Wed 1st February 2006
Inspecting the Highways and By-Ways of the Northern Reaches
Tour Diary by Simon Baxter aged 27 ¾
Thursday 10th November - Lincoln
It's days like this that make me realise how crap work is... I leave at six, rush to the station, ram a Burger King down my gullet, meet Mike and get on a train. I'm already shattered, and standing all the way to Lincoln doesn't help. Arriving at the venue, I get to see the full majesty of our merch stand for the first time, not least my first glimpse of our finished 12" split with Sunshine Republic. It gets a Jazz Club 'nice'.
Naked Shit are late, so we get to witness the legendary Hawk have a screaming row with another local promoter. We'll never play anywhere else in Lincoln; we're too scared of what Steve would do to us...
The Shit arrive and hit the stage straight away, a little quiet but cool nonetheless, a load of shimmery delay effects putting me in mind of Justin Broadrick remixing Burning Witch. Then some screamo band whose name I can't remember play, but one of their singers sounds like Chris Barnes and the other one wears a Flatlands shirt, so I like them.
We're up next, adrenalin kicks in, I wake up and we put in one of our best performances to date. By the end of it, I'm absolutely ballsed, and we've got another nine to go. Not to mention a drive back to Sheffield tonight and work on the morrow...
Friday 11th November - Sheffield
Out of work, huge coffee, Subway, Cricketer's, and relax... until I find out our van and driver for the rest of the tour have fallen foul of crap mechanics and an MoT. Still, leave that for tomorrow.
Setting a trend Red Stars Parade arrive in the nick of time with the gear, and with Mark the merch baby installed for the first time, the tour is starting to take shape. The Shit open up, complete with corpse paint and robes (well, on Tim anyway, Linds isn't that daft). Fifteen minutes of gut churning noise later, Fuelled By Hate step up and spend about half an hour trying to get in tune, and then play some nicely gnarled crust, interspersed with some light hearted banter ('PLAY ONE BEN KNOWS!').
We're up next, and things don't start so well... I get cramp in my hand halfway through the first song, and then snap my bottom string towards the end. A quick change later, and it soon becomes clear the new string isn't going to stay in tune for more than about a minute at a time. Bollocks. I call it a night after that - tempting as RSP and Humanfly are, I need some sleep so I can get up in the morning and start trying to find a van.
Saturday 12th November - Lancaster
You have to get up early to beat Adam at minibus hunting, it seems... still, we can't get it until Monday, so it's a weekend in cars for us. Adam, the merch baby and me head off across t'Peaks, armed with Thermi (plural of Thermos, I feel) full of coffee and an AA Road Atlas. A brief stop in Hadfield for some League of Gentlemen sight seeing is something of an anticlimax, and we're soon chased out of town by unruly children and horses.
After a brief period of geographical uncertainty, we find the house we're playing at and are hugely amused to see the size of the cellar we'll be appearing in... about 10 feet square with about six feet of headroom. Adam and Big Matt from RSP are in for a treat...
Chinese and booze are acquired, RSP arrive and Charlie declares the local kebab shop 'smells fit.'
People begin to arrive, including an interesting chap with a parasol who walks and talks like a metal Bez. A local band (sorry, name escapes me) featuring ex-members of Lee Malvo open up, but I don't manage to get in the cellar to watch. I do get in to see some Naked Shit action, but the rumble manages to shake something loose and I have to retreat to the lavatory. Speaking of shaking things loose, everyone is leaving the cellar with a healthy case of dandruff thanks to the huge amount of plaster falling from the ceiling...
Our turn next... it's hard to get into it, I can't move, I can't hear Adam's guitar and I'm feeling the beginnings of claustrophobia. And then comes the tree... they show appreciation in strange ways around the world, but I've never heard of ripping a tree out of the ground and thrashing a band with it before. I nearly kicked the guy in the head before I realised he meant it as a compliment. It keeps getting crazier; Mike gets kidnapped by the crowd ('PUT ME DOWN! I'M FAT!'), Adam batters his head off a low flying shelf, Little Matt from RSP and Metal Bez nick my mic, and we end up with Mike taking an unintentional dive through the kit and ploughing Fred into the wall, which dominoes the bass stack into the little chap operating the PA, killing him instantly. Well, nearly.
Claustrophobia finally takes hold, so I watch RSP from the doorway, only seeing Big Matt's head and Little Matt's feet (when the crowd attempt to push him through the ceiling...)
For the rest of the evening, I hereby offer a wholehearted, sincere and unreserved apology on behalf of myself and the rest of the touring party to Shaun, his housemates and the people of Lancaster (West Street in particular). In summary, there was a naked man in the street, 80s karaoke, pumpkin bowling, people got barred from Spar, things went missing and got broken and, 'There's a teabag on the ceiling!'
'How did it get there?'
'I threw it.'
'Get it down. Get it down now.'
Add John Deacon's special guest appearance and it was truly a night to remember... sorry, Shaun. Oh yeah, and Adam got on the roof. No, really...
Sunday 13th November - Leeds
The street doesn't look any better in daylight, and I certainly don't feel any better. Still, off to Leeds we go, but not before we check out the sights and smells of Morecambe. After nearly being killed by a Frenchman and an OAP (two groups who should be shot whenever they get near a car. Actually, in the case of the French they can just be shot) we park up near the statue of one Eric Morecambe, and proceed to disgrace ourselves by doing necro poses with him. The locals out for the Remembrance Day parade aren't impressed, so we shamefacedly scuttle off to convenient café for Sunday lunch with pudding and loads of tea and coffee for about a fiver each. Bargain. And we get a comedy chef into the bargain - after calling Adam a 'fucking pervert' and asking Tim if he was being a wanker, he tells us his wife is 'fucking ugly' and he was pissed when he married her... the weirdness continues - everyone in Morecambe has a dog, and some of them have human haircuts. Adam freaks out, so we head off, treating the sea front to some quality ragga as we go, not to mention the first bogle of the week.
So to Leeds, and a roaring fire greets us, along with draughts and Battleships. Awesome. The Fenton is a truly great pub, and Charco's just up the road does a mean range of spicy chicken items. A brief sword fight in the car park later, the gig is on and Naked Shit are in eerie form, complete with candle purchased at Morecambe market. We step up and play OK, nothing major to report until after the set when we sold our first 12', causing wild celebrations. Humanfly and RSP are awesome.
Then it's off back to Sheffield, my own bed seeming like a good prospect after spending the previous night in a kitchen. At least only Little Matt trod on my head. First we get trapped in the Leeds road system for a while, and then my News of the World explodes all over the car due to a through draft and Adam caning it to keep Fred quiet. I was gutted, I really wanted to read the in depth exposé of Gary Glitter's Vietnamese child sex harem.
Monday 14th November - Harrogate
Eventually Harrogate, anyway. First Adam and me are off to Lincoln for the minibus, accompanied by quality hair metal and hippety-hop. Pausing only to get a gravy dinner, some apples, new bass strings and high class reading material, we head off back to Sheffield in the majesty of our lovely 12 seater Transit behemoth. TOUR!
It feels like the tour begins in earnest now, but that starts to subside when we finally get to Harrogate. The place is impossibly, scarily posh, and we can't get into the venue because there's a kid's party on. Nice. Not to mention we now have to play in a much smaller room with no stage. I'm on enforced sobriety, but the other three get pissed in despair. Naked Shit play very well, me trying the listening technique of lying on the floor. Different.
No comment on our set, suffice to say the highlights were my amp breaking and an impromptu Castor/Troy cover.
Can't remember RSP; I was too pissed off about my amp (thanks should go to Big Matt here for on the spot help and lending me his amp for the rest of the week - Ah yeah!).
The best bit of the night was the end, when sound guy Ozzy took us back to his palatial abode for pizza, punk rock chat and a comfy mattress in a gym...
Tuesday 15th November - York
One microwaved breakfast butty and a lot of Lucozade later, we say a fond farewell to our new mate Ozzy, and a relieved one to Harrogate. On the way to York we call in at Adam's spiritual home for a quick photo session (yes, Old Scriven is a real place. Thank the lord for the stupid level of detail on AA road maps). We find the venue in York soon enough, but not before our merch baby has ordered a cyclist to get a car as 'you're too old for this' and invited some girls with haircuts to add him to MySpace... oh, and demanded that people don't look at him. I think someone gave him sweets...
The venue is nice, a bit like a non-chain Scream pub for rock types, and they do a good gammon and chips. Our York contact (Callum from Lincoln homies Stabbed In Autumn) comes to meet us and we head off for a wander round the ancient city... looking for HMV and an optician. So much for Jorvik. We stop off for some tar like coffee and head back to the venue, only to find that we're off back to Sheffield again tonight due a lack of anywhere to stay in York. Ho hum. Adam volunteers to drive back, which makes the free booze the promoter gives us all the more welcome.
The room soon fills up, and Naked Shit treat everyone to some Nordic attired japery, complete with solo for toy sword and guitar. A local band play some passable Slayer-core/screamo to keep the haircuts happy, and we put in a tidy set before RSP yet again bring the awesome. Some locals seem a bit disappointed with the ban on whirring arms and high kicks, but fuck 'em... in my day, kids had sensible hair that wouldn't be dislodged by a bit of vigorous nodding.
Wednesday 16th November - Manchestoh
A new afternoon dawns, and a second trek through the peaks beckons, but not before the baby has been crowned Bogle King, courtesy of Burger King and a marker pen... no stop in Hadfield this time, much to Tim's disgust, and I briefly school Adam in the ways of vanning one off to beat the traffic. We only get lost for about ten minutes in the maze of Manchester city centre before we find the venue, which isn't bad going, but promptly get ripped off by a parking meter. Thieving Manc bastards.
A pint in perennial rock haunt The Salisbury is followed up by some impromptu street theatre, as some poor chap bursts out of the Samaritans to declare unto the world, 'Look at you! Going to the pub! Happy! Well what about me? I've got no-one!' at the top of his voice. On repeat. For about five minutes. Then he comes out for another go just as we unfortunately pass out of earshot. We all muse on the plight of that evening's callers if he is representative of the staff...
Finally, we get into the venue, Satan's Hollow, and what a sight it is... imagine if Alton Towers had a ride of the same name, and imagine what the décor would be like. You've pretty much imagined the inside of this club. They must have kept the local fibreglass suppliers in brandy and cigars for months when they were decorating this place.
Even then, they apparently couldn't afford a good sculptor. Old Nick's square tits particularly upset the merch baby. The gig promises to be interesting, though - the stage is in the middle of the room, arena rock style. Awesome.
What's not awesome is turn out. Still, all three bands rock the socks off the seven people that make it. RSP even try and pretend the club is full by insisting the entire audience get on stage with them. Nice try, boys... still, the fact that the promoter made good on his promise of a large wad of cash makes up for it all.
We disperse, some to Leeds, some to a club (despite the fact that by this time, Fred can't even say 'clubbing' properly), and some for kip in the van. We (the latter group) are disturbed only briefly by a bunch of haircuts who (understandably) mistake the slumbering Tim for a dead tramp. They wander off after deciding that he looks dangerous, and we are next awoken by the returning clubbers, with someone even more drunk than Fred. This, I soon learn, is our host for the night, who now has to direct us back to his house. He does ok until we find his house, at which point he decides he doesn't know where he is anymore. Right. Another kitchen floor beckons, and this time no one kicks me in the head, but Fred does fall down some stairs on me. And then scares the life out of me by looking for all the world like he's about to piss in the corner. Some sharp words follow, and then I pass out. Rage to unconsciousness is under five seconds, it's a new record.
Thursday 17th November - Liverpool
We get up early and fuck off into Manchester city centre, in search of greasy breakfasts and Little Matt (who has stayed with friends and needs a lift to Scouseland). Eventually I give up on trying to drive through the city centre to find Piccadilly station, and opt to go round the outside instead. This has the added advantage of free parking at Toys-R-Us. Cashback. One cheap but unremarkable plate of grease later, we find a ridiculously over priced back street record shop, and a lovely little monkey man. Or Matt, to his friends.
Mike has to get in his weekly Primark fix, but frankly I'm terrified by the size of the place, and the hordes of bargain seeking grandmothers it's rammed with. Luckily our escape is enlivened by the discovery of the true bogle king dancing for some buskers, and the baby kissing a homeless man. Then we all run for it...
As I'm preparing to cross the M60 and say goodbye to Manchester, a tiny voice pipes up from the back of the van: 'Guys, can we stop? I've left my guitar at that guy's house...' Yes, and not only that, Tim, you've also chosen to remember just as we get onto a stretch of motorway with nowhere to turn round for 15 miles. Still, we go back and find the house first time, along with not only Tim's guitar, but also Mark's sleeping stuff. Silly baby.
No such luck with the venue - we get hopelessly lost in Liverpool, but luckily Tim redeems himself by getting a local mate to find us and take us there. A few of us head off for a Burger King and a look at the statue of the horse with the big cock, and then we all settle in for a bit of a bogle in a pub round the corner. Leo, the promoter, comes and finds us by accident, and then drags us back to the venue with promises of food. And it's good food, too, dammit. Curse Burger King and the lure of their bacon and cheese adorned lard.
A local haircut band kick things off, with some fairly impressive dual vocal screamo type stuff. To our delight, they ask people to add them to MySpace, a moment only topped when one singer asks, 'Has anyone ever been in love?'
'Yeah,' shouts Kev Red Stars, 'with yer mum!'
Oblivious, the fella continues, 'Has anyone ever had their heart broken?'
'Yeah, by yer mum!'
Oooh, he so funny. Hilarity is only served further by the revelation that the song this is building up to is called 'You Hit Me Like A Hulk Hogan Leg Drop.' Really.
The Shit scare a lot of the haircuts off, and we play a decent set to a noticeably smaller crowd. That'll learn 'em. Vultures treat us to some quality hardcore antics, and after an impromptu Father Ted quote-a-thon out by the van, RSP take the stage and get us all bogling for one last time. Today, at least.
Tonight we stay in Leo's truly magnificent gaff, an enormous flat in a converted mansion across the road from the Anglican cathedral (that's the one not shaped like a broken umbrella). Top bloke, top lodgings.
Friday 18th November - Edinburgh
Off we go to the undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns... no, hang on, that's a Shakespearean metaphor for death, we're only going as far as Scotland. Despite, that is, the best effort of some nutcase on the motorway who nearly takes us out as he loses control at over a hundred and spins right across all three lanes. Saints be praised, I packed bog roll and spare pants. And this is only after we take the best part of 90 minutes getting out of Liverpool because a bus has crashed into some people, or something.
Scotland only seems to have one motorway, and that goes to Glasgow, so we spend most of the afternoon on windy little roads, with crazy men riding lawn mowers for company. Still, the scenery is amazing, which almost makes up for the complete lack of anywhere to stop for a piss. Luckily we find a supermarket on the outskirts of Edinburgh, just in time to stop Fred bursting.
We then drive around Edinburgh looking for the venue, only to realise after half an hour that it's on a street that runs under the one we're on. Crazy Scotch bastards. There's also nowhere to park nearby, so we end up with the van miles from the venue. But we do find the monument to Greyfriar's Bobby. Aww. We also see people fall over on icy hills. Huzzah for Edinburgh and its unfeasibly Arctic climate - we thought Manchester and Liverpool had been cold, but this is fucking ridiculous. Even the locals think it's freezing. Mike has a little scare when he goes to toilet, apparently his genitals have never been this cold before either.
The venue is basically the underside of a bridge that someone has put some walls around to make a huge, cavernous space. Nice. It's nearly as cold inside as out. But some nice people called Graham and Kay bring us food, and that's good. Local doom-mongers Ix arrive, and tell us how vitally important it is for us to drink Buckfast. Tim, unfortunately, falls for it. Eventually RSP arrive with the gear, a decent sized crowd turn up, and Ix take the stage. They sound huge, and, frankly quite alarming. Tim makes a guest appearance with his fabled goblin impression.
Naked Shit treat us to two songs tonight, and it's at this point that last night blues hit me. But only a little bit, it's hard to have any sensations other than purely physical ones while the Shit are in full effect. Plus, this place has some good cheap beer, and Wally from Ix has been making me drink Bucky. I'm a happy chappy by the time we get on, but not so happy that it hinders us from putting in probably our best performance of the week. Tim makes another guest appearance as Mike wanders off into the crowd. I nearly die from rocking out too much. It's all good. I even try to solicit sexual favours for Mark as he's not had a wank all week, but to no avail.
RSP are great as always, Matt pulls out all the stops, treating the stage like a big adventure playground. If it's there, he climbs it, including Guss from Ix. The blues kick in again, as me, Mike and Tim all grab hold of Matt and indulge in some group shouting. But it's my last chance to rock out to these guys, so I enjoy myself. I can be wistful later. In a very manly way, of course.
After the show, there's a rock night on, so we all hang around for a while. There's a general reluctance to admit the tour is over. Charlie, who's pretty much been the quiet man of the tour, comes out of his shell and makes everyone drink absinthe. Little Matt gets all emotional. Big Matt slags off my taste in music. Little Matt claims Charlie owns a kebab shop. I buy the nastiest pub snack ever - a tin of mini salamis. Egads, they were foul (but not as foul as a kebab with salad cream, Fred finds out later). Me, Tim and Linds dance like spazzes to early 90s rock classics. And Motorhead. Then we all have to go. There's hugs and tears, and great photos with people making really weird faces.
We head off to Graham and Kay's flat, for reggae and spliffs, and I sleep in my third kitchen of the tour. It seems to be some sort of desire to be near food in unfamiliar places.
Saturday 19th November - Home
We get up and there's no hot water, so I'm smelling all the way home. Our hosts don't emerge, so we leave them a nice note and head off to find breakfast - superbly provided by a café on Leith Walk. This is Trainspotting country, but I don't see any smackheads or psychos. I'm hugely disappointed.
We head back into the city centre for a spot of sight seeing. The castle is impressive, but the ticket prices are enormous, so we just stand outside going 'ooh'. There's a man dressed as William Wallace having his picture taken by Japanese people, which is nice. There's also a plethora of shops selling really bad souvenirs. I purchase a set of mini bagpipes, for the hell of it. Well, the shop was called Thistle Do Nicely, I had to reward a pun that grotesque. We wander round the old part of the city for a bit, but it all seems to be the same. Mike gets over-excited at a book market and buys a fifties cookery book.
We wander off into the newer part of town, possibly for somewhere warm to get a drink and lunch, but everywhere is heaving. It's too cold to hang around, so we find the bus and set off home.
The A1 is a lot more interesting further north, we get awesome views of the sea for a fair stretch of the way back, plus a power station and Lindisfarne. I start to drift off a bit, it's warm in the van and I'm suddenly feeling all the tiredness I've put off for a week. Most people seem to be feeling the same - there's a drowsy, reflective silence in the van, much in contrast to every other journey we've been on. Even Mark is quiet. Soon we're back in Sheffield, and it's time for me to say goodbye to Tim and Linds. I'll be seeing the other spastics soon enough, but I'll miss these two, and the Red Stars boys.
Touring is weird. The best way to sum up my feelings is extreme ambivalence - when it's bad, I hate it, when it's good, there's nothing else I want to be doing, ever. The best thing about this tour was that the good far, far outweighed the bad. I've got new friends, I met some cool people all over the country, I went to new places, I got to see some awesome bands for free and I even got some FREE BOOZE! So much happened that I've not mentioned, I especially feel like I've done Mark a real disservice in not remembering all the disgusting and hilarious things he said and did. We claimed he was there to sell merch, but he was there more to keep everyone laughing, in hindsight.
I ought to thank the following: the boys - Mike (this is shit), Adam (fuckaninny), Fred (kebabins); the baby - Mark (BANG! BANG!); the Shits - Tim (I know them too), Linds (that means something quite different where I'm from); the Stars - Matt (seminal spaffcore), Kev (y'mum), Charlie (more absinthe, dickhead), Matt (ah yeah); all the people who put us on and especially those that put us up - Shaun, Ozzy, Leo, Kay & Graham, you are all absolute heroes; everyone we played with, especially Ix and Humanfly. Last, but not least, everyone that came to see us and had a good time, and Vicki and Gav for coming all the way up to Edinburgh from Lincoln. See y'all again some time...