I know all about driving while tired! Six hours from Glasgow to Birmingham, an extra hour because there was a car fire on the M6 and the whole motorway was stopped for 45 mins, so we broke our rule (always stay on the big blue roads even if they're really slow, because they're quicker than the little green roads. Make a cuppa. That's what the thermos is for) and diverted along A roads. Took forever. We were less stressed than we might have been, and practised cloudstreet songs as we drove along.
The last time we played at the Black Diamond in Birmingham, we were stopped midway through our third song by the fire brigade. It had just come to their attention that the folk club room, upstairs in the pub, didn't have proper fire escapes, and they kicked us out! Undeterred, we did a deal with the dominoes players downstairs and squeezed the audience into a small downstairs room where we finished the show singing in the doorway. When we got to the club this time, everyone remembered the goings on of last time, and in a bid to tempt fate, we put that same song, Miner's Washing, second in the set just to see what would happen. But no firemen materialized and the gig went smoothly.
The next step, Birmingham to Wallingford, only took about 2.5 hours. Wallingford was fantastic, the first gig was in a sports club which had been recruited at the last minute when another venue fell through, and although there was a stage, p.a. and lights, it wasn't set up as a venue, and people were in dribs and drabs around the walls, or walking in, looking at the uninviting room and leaving again. There was also a rugby game going on outside.
I spoke to the MC, and when the act on stage finished, John and she and I zoomed around and set up 6 rows of seats in front of the stage, and it made the hugest difference to how the audience behaved. We then removed a few tables and chairs further back in the room to discourage groups from sitting and chatting at the back, and it worked well. The next act went on and people moved up to the chairs and listened. By the time we went on, we had a full crowd and people were creating more rows of chairs themselves. I knew they'd get the idea if we but showed them the way....
Our set was fun, a number of fans from our mailing list showed up, and some whole families who were fans. We sold a few cds afterwards, then hurried off to soundcheck for our next gig. It was in a church in the centre of town. The church had been refurbished inside to let in lots of light, and it was the most perfect singing environment. They used a p.a., but only to lightly boost the sound. Did the soundcheck, which took a while, then found a Pizza Express, a particularly reliable and delicious restaurant chain. Not cheap, but worth it.
Got totally costumed up for that one, tutu, corset, the works. The cameras came out when we walked on. The sound was so perfect in there, we were singing into condenser mics, and I could hear so clearly, we could play around with the dynamics in a way that is often impossible. Wonderful! Stayed to the end of the next act, our agent's band, Artisan. By that I mean, she sings in it, as well as being our agent. In fact, she seems to have taken on all our friends lately, so Isambarde and Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer are all now on Jacey's books, plus a troupe of Zulu singers and dancers, all of whom were playing this festival. Artisan's harmony blend was sublime, delicious three part harmony and firmly tongue in cheek banter.
We had an accommodation malfunction at this festival, and so did the guys from Isambarde. The room we were offered actually had no bed at all. Although there were camp beds in other rooms, we weren't confident two of them would have our names on them by the time we managed to return to the room, so John talked to some people and managed to secure a billet for us.
Wallingford was full of friends and we caught up with lots of musicians after our show, including lovely Leeds songwriter Tom Bliss, and Chris, Em and Jude from Isambarde.
We were up at 6 next morning, left at 7 and drove for nearly 5 hours to get to the next gig, Fylde Festival in Lancashire. Sunday morning, the traffic wasn't too bad, but it was a long drive. We took turns driving and napping. Got there, got wristbands, put flyers on every second seat in the main theatre, then went to our first gig in the hotel bar. Big crowd, big Balkan band on before us, did a quick set up and had a very breezy chat with the audience throughout the gig. So glad this low key gig was our first job, it warmed up those tired voices and made a strong connection with the audience which carried through to our later and much more formal gig on the main stage. We hurried over to the Marine Hall after the first gig, and soundchecked very efficiently. Had a dressing room here and everything!
And finally, we got to see our great friends Jonny and Vicki. We've been here nearly a month, we've stayed in their house, but this was the first time we'd laid eyes on them. They are two of my best friends in the world. And they were playing with another dear friend, George Papavgeris, who has toured in Australia a couple of times. They mainly do George's songs, as his band. Vicki plays double bass and flute in this lineup, and Jonny plays lead/rhythm guitar, piano accordion and piano. They also do harmonies. George had teed up with us to come on and do several songs with them, and this meant we had to be totally ready for our set before they started. John was nervous. I was not, but I made sure I was very organised. We walked on during the second verse of George's song "Friends Like These" and joined in the chorus. George knows about symbolism.
Our gig went like a dream, sound was good, vibe was good, we were relaxed. Bill and the Bear is going down a storm with audiences, and my drumming is improving, I think. For the last song we did Green Man, and we asked George, Jonny and Vicki to come up and play. So we did it with guitar, bass, accordion and 5 voices. It was big.
We sold lots of cds afterwards, we actually had a queue!
And then we stayed in the hotel from the dawn of time... it was like Fawlty Towers. Inexplicable architectural features (enter the door of your room, and you are faced with the end of a wall, weirdly dividing two doorless rooms), slow service, super-creaky floors, pathetic shower, a drop of blood on the wall, filthy carpet, three televisions, no space. There were two single beds in each tiny room. It turned out I got the firmest bed. John came back later than me and said he actually giggled when he lay on his bed, it was just like a hammock. The hotel was very convenient for the venues, though!
The last time we played Fylde, we stayed in single rooms in the Nautical College, and they were austere but very clean. I liked them better.
So after two days of recovery in Yorkshire, tonight we play in Nottingham, and we're singing on the radio this afternoon!