian or Duke roaring out a Marillion cover, to be laughing with Henk and Paul over a mystery beer or talking philosophy with a stranger while I get ready to perform again. I may even come to miss the endless tape of road playing its grumbling, atonal fugue beneath the wheels of our temporary home or Caleb’s snoring. No, scratch that last one…

So, Duke filled in for Rupert in Pardubice and we were able to play a gig that, on reflection, I wouldn’t have missed for all the tea in China. We had to trim the set a little, which is a shame and we were without a quarter of the band, which is a far greater shame because Roo, showman that he is, would have been in his element at that gig. But let’s hand it to Duke - I feel - we all feel - that we’ve made a friend for life there and, if you’re reading this Duke, me case es su casa. (I think that’s Spanish for ‘You wandered off with my case, you theiving Mexican…’). He did an amazing job of learning our set (not wholly straightforward, it has to be said) in a short time and didn’t even fuck up Shadowpictures. (Even more amazingly, neither did any of us…)

Last night was an incredible end to a wonderful tour for us. Many miles travelled, many friends made, many adventures and a lot of laughter. We feel awful that we had to race off at the end without getting to know the crowd at Ponorka and without hearing the rest of the music - Tommy, just when we were getting to grips with some of the lyrics! We just about made it to the Channel Tunnel - we’ve travelled through six countries in 24 hours. We are, quite frankly, knackered.

A personal note to end this entry. My own personal thanks to the guys in the band. To Rupert, for being the ever-beating heart of what we do; for his energy and humour; for making the right decision for himself, his family and for the band even though it broke his heart. To Caleb for his extraordinary musicianship; for his ever-present smile, razor wit and self-deprecating humour. To Paul for being our anchor; for his endless capability, world-wisdom, can-do approach, his ability to deal with just about anything. You are my brothers. And thanks to Jen, Sheena and Lorraine for allowing the boys out to play with their disreputable friend after dark. They all played like rock stars but behaved like perfect gentlemen.

At some stage I’m going to write about this tour properly but for now I’m going to collapse into bed.

Layers out.