Are we sitting comfortably?
Then let us continue where we left off.
You at the back, stop fidgeting!
It is a rare occasion I find myself in Bristol with it not utterly shitting down with rain and this is very much not one of them.
The windscreen wipers, or “Skwipers” as I called them as a five year old, are no match for the biblical downpour and Art Brut HQ (henceforth to be known as “The Van”) is slowed to near stopping on one of this fine city’s many delightful roundabouts as we career into the sudden darkness and near-certain sod.
We are running a touch late, although it’s only me, Ian, Freddy and Tim (sound-engineer to the stars™) in the van as Eddie is meeting us at the venue having deejayed a Halloween shindig in Torquay and Stuffy is being flown in specially from Spain having played the drumbs for some band called The Damned the previous night.
As we enter the hallowed Fleece & Firkin, I am eventually mildly disappointed that it’s been “done-up-a-bit”. At least, the dressing room(s) and the toilets have. On one of many previous visits here I noticed some of the most thought-provoking graffiti on one of the toilet doors. A neatly carved, “Bloc Party are good, but they need to rehearse”, is surely up there with the best “Wot No…” scrawlings in history. Should have been framed or left well alone, in the very least. The old graffiti in the dressing room was a touch more, shall we say, specialized. I particularly recall what might be described as a “bouquet of phalli” daubed brightly above the selection of curl-cornered sandwiches that made up the old rider (Sorry, “gifts”).
We decide to await our intrepid band mates in the little pub next door. In the olden days, the promoter would feed the band in this pub. It was a cosy little place where you could enjoy a pie surrounded by shaky-handed fans clamoring for autographs from the lead singer. It’s not quite like that any more. It’s still cosy but, today, is hosting what appears to be an “open-mic” type affair so we hide in the far corner trying to time the clacking of our woeful pool playing skills with the strains of Bob Dylan and Ed Sheeran numbers.
Eddie arrives still sporting last night’s Halloween costume. Well, he’s painted his face white. It’s attention to detail like this that won him the Academy Award for Best Make-up in 1983. Feeling slightly the worse for wear, Mr Argos repairs immediately to the dressing room to assess the gifts.
More gifts arrive shortly in the form of a large chunk of the Argos clan. And what a lovely bunch they are!
Cut to a couple of hours later, it’s pretty much as full to the rafters in the dressing room as it is in the audience and before we know it we’re destroying the very fabric of popular music with all the abandon of a pissed-up cackle of Hyenas, hell-bent on glory.
Nice one, Bristol, you didn’t Fleece us in the slightest.
Royal Tunbridge Wells
Jokes about The Tundridge Wells Forum being the very pinnacle of the “toilet circuit” due to it’s being a converted public convenience have been done to death, presumably since the venue opened it’s doors in 1993. My first band, Inertia, supported punk legends 999 there a few short years later. It also played host to an horrific scene of backstage debauch in a documentary about joke-punk nit-wits, Towers Of London. Somewhat mercifully, the backstage “area” has been turned into a studio and now the dressing-room is really just a thoroughfare for load-in. There is a sofa, a toilet and more pita-bread than you can shake a stick at but it ain’t half cold, mum.
Once Keith Top Of The Pops and his mega-band have soundchecked, we repair to a marvelous little pub dedicated to real ale and lunatics. Well, one lunatic approaches our table, kisses me on the hat, tells us all to live life to the fullest and is then gently ejected.
The apologetic yet excellent Get Inuit open up proceedings with their spiky mix of Weezer and Pavement. A mix I am not alone in thoroughly digging.
Keith pulls off yet another magical show and manages to use many of the jokes Eddie is planning on using. He is moved to lol, “Why have I chosen to go on tour with a support band funnier than me? What was I THINKING?”
We will all have to think on our feet or, in the very least, drink on our feet. Ian decides to ask from the stage, “Does anyone fancy buying me a pint of cider?” and after a lengthy and silent pause, “Blimey, don’t all jump at once, will you?” Quite the bon viveur, I’m sure you’ll agree. You don’t ask, you don’t get. Or in this case, you do ask, you don’t get. Perhaps the audience thinks he’s joking. Ian NEVER jokes about cider. I suggest you write that down.
They say you play The Tunbridge Wells Forum twice in your career. Once on your way up, once on your way down.
I’ve played it five times.
I have literally no idea what this means.
Not wishing to sound in any way disingenuous but I rarely enjoy London shows. They’re generally the ones that “industry” types come to. Business associates and A&R. Accountants and agents out on a jolly. You usually need a good bucket of salt with you to constantly ingest whilst smiling and nodding at being told how awesome the show is going to be.
That said, London shows are frequently, err, awesome.
Bigger venue, bigger audience, proper lighting rig, fucking massive guestlist…
Me and Stuffy’s Coxonaught brother-with-arms, Owen Thomas is on the list. Although I have to get him his pass because somebody claiming to be him came in with a girlfriend already. She is apparently wearing a “puffa-jacket”. Anyone who knows Owen will know that his arriving anywhere with a girl in such a garment is monumentally unlikely. Weirrrd.
Also on the list tonight is one Jasper Fulcher. You may know him from such bands as Art Brut. We embrace instantly ‘pon my arrival in the dressing-room and Eddie suggests it is rather like a scene from The Two Doctors. A splendid chap, as is Jasper.
The venue it’s self is ace. Makes me feel like I’m in New York. And I love being in New York. It’s all huge ceilings and red brick and bicycles with no breaks or whatever those ruddy deathtraps are called.
We share the dressing-room with the support bands tonight. The Indelicates are known associates, so to speak, as of course is Keith Top Of The Pops, but joining the merry old throng is a Russian band who don’t appear to speak a word of English. We try to explain that our gifts are on one side of the room whilst theirs is on the other. They nod and smile and proceed to go through the food and booze on our side like a plague of rabid locusts. Hats off to them, they leave no bag of crisps unturned.
After the requisite amount of flesh-pressing it is our turn to hit the stage. And it’s great fun. The crowd goes suitably nuts, as do we. Lead by example, I occasionally say.
It’s a proper big rock show, which I thoroughly enjoy.
By the time we get back into the dressing-room, drenched in sweat and joy, there is not a single drop of alcohol left. Ian goes to the bar and buys a box of lager that we attempt to secretly imbibe whilst thanking the known universe for coming.
We party like rock stars into the wee hours.
In a way.
Actually, I get the night-bus back to Stuffy’s and go to bed.
Tomorrow, after all, is another show.
Art Brut, Top Of The Pops, Sing it!