Back in 2008, I was playing in a band in Exeter. We played the scene a fair amount, ticked off all the small venues in the city. We got to know a fair few of the other bands. One of them was called Ignorance of a Rival, and we played together several times. These gents repeatedly said to us “let’s go on tour together.” It never happened.
Well, until five years later. See, that band turned into Titans & Kings. Through a bit of luck, I happened to take up bass for them. Funny how life turns out.
I’ve wanted to go on tour since I was fourteen years old. Playing music every day, a new place, new faces every night. It’s an ideal that every teenage musician has, the wandering entertainer, nothing to worry about other than putting on good shows, making sure the audience leaves the venue happy. I’ve grown older and wiser since then (well, older, anyway). But you know what?
The last week has been fucking wonderful.
London, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham. Three of those cities we had never played until last week. Thank God for Speaking in Shadows for asking us to tour with them. Thank God for Autumn Ruin, simply for being fan-fucking-tastic. We were lucky to have such a fine pair of bands to play alongside, not only excellent musicians and songwriters, but amazing people to boot.
I’ve always thought that bands should work together, to help each other not only through promotion but through offering genuine criticism and feedback to make sure that talented artists not only get the recognition they deserve, but become leaner, meaner rock’n’roll machines. Too many bands buy into the promoter ideology of band vs. band, of solely monetary goals, of petty rivalries that are really nothing more than fights over which petulant child has the biggest ego. In Speaking in Shadows and Autumn Ruin, there are two groups who put the music, the art, the entertainment first.
And that’s without even mentioning the other bands, the local support and out-of-town bands that played every night. Every single one of them was fantastic, every one adding a new variety of rock that complemented all the other acts. The soaring vocals of AvaGrace, the balls-to-the-wall anthems of Munkinpure, the absolute technique of Jar of Dirt, the wonderful hooks of Letters From Grace, the sheer pop-punk joy of Hello Tomorrow, the driving, whiskey-soaked rhythms of I’m A Model Baby, the deep, atmospheric rock of A Mouth Full of Matches, the intense energy of Bullets in Bowties. It’s not often you get one gig where all the acts are so damn fantastic, let alone four in a row.
Anyway, I’m rambling. It was an amazing four days. Some all-time favourite moments. Crowdsurfers and slow-dancers at the Barfly. Story time with Nicky Stixxx. Realising that I have a secondary career as a contortionist given how we were all able to fit in a Polo with all our equipment. Autumn Ruin absolutely destroying Dry Live with one of the tightest, most powerful sets I’ve ever seen. Spending an almost obsessive amount of time in Dawsons drooling over their left-handed Telecaster. Seeing the end of a rainbow on the drive to Nottingham. Going in to the Bodega not knowing what to expect from a gig with no home headline act, only to come across one of the most passionate crowds we’ve ever played for. Hitting the town with the Autumn Ruin lads, finding a glorious rock bar and hip-shaking-sexy-robot dancing to Slipknot surrounded by people dressed in Halloween garb. Singing a lament to doner meat at three in the morning. Getting given a personal bracelet for the band from Georgia and Teresa, being so touched that I lost almost all of my remaining rock’n’roll points. Playing the Flapper, dressed in onesies, sweating out our bodyweight. Fat Lip with Speaking in Shadows and Autumn Ruin. Speaking in Shadows then absolutely beasting it. Joining them onstage for Sweet Gemini. Lots and lots of sweaty hugs.
There were some bad moments, too. One-way systems, Pizza Hut queues, the unfortunate lack of a queue for Buffet Hut (my insides still hurt), probably being dehydrated because of wearing a frickin’ onesie onstage, getting back at one in the morning after a train ride being nattered at by a drunk woman (rightly?) questioning our rock credentials and (correctly) comparing Nick to a young Bryan Adams. Going in to work from 9AM to 10:30PM on three hours’ sleep the next day.
But was it all worth it? Damn right it was.
And personally, it’s been an achievement. It’s been a tough couple of years, and I still worry about the chronic fatigue that put me out of action, forced me to effectively restart my life. I was terrified about this tour, about whether my body could cope, over whether I could do it again. And I could. If it was possible, I’d do it again right now.
In fact, I think we should start planning the next tour, lads. There are too many cities we haven’t hit, and I think it’s time we showed them what our trio can do.