Sun 13th May 2007
The ever-tireless Flatlands once again set forth across the UK to spread their particular brand of noise, this time with London hardcore types Narwhal in tow. Guitarist Gareth and vocalist Mike share their stories here.
Guilty parties: Flatlands: Adam - guitar, Fred - drums, Gareth - guitar, Mike - vocals, Si - bass; Narwhal: Dan - drums, Derek - guitar, Ben/Nick - guitar, Matt - bass, Toby - vocals.
Gareth - So Flatlands are on tour again. Taking in the best the UK has to offer, the finest wines, the most sumptuous foods and the fluffiest beds stuffed with softest down and unicorn's hair.... Nope, bollocks to it, lets travel round some hovels, sleep on concrete floors, eat kebabs and drink ourselves insensible on, well, 'appropriated' cider. Only this time we have Narwhal with us. This should be interesting. This tour was sponsored by the British Apple Council.
Mike - So yes, we're on tour again. Personally, this is the best one we've done and I'm sure the other guys will agree. Best crowds, money and people so far. Read on for two versions of events. I was ill but drank through the cold, both a good and bad idea.
Thursday 19th November - Sheffield, The Cricketers Arms.
Mike (Gareth hasn't counted this as tour but I will) - I was glad to be out of my job for the best part of two weeks, shitty admin just isn't me. I get back home and Mark brings in Derek, Tobs, Sam and Dan from Narwhal. We sit around and make idle chatter before going to grab some food from London Road. I wolf down my potato wedges (lovely!) and run down to the Cricketers Arms, where, to be honest, nothing is happening. My PA system is already there and that's one less thing to worry about. The bands slowly show up, Cobra Reynolds, Castor Troy and Tiger Warsaw, and I'm reminded why I picked these bands, true friends, all of them - we end up talking so much the equipment stays unplugged for a good while. The setup complete, we open the doors.
I was expecting it to be a usual sort of turnout for a Thursday night gig there, a few mates and some good songs, but people pile in and its hard to move to watch Tiger Warsaw. For once everyone stays to watch the first band to the end. I'm pleased for Dean and co., as I think this new band has really got some potential. Unique and addictive, their music swaggers with a drunken, hazy thing happening. The crowd are very much into it. Cobra Reynolds are up next, and the room stays about as full, not as up for it as they seemed at theit first gig with Kylesa, but still some good old fashioned screamy sludge and the crowd again enjoy it. I decide that we're going on next, and I need booze (my usual trick, forget to drink about 20 minutes before we're due on). I find the Cricketers is selling Tia Maria for 1.20, so ask for it with milk. Ever the trusty pub, they oblige and I must have had about 5 or 6 in quick succession, as well as gassy lager, and I grab another one and run upstairs to play. We are tight, and the crowd are pushing me into the drumkit, all good! I remember expounding the virtues of my new found favourite drink to everyone from stage and enjoying every minute, this is how every Sheffield gig should be. I collapse, and wait for Narwhal to play. Mark tells me ridiculous amounts of the new CD have been sold, so that's awesome. Narwhal come on and play quite well considering they've been on horrible coaches all day and its their first full set with Nick (who will become, I'm convinced, my best friend). The crowd has shrunk a little, but its still busy as Castor Troy play their 15 minutes or so of stopping and starting. Feej is still the scariest looking vocalist ever and they are a joy to watch as usual.
Plans are talked about, and I end up taking people home to dump equipment, not sure what everyone else is doing. I hear Fred has gone to Plug, to a cheesy dance night. I go and Narwhal and Mark say they'll follow. I end up there with Kirsty, Linda, Fred and Podge, have 2 really expensive drinks, then get a message from Mark saying that him and Narwhal are drinking in my back garden - it's November and they are sitting in a dark garden, great, so I rush back and let them in, though apparently they are fine. I feel groggy from all the Tia Maria so go to bed, awesome night apart from the confusion at the end. Friday is a day off, so we traipse around Sheffield and Toby buys the best cardigan in the world, which he will wear all week, both on and off stage. It turns out he got let into the party the previous night that my French neighbours were having, and they fed him whiskey til the morning, so he isn't feeling too good.
Still, we're all on form that night as we go to a huge fest in Leeds in the Royal Park Cellars. I think I caught only one band, Red Stars Parade, who were awesome. We bump into Perry and Jeff from Sunshine Republic as well as Brenda, and drink lager with them til its time to go. Adam is hammered, as are the majority of people. We have a mascot, Stickwaz, who is a stick with a skull at the top, we fit him over the minibus aerial and he falls off on the drive back to Sheffield, farewell dude. Sleep from too much booze (an already common theme) comes as soon as we get back and thus begins our epic journey.
Saturday 21st - Glasgow, O' Henry's.
Gareth - A very slow start to the tour, one which sadly becomes typical. The planned noon start dies on its arse, and by half one we appear to be at Mike's house, albeit via Asda. Ah, Asda. Home of such delights as Advocaat ("alcoholic custard"), Kahlua, Babybel, Frome Valley Cider, Black Beer and the ever present scotch egg. Thankfully, we're soon off proper after much arsing around retrieving things that should have been packed days ago. I'm looking at you, Shields. There is some confusion over whether or not it's the same minibus we hired for last tour, and finding my old seat, there does appear to be a grease spot on the window where my head was pressed for about a week. Non-drowsy anti-histamines, my arse.
The trip up is... well, I don't know as I fell asleep again almost straight away, but I wake up just to see us cross over the border. Suddenly, the sky blackens over and it starts pissing it down. The scenery is still breathtaking, it's just I want to do nothing but drink, cry and write poetry. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Scotland. Electric Wizards 'Dopethrone' comes on (tradition apparently), although it appears to be cause an outbreak of utter despair among the minibus passengers. We eventually get to Glasgow and get lost immediatley, rescued by gig organiser Steve C who jumps into the van to guide us to the venue, accidentally sticking his arse in my face in the cramped conditions. It's true, the Scots really are friendly. The venue is tiny but very cool, a basement in a rock pub and they even provide a decent meal for us. It's us two, local screamo lot Mesa Verde and crust punks Filth Pact. The crowd are great, actually sticking around even after the local band has left, something you can't say for most cities.
We also meet Wally from Ix, who looks like an old-school metaller and is amazingly nice, and not just because he brought 2 bottles of buckfast with him. After the gig, our guides for the evening take most of us out to a club, barring those who need grease and sleep, then pile back into the van and head back to our host for the evening's house to quote Alan Partridge a bit too much and sleep on kitchen floors.
Mike - After getting up, we slowly, slowly get ready, and finally get in the van after a long van packing scenario. I suddenly realise as we've driven all the way across Sheffield that I've forgotten my camera, I am forlorn, devastated and want it back. I whine at Si until he relents and drives to mine to get it. It was a massive ballache, but I think the photos speak for themselves. Reinvigorated, we get going on the long drive to Glasgow. I can't wait as I love Scotland and the bands we're playing with sound cool. We stop at perhaps the best services, ever, Tebay, and eat various meats in pies (duck, mainly) and agree to visit this whenever we go past it from now on. We already know we're coming back another way, but we shall remember it. Any station that fits in a coffee shop, a shitty generic service station shop and a farmer's market style deli is a winner in my eyes.
Off we go again, and as we cross the border, the skies turn black, everyone looks depressed and I think the mood is summed up by Derek on a video I took, "This isn't what I expected Scotland to look like... Oh wait, its EXACTLY what I imagined it to look like." The truth, in one sentence. We put on Electric Wizard, and it's suitably grim, but truth be told, its too much so we get some hip hop and Justin Timberlake on to lift peoples spirits, and it works. A drive around Glasgow city centre is trying people's nerves, until we get Steve to get in and show us where it is. As Gareth said, awesome little venue, basement with a bar, lots of people who stick around, and boozing with Wally from IX, all good. Mesa Verde are fantastic, their use of instrument swapping is always a good sign for me, and they play proper, old screamo. Up next are a pleasant surprise in the shape of Filthpact, their guitarist has broken his leg or ankle by jumping off a flyover while drunk, so he rests it on a barstool to play, true crusty, respect. They are awesome as usual, and I get even more drunk. We play and people seem to be loving it, the promoter Mick is a true gent and I chow down on a little bit of bean chilli before his mate Alice takes me and Si on a massive walk to a club. Si has two sips of a pint, decides he hates the club, then leaves as others come in. I try and drunkenly text Derek, Sam and Si to come back in but they are having none of it, so we get hideously drunk without them. I have about a million photos of people's faces from this night, a really good one, which included girls with cat makeup, tequila shots courtesy of Tobs, and me and Dan going halves on a five quid drink for Matt because I thought he 'looked sad'. This just turns out to be his face, apologies, chap. We walk, I say walk, wheeze our way up a vertical hill to the van, not before me getting into a suitcase found in a skip and being pushed along by Fred and Mark, they also haul back an old modem, a pokemon game(red) and a small, also red, car. Back at Alices flat, I'm nearly dead from the booze, so pass out under a borrowed sleeping bag on the kitchen floor, and actually sleep really well.
Sunday 22nd - Edinburgh, Canon's Gate.
Mike- Wake up to a wide awake Nick making huge cups of tea. I partake of several. After I've sobered up/woken up, I proceed to laugh at the amount of hung over faces and Fred's hideous farts until we all get hungry and decide to roll out. We end up in the middle of Glasgow. Some people eat in a vegan cafe and the rest of us end up in a posh place after a while and order pricey food, the rest have a breakfast that looks paltry. I go for a nice soup (lentil) and a weird, thin steak thing, which goes down well. After the rest have stopped drooling over the waitress, we visit an awesome record shop where everything is a quid it seems. I buy only two records Thin Lizzy's 'Johnny The Fox' EP and 'Architecture and Morality' by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (two equally hot, but different shaped potatoes...) but I really had to stop myself from going mad in there and clearing the guy out.
We pile back into the van and make the hour or so trip to Edinburgh in swathes of Timberlake (again) and more hiphop courtesy of Nick's broken-screened iPod. We stop at a service station that just looks like the plague and we see the best graffiti ever 'For Bum Fun, ring this number' number followed, finished off with the immortal 'Truckers Welcome'. I like Scotland, but this is just weird, the abandoned walkway pumping ooze out one of the doors just adds to this. We head off and find the venue on the Royal Mile after just one wrong turn, a Flatlands record! We meet with Gus and Wally outside, as well as our old mate Scott from Cold Dead Hands promotions, the best DIY promoters in the country I will say right now, awesome people. We venture in, and the venue is awesome, a small room under a very posh looking pub, food spread out courtesy of CDH and its delicious. My good mate John arrives (having just moved there from Sheffield) and we have a few drinks before the night begins with the find of the tour, Dundee band Kaddish. Now, I know Gareth has said these were good, but they are a revelation to me, intense, fast, fraught screamo with a tech-like guitarist, amazing, the vocals are amazing too. The spoken/screamed way he does it is what I want to try in Flatlands. They go down deservedly well, my highlight was the song that had the lyrics 'Time is not the enemy!'. Amazing band, they looked taken aback when I told them later, but I was blown away. IX take the stage and blow me away, but in a different way, they are so fucking loud that everything in the room shakes. They play just two songs in their half hour set and I wanted to see more. Gus is an amazing frontman/bassist. He absorbs himself into the drone and crash of IX's music and is great to watch, even with Filthpact members trying to hawk their new split release with Atomgevitter all the way through by shouting 'CRUST!' in the quieter parts. Narhwal take the stage and deliver again, they are fun to watch, each member does their own thing on stage. Nick looks like a dork with his strap too high, Derek looks like he hates every crowd but then turns round and smiles at people as he thanks them, Matt does a weird bending of the knee thing with his back to the audience, Dan is one of those drummers who are just fun to watch, sticks lifted high and nodding the head and Tobs is best when hammered, falling over and into anyone, a vacant look on his face and most likely a bottle in his other hand. We headline, and I'm nervous nobody will watch, how silly. I turn round to see a load of people going loopy, apparently they do it at every gig since last summer, but it's a sight to behold. Slow-motion walls of death, rowing on the floor a-la-Viking ships of yesteryear and God knows what else. I'm lifted skywards next, and run on the ceiling, upside down. You haven't lived until you've done this yourself. The gig ends, and was probably my personal best gig ever, I love the people of Edinburgh. We get deep-fried pizza, retire to Kay and Graham's flat (lovely people as ever who leave us with a reggae CD on) get Derek hammered on Scrumps and fall asleep as he talks utter shite.
Gareth- Most of the group wake up in a stupor, nursing hangovers and we eventually head off into Glasgow in the daylight to search for breakfast and records. This is after we read a note left on our van asking for us to call a number about what time we got there, as the car which was originally parked there has been stolen at some point. Rough area apparently. In the centre I manage to chance upon a small guitar shop where the owner likes his pedals almost as much as me. I could have spent a fortune in there and almost left with a vintage Ibanez distortion pedal to go with my vintage Ibanez guitar, but stopped myself in time. I also had to turn my back on a limited edition pink sparkle finish Z-Vex Fuzz Factory. I want. We go to a slightly posh cafe and get a breakfast with ideas above its station before hitting the road for the short(ish) hop to Edinburgh. It looks a lot like York in the centre, and is almost as massively frustrating to try and navigate around. We eventually find the venue, which turns out to be just up the road from a chip shop that sells all sorts of deep fried goods. Result. The rest of Ix arrive including 9Hz regular Guss and are followed shortly by Dundee based Kaddish, who turn into the surprise great find of the tour, sounding like screamo should sound instead of the trying-too-hard bollocks the magazines are interested in. Ix are up next. For the un-initiated, Ix sound like a pod of whales dying of radiation poisoning and slowly sinking to the bottom of the Mariana trench. Basically, huge, and impressive enough to make me part with some beer money for a split CD, which I will lose by the end of tour. Bollocks. Then Narwhal come on and play the same typically great set they will continue to do throughout the tour. Having to draft in a replacement guitarist means they don't have as many songs to play, but as the ones they do are already stuck in my head, it's no bad thing. New guitarist Nick also lends me his Rat distortion pedal to try out for our set. It sounds great and I play better for it. By the time Ix have finished forming human pyramids, limbo danced, re-enacted the chariot race from 'Ben Hur' and rowed along to 'This Song is a Film', it's made Edinbugh personally the best gig of tour. After, we head down the hill for a celebratory deep fried pizza and chips which defeats most of the group and leaves Dan Narwhal unable to walk. I quite liked it. Back at our home for the evening, we make the mistake of introducing Derek Narwhal to scrumpy. He takes to it a bit too much and starts to declare it "a way of life". We have got a small American man addicted to scrumpy. We are bad, bad people.
Monday 23rd - Lincoln, The Cell.
Mike- Yeah, so we wake up, and get some fried shit down us, full breakfast and two cups of tea for me, lovely stuff. We get in the van and get going, on what was the longest, greyest and tiring journey ever. However, we do have a little fun on the way. We stop on the Scottish/English border, grab a polystyrene coffee and admire the views and fresh air. Gareth and Nick run towards me in a huge field and I got my personal fave photo of the tour - just as Nick jumped, I clicked, awesome. Posing on the small wall that served as a marker of the border for a bit before jumping in the van again, we make our way south east to Lincoln. After views of the north sea, the fens just look drab and depressing to these eyes. Adam finds a quick way to Lincoln, and speeds his way round corners at a scary speed frankly, but we get there in time to set up at the weirdest venue in Lincoln, a posh bar called The Cell. We're squeezed into the corner but its still fun. My brother, and mates Dave and Jen turn up and we begin drinking in earnest. I remind my friend Ryan that today is the anniversary of a guy we knew called Jools, singer and guitarist in Aped Bisapien, who sadly died two years ago. We have a quiet moment, then decide to have a good night for his memory. It's just a shame our friend Marc Thomas wasn't there with us. Anyway, the show begins with Tiger Warsaw and they are as good as ever, followed by a metalled-up Joseph, who sounded like Old Man Gloom last time we saw them, but now sound even more metalcore, still amazing though. Narwhal play a short set, then we play an even shorter one, dedicating a song to Jools. I feel misty eyed but everyone there, a small but loyal crowd all get into it and we do the best we can. Afterwards we keep drinking, and end up at the metal club upstairs, you know the sort, playing either fashiony stuff, or old, bad metal, we decide to get trashed and do really well. We do human pyramids (thanks Edinburgh) and breakdancing as we all meld into a drunken mess. My brother keeps buying the cheap doubles and realizes he has no money for the rest of the week, but shrugs anyway. I got a text the next day saying 'My wallet hates me', haha. I walk back to Adam's house with Dean and go to bed on a sofa in his room.
Gareth- We start the day with yet more cider and take it in turns spooning Fred, before heading down the road to the same cafe apparently visited by Flatlands on their first tour before I joined when they weren't very good. Unlike Glasgow, it's a proper breakfast with grease and congealing masses of unidentifiable stuff. I even eat the black pudding, having acquired a taste for it the day before. It's a loooong drive back to Lincoln, and we're verging on being late by the time we get there. An unusally quick load in means we're still sat around for ages before anyone else shows up to do anything, and over dinner I realise my last two days food consists of two fried breakfasts, deep fried pizza and a chicken kebab. I resolve to find something healthy tomorrow before I die of a filth induced coronary. It may also be why I'm coming down with flu, which I'm still suffering from while I write this. (I should actually be in work but they sent me home). Local scallywags Tiger Warsaw and Joseph are on the bill with us tonight, and I realise I've unfortunately seen the knobs of guitarists from both bands. Not a claim to be proud of, but they're both lovely boys, and I'm increasingly impressed with Tiger Warsaw every time I see them. Joseph's Callum is also on form, getting increasingly drunk which will lead to a classic exchange with Mike later on 'in da club' as the kids say;
Callum: I've lost my sailors hat.
Mike: Where are your glasses?
No club for me, feeling like death I go back to Adams and sleep in the lounge until the rest of the gang turn up and throw a velvet rope at me. Bastards.
Tuesday 24th - Day off in Lincoln.
Mike- What Dean didn't tell me was that at 6am, a massively loud alarm clock would go off, the sort with a BELL ON. It does its thing and I nearly have a heart attack. Dean kicks it and it stops, but goes back to sleep, his mobile alarm goes off about ten times before he gets up so I feel awful come the time I actually get up. We walk into Lincoln to get food, and I'm rung by the Manchester promoter who says the other two locals who were meant to play have pulled out and it wouldn't be worth going. He is right really, we consider other gigs we could go and play, but decide not to bother. We stay in Lincoln a little dejected, but hey, it happens. A curry at a local place is nice, then bed, lovely.
Gareth- We decide to take in the sights of Lincoln for most of the day as it's only a short hop to Manchester for tonight's gig. Except we don't even make the 15 minute walk to town before Mike's phone goes off. It's the promoter, and tonight's gig is off, both local bands having pulled out. Hmm... We half-heartedly try to find a replacement gig but soon decide to stay in Lincoln and have a curry later, but not before we watch Converge and Isis DVDs and have a Soul Caliber 2 tournament at Adam's house. All in all, fairly uneventful, except for my 4 hours sleep that night as the flu kicks in properly and I ache all over and am throwing out enought heat to make toast. Mike and Si are also suffering although Si seems to have drunk enough cider to kill most of the virus off.
Wednesday 25th- Birmingham, The Flapper and Firkin.
Mike- We get up, I don't want to be in Lincoln any more, but we have a look around town for a bit anyway. I buy silly records in a junk shop near Adam's, best being Pet Shop Boys 'Discography' for a quid, and I buy Dan (the Jurassic mong, his tour nickname) a plastic dinosaur. We get in the van and I drink too much beer on the way to Birmingham, REALLY need to relieve myself, but the venue is still far away. People are ripping it out of me, but I hold on and run into the venue. Coming out of the toilets, The Mirimar Disaster(and their new, awesome van) are here, as are Castor Troy and the promoter Timmo. We're rushed on just after a really rushed on Narwhal and my voice sounds like shit, no amount of 'don't worry' from the other bands or my own band can stop me feeling bad, but I suppose my cold is really catching up with me. I watch a little of Sika Redem, but just don't feel it. The vocals are far too loud and are going right through me. I go outside and drink with Narwhal and sit in the Miravan while they doob it up. I feel funny from the fumes, so go and drink again. I didn't even attempt to watch The Fall, The Rise, but they don't get good reviews from most people coming out, oh well...
We get in the van, and Timmo gets us cheap entry to the worst club in the world, bad numetal, a bar that ran out of beer (what the fuck), so we have to drink blue WKDs to get drunk. It works though and most of the tour party have their tops off and are gyrating homoerotically around the very staunchly homophobic clientele. One photo in particular shows this in detail. Nick, with no top on is trying to grind on a long haired metal fan, who is doing his best to windmill and air guitar to a Pantera song, hilarious. We leave this horrible place after doing it damage with more pyramids and rowing on the floor, and get to Timmo's, a huge house where he lives with two women it seems. I sleep on a bed with Gareth (not gay, we top to tailed) and wake up to Stocky rolling a doob at like 9am, nice one chap. We eat peanut butter on toast and drink tea while Mark argues about brown toast with Timmo and then get on our way to Newport, to see Kaskie, Ian and Nicky.
Gareth- A tour low, although food, water and massive doses of drugs help get me out of bed and out into Lincoln again for a slightly healthier lunch of beef and onion sandwich and potato salad. Sadly, my search for Minus the Bear records turns up nothing and we soon head off to Birmingham, after another round of Soul Caliber 2 (Talim pwns you all). As with most journeys, I fall asleep and don't remember it, but it's dark and raining by the time we reach the venue in Brum. After a tight squeeze down a very narrow road, (parking signs, like most other road features, not applying to twatty BMW drivers) ,we have a very quick set up before Narwhal take to the stage as we've arrived late again. We rush through a few songs but the 5 band bill means there's a fairly tight time frame for each band and it's all over before it really gets started. Sika Redem next, but I'm off chatting to Dean and Nicky from the Mirimar Disaster in the newly fitted out Mirivan, complete with TV and PS2. I quite like Sika Redem but I'm not in the mood and Mike comes out and tells informs us they're not having a great gig by their standards. The Fall, The Rise next, who despite being a local band manage to almost clear the room. A bit harsh, as they're pretty good apart from the occasional bit of off singing. Not their crowd, I guess, even though I enjoyed the guitar work. The Mirimar Disaster next, airing a few tunes I don't know, not having seen them as many times as the rest of the Flatlands boys. They are on top form tonight and don't have any of the technical problems they had last time I saw them in Coventry. A great gig and Stocky joins us for the trip back to promoter Timmo's house for toast and mattresses, but not before the majority of the bands stop off at a rock club to take their clothes off and gyrate against old-school metal types. Birmingham hates us. The majority of the group suffer a brief torrent of abuse from the vegans of the group, but thankfully they quickly tire and fall asleep. They need to eat more BACON.
Thursday 26th- Newport, Le Pub.
Mike- Uneventful day getting over to Wales, save for Gareth and his dog-saving skills. I feel really bad by now. I'm shoving as much honey-like medicine down my neck as the bottle says I'm allowed and its making me feel a bit sicky, but this passes as we get to Newport. Some lemonades and light banter with The Death of Her Money lads is what I needed and I feel a bit better in the pub they met us in, but I don't feel great once we get to Le Pub. I love Le Pub, it looks like a pirate ship, or a kitchen table, and they have nice beer, but I don't drink at all tonight in a bid to save my voice. Kunal and his friend come and introduce themselves, Kunal is on form, chatting away about not much at all, I miss him when I don't see him. TDOHM are on first, and fucking destroy, there aren't many people there, but its still fun. They are loud, play my fave songs from the last tour we did with them ,and I decide I need to get them up for another Sheffield gig soon. Next up are local hardcore bunch, The Keep, they start off with a really heavy, slow song, that sounds awesome, but then go into usual hardcore fast stuff. It's good but none of them look into it. When the singer starts to speak he really lets himself down, he basically bemoans the fact that only a few people had paid in while looking at Ian and Kaskie, who had done their best. This went on for a cringeworthy amount of time before Si rightly told him to shut up. It wasn't anyone's fault. Ian and Kaskie are good people who work hard. It just so happened that Baroness played a few days beforehand, bad luck, that's all. How can you be in a hardcore band then act like a rockstar when people don't turn up? It happens all the time. Anyway, they continue after the guitarist plays over the singers now tiresome chat and all is well. We play next, my voice is so weak, Si takes over lots of the vocals and I try my hand at singing. It works pretty well, truth be told, and I manage a few screams. It was a really fun set after all. Narwhal headline and are amazing, really getting to love the songs now, and I think I know them all by now, excellent stuff.
We go back with Kaskie to his flat, but he says we can sleep downstairs. Now we know he lives above a shop, but it's there we're actually sleeping, huge room, small CD player, selection of jazz CDs! Awesome! We slip on Herbie Hancock's 'Headhunters' album and sit around eating pizza and talking shit, the way it should be on tour. We all sleep til the sun wakes us up through the shop window. A quick packup and we're off to Poole, Dorset for a house show with Sunshine Republic.
Gareth- It's the usual slow start from Timmo's house where goodbyes and bodily fluids are exchanged. In a manly way, you understand. It's another long drive to Wales so we stop only to stock up on food, flu drugs and rescue an escaped dog, whose owner doesn't offer a reward and isn't even a MILF. Kindness, apparently, is not its own reward. We finally arrive in Newport, but not before the van is subjected to a large amount of bad punk. Can someone please explain the appeal of Bad Brains to me? We go off for a wander around Newport, including the now obligatory Primark stop and HMV to buy Opeth CDs. We meet up with Death of Her Money at Le Pub and realise just how much we've missed their cheeky little faces and accents. Gig time, and TDOHM go on first, slightly oddly as they're the 'local' act. Thankfully, they play a blinder. I can't figure out the difference from their last tour, but they seem to have improved as a live act somehow. Following them are The Keep, who seem to have brought a crowd with them but aren't really my cup of tea for the vast majority of their set. Their 'rock-jumping' antics seem a little contrived, although this is curtailed when their guitarist knocks his Marshall head to the floor after one bound. It's a fairly uneventful gig for us and the 'whal with one notable difference; Le Pub sells Koppaberg cider in several flavours. Joy! After the gig we go back to Kaskie's and find out our lodgings for the evening are a disused florists with what appears to be a cave at the back which Si sits in and pretends he's at home. It's brilliant, as is the pizza from the local grease pit.
Friday 27th- Poole, House Show.
Mike- We set off and it turns out most of the roads in Dorset are small and twisty. It's a little bit like Cornwall, but with massive fields stretching for miles. We see a massive horse cut into a field, lovely. We get to Poole and end up wandering around another nondescript town centre. It's horrible, and the highlight is finding a (closed) sandwich shop called Mammy's Baps, hoho. Oh, and we also played with a load of silly gadgets in a place called Hawkin's Bazaar, where I got told to stop taking photos for security reasons by a ginger security guard. She didn't want to ask me, but she did, good for her. We troop off to a Wetherspoons where we vegetate and watch the WWE wrestling on a TV with no sound. It's fun for a while, but we all feel dead. Jeff from SR rings me and we go and meet him to drive to the house we're playing at. It turns out it's Bart from The Mylar Blackout, who I put on a few years ago in Lincoln and he is having the party at his. The living room is a nice size and we get excited, but not many people show up. It didn't matter though, we brought the party. I drank half a bottle of red wine and felt awful but it was fun. SR were predictably amazing. Jeff I think played one or two notes for the whole set, legend. Narwhal were a fucking mess that night, but all the better for it. Tobs had to be held up, Matt was wearing an old Manchester United shirt, Nick was so pissed he couldn't see his pedals and Derek was drunk on Scrumps again. And was wearing a blonde, curly wig, amazing. Theres a photo that sums this up too, Matt on his knees, Tobs on his back, Derek with his face obscured by blonde wig and Mark running around in nothing but his pants and a see-thru paper onesy, urgh. We end the night by leaving, not before Jeff wishes me a 'Happy Wednesday', I still fall for the Sheffield Wednesday gag they are so fond of, idiots.
We drive to Dan from Narwhal's house in Southampton, or as Derek puts it 'Si, drive us on warp factor ten all the way to S-Hampton!' he obliges, and gets us there on time, not before some constabulary puke-age from Matt and Nick, I'll never forget the conversation-
Matt- Can we stop please? I'm a bit sick.
Si and Dan- We're nearly there!
Matt- I have sick in my hands.
Si- Right then.
Fred- Errr! I can smell it!
We get there and some of them go to a student party. The students next door seem a bit cretinous so I go to bed. Apparently Mark was being a lothario (in his own mind) with the girls, Tobs got chucked out for stealing booze and Adam actually stole an offy's worth with his stealth methods, all while I slept. Early start the next morning, very early.
Gareth- Off to Poole, wherever the fuck that is. This is also the day I appear to have stopped taking notes, so it may get a little vague here. Anyway, arriving in Poole, you quickly realise why it is you don't know where it is. Maybe we missed the best of it but from the time we spent driving round trying to find a parking space and/or something to do, it looked crap. At least the centre did, the house where we played was further out of town in a very nice area, complete with Tesco Metro and an award winning chippy. It's our first and only house show of the tour, and it makes a nice change from the usual slog around random pubs and clubs. It's also the first time for most of the entourage to meet Sunshine Republic, who are nice blokes with some very sexy effects pedals. Mmmm... We drink beer with their friends and play to a strangely small number of people for a house show. Apparently, it's another clash with another party or gig somewhere nearby meaning we're playing to a select few. Balls. The usual Narwhal/Flatlands blur goes by and Sunshine Republic start setting up. Just enough time to go to the chippy for some dinner, come back and watch the boys play. Except the chippy is closed at half ten on a Friday night. To add insult to injury, by the time I get back from Tesco the band have just finished and are packing up. Apparently, their usual gig length is one song and about 15-20 minutes. I did not know that. Thankfully, I don't miss Mark, Nick and Republic's Jeff standing outside with their balls hanging out of their trousers. Cashback. Still, another drive ahead, this time to Southampton where 'Raptor' Dan lives to get some sleep for the uber-drive tomorrow. On the way, Matt manages to be sick into his hands and we pull up in front of a building (which I won't name) so he can clean himself up and Nick can also throw up some kind of yellow slurry. Mmm.
Saturday 28th - Nottingham, Old Angel.
Mike- We get up at about seven, I think. We're all very tired, Tobs is last to get up. He refuses first, because according to him, he had AIDS. This wasn't true thankfully, so we got him into the van and made our way to Nottingham. All tired, all grumpy, all hungry. We make some awesome signs to terrorise drivers and passengers alike with, including 'Theres a puffin on your roof!', 'You make me feel dead inside', 'Help me, they have my kids' and 'I love you' (followed by Nicks phone number). Some of the reactions were golden. I think the best reaction was the cockney driver in a Smartcar, who we screamed at because he was on the phone, naughty naughty. Later on we caught up with him and I offer him an apple (a peace offering), his reply? 'Fack off you prick.' Hilarious! We get to a services and it all changes for the better. We get burgers, or for the vegans, sandwiches, and feel a bit better. Then we proceed to rib drivers all the way down the motorway til we get to Nottingham. I go into the Old Angel and despite not going there for the best part of a year, it hasn't changed one bit. In fact, it's probably got worse. It definitely looks as drab, but I love it. The toilets are a disgrace though, they need to be demolished, and soon. I get some gin down me, and watch Agent Of The Morai, who are a bit too loud for my ill, tired and now tipsy self, so I go downstairs after three or four songs. They sounded ace, mind. Narwhal are up next and play to a ¾ full room, which is pretty cool for about 5pm. Nick is in the crowd next to me which feels wrong, and watching Ben, their full time guitarist who couldn't tour seems weird, definitely less scrappy, and without the charm they've had all week, but I'm enjoying it by the end. We give them one last pyramid, with Si on top (no mean feat!) and they look pleased.
We go on next and I'm angry at people for not telling me we were on right then when people were talking to me downstairs, and Adam looks pissed off too. I explain my voice is fucked, and we rip into a good set, 3 long songs and the crowd love it. Apparently the room was full. I was too busy concentrating on screaming, but I do remember pyramids and lots of heckles, well fun. By the end we're loving it and Si does a stage dive into the audience, brilliant. Me and Adam have a tender kiss and make up and we sit outside, drained and sweaty. I don't think I caught any other bands because of this save for Threads, who were incredible, classic rock and roll showboating, and I could only stomach three Among The Missing songs before it got too hot for me. Great gig, shame about my cold getting almost plague-like. I talk to Wez from Truckdriver Jnr who buys silly amounts of stuff off me, and Tim, then we leave pretty early for Sheffield. Back in my house for like 10pm, truly tired and ready for my own bed. Me, Matt, Nick and Tobs watch a DVD of Jam then all pass out slowly. What a fucking week, Narwhal are amazing both as a band and people, and thanks to all concerned, we'll see you again I'm sure.
Gareth- It's a long way to Nottingham. It's further to, say, Spain or the moon, but Nottingham is still a hefty drive. But it's worth it for the last ever 'Everything Went Heavier,' and impressive roster of bands, such as (deep breath) Charger, Black Eye Riot, Bumsnogger, Lazarus Blackstar, Among the Missing, Threads, The Freezing Fog, Agent of the Morai, Flatlands, Narwhal and Hordes of Satan. It's a chance to meet the people who run our record label and the 'Mong the Missing boys, who we've not seen in, ooh, ages. It's a shame I feel so shit and spend most of my time sat in the van reading David Bowie's biography and trying not to be sick, missing pretty much all the bands and spending a lot of Flatlands set sitting at the side of the stage hunched over my guitar.
So there it is. Tour in all its glory. Thanks to Alice, Steve C, Timmo, Death of Her Money, anyone who gave us a place to sleep, directions to a chip shop, came to watch us play, bought merch, every other band we played with.