On the Road
It's true what they say. If you want to knock a group into shape, and find out what your music is all about, you have to go out there and play live. It's more than simply learning how to hit the notes in the right order - although that's a significant, and sometimes underrated, part of it. It's also about stepping up to the plate, usually in less than perfect circumstances, and finding out what it takes to strut your stuff. It's about locating the spiritual dynamic that powers the group of individuals you have thrown in your lot with. And it's about figuring out how to get your room key in the door after ten drinks on an empty stomach.
We certainly did all that and more on our trip out of town as support on the Wrens'
UK tour. Arriving for our show on Tuesday at Rock City
in Nottingham, George, Drew and I were ready for anything as we imagined ourselves commandeering the grand stage at this well-known, 1,900-capacity hall. What we hadn't taken on board was that Rock City also has a club-sized venue within the same building - capacity 300. Guess where we were playing.... So, not quite the Bon Jovi moment we'd imagined. But, hey, we were ready to rock. Unfortunately, the Wrens were nowhere to be seen. Having flown in to London from New Jersey that morning, they were driving up with the other support group, the Favours
, and had got stuck in traffic somewhere around Birmingham. They all showed up in time to do the briefest of brief soundchecks. But the first sound I got to hear from my guitar was the opening chord of our performance.
Not an ideal start but we banged through the short version of our set and got a warm response. The Favours, who come originally from Hull but are now based in London, then took over and did a bunch of their melodic-indie-garageband-harmony-pop-rock songs. Their bass player, Martin, looked like one of the guys in Abba, while their singer and guitarist, Sara, reminded me of Holly Beth Vincent
of 1980s New York, new wavers Holly and the Italians (Holly, strangely, used to live in the flat above me in Shepherds Bush). George was totally smitten (by their music). Cool people, for sure.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Wrens. I already knew they were an awesome band, but seeing musicianship of that order on a stage that you've not long vacated yourself is a humbling experience. They have spent a long time on the road and they have put it all together: heartbreakingly beautiful songs, manic, high energy theatrics, pinpoint musical accuracy, and a love of what they do that borders on the obsessional. I'm joining their fan club. If they haven't got one, I'm going to start it.
After the gig, the Wrens and the Favours were travelling on to Birmingham, where the next night's gig was scheduled. We were staying put in Nottingham, so we packed up the gear and piled back to the hotel bar. Our friend John was helping with the equipment, and Marilyn was there taking photographs, along with her friends Ian and Celine. Eight rounds later, George, Drew, John and I were back at Rock City where they now had a late night disco thing going on. I remember the DJ playing Paint It, Black
, then it all gets a bit hazy.
Arriving at the Bar Academy
in Birmingham the next day, we had an unusually leisurely soundcheck, and then decided to head off for a drink before the show. But what was this? We could hardly fight our way out of the place for the queue of fans waiting for the doors to open. Fame at last! Except the queue turned out to be for the Academy (proper) next door, at which Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley was appearing. Who? Dude, the Bar
Academy was absolutely the cool place to be that night. Sadly, we weren't there very long ourselves. Played our set, bundled everything out the fire escape door and took off back to London. They were still out there queuing to get shaken down by the security goons for the Marley gig when we left.
One night off, and then we were playing at the 100 Club
along with another of our MySpace
friends, the Storys
.These were very laid back, talented guys, whose West Coast harmonies and hairstyles suggested that although they came from Swansea they were really a parallel-universe incarnation of the Eagles. Legendary venue, of course - which has played host to bands from the Sex Pistols to the Rolling Stones - but that long, thin strip of stage takes a bit of getting used to. There was the usual rushed soundcheck, abruptly curtailed by the doors opening and the first punters coming in. I don't think I heard a note that George played all night. But Drew was certainly cranking it out on the kit, and he was hearing George, so the message kind of got passed along the line. Great to see a select yet dedicated bunch of people showing up for our set.
Next up, The 12 Bar Club
on Thursday. Come along and say hello.
Rock City, Nottingham, Feb 28: The Wrens/The Favours/David Sinclair
Set list: Jammed/Time is the Simplest Thing/Dusted & Rusted/Pennies on a Plate/Going to do Something/Life's Too Serious/The Song Marches on
Bar Academy, Birmingham, Mar 1: The Wrens/The Favours/David Sinclair
Set list: Jammed/Time is the Simplest Thing/Pennies on a Plate/Dusted & Rusted/Going to do Something/Life's Too Serious/The Song Marches on
The 100 Club, Mar 3: The Storys/Stations Of The West/David Sinclair
Set list: Jammed/Time is the Simplest Thing/Pennies on a Plate/Dusted & Rusted/Not Another Wasted Day/Bouquet of Weeds/Going to do Something/Life's Too Serious/The Song Marches on