grapevine
July 21st, 2010

SUMMER FUN WITH THE SPECIALS, CHAPTER 5. BY SIR HORACE GENTLEMAN.

Well, here we are again. Same old mad dash to Birmingham International Arsehole, check in, take your shoes and belt off (‘just a random search sir’ - yes, just like the last one) and hang around. Today it’s the the 10‘o’clock flight to Turin (Italy) via Frankfurt (Germany) to play the Turin Traffic Festival. Another logistic nightmare. Midland posse fly from Brum, London posse from Gatwick, Tony the Trumpet from Manchester and a lighting guy we’ve not met yet from Edinburgh. Jaeki will be joining us on Saturday so we will be shepherded by Steve (not the manager) Blackwell until he turns up. Oh, and we’re using our own equipment (up until now we’ve hired stuff at the site) which left England on the Wednesday afternoon. Birmingham airport turns out to be pleasant after all. Nev gets recognised by some ground staff and old Birmingham days are re-visited. Nice.
Frankfurt airport. Yes, thank you very much, done that. Flight to Turin with some very Alp-looking mountains below on the right. At Turin airport, Punky Steve’s suitcase is literally pounced on by a huge Alsatian sniffer dog. Fifteen rather nerve-wracking minutes pass before Steve and his suitcase come through, himself having been searched extremely thoroughly.
He really looked like he needed that cigarette. At the hotel I manage a couple of hours sleep - I didn’t sleep too good last night, and am awaked by the sound of the London posse loudly going to their rooms. The festival site is just out of town in the grounds of what I can only describe as a palace. We get there in the dark so I’m unable to see the whole thing properly. Anyhow, this is rock and roll not sightseeing! Paul Weller is Shouting to the Top on the stage as we amble into our porta–cabin dressing rooms and get our bearings.
Anyone who wasn’t familiar with the running of the stage would think it was complete chaos. Come to think of it, the crew would definitely agree but somehow it gets set up and we start at around half past eleven. There are 25,000 people here to see us, plus the majority of Paul Weller’s crew, who all wish us well. Thanks gentlemen. I reckon this is the hottest gig we’ve done so far. The fans (air conditioning, not the audience) are totally ineffective. I didn’t bother wearing my suit jacket and Lynval’s comes off after the second song. One of the things I’ve noticed about these European shows is just how big ‘Message to You, Rudy’ has become. In the UK, I’d always considered ‘Too Much Too Young’ or ‘Ghost Town’ our ‘biggest hits’ as they both went to number 1 but in Europe, our most popular song is ‘Rudy’. Down the front, the security have their work cut out as kids crowd surf and cause the general mayhem that we’re used to. A couple of kids very nearly made it to the stage at one point. Terry is on particularly good form this evening. Nite Klub gets extended and goes down a storm. After Enjoy Yourself (Hi, my name’s Terry……….and I think I’m over the worst of it!) we come off and it’s 12:37am. The curfew came into effect 7 minutes ago so again, there’s no encore. Luckily the MC who introduced us comes on to say we can’t play any more and that seems to work for the crowd. I’d heard that Italian crowds can be pretty rowdy - this one was.
Backstage, people thank us profusely for playing, which is always nice. During the show a young lady at the front was blowing me kisses. That hasn’t happened for a long time!
Lynval has drunk three bottles of the local ‘Strong Ale’ (7.7%) and is even more gregarious than usual. He manages to spill a fair proportion of his last bottle over me as he gets in the bus back to the hotel. The driver takes a very circuitous route back to town, through an industrial area which was populated by some very scary-looking prostitutes. We get back to the hotel some time after 2am. It was a good gig…..and it didn’t rain.
Friday. If we were on a ‘real’ tour, today would be called a ‘travel day’. In this case, it is something of a misnomer, as we spend most of it not traveling. 9:30am departure from the hotel to Turin airport, check in and wait until midday until our flight to Madrid takes off. From there, the plan is to get a connecting flight to Valencia but as they say, ‘the best laid plans………’
Paul Weller’s guitar player, Steve Craddock is on the flight. He’s been a member of Ocean Colour Scene for 21 years as well as a Weller sidesman. O.C.S. are playing in Vigo (northern Spain) tonight, so him and his guitar tech, ‘Nudge‘ (I told you roadies have odd names) sit with us on the plane and exchange war stories and expound theories. We have studios, producers and Rico in common and a love of music played from the heart. Nice bloke.
We arrive in Madrid and have 40 minutes to get our connecting flight to Valencia, only it’s delayed……..until a quarter past five, which is really a quarter to six by the time we’re on the plane. We are then told we can’t take off until a quarter past seven, another hour and a half. What!!! Then there is another announcement that says we are taking off immediately.
Paul (drum tech) and I reckon it’s a public relations stunt to make us feel better about having wasted all afternoon in Madrid airport.Anyhow, the flight takes off and we do the hour flight in 35 minutes! The country has a bit more buzz about it since they won the football. Baggage claim is interesting. I’m a real people watcher so it’s great watching families with film-star wannabee children, old couples bickering and kids who are so excited they have to run everywhere. We get our stuff and go. Well, everyone except Tim. His trombone is still in Madrid apparently, but we are assured it will be with us later tonight.
Forget that bit about buzz and football. There now follows a boring coach drive for an hour or so from Valencia to Castellon, near where the festival site is. It is unbearably hot.
It is incredible how utterly exhausting it can be, doing nothing.
Saturday. Breakfasted with Lynval and met Rod and Neville outside the hotel, along with Steve (not the manager) Blackwell who informs us we have a photo session at 4:30pm this afternoon. He’ll be lucky. If there’s one thing this band is in agreement with it is an intense dislike of having its photo taken. I manage a 10 minute stroll around the local area but quickly find my way back to the hotel. Even though the weather is overcast it is incredibly hot and we have to play in this later. There doesn’t seem to be many locals about but I suppose they’ve got it sussed. Mad Dogs and Englishmen and all that.
We get ourselves off to the gig at seven. (Tim’s trombone finally turned up a 6:30pm !!)
The festival is just out of town, at Benecassim. A large tent city, different stages, big chain-link fences, security guys with day-glo t-shirts and lots of English lorries. Backstage is like a truckers convention in Huddersfield, only hotter. We have very little contact with the outside world, existing in a space enclosed by porta-cabins, wristbands and a V.I.P. area which I studiously avoid. On one hand, I like to have my own space before a show but I resent the ‘bubble’ that can be created by all this. We get to do our photo session, 30 minutes before we go on. I feel the results will be less than spectacular.
The Benecassim festival has been built up as some sort of ‘jewel in the crown’ of European festivals but it doesn’t do it for me. The performance was OK. Brad and I played fine but there was something lacklustre about the show. Probably the heat to be honest. Every one who we spoke with afterwards thought it was great, but they weren’t in Turin or at Werchter. As we leave for the hotel around midnight, The Prodigy arrive in a convoy of top-of-the-range executive saloon cars, a Bentley GT coupe bringing up the rear. I had this idea that Joe Strummer would have been spinning at this moment. John Lydon was backstage, as was Johnny Marr. Ho Hum.
Ian (our agent) reckoned we played to 23,000 people but Steve (not the manager) Blackwell thought it was a lot more than that. Roddy forgot to do his solo in It’s Up To You.
He forgot the solo in Man at C&A in Turin too. Old age no doubt. At least Lynval never fell over……….and it didn’t rain.
Sunday, and another airport to hang around in. Two, as at goes. Valencia to Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf to Birmingham. Airports have become our natural habitat. Uncomfortable chairs, barely functioning air conditioning and……shopping. Do I really need a Swatch watch? How about a fridge magnet? Should I buy my wife a some Belgian chocolate?
With time to kill all this stuff is deadly, like being locked in a gigantic shopping mall. On our way to Australia last year we stopped over in Dubai airport. It was obscene. Like you’ll buy a Tag Hauer watch because you’ve got nothing to do!! I’ve finished the book I’m reading so the boredom becomes even more acute. Punky Steve and Roddy head for the bar and Drew goes in search of a Spanish football shirt for his eldest lad. Neville investigates his i-pad, whatever that is. A Prodigy keyboard tech comes over and introduces himself. The Prods are playing the same festival as us in a fortnights time. More limo’s eh!
We depart Valencia half an hour later than scheduled for a 2 and-a-bit hour flight to Dusseldorf where we spend a mercifully short time waiting for our connecting flight to Birmingham. Roddy is complaining about how he needs a holiday. Neville says he would go anywhere as long as he didn’t have to get a flight. Weston-Super-Mare it is then!!

What’s On Your I-Pod? An Occasional Series.
Lynval: The Jolly Boys, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The new Sade album and Nat King Cole.