17th September 2007 – Newcastle Cluny
“Just close your eyes and imagine a tampon salad”
Monday 17th September was the first day of our first full week on the road. The 586 fun bus left London very early in the morning to trek up the A1/M to Newcastle. We had previous with our destination, a venue called The Cluny; it had been the location of our first ever show outside of London way back in December 2005 and had been a bit of a cracker, though while we played somebody had sprayed graffiti on our (rented) mini-bus. In fact, Newcastle as a rule was always pretty good for us, with only one gig there ever going particularly badly – Newcastle University Student Union Bar in November 2006 to be specific. We were promoting Money Is The Drug, our second single. The traffic was a nightmare on the way up so half the band was late, and we had a massive argument in the dressing room in front of a promoter and a fanzine writer before we left. There were all of ten people in the audience, one of whom amused himself by leaning on the utterly unnecessary barrier between the stage and audience, shouting abuse and doing the ‘wanker’ hand gesture at me. I put my guitar down at the climax of one song so I could lean over and twat him one, but as he scarpered I realised that hitting audience members probably wasn’t the way forward.
This time around, we arrived in Newcastle early, feeling particularly chipper, to face the second massive cock-up of the tour. Itinerary misinformation meant soundchecks for no-one. Balls. We resolved not to stress out and figured we’d be OK, it’s not like we were unfamiliar with line checking. Alas, this time, onstage sound was terrible. The local support band before us were actually quite good in a Futureheads kind of way. We had played with them before – they were called Odd-Shaped Head and their set included a nerd-rock version of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This. Lovely chaps. I made a mixing desk recording of our show and was surprised that despite the technical problems our playing was actually OK. The Cluny was nicely busy, we were incredibly well-received, and I decided I liked Newcastle again.
After the show, Grant and I nipped over to a nearby pub that had wireless internet to download a review copy of the Rags & Tags video. The promo was directed by Stuart Ekers, who had made all the videos for a band on the Fierce Panda label called The Hot Puppies, and was Deborah’s boyfriend. We met Stuart one night when we supported the Puppies at Bath Moles club, and once he started going out with Deborah they became inseparable and he became invaluable. He drove us everywhere, played guitar and percussion on the odd occasion when Simon flaked out and didn’t turn up for a gig, and made a documentary when we went on a short tour of France. He had also directed the video to Money Is The Drug, which I hated, but Deborah had persuaded me he was the right man for the Rags & Tags job. And besides, there are many reasons why the Money video is shit, and they aren’t entirely down to Stuart. He might be a genius and he’s certainly one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, but at the time I kind of thought he was a bit of a black hole; when he and Deborah got together it seemed like they could sit in their bed and do nothing for days on end. We mostly referred to him as Disco Stu, but we also named him Rapid Response Stuart as he’d take forever to get round to ever doing anything.
Grant and I went into the pub in full stage clothes and eyeliner. We hadn’t clocked as we walked in that this pub was rough. As we ordered a cheeky pair of whiskies at the bar, we looked up and realised that we needed to get this done as quickly as possible before someone started trouble. We were already attracting some aggressive looks. Heads down, refusing to look anyone in the eye, we slipped quietly into a corner, turned my laptop on and started up the download. Once it was over, we excitedly hit play. It’s so weird watching a pop video that you appear in. I didn’t know how to judge it, especially as it was unfinished. All the extras looked great and cool, as did the make-up and there were a number of very, very funny moments. It was quite Mighty Boosh, and we were impressed with the backgrounds – we’d filmed the whole thing in front of a green screen. We sent the link on to Malcolm for his feedback and shot back to The Cluny to show the others before we received a kicking.
As the SohoDolls finished their set and the audience filed out it became increasingly obvious that we were going to have to sleep in the van. We talked to the soundman and the venue management very kindly allowed us to store our equipment in the dressing room so we would have maximum van space for sleeping. He also assured us that we’d get a free fry-up in the morning, so we grabbed the remains of the rider (crisps and beer) and prepared to retire to the van. Simon was talking to a young lady. We all willed him on, hoping he would get lucky. If Simon got lucky, then there would be more space in the van for the rest of us! They kept talking and talking, we kept wishing and hoping.
Come on Simon.
You can do this, Simon.
She said her goodbyes and left. Bollocks.
Sleeping bags were unfurled and teeth cleaned in the street while we tried to work out the best way to fit us all in comfortably. Then, a massive result: Simon got a text from the girl and she was willing to pay for him to get a cab to her flat in South Shields. Result! It was fucking freezing, but we were drunk and on a high from the show and the compliments of strangers. Part freezing cold, part excited, we struggled to sleep through an icy northern night soundtracked by our collective flatulence. There wasn’t enough room for four people, so Christ knew what this would be have been like if Simon hadn’t got the girl. We woke up bright and early resolving never to sleep in the van again. We didn’t know how we were going to pay for it, but we couldn’t do this again. We were supposed to be glamorous popstars in waiting. The van fucking stank. WE fucking stank. At least we had somewhere to stay the next night, and the free fry-up in the venue the soundman promised us to look forward to…