Day off-Frankfurt.Thankfully this was our first free day, and one that didn’t have a tortuous drive attached to it. A leisurely 30 mins, and we were dropped off outside a trendy piece of hotel where we had stayed last time we were in Frankfurt. In fact, we had done our last gig here, and in some mysteriously magnanimous May mood, they felt it was appropriate to offer us four overnight vouchers for our musical endeavours. When this has happened before I am always in several minds how to react or reply. I hear my dear dad’s voice echoing heavenly advice: “You can’t pay your gas bill with a hotel voucher!”. How true; and the thought that you’d actually want to return to any hotel ‘for fun’ is beyond me no matter how nice it may be. But here we were anyway, using our vouchers, happy to be on our own.
Today we could consider the possibility of doing some essential house keeping. Those who haven’t toured will never comprehend the torture of trying to pack, and calculate exactly how many pairs of undies, socks, shirts, jeans, jumpers you will need. Then you have the stage frocks, and in my case, at least two running / gym outfits. After a few days, my case would easily give ‘Waking the Dead’, or ‘CSI-Miami’ a run for their money including the necessary face masks and smelling salts.
A quick call to our lovely UK-Murray-chums , and their bonkers boys, gave us the opportunity not only to have a fun day out, but to de-fumigate and get a clean start.
It’s like anything when you’ve had a short break; Getting back ‘on the horse’ is tough. So it was the following day when we had yet again a long drive to Cologne. It was becoming like the Twilight Zone, with all roads returning to the Gothic cathedral, and the City’s famous gridlocked traffic jams, not to mention L’eau!
5. Cologne. Studio 672.
We had played here before. Last time, we entertained roughly eighteen dedicated and curious fans, and all we took away with us was an extremely large and expensive dent to our brand new tour bus. This was deftly performed by our promoter who, panicking too close to a metal fence, decided it was worth the risk trying to negotiate a bit of braille parking.
This time we had a real backstage. We could walk off stage and into a corridor that to all purposes was out of view.
As we started, the room appeared jammed to capacity. We got to the end of set one announcing that we had one song to go, and someone chirped up from the front: “No, you have two!!” She’d taken the set list and decided to scribble in her favourite song. Cheek!
Not having played it for some time brought about an initial panic and ‘curling-top-lip’ between us, but we managed to smack it into shape and at least one person was very excited now!
And we did get the encores so we could use the backstage for the first time. Thank you Cologne; very worthwhile.6. Mannheim. The Capital
We started here a couple of years ago and it felt like we were coming home. On our first venture into town, our original promoter, Michael , drove us past the main venues in town, romantically and knowledgeably stating that: “One day you will play here, here, and here, but not quite yet”.
Within six months, we’d done all three, and we were returning to The Capital, which was the biggest venue on this tour.
Quite what they had in mind this time I do not know, but we were unlikely to fill it to capacity. And adding uncertainty to paranoia, we had received mail telling us that it was all going horribly wrong, it would be a disaster, the press were writing horrible things, and it was all a waste of time! (or words to the effect) It was with this degree of trepidation we arrived in Mannheim to play to an amount of people as yet undetermined, at least according to the conflicting advanced sales.
Added to this, last time I broke two guitar strings during the second song (!?) I was reminded of this several times by jocular Mannheimers we met at the theatre! Thanks a lot!
We both felt that we’d done something wrong by being here. Jem and I started doing early peeks from behind the curtain as soon as doors opened. We realised at this point that people were coming, and that there had been a decent last minute ticket frenzy on the day. The doom-mongers were suitably humbled offering knowing shrugs, lame excuses and return invites. One rewarding highlight was Linus (mini-Zim) helping us with our soundcheck.
We were schmoozing and chatting with friends after the show. We had also been invited out to a late supper by the local promoter. This had been a little embarrassing before the show with our own promoter lobbying us heavily to accept the invitation. We conditionally accepted based on the time it would take us to finish and pack up.
I was on stage collecting my bits and pieces, leads and laptop, arranging to meet friends for coffee the next morning and exchanging phone numbers. Our Promoter appeared out of nowhere. As though accompanied by the largest of prams, she started throwing her toys out in pairs, ordering me to hurry up. The shouting got worse; “I have stayed here for you all evening, the least you can do is hurry to pack up!” she yelled. “This dinner is very important to us all”.
“Then please go,” I said, as calmly as I could. “and we’ll join you later”.
Plumes of smoke by now were appearing. “ You must come now, Vee Vill Vait No longer !!”
Our guests stood around aghast, and embarrassed This wasn’t the first time it had happened. I had been the target before and we were waiting for it to happen again.
I walked away and reported the incident to Jem who had found her ‘walk’ and was quietly changing.
“Mum doesn’t even speak to you like that!” she said, my trying to hold her back from immediate retaliation and a potential fist fight.
Needless to say, we managed to excuse ourselves from further contact, and had a rather surreal end to the day back at the hotel on our own, with a fine bottle of Riesling Auslese trocken, several chocolate bars picked up from previous hospitality rooms, and a great deal of chortling that we were off duty.
7. Stuttgart. Goldmarks.
This one we were unhappy about. It was the worst of all the advanced ticket sales, and when we met our promoter in Hamburg we tried to cancel. He wouldn’t let us assuring us we wouldn’t lose any money (Heard that one before!)
We arrived first at the hotel. It was one such establishment that, in a previous life, we would have trashed to improve it! The elevators didn’t even go to the appointed floors. So a second floor room still required several stairs, banging suitcases into rails en route, and heavily sprung fire doors to gain entry. Patience was at a low point, and we still had a sulky promoter on board.
Ripple dissolve to 8pm, our fears were realised. With a room barely touching 20 people, we started our set, playing as though we were in a stadium. I am constantly amazed how Jem is so generous at times like this; Thanking people for coming out, buying tickets, making the effort. I’m sitting there thinking : “Haven’t you got homes to go to? I certainly have!!” Meanwhile we had the press, photographers, and people who could be bothered, smiling, responding and feeling, I think, cared for.
Second number in, slinged up with my mouth organ contraption and ready to do Da Blues, I ‘sucked where I should have blowed’and virtually stopped breathing. For one worrying moment I started to choke. Trying to stifle the coughing only made things worse, and the spluttering became a rather full blown grunting and nose dribbling as I continued to play. “You OK?” Jem mouthed at the end. I think I made a noise. Finally the panic wore off and we finally got through the tunes, along with an encore which was surprisingly loud, and my constant clearing of restricted throat, which was louder.
Despite the sparseness, there was a nice vibe here and those that came bought the goods afterwards, reprimanding Jem at the thought that she was giving away material back in UK. More fun and frolics back at the hotel with a mystery mini bar that contained a large fan, and multi purpose curtains.
8. Munich and The final show. Freiheiz.
It’s funny how you remember certain things. As we arrived at our final hotel, The G Hotel Nymphenburg no less (!) i noticed the underground car park. The scene of yet another excessive excess charge caused by an enthusiastic attempt to extract the tour bus whilst avoiding unforgiving pillars. Unfortunately, our promotor, yet again, managed to add several hundred euros to our costs by taking off the side of the van and leaving most of the nice shiny paint along the immovable wall thereunder.
Needless to say, this time I was a little wary when asked to take it down. I took to the challenge with Jem assisting in front waving her imaginary table tennis bats, guiding me left, right, straight on; Thumbs up, we got in and more important, got out without a scratch although she claimed I took no notice of her directions. I was brilliantly calm, cool and collected whilst our promoter continued to shout shrill directions at us from the hotel lobby thinking she was being constructive. Further deep breaths and knowing glances one to another, especially when we discovered the €19.00 charge for using this impossible space.
The venue had been mentioned as being a club and bar. When we got there we saw that chairs were being put out in rows. Another sitting down affair. And it looked like we had a decent room. A proper backstage, a dressing room, a full rider of nibbles and wine. Excellent, and all down to our lovely and excellent local promoter Danny, with her big boots and military blond hair cut!
Jem hated the sound but I thought it was OK. We’d finished! It was a great end to this mini tour and as ever, Jem did the table and signing like a trooper, beaming and happy to acknowledge her ever growing fan base. Shame that the invited labels who had shown interest and distribution companies we had previously met, yet again, decided that they had better things to do. But we did get press again and from what I could discern, they did say nice things.
We’d heard during this last week that Jem has been played on Radio 1 back in the UK. And that the first Video was scheduled to be played exclusively on SBTV. It had started to bring together all the plans we had made from the beginnings of Limited Edition last year. The songs and working in Sphere studios; recording and mixing there. Meeting Claire, Hank, and others who want to see things move forward. As one of our great, respected and legendary manager chums said to Jem recently:
“I think there’s a game to be played here, Jem!”.
So we continue to play, and hopefully to lob some high ones over the Gatekeepers so they land in the right place.
Thank you Germany yet again. Wir kommen bald wieder! Über Und Aus!