Sunday, 6th March 2005 in Road Trip U.K. 2005.
Journey from Birkenhead to Bolton is not at all bad. A sunny day and all feel elated by the reception last night – sold about 38 new CDs and many T-shirts. We take turns driving, stopping for sandwiches, coffees etc.
It is Mother’s Day today in England but do not feel I can use that as an excuse to be spoilt again –had such a nice day yesterday – Tom and JJ refused to let us drive or carry anything as well as buying us treats and champagne. So today I drive and we get to the Holiday Inn Bolton around four pm having had a fruitless hunt for plectrums for Neil, drumsticks for JJ and rosin for Tom’s bow. The guy in the music shop recognises Neil – rings his brother – a huge fan- and gets Neil to speak to him. So by the time we get to the hotel we have half an hour before leaving again for the gig. Suddenly a huge bunch of flowers appears from behind the desk from Miles Luke and Barney. I am so touched – I always miss them badly at some point when we are away from home. I spend the next half hour running the batteries down on Neil’s phone chatting to them about the tour, their jobs, our grandchildren, life in general etc etc but retire happy. We have a difficult time finding the route to the gig with our no local map situation, courtesy of our agents, and various road diversions, courtesy of the local council, but eventually find The Albert halls. It is a monster of a building. JJ jumps out to ask where the stage door is and then gets straight back in the van and drives furiously round the back. We wonder why? Later he explains that the guy he spoke to said the entrance was round the back but you had to have a permit to park there and getting one of those would take a week. That is so obstructive and so typical of some Brits – we call them ‘jobsworths’ sitting around all day with nothing much to do except make life difficult with their list of rules which must be obeyed. Anyway JJ calms down and we begin to unload. Turns out the gig is on the third floor of this vast emporium and there is only a small lift up so it takes about six goes to get all of us and all the instruments up. The room itself is not large and has a low ceiling. There is an attempt at a night-club atmosphere with round tables and chairs, tablecloths etc. The sound is OK but when I question the sound guy about lighting he says – ‘I switch it on when they go on stage’. ‘But you will need to know which bits to light, when to dim etc etc’ I say, mustering as much authority as I can. ‘That would be nice’ he says ‘if we had lights. But here they are either off or on. That’s it.’ The manager gives me a bit of plastic on a chain and about three keys. ‘When you get to a door’, she explains, ‘you will see a red light. Put the plastic square on the light and the door will open. The keys are for the dressing rooms which you must lock every time you go out.’ Groan. It is all so complex that the band can not get back on stage for the second half because the door won’t open. The audience are about to start a slow handclap when the manager happens to look to the end of a long corridor to see the band helplessly gesticulating behind the door. She rushes down there with her little piece of plastic and releases them. But it is a good audience who really enjoy the show even though they have to climb at least three flights of stairs to get here. Many of them stay behind to get things signed or just to chat with the band.
And then it is down and up and down and up till all the gear is packed back in the van. The sound guy has been helpful and two or three give JJ a hand with the instruments. Nice to stand and chat in the cool night air. On the way back to the hotel we buy snacky things which we eat in the deserted bar area. We have a bottle of wine from the gig, plus beers and water. There is no service and the night manager keeps wandering in giving us nervous glances as though we might do something unexpected at any moment. I think he was freaked by Tom’s dreadlocks and by the fact that we were all very casually dressed, relaxed and happy. We eat and drink unable to take our eyes off the giant television showing pop videos and then leave after about an hour taking all our rubbish with us. The night manager rushes in half expecting upturned tables, smashed chairs, missing ashtrays etc etc He sees the table clear, the chairs upright and nothing missing and tersely bids us a very goodnight.
Message from Neil ‘History is littered…..’
Tom ‘Empathy can only be reciprocated’ – deeeeep
Yes, you’ve guessed it – by this time everyone is a little tired.