The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 8 "Then we’re onto the ferry. And it’s all over."

Ende. The Miserable Rich haben bereits vor einigen Tagen das Ende ihrer Deutschland-Tour bestritten und kurz danach die Heimreise über Paris angetreten. Was sie auf der Rückreise noch erlebten und ein Resüme der Tour könnt ihr nun im aller letzten Teil des Tour-Diary lesen. Wieder einmal viel, aber auch guter Lesestoff:

Day 20 – separating the wheat from the Schaffhausen

It’s a surprisingly pain-free morning (afternoon), and Rhys and I make two giant omelettes for everyone as we piece together the silliness of last night’s party. Good to do some domestic stuff – very grounding.

We’re into the last days of the tour, and after the extreme lows and highs of the last few days, an air of calm has descended on the party. This might very well be a hangover, but I’d prefer to see it as philosophy.

Carsten doesn’t seem to be too hurt by his epic booze and YouTube-Talking-Heads marathon, and we’re off on our way by mid afternoon. The drive takes a bit longer than we predicted, giving us time to sleep through the drizzle and dream about home.

Schaffhausen is a small town in Switzerland, very pretty and apparently wealthy, with the population of a village – just 35,000 we’re told – close to the border with Germany. It’s a rainy Sunday night, and Mother’s day in this part of the world, so we’re not expecting an enormous turn out – but Will, Mike and myself have been there before and are looking forward to seeing the lovely promoter Danielle and her posse again. Last time we were here, in December 2008, they really looked after us, with a fantastic meal in a local restaurant that has gone down in band legend. Danielle makes her living from a family-run ice cream shop, and last time we were here it was closed – so this time everyone is hoping we’ll get the chance to sample their iced lovelies.

We arrive to find Danielle on the pavement outside the venue. She’s a real supporter of the band, having come to see us in Vienna last May, and we’re all happy to see each other. We trundle into the venue.

TapTab, a ludicrously well designed and appointed venue for a town of such a size – we’d kill for it in Brighton – has an immaculate Hopperesque sweeping deco bar, wonderful lighting and soundsystem, cinema seats along the banks and an air of cool throughout it’s mezzanine interior. The lateness of our arrival means a quick soundcheck so that the band and crew can head off to dinner.

We all saunter to the club’s bandflat – even after all this time, coming from the square-inch accommodation pressure of the UK, I’m still amazed by how many clubs on the continent have their own digs. This one is a cookie little place on the second floor in a square in town. It’s wooden floored, bunk-bedded, coal ovened and has the general air of a log-cabin for the practical city dweller. A home cooked thai curry, in fish and vege variants, awaits us, along with a hot noodle salad and copious rice. Sunday night curry. Winner.

It’s always a nurturing, warming and bonding thing to eat together, and we relish the meal with the TapTab crew. Danielle tells me that the local paper really likes us, and later shows me the latest copy. Blimey. We are not only spread across the front page, but dominate the next three pages too. Just like Fulham (© Gap Yah man – see YouTube for details).

In the end, tonight’s show feels like a family get together, with the TapTab crew, new friends Julia the promoter from Zurich, her friend Kaarel, our Swiss booker Nik, and some of the people from Finger magazine joining about 40 music fans and their mothers for the show. It’s a relaxed, really enjoyable show, and the boys even reprise some of their What The Bell? video favourites with the merch bells for the first encore, before an acoustic ‘Hungover’ and two more to finish.

We relax with the assembled new friends after the show, sipping (gulping) Lagavulin and red wine and fighting off the gathering end-of-tour sentimentality. There’s time for a quick round of cards and a bit of drawing in the guest book before we float of to dreamland.

Days 21/22 – days off??!! now???!!!

It’s a quiet, thoughtful morning again. We head to the nearby Rhine Falls to gawp at ‘the awesome power of nature and the insignificance of mankind’ (©Gap Yah again, q.v.), then head off in the van for Frankfurt.

The main worry right now is Rhys’ lost passport. It only occurred to him a few days ago that it was in the bag stolen (left behind) in Vienna. Cue three or four shouted expletives from the back of the van, a couple of hours with his hood up, then an admirable attempt to ‘turn that frown upside down’. He is impressively irrepressible when he puts his mind to it. Now though, we don’t know how to get him back home. After having lost kit worth over £300 on tour, and having to buy a new fast-track passport when we return so he can holiday with his lady in June, he’s understandably reticent to spend any more money than he has to. Advice varies widely, and it’s not at all clear what’s the best thing to do. It seems that if he does want to get a 24hour passport, he’ll have to drive to Dusseldorf – 4-5hours from Frankfurt – pay €120, and wait a further day to get it.

After several lectures on what he should do from well-meaning but rather too bossy local types and a good hour on the phone to the embassies, Rhys decides to try to sort it out at Calais. It’s worrying, but with his provisional driving licence (cute!) still on him, we’re hoping that when we get to the border, the Brits will still want him back.

This decided, he seems to put it behind him. For now.

Two days off near the end of such a long tour is a bit odd. We did so many nights in a row that two free when we only have one more continental show seems weird, but we fill it easily enough. Here’s a quick chronological list of the things we get up to.

– a video for online blog BedroomDisco shot by a lake and in a forest

– going to the beachbar for a drink

– getting a takeaway

– watching terrible and completely addled French action/horror/costume drama movie ‘Brotherhood of The Wolf’

– doing laundry(!)

– buying brightly coloured t-shirts for the band’s ‘brightly colourful new look’

– buying asparagus, deodorant, stamps and sundry ‘necessaries’

– working on a new song

– being taken out for pizza by the Hazelwood family

– drinking late into the night with Reiner and Vita from the film company I worked with last year

– trying to sleep while Gordon goes on a marathon mixing session, pacing through the studio at regular intervals to get another beer/speak to his agent in the toilet, until about 8am

Day 23 – We’ll always have Paris – but will they have us?

So it’s last day at Hazelwood, and a long drive ahead to Paris. We say a fond farewell, many thank yous and a few sorries (just in case) to the Hazelwood team, and to tour manager Carsten. He’s been extra fun this time out and has lost the name nickname ‘mum’ due to being much more one of us. We will miss him, but as yet don’t know exactly how soon…..

Fakir grasps the poisoned chalice of looking after us for the last two days, bringing the tour back to the beginning in what we hope will be a satisfyingly symmetrical end to the tour cycle. Hmmmn.

It’s a long drive, and a very early start for all of us. Most of us have a dose of late tour insomnia, what with thoughts of home and Gordon’s punishing all-night booze and mixing regime. We are ready, maybe not bright but definitely early.

We decide to have a final two-day weetabix league tournament to pass the time and provide conclusive proof of who is the Cappo di tuti weetabix Capi. Contestants will be required to fulfil all roles and positions during the 5 game league – it’s serious stuff now, and there is a keen sense of competitiveness. Will takes the first game to no-one’s shocked surprise. Then something serious happens.

At a service station en route, we all chip in to buy a metre-long horn Rhys and Ricky have found. It’s a kind of plastic affair in three parts, brought out in time for the World Cup, in the colours of the German flag. It is immediately christened the Victory Trump-it (geddit?), one that can only be blown by the winner of each game. Will duly takes his b(l)ow, releasing a masculine and hearty parp into the cramped interior of the van. The Trump-it is then given pride of place above the playing area in the middle of our merry vw caravelle.

The mind plays tricks. We all joke about how important this yard and a bit of ugly plastic is for us to win, but it clearly does make us more worried about losing. We’re actually getting nervous, none more so than Rhys, who has forgotten all about his lost passport and abject run of weetabix form through this and every other tour, and is marching ahead in the second game. With the Trump-it tantalisingly close to him in the middle seat, but unable to touch it, he keeps squawking (yes, squawking) about wanting to touch it, to blow it. to make things worse, we decide to let the leader at the halfway stage hold it to his lips – but not blow it. Cruel.

Rhys leads from halfway, and beads of sweat are beginning to appear on his forehead. He can’t sit still. With one round to go, I come from behind to be within reach…..but crucially, in the final blind single card round, he takes the victory. It’s fate. But, Oh no! In all his excitement, he forgets all about technique, snatches the horn and blows down it like a straw, barely emitting a sound.

In a van full of musicians (and me), this isn’t likely to go unnoticed, and he hangs his head in shame as we all dissolve in fits of laughter. The Trump-it is replaced in it’s position of honour, we laugh for a full five minutes more, and then simultaneously fall asleep.

What Fakir makes of it all, I dare not think.

Some time later, we arrive in Paris. We manage the infamously tricky streets with no problem, and arrive at the venue on time. That’s the last good thing that happens for quite a while.

Now, I’ll have to give you some background here.

A friend of the band, Jason Pegg (q.v.) had earlier in the tour sent Jim a link to a YouTube video taking the mick out of how local promoters treat, no, bully smaller bands. There are a few of these things around, automatically generated animations where you get to write the dialogue yourself – and I’ve seen an equally excellent one featuring a dj remixer being bullied by a record company.

In this one, the promoter calmly tells the artist that his band has to get in to the venue at midday, that the sound engineer will not arrive til 9pm, that he will then give a soundcheck to the promoter’s brother’s 18 piece samba band, that the artist’s band will not get a soundcheck, that they will not play til 2pm so that their fans will have to get a taxi or nightbus home, that none of the bands playing on the night will be of similar style to their band, that they will not get paid etc etc etc.

Oh, how we laughed.

When we arrive at the venue in Paris, we go down into the club, a dark basement with no external indication that it is a venue. There are about six guys building the p.a. They are trying not to catch our eyes. We hungrily wait around, hoping that someone will profer the catering we’ve been promised. Nobody talks to us.

An hour after our soundcheck is supposed to start, the manager comes down and tells the guys to rebuild the p.a. – it’s too low. It’s about this time that we realise this p.a. is actually for the dj’s playing after our set. We ask about where our hotel for tonight is and are greeted by several excellent examples of the gallic shrug. Ricky pitches in and starts trying to answers. He keeps being told they know nothing until the promoter arrives. The promoter doesn’t arrive. I text Carsten to ask what the deal is, only to be told that the venue IS the promoter for the night. We are tired and hungry and it’s cold outside. Too cold to sleep in the street anyway. This is far from the organised hospitality we’ve been treated to in Germany, Austria and Switzerland over the last month. All is not well.

The other bands have arrived and are staring daggers at us, assuming that the reason we still haven’t finished our soundcheck, now two hours overdue, is that we are late-arriving prima donnas. We finally start the soundcheck, and in an attempt to appease the other bands, run through just a verse each of two songs and get off the stage within twenty minutes. The two support bands, each with their own sound engineers, then proceed to take an hour and a half each to get their sound right. Is somebody filming this?

Meanwhile, Ricky, who has decided to take control of the situation to the eternal gratitude of the band, keeps being told ‘Give me fifteen minutes’ by different members of staff, who then get on mobiles and disappear for half an hour. We still don’t know if we have a hotel, let alone food. Carsten is texting his fury from Frankfurt, but can do nothing; Fakir is bemused but really not sure what to do. He’s not really a tour manager. Will and i talk about pulling the gig if we have no hotel. I’ve never really pulled the rock star moody and walked out before – even when we played to a room full of toddlers. Will reminds me this is a good thing. Thanks Will.

We buy some booze and try to make light of the situation, Fakir and Ricky entertaining us with their instant phone remixes of popular tunes. The promoter finally arrives, a lovely guy as it turns out, explaining how he’s just taken over from the previous guy, and the contract he saw only had a monetary fee. With hotels and food for six, that would be more than doubled by our expenses. He’s on our side though, and goes to negotiate on our behalf with the owner.

Ten minutes before we go on, we are finally assured WE WILL HAVE A HOTEL. Relieved, and a little drunk by now, we take to the minute stage, and have a really great last show. The crowd – small, but extremely attentive – absolutely love us and scream with enthusiasm after every number. It’s all a little surreal after the build up and the last month, but we lap it up, together with the plentiful booze from the bar, which suddenly seems to have completely defrosted in attitude since we played.

We leave to get dinner and sleep, with the promoter, who turns out to be the d.j. playing after our show, wishing us all the best before going back downstairs to knock out his very favourite tunes to a now completely empty dance floor.

Shattered, we grab some noodles and head to the hotel – which seems to be in Paris’ equivalent of Tin Pan Alley – littered with musical instrument stores. Looking around, we all look completely dejected and ready for home – but at least we have a hotel. Don’t we?

The hotel staff know nothing about us, and have no rooms. NO! It’s half two in the morning and we don’t have a room. The promoter is still djing.

The calm, dapper reception guy negotiates with Ricky for a good half hour, before offering us some customarily tiny rooms at a discount. Where these free rooms suddenly appear from I have no idea, but we gladly accept, paying from the fee in the hope we can get it back later.

Somewhere about 3.30 we hit our beds and fall instantly asleep.

What a day.

Can we be home now please?

Day 24 – Home James, and don’t spare the horseplay

It’s all a lot brighter in the morning. The dapper receptionist is still there, still smiling and perfectly groomed. There’s an enormous amount of French, German, Brazillian, Arabic, British and American tourists milling about in the miniscule breakfast area. We grab croissants and coffee and hit the road. Just get us home.

The drive passes without incident, apart from the occasional blast of the Victory Trump-it. Everyone wins a game, except me –but in a bizarre twist of the results, I end up as overall winner and get to keep the horn as a trophy til next tour. I feel a bit of a fraud, not having one a single game, an it shows in my rather muted victory parps.

At Calais, we wait for Mike and Will’s friend Robin to come and collect us.

We play a game of catch with an apple in the carpark – we’re a very innocent band. There’s a hand-over handshake between drivers Fakir and Robin, a fond farewell to the former, and a quick lunch back at L’Hovercraft (French for hovercraft, q.v.). They’re L’Hovercraft have much to recommend them. Mainly size.

Then we’re onto the ferry. And it’s all over. Tomorrow, we play The Great Escape in Brighton, and next week the promotions start for the UK album release. For now though, it’s a time for the reassurance of home and the delight of seeing our loved ones. It’s been a very long time.

Was bisher geschah:
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 1
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 2
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 3
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 4
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 5
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 6
The Miserable Rich – Tour-Diary Pt. 7

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