June 14th, 2010

SUMMER FUN WITH THE SPECIALS!!! By Sir Horace Gentleman. Chapter 1. Greece. June 11/12

The thing about early morning alarm calls is that Iʼm always awake before they go off. In this case, about an hour before. The call is set for 6 and Iʼm wide awake at 5. Funny that. Today The Specials are playing their first ever concert in Greece. Athens in fact, as part of the Kosmos Festival, a world music weekend affair. We headline on the Friday. It is the first of our ʻSummer Festivals tourʼ if you like, only thereʼs lots of days off. Weekend work mostly. The band (and crew) who live in London are catching a direct Athens flight from Heathrow, while the Country Bumpkins, as Neville calls those who donʼt live in our nationsʼ capital (the Coventry/Leicester contingent) are departing from Birmingham to go via Zurich. The van, with Nev in it, arrives at 6:45. We next pick up ʻPunkyʼ Steve Brophy (guitar tech), then Roddy and get to the airport by 7:30. This is all down to some supreme logistics from Sam Harris. Sammy is becoming the unsung hero of The Specials. His brother is Everett from The Beat and he started driving Neville to and from gigs on our last UK tour. He now ferries the country bumpkins down to London for Rehearsals/t.v. shows and airport runs. Nice bloke. So here we are on the 8:50 to Zurich. Drew (saxophone) and Big Jon (trumpet) have arrived from Leicester and off we go.

The trip to Zurich is fine, but the Zurich/Athens flight is trying. Apart from the screaming child (thereʼs always one of those) there is a large Swiss works outing posse who have something to do with the planeʼs co-pilot. They donʼt appear to be drunk, just very loud. They are all seated behind where Rod, Big Jon and I are sitting and it gets to be a real zoo. Greece is boiling hot when we arrive and weʼre met by Sean (Roddyʼs guy) and take a van to our hotel past elaborate shanty towns just off the motorway into downtown Athens, which is quite dirty and has lots of graffiti (some of it rather good). We arrive around 6pm local time and are scheduled to leave for the gig at 9.

Jaeki (tour manager) phones my room to tell me we now leave at 9:30 and show time is now 11pm, half an hour later than originally advertised. So by 9:30 weʼre boarding a bus which takes us on a somewhat arduous journey across Athens. The venue is outdoors in what looks like an old quarry. Behind the stage is a huge vertical cliff. Very spectacular. Iʼve missed Staff Benda Bilili, who have already played (damn, I wanted to see them) and a French group, Dub Inc. are playing. The crowd seem into it and itʼs considerably cooler now the sunʼs gone down. Thereʼs a breeze even. The curfew has been moved back so weʼre told and it is 11:35 when The Specials finally get to go on. During Itʼs Up To You, Lynval attempts one of his leaps up to Nikolajʼs keyboard riser…..and misses. He is observed during Rodʼs guitar solo sprawled across the keyboard riser with Daniel (stage manager) righting an up-turned keyboard and Nikolaj attempting to re-start his leslie speaker with his foot. The Specials are controlled chaos at the best of times, and this definitely seemed like the best of times. Needless to say, no-one missed a beat!

Now, we have a new monitor engineer. his name is Gabriel..honestly! He came to the dressing room with a big grin on his face afterwards to thank us. I think he had fun. Our regular monitor guy (whoʼs on tour in the US at present) is called Rabbit. To think about it, a lot of road crew types have dodgy names. The guitar tech in General Public was called Digby, and once, on a Specialbeat tour, we had a guitar tech called Plank. I never found out what was on his passport ( Plank, I suppose).

Anyway, the set continues with Lynval hobbling around the stage and saying how his leg hurts. All this does not stop him from inviting a very inebriate female member of the audience up on the stage for the last number, Enjoy Yourself, much to the hilarity of the band and hopefully the audience.We donʼt get to play an encore as (a) we are past the curfew, and (b) the police are here to make sure the curfew is enforced. The audience are not happy with this and hurl stuff at the stage as our road crew attempt to pack down the equipment. Paul, the drum tech, said that the ride cymbal made a very effective shield. There is some very nice Greek brandy going round which makes the bus trip back to the hotel quite enjoyable.

Next morning my hangover is not as bad as I had anticipated and I make it down to breakfast. Drew and Punky Steve got up at the crack of dawn and went to the Acropolis. Mad buggers. On our flight back to Birmingham (via Zurich, of course) the country bumpkins get to travel business class. We must have a good travel agent. Our flight gets in to Brum at 6:15 in the evening but Nevilleʼs bag is not on the flight. It is stuck in Athens, or Zurich….Ho Hum.

Whatʼs On Your I-Pod…(An occasional series)

Nev. About 30 tunes I recorded in America. Iʼm trying to choose 12 of them for my next album.