20th October 2007 – Wolverhampton Little Civic
Or “The morning after.”
I woke up with a thumping hangover. Actually, no. Not just a thumping hangover, but THE single worst hangover I have ever suffered in my life. Ever. I wasn’t used to this. I had been lucky. Despite my best efforts, at the grand old age of 27 – knocking on 28 – I was fortunate enough to be able to count the number of hangovers I had endured on the fingers of one hand. I would have had to use all four fingers, but – crucially – I wouldn’t have needed to use my thumb. From the morning of the 20th October 2007, nothing would ever be the same again. On the 20th October 2007, everything changed.
I was still in the position I had collapsed into last night. Not that I remembered collapsing. I couldn’t remember a thing. I slowly became aware of some form of movement around me. Obviously my bandmates were getting ready for the next leg of the journey. I wasn’t ready for that yet. I felt rotten. As I hazily started to get my act together, I became vaguely aware of a ‘vibe’ in the hotel room. None of the band appeared to be talking to me. This was confusing. I didn’t remember much of the previous night, but I thought I’d been on quite good form. Sam wouldn’t even look me in the eye.
While I showered and did my hair, everyone else left the room to take their stuff to the van. The weird vibe was still present when I finally joined everyone downstairs. I didn’t have a clue what was going on, so just assumed everyone else was being weird. Maybe they were hungover too. Miserable fuckers.
It was Deborah who finally told me I had shouted at Sam. Oh. I felt really guilty, but still a little voice told me she was probably over-reacting. I was merrily oblivious to her angst at being back in Doncaster at this point. I got into the back of the van feeling pretty ropey and we made our way back to the venue to pick up our equipment. By the time we arrived at the Priory, I thought I was going to die. I felt absolutely fucking appalling. Is this what hangovers were like? Was this normal? This? And people still do this to themselves? What the fuck? The others started loading the equipment into the van, but I was curled in the foetal position in semi-drunk agony. It soon became apparent that I couldn’t have helped even if I’d wanted to. I wasn’t allowed in the venue.
The security guard responsible for chucking me out at 5am was talking to my bandmates. He appeared to take great pleasure in telling them what had happened last night. As he spoke, disconnected memories starting seeping painfully back into my skull. I was desperate for him to fucking shut the fuck up as my cheeks reddened with shame. I lay there in the back of the van on the stinking mattress feeling utterly hateful. The trickle became a flood and more of the previous night returned and The Fear kicked in, joined by a wave of nausea and their good friend The Guilt. The security guard finished his tales with a chuckle and the rest of the band finished packing the instruments, giggling. We drove off in search of food. I couldn’t quite make out what anyone was saying up front, but I was convinced – I absolutely knew – that they were laughing at me.
The van pulled into a car park outside a local KFC. Everyone else got out, but I stayed in the van, motionless, six feet and three inches of dead weight, self-loathing and dizziness. I was mildly hammered and drifted in and out of sleep. I just wanted it all to stop. I was not in the happy place. After an eternity my bandmates returned, took the piss out of me a bit and we hit the road to Wolverhampton. I wasn’t forgiven as such yet, but I wasn’t excluded any more.
I was still subdued when we arrived at the Little Civic. I had decided not to drink. While SohoDolls soundchecked, I taught Sam the bassline for the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back and we considered covering it that night. We had a go as a band during our soundcheck, but we didn’t know the structure or all the words and, y’know, Michael Jackson wasn’t a bad singer and all, so after a couple of goes we abandoned the idea. Weston was convinced we should do it, but we weren’t having any of it. Mark Heff, his dad and his brother were coming. We didn’t want to be shit in front of people we knew. We hung around the venue, waiting for showtime. I kept to my vow and didn’t touch any of the rider. Drinking really was the last thing I wanted to do. I started to consider going teetotal. Perhaps a major life change was around the corner.
Stage time came and the venue was deserted. There was talk of going on later, but fuck that. I just wanted to get it all over with, go back to the van and go to sleep, so a borderline empty room in Wolverhampton received a slightly subdued show compared to the recent joyfests. We were efficient but perfunctory. I had seriously debated singing from a stool beforehand, which would have broken one of my Important Onstage Rules but I had drunkenly injured my ankle somehow last night. I decided against it on the basis that, should anyone actually turn up during our set, I was not going to look like as much of a numpty as I felt.
The room was busier by the time SohoDolls came on. I watched on bitterly. I was fed up. I still felt ill and just wanted to get the night over with. It was the last night of the weeks touring: we were going home tomorrow. Everything would be ok when we got home. While SohoDolls played their set, Sam Christie said her goodbyes and left with the Heffernans, making her way to Shropshire for a weekend with her in-laws and a peaceful night’s sleep in a proper bed. We were jealous. The rest of us had nowhere to stay, so were preparing for a night in the back of the van. The van wouldn’t be so bad if the venue staff would let us leave our gear in the dressing room overnight, and all Deborah had to do was flirt with Matt a bit and she’d get his hotel room for the night, so that was her sorted. The remaining three of us in the van? That might not be comfortable, but it was as bearable as things were going to get. We thought we might as well get sorted, so enquired after leaving our instruments in the venue.
The venue staff said no. Now there was a slap in the face. Deborah came back from talking to Matt. She wasn’t happy. He wanted his bed to himself.
We were confronted with the reality of four of us sleeping in the van with all our instruments, amplification and percussion. There was no way there would be enough room. Deborah HAD to stay with Matt. Not staying with Matt was not an option. She was up for persisting, but the more she pushed it the less keen Matt was. He was totally not having any of it. Oh come on, man.
I reached a point of irritation so took the van key and went to get comfortable, leaving the others to the rest of their night. After 10 minutes, Grant and Simon joined me and we sat in the back of the van drinking from a bottle of whiskey. Deborah had chosen to stay in the venue to make one last attempt to convince Matt that he should let her stay with him. We knew she would get her way so our moods perked up. We played cards and told dirty jokes. We might actually get some sleep.
A familiar silhouette appeared at the end of the street. Deborah had failed and was on her way back to the van.
We flicked the light off quickly, ducked out of view and pretended to be asleep. If we put her in a position where she thinks she can’t get in the van, then Matt would have to take her back with him, right?
Deborah banged heavily on the door of the van. We lie still, eyes shut, desperately trying to look like we were asleep. “Let me in!” she shouted, banging the door and rocking the van. This carried on for a couple of minutes before Simon cracked:
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” he bellowed.
He offered her a deal: if she slept in the front of the van, on the seats, she could come in. That way we would all have room. Deborah agreed. Simon unlocked the door, Deborah climbed in, shut the door and climbed over the seat into the back of the van, forcibly squeezing us all aside to make room. I ended up being semi-spooned by her, with my front rammed right up against the back of the seats. I swore at her. We all swore at her. We swore at each other. Not one of us slept well that night.
Night turned to day and tired, ratty and argumentative, we stretched into consciousness. Everyone wanted to be home as soon as possible. Simon and Deborah started arguing over who would drive. Eventually they agreed a shift system and we hit the road. The journey home was a long, painful drone of bickering, shouting, Johnny Cash tapes and the constant threat of panic attacks from all corners. At one point we ended up stuck at a motorway service station for an hour and a half with both drivers either unwilling or unable to take control for the rest of the adventure. When we finally got moving again, the bickering continued. All the way down to London, all the way through London and all the way to the doors of The George Tavern, where we were parking the van. I helped unload our stuff to our storage space in the pub and ordered a cab back to Greenwich. I couldn’t be doing with the DLR. I just wanted to get home the quickest way possible and I wanted to go to sleep. I needed a break from these people and this fucking situation. All of this – and I meant all of this – could go fuck itself