Following on from Chris Leslie’s blog last week, Simon Nicol is treating you all to a frankly astonishing window on the world of the Fairport Convention tour bus. Brace yourselves for restaurant reviews, poorly fingers, and the first photograph of a urinal ever to grace this website’s fair pages.
Well “Hello!” (in the voice of Leslie Philips, thwarted 35 mm. Lothario, c. 1962)
It appears that the baton of “Fairport Blogger” has been passed from my esteemed musical colleague and very good friend Christopher Leslie to me and frankly, I’m a bit baffled as to how this works. Is this some kind of a diary? Or a travelogue? (whatever that may be?) Anyway, no day is without something worth comment, however cursory. So we’ll have a crack, eh?
Oh: I’ve just remembered someone who is an admired F*cebo*k friend – an acknowledged master/mistress of the craft of blogging: and you will surely delight in her musings from a life being well spent. She’s from Portland Oregon, her name is Murr Brewster, her lodestar is a bear named Pootie, and she has just published her first volume of collected ramblings called “Trousering Your Weasel”. You may relish Murr’s writing here.
All my American literary heroes would, I am sure, have been proud to have gotten (sic) their knees under her table – Ambrose Bierce, E.B White, S.J. Perelman, Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash, Robert Benchley and Harpo Marx. She manages to write about almost anything that occurs to her and make it thoughtful and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time: I can make no such promise!
Tonight, after an unusual three days out of the van, we’re back on duty at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall, beginning a brief spell without Johnny Gale at the business end of the multicore as he is honouring a previous commitment in Scandawegia with another of his regular employers, the fragrant Elaine Page (O.B.E.). But a wonderful opportunity to parachute in the marvellous young talent who is Owain Richards, who has been taking care of monitors at Cropredy for yonks and understands this band and our music very well indeed. He’s proving his adaptability after spending the last couple of years with Tinie Tempah and DJ Fresh (but at the same time proving what we all know: that music is music is music!)
The DMH is a venue we last saw in 2001 and has been carefully improved and feels pretty lavish, if overwarm, although the gratifyingly large attendance tonight may be adding their body heat to the proceedings. We have a great time, as I hope do the paying customers, and I am reminded just how different every room is to sing in.
Many are tricky, giving you less than you need back. Most are humdrum, but OK, but some are a relaxing delight to do the vocals in: where you don’t need to push anything to feel that you’re doing a good job and being understood. And I’d forgotten what a comfort the acoustics in the De Montfort are. Welcome back!
Friday starts with a bit of a catch-up in the office and a chance to restock the bits and pieces we’re taking around to sell in the evening. Today we just need more souvenir calegrammes* so Mick and I lob 5 more boxes into the back of the Sprinter. I get a paper cut (never unalloyed fun!) but the first time I’ve ever fallen victim to a cardboard box, which is amazing when you think how many of the b*stards I’ve moved in my life. This time it’s across the top of my left-hand pinky, just where the top E string of the guitar will be later, and it’s bleeding like a pig. As Homer would say, “DOH!!”
We’re en route for a local show at Leamington Spa. This, like Tunbridge Wells Assembly Halls, is a gig you can almost set your watch by. (My diary shows we missed it in 2001 but I have no idea how that happened!) This building’s also been given a makeover and seemingly all for the better, particularly regarding the line-of-sight for the stalls audience as the new seating is gently raked. A gratifyingly full house and a lovely warm atmosphere, with friends aplenty. Not a bad day at all. And the finger is OK for the first 75% of the night until it starts singing along with me on “Who Knows…”
Leap out of bed with leg cramp about 6 (don’t you just hate that!) and with an oozy digit. Of course, some dirt has got into the wound and until it heals up on its own, it’s down to digging out the Neosporin© and a plaster.
So, on to Brighton, a town that doesn’t seem to have exactly the right sized venue for us, the established ones being just a little too big or too small for us, but our new friends at Melting Vinyl, Will and Anna, have put us on at St George’s Church and it feels like a good fit. I get a chance to catch up with my lovely niece-by-marriage Anra, who was about the same age when I met her as the delightful trio of daughters she has since had with Peter.
Who knows where that time went then?
Sunday: I unaccountably oversleep! The van is loaded and waiting when I apologetically emerge 15 minutes late for departure without even a cuppa tea. The rule is that the miscreant buys lunch for everyone during the journey, but the chaps are lenient and let me off with just the first round of drinks, which is as well as we are headed for the Lamb at Hindon where it is likely that puddings may be too tempting to resist.
Been a couple of years since we’ve dropped in but it’s always been a very strong bet when the routing allows, and today is simply superb. Hard to know whether to praise the front of house staff or those beavering in the kitchen the most. Not having booked, we were indeed lucky to get all seven of the touring party round one table but it turned into a very satisfactory meal for all of us, which is never a given as we all have different tastes and favourites when given the chance to choose. Roast lamb of the tour and no, I ignored the blandishments of the sticky toffee pud. (Unlike some…)
Now I don’t normally take cameras into the euphemism, but they’ve redone them and immediately I saw the three urinals I was reminded of the John Cleese/Ronnie Barker/Ronnie Corbett sketch from 1965 (?) about the class system. “I look down on him etc. etc.)”
Ceramics imitating nature imitating art.
Then back through more continuing rain to Yeovil’s lovely Octagon Theatre pausing for long enough to throw the suitcases into the Travelodge (oh, the glamour!) and at least put the feet up for the second half of the Ireland/England game. Defensive and error-strewn, we’re finally back in the van and off to work!
And it’s another lovely evening: the set is feeling altogether very balanced and welcome (although one may never be complacent!) and the room sounds jolly nice from my point of hearing!
The finger is healing well, but the calf-cramp can still be felt – perhaps I should take up a bit of jogging. (Please don’t laugh….)
There are still tickets for some Fairport Convention dates, details of which are below:
14 Feb, Weston-Super-Mare, Playhouse Theatre, 01934 645544
15 Feb, Farnham, The Maltings, 01252 745444
16 Feb, Norwich, Open, 01603 763111
17 Feb, Colchester, The Arts Centre, 01206 500900
19 Feb, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, The Maltings, 01298 330999
20 Feb, Leeds, City Varieties, 0113 243 0808
21 Feb, Burnley, The Mechanics, 01282 664400
22 Feb, Milton Keynes, The Stables, 01908 280800
23 Feb, St Albans, The Alban Arena, 01727 844488
26 Feb, The Sage, Gateshead, 0191 443 4661
27 Feb, Chesterfield, The WInding Wheel, 01246 345334
28 Feb, Kendal, Brewery Arts Centre, 01539 725133
1 Mar, Bury St Edmunds, The Apex Theatre, 01284 758000
2 Mar, Clacton, West Cliff Theatre, 01255 474000
3.Mar, Cardiff, St David’s Hall, 02920 878444
6 Mar, Shrewsbury, Theatre Severn, 01743 281281
7 Mar, Bridport, The Electric Palace, 01308 424901
8 Mar, Exeter, The Corn Exchange, 01392 665938
9 Mar, London, The Union Chapel, 0207 226 1686
The next installment of Fairport Convention’s 2013 tour blog will appear on For Folk’s Sake next week.