Set list spoiler alert …
Preparing mentally for my next festival this summer, the New Day in Faversham next weekend. I’ll be prompting the band to put some homework in as the last couple of weeks since the Warsaw festival it’s been easy to take your eye off the ball.
‘Tent Guy’ is back with me here and we have been crawling back into writing since he drove up to the Studio just after the Polish trip.It’s been a challenge getting into a new creative focus but Steve Vantsis and I managed to bring together a new idea and have the muscle and skeleton of ‘Walking on Eggshells’ very close to completion .The lyric story is in frame and melodies roughly in shape. Still a lot to do re colours and sanding down the rough edges and ‘speed bumps’ but it’s 6 minutes full of a lot of promise and fits in well with the concept and standard of everything we have so far.
We are reviewing what we have on the 13 minute epic ‘Rose of Damascus’ in the next days and making a few adjustments before we break for the ‘New Day’ festival. That will be followed by a week here on my own when I can get my head down into lyric writing as there’s a lot of ‘fleshing’ out to do.
I’m confident we can surge forward now as my decks are relatively clear and having listened to all the accumulated ideas we recorded last sessions there’s more than enough for us to work with in the next 3 months before we start recording.
Warsaw had been an interesting outing. Everyone was nervous, especially John Mitchell who was making his debut appearance filling in for Robin Boult on guitar.
We’d all flown in the night before and I elected for a hotel night in after a meal in the restaurant. ‘Zurek’ soup, pork knuckle, wine and then Netflix was my choice of exit.‘Another Holiday Inn, another temporary home’ came to mind.
Soundcheck was early and everyone was there apart from my production manager Dominik who missed 4 alarm calls and 2 reception calls and turned up in a taxi an hour or so later. Having flown in from the States , where he’d been on holiday only a few days before the jet lag (or gin lag) had kicked in. He was forgiven although had to suffer a few hours of merciless ‘banter’ to reach that point!
Soundcheck was effortless and our out front star ‘Radar’ was as on the ball as always. Back to the ‘bin’ for a few hours and a catch up on the 2020 European tour plans with Dominik before back in the shuttle once again to the festival site for a signing session.A well marshalled affair , fans were sent from the line 2 at a time to have their chosen 2 items signed. It was a slow process and thankfully ‘selfies’ were not allowed as it would have dragged way beyond the allocated timing. It also saved my knees and back as I’d have to get up and down from the seat and lean over the security fence on every ‘visit’. As happened the queue ran out before the time did and I hung around in front of the barrier with some fans and we did the obligatory shots for most.of them. Secuity nervously watched on , quite surprised at the friendliness on display on both sides.
The only thing I didn’t do was shake hands with people as my right finger was still recovering and sore from the operation a month before.Signing wasn’t exactly comfortable but I was worried a macho handshake from someone might damage it and I had a microphone to deal with in less than 3 hours.
I sat in the dressing room escaping the heat and read my book ( ‘The Glass Room’ by Simon Mawer) listening to ‘Tesseract’ on stage. I didn’t really know much about the band and what I was hearing was not what I expected if I’m honest. Great melodies and dynamics and a sound performance and I reminded myself to give them a ‘proper listen’ sometime.
The dressing rooms were in the familar Progresza venue with the open air stage directly out the back and reached by a series of rusting metal steps from the 3rd floor that was fully visible to the crowd. My journey to stage was cautious and my return tentative and painful after just over an hour singing on my feet.
The performance worked well in the setting and our sound was inspiring.There were a few mistakes and nervous stares but the line held.
‘Big Wedge’ set us up and from the hands on show in the audience we had a lot of friends out there. ‘Brother 52’ followed close with the spooky experience of hearing ‘Doc’s’ voice on the recordings on a Polish PA system.‘Man with a Stick’ ended the opening trio and then I brought in ‘Just Good Friends’ with Doris Brendel taking on Sam Brown’s role expertly. Back up the gear with ‘Feast of Consequences’ and then the rumbling toms of ‘Credo’ took over. There were few introductions as my Polish is non existent and the set time tight.‘Vigil’ however I ran through some familar names who didn’t need translations and the drift of where I was at was obvious.‘Pipeline’ had the hands up and we led out with the pulsing ‘Lucky’ and a hectic ‘Internal Exile’ to find ourselves 5 minutes short !
I’d originally intended it to be a post 88 set list as I had enough ‘festival friendly’ numbers in my own catalogue to deal with the occassion.‘Little Man’ was on the set list but I’d decided to drop it as it made the set too tight timewise. In Warsaw as I had an hour 20 on stage without ‘Little Man’ I was 5 short.
At 10 minutes of long slow intensity it was a risk at a festival and I thought there would have been enough intros and outros in the setlist to snaffle up the missing 5 minutes.
I checked with Dominik at side of stage during ‘Exile’ , I was 5 short.
I called ‘Lavender’ which we hadn’t fully rehearsed as it was marked as a standby in case of emergencies such as guitar going down. Foss and I obviously knew it well from the Fishheads Club tour and everyone else had played it at one time or another with different arrangements in different set ups. And that was the problem. When I called it no one was quite sure of which arrangement we were working to. It was loose and haphazard but we muddled our way through it with gusto and aplomb and the audience loved it.
I’d been determined to have a ‘Marillo’ free set list for a change but I think the signing session before the gig had softened me as 75% of the albums I signed were pre 88. Slightly disgruntling at the time the thought does go through your head about the relevance of the last 30 years of output and you have to let it go and take a different perspective.
And so I called ‘Lavender’ as a nod to my ‘illustrious’ past.
I enjoyed singing it and taking my bow I was proud we had pulled it off. Everyone had done their bit and although there were a lot of questions we had answered most of them on stage.
The set list had worked well and I think surprised a few people at how ‘up tempo’ and rocky it was. We were all happy backstage and glad to chalk our first one up. We’d learned a lot.
I recovered and chilled and met with some old dear friends from Warsaw while the gear was broken down and the band launched into the rider and food in catering. We had all commented on the fact that nearly everything on display on the catering trestles was vegan/ vegetarian marked and although meat dishes were available they were far outnumbered by the healthier options Definitely a sign of changing times and attitudes and it’s apparent that in the next years the signs won’t be indicating ‘vegetarian/vegan’ options but ‘carnovore’ as the former will become the norm.
Backstage conversations in catering ate into the time and we left on the transit transport half way through ‘Opeth’s’ headline set. They were doing exactly what I thought it said on the tin and the crowd were up for it. I needed a ‘bed in the bin’.It had been a long day.
The Holiday Inn bar was fleshed out and loud and I had a relatively early start with Foss for the flight to Edinburgh and was designated driver at the other end. One for the road and one for beddy byes.
The van journey to the airport out of town was slightly surreal.
Our driver was called Bart, his nickname was ‘Spider’ and his DJ stage moniker while working clubs was ‘Spider Jerusalem’.
An awesome title in my book!
When he’d picked us up at Warsaw ‘Chopin’ airport the night before the gig he’d played ambient music on the van stereo which fitted the city moving into dusk and the emtying streets.On our drive to the Ryan Air launch pad we were given 45 minutes of Polish jazz performances of Miles Davis tracks. Great playing and arrangements but it all started to get a bit too much and I was glad to get off at the terminal somewhere in a cleared forest.
Foss, who is a jazz afficianado even admitted it was doing his head in and was amazed I’d lasted the journey. I told him I was putting up with it because I knew he liked it. Foss had wanted it switched off about 20 minutes in but had thought I was into it and said nothing. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more at home with a large cognac in front of a fire on a hugging couch but in a van with a slight hangover in 28 degrees and bouncing around in heavy Sunday recreational traffic. Nah!
I was glad to be back home and sitting down for dinner early evening with my family with a garden on full beam outside.
The week would hold meetings that were changing things and bringing punctuation stops into the equation. More of that much later but there is now a definitive end game demanding very strict time planning and careful thought. Ravens have been sent out and the people who need to know now know the strategy.
I’m feeling lighter now and more positive in so many ways.
I’m really looking forward to a week of writing words to go with our ‘skeletal song frameworks’ without intrusion but before then I have the New Day festival.Funny thing is I’m looking forward to visiting the Mt Ephraim gardens where we are playing as much as the gig later on that night.
The times they most definitely are a changing .