Diary of a touring musician: day four
Being full-time musicians we love playing live! With our new album STARLITE.ONE we took to the road in September and October for our UK headline tour. This is part four of the warts-and-all-account.
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Unless in France (Pain au chocolate, Croissant and Café au lait) or Spain (Tostada and beer), we don’t do breakfast - just coffee - and our drummer Hugo’s flight was arriving at 0900 so we made haste to the airport. The traffic at that time in the morning was shocking and we arrived at 0945 to find him waiting at the collections point.
NO STOPPING it says at Gatwick arrivals. £100 immediate fine!! How the hell can you pick someone up if there is no stopping? We followed the signs. We had no choice but to stop! Anyway, we were very fast and managed to squeeze Hugo’s cases into the back. Rock and fucking roll!
It was great to see Hugo in the UK. We were all looking forward to playing together on the tour and yet this morning there was a heaviness in our hearts. How do you tell your bandmate that the very first gig of the tour has been cancelled? It hurt! Mentally and emotionally.
We knew we had to break the news straight away but then Simon missed the exit and ended up driving a couple of miles to get back on track. There was a slight sense of gloom in the van but were all still pretty excited about the dates to come. Onwards.
Next stop - Eyes on St Albans - the optician’s store owned by Simon’s best mate Jez.
Suzy had scheduled a live interview with Andy Hargreaves on Bolton FM ‘Live from the Van of Rock on the M25’ at 1030 that morning which was all about promoting our multimedia gig at The Met in Bury on October 6th.
It was very random and we all had a great laugh - especially when we mentioned that NASA had sent us some 4K HD footage of space to use in our multi-media concert.
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Jez Levy | the King of Eyewear
Simon has known Jez and his wife Pauline for many years. They are as close as any two people can be and when we arrived at Eyes on St Albans there was the usual fooling around and jocularity which always happens when we all get together.
The first thing we did was to procure some much-needed quality coffee so we popped next door to the wonderful café bar Fade to Black. It’s a great place and always packed but again we were shocked by the steep prices in the UK. It’s not that this place is more expensive than the norm, but five times what you would pay in Portugal. Yes - five!
The Hagström and the wall of rock
Eyes on St Albans is very rock ‘n roll and Jez is putting together a wall of guitars and asked Simon to bring one for his collection. The perfect choice was his Hagström Viking V-1 which he restrung and presented to the man himself!
On Thursdays, Jez hosts a lunch for some of his mates in the back of the store. They make lunch in rotation and today’s menu was a vegan curry, which they joyfully shared with us - delicious! What is a rock ‘n roll band without curry?
We all had a great time and they were very disappointed that the gig in their city had been cancelled.
The good news was the monkey masks and wireless equipment for our in-ear monitor (iem) setup had arrived.
Although we had used our iem’s extensively in the live streams we played last year, in-ear monitoring in a live gig situation was totally new to us.
We own custom-moulded iem’s by the wonderful ACS and to accompany them rented a state-of-the-art Sennheiser wireless transmitter and two receiver packs from our great friend Melv who owns TUBE UK in Manchester. His team shipped them down to Jez the day before we arrived.
But wait. Monkey masks did you say? Yes, monkey masks.
In line with our new album artwork, Suzy had ordered a load of masks and display heads to dress the stage for our concerts. The foam heads hadn’t arrived (we ordered them from a seemingly UK-based store only to find they were on the way from China) so we quickly ordered some more from eBay for delivery direct to The Met for next week’s multi-media performance.
Kirk & Kirk
We love our Kirk & Kirk eyewear and even though they wouldn’t be ready for the whole tour, we hoped if we ordered them today they would arrive in time for the gig at The Met which was being videoed.
Jez is the King of Eyewear and his skill in selecting exactly what suits you is uncanny. He quickly sorted a ‘his and her frame’ for us plus Jez’s own design sunglasses and reading glasses for Hugo!
Of course, every time we order new eyewear we have an eye examination so our lenses are up to date and the health of our eyes assessed. Simon’s dad had Glaucoma and Suzy’s mother and father had diabetes so it’s really important to have regular checks.
We both wear progressive lenses (ie the same lenses for both distance and reading) and wanted something quite dramatic and, on the suggestion of the king himself, had our lenses tinted blue. Jez recommends Essilor ‘Varilux’ lenses which are of the highest quality and this time chose the brand new XR series. Stoked!
Time for drinks!
There is a lovely community around the Quadrant where EYES on St Albans is located with some great restaurants and coffee shops plus The Phoenix Barber Co.- a barber that changes into a bar in the evening!
When Jez closed the shop, we, along with the St. Albans massif, popped next door to Fade to Black for a couple of local IPAs (India Pale Ale) while the transmogrification of the barbers into a bar took place.
The Phoenix barber bar is very rock ‘n roll with the walls adorned with amazing artwork by Morgan Howell aka SuperSizeArt - if you haven’t seen this you need to check it out. Paul Murray who is the owner of the bar is very welcoming and serves great craft beers.
These guys know how to have fun.
Although tempting, we didn’t stay all night but went back to Jez and Pauline’s where we were staying that night and ordered a curry - again.
Hugo loves curry, we love curry and the RAMI Tandoori local takeaway does a spectacular array of dishes.
Many ‘Indian’ restaurants in the UK are not Indian but Pakistani and there is a dramatic difference between the two. Over many years the style has been honed to fit British tastes and there is no doubt it tastes different here than anywhere else.
Being from the north Simon is an aficionado of the British variety - especially the delights presented in Bradford - arguably, the home of curry in the UK.
Food was eaten, wine was consumed, shit was talked and later on, Jez and Pauline’s son, the ultra-cool Joshua, arrived from work and we chewed the fat a little, but it was late. It had been a long day…
It was great to take our minds off work for a while - spending time with our friends was the tonic for our souls we needed - tomorrow it was time to start work!
Next up: the email, rehearsals and the creepy hotel.