On The Road – Adrian Crowley in the UK, part 2
More from Mister Adrian Crowley as he travels the lenghth and breadth of the big island to the right of us supporting Silver Jews and Vetiver. In this installment, our hero takes a spin from Coventry to Cambridge, meets the …
More from Mister Adrian Crowley as he travels the lenghth and breadth of the big island to the right of us supporting Silver Jews and Vetiver. In this installment, our hero takes a spin from Coventry to Cambridge, meets the coolest 12 year old in Manchester, has trouble finding his way out of the venue in Glasgo, hears a possible shaggy dog story of the tightrope-walking Chinese bull mastiffn and goes in search of the best single malt whisky in Aberdeen.
The Barfly, Cambridge with Vetiver
It’s an odd way to travel this. This silver bullet we’re in resembles a Delorean. A Delorean with normal doors, I tell myself, as we tear down the motorway from ‘Cov’ to Cambridge under a dark threatening sky. The wind is up and the trees are lashing back and forth.
It’s just Rich and I for the moment, Rich at the wheel and I. Vince is waiting at Cambridge train station, frowning slightly and staring into space. He’s listening to his iPod. The station is busy with a lot of children about, on some kind of day trip. He’s like a pillar of composure as the kids swirl around him. I hop from the silver bullet to run into the hallway to grab his attention and travel bag.Then it’s off to the venue with us.
Vetiver are loading in and the wind is still strong. Andy from the band is in rain gear as they all carry the gear up the fire escape. We follow suit with the AC amp and guitars.
There is another support billed and people refer to us as the “mystery act”. It seems they weren’t expecting us. Some rep chap tells me he’s been told the “square root of fuck all”, while his assistant nods silently. They remind me of that pair of guys with the weasel in The Big Lebowski. We sort it all out and start the soundcheck unhindered.
The gig goes well. Vince plays like a hero and Otto joins us for three songs at the end of the set. Despite the pillar in the middle of the stage, there is good communication between us.
We have to leave before the end of Vetiver’s set because of the drive back to Coventry. It’s Manchester tomorrow so we need to snap off a bit of the journey tonight.
As we’re loading out outside the venue, two student lads are watching me. One says in a Yorkshire accent: “Are you proper famous, like?” “Eh, no I wouldn’t say that” “Is that yours? You must be doing alright” (referring to the car) “No, it’s his dad’s” nodding at Rich.
Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester with Silver Jews
This place is beautiful, a kind of 1930s Art Deco-style theatre with old cage style elevators. Silver Jews are unloading their gear as we arrive. They seem different in the daylight.
Emma arrives from London, we meet her outside the main doors of The Dancehouse and we all go next door for some food. Later as we enter the basement (shared) dressing room, David Berman looks up from his armchair.
“Aaaadrian” he greets.
“Hello again, David”
I notice the brace on his right hand.
“Sorry to hear about your hand”
“Oh, it’ll be ok. Great discovery though, finding out that I don’t have to play guitar.”
Apparantly he fell down the stairs in Dundalk. The others in the band enter the room and smile warmly. I sit down and change the battery in my tuner. Silver Jews go upstairs to soundcheck. Emma, Vince and I do the same not long after. Someone checks the smoke machine and it makes a deafening, grating noise as it splutters out clouds. I imagine a smoke machine catching fire and wonder how long before people realised.
The sound seems good and we step backstage to get ready to play. During the first line of the first song, the microphone falls down suddenly.We sort of laugh and start again. We do a new song “The Beekeeper’s Wife”, the strings sound fantastic. The auditorium is fairly full and it seems easy to play in settings such as this.We finish and leave stage right.
Emma and I watch SJ from the audience.David is obviously enjoying the freedom afforded by his injured right hand. He prances and paces around the stage with an extra long cable for the mic. He even disappears behind the red curtain at the back of the stage during a song and re-emerges wheeling a vintage looking chair with a pair of casters on the back legs. At one point he sits next to someone in the audience and sings the last two songs of the set from there.
Later at the crowded merch table I notice a book, “Actual Air”. I buy it and go back stage to the dressing room to gather up my stuff. David is there talking to someone.
“Hey David, I bought your book”.
“Do you want me to sign it?” he asks.
“Sure, if you feel like it. Write whatever you like. It doesn’t even have to be funny’
“OK, that takes the pressure off’, he mutters as he takes the book and pen from my hand.
He carefully holds the pen and starts to write slow scratchy words, steadying the book on his lap with his injured hand. I observe the spidery words form slowly and painstakingly on the page.
“So you must write with the other hand ,usually”, I ask sympathetically.
“Actually, I always write with this hand”
With the book in my pocket I bump ito one of the Silver Jews’ guitarists entering from the corridor. He offers to play guitar with us any time I want.He writes his details carefully on a piece of paper. I notice later he’s modestly included “Silver Jews” in brackets. How touching.
We make our way to our accomodation- it’s a house in a leafy terrace, home to a friend of Rich named Bernie, a local supporter of music. She helps promoters by putting up touring bands. As we arrive in the sitting room, her 12 year old daughter is sitting on the floor by the coffee table, colouring in a drawing. The first thing I notice apart from the cosy, inviting feeling in the house is the amount of CDs and vinyl. Emma asks what’s the music coming from the stereo.
“Kimya Dawson, she stayed here once”. She closes her drawing book, gets up sleepily and says goodnight.
“What a cool kid”, I think.
The rest of us talk,listen to music and drink red wine until the wee hours. At one stage Bernie gets up and fetches something from a shelf. “Here’s another Irish lad who stayed here once”. She hands me a photo of Phil Lynott standing outside her house. She shows us all to our dorm in the basement. There are 5 beds in a
vaulted room. Rich is already asleep in one.
In the morning we have breakfast by the kitchen window. We all watch a squirrel as he hangs from his tail diligently plundering the bird feed that hangs from the sycamore branch. Bernie drives Emma and Vince to the train station, Rich gets ready to pack the car and I chat to Bernie’s wee daughter and ask her if she has
anyone else coming to stay. She walks over to the calender and lifts the page.
“Not for another week or so. Then we have Daniel Johnston, The National….”
It’s quite a list. We say goodbye and hop in the car. It’s back to Coventry for a night off. It rains all the way. Rich and I talk about some plans to tour in France. As we approach Cov, I lean out the window at some traffic lights. It’s a heavy misty rain and it soothes my face.
“Hey Rich, it’s like Evian spray”.
Rich opens his window and does the same.
“Yeah, mate, free Coventry Evian spray”
Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh with Vetiver
I leave one of my guitars and the amp in Coventry and take the plane from Birmingham. I love, love Edinburgh. I’m walking down the Royal Mile heading for Cabaret Voltaire. There are tourists taking haunted tours, a man playing bagpipes. It’s sunny and very warm. As I approach Blair Street, I see Otto walking up the hill. Apparantly Vetiver have just finished soundchecking. I enter the venue and my friend Jo Mango is on the stage. She’s also on the bill tonight. Jo plays live with Vashti Bunyan. It’s nice to see Jo again.
I just remember two good friends are driving down to Edinburgh for tonight’s gig, Pinkie and John (Pumajaw), and I haven’t seen them since they signed to Fire Records a few months ago. I’m excited to see them.
The venue is pretty full when I come down from the dressing room to see Jo. Without any dilly-dally, I get up and play. The sound is pretty powerful. People really listen too. Otto joins me for the last two.
After the gig I go for a drink around the corner in Bo’s with Emily Roff (she promotes gigs under the name Tracer Trails) and Tom Bauchop (who trades under the name UNPOC for Domino Records). We get a seat by the window facing the street. Pinkie and John join us.We have a beer and then Otto and Andy from Vetiver come in. We’re all talking when I notice some guy out on the street shouting at a traffic cone. He seems really pissed off with the traffic cone and starts kicking it hard. I notice his trousers are slung kind of low.
“Hey, look at that guy kicking the traffic cone, I think his pants are going to fall down”.
Everyone looks out the window, the guy swings one last kick at the cone and his trousers fall down. He shuffles off down the street, the traffic cone lying on it side.
The Arches, Glasgow with Vetiver
I make my way by train from Edinburgh’s Waverley station to Queen St, Glasgow. The Arches is a subterranean complex that houses the venue for tonight. Stefan, Vetiver’s soundman, waves at me as I place my guitar by the stage. There are candles on the tables and as I check my guitar I soon realise that the sound in here is pretty big.
I eat sea bass with the guys and the promoter and then take to the stage. The set goes down well. All I can see are candles like lanterns on a black sea. Tonight, I feel exhausted and lean by the merch table. As soon as the show is over, I get ready to head for the train station to get back to Edinburgh for my second night at Emily and Tom’s. First, I have to find my way out of the building. I go from one arch to another then another corridor and another arch. I’m starting to sweat with the weight of my guitar and satchel.I see a guy in uniform.
“Hi there, could you point me to the nearest exit?”
“Uh, yeah , that door on the left”
“I tried that, it’s locked”
“Oh, ok, follow me…whoops, that’s the stage, hmm”
I walk in silence behind him as we check other corridors. I notice the safety officer patch on the back of his jacket. He asks another chap in uniform how to get out. I emerge from the basement and step into some strange street with punks queueing to get into a club and head for Queen Street station. Somebody in my carrige lets off a stink bomb. Yuk.
The Tunnels, Aberdee with Vetiver
It’s a sunny train ride as we pull out of Waverley. I’ve plugged into my new UK telephone to listen to the radio and find some chat show which goes in and out with tunnel interference. Two guys are discussing a dog in China. Seemingly a bull mastiff is attracting crowds of thousands with his high-rise tightrope walking. Then, they talk about a woman who married the Berlin wall. One of the chaps later reveals that “karaoke” means “dead orchestra”. Then I lose transmission. Pity.
We cross the Firth of Forth bridge and the view is incredible. The sun is belting through the glass and I think I could do with a pair of shades. Or this train could do with a blind on the window.
We pass along beaches and as we pass Leuchars station, I notice two guys on a tandem freewheeling between two green fields.Then the angle of the train changes and I notice they are in fact riding two separate bikes. We go through Dundee and pass a scrap yard and sea cadet training centre.
Finally the train pulls into Aberdeen and I head for Belmont Street. I think this is my fifth visit to Abs over the last few years. I find my favourite cafe/bookshop and eat a sandwich and down a giant coffee. A few years ago my friend Alan Davidson (from Kitchen Cynics) brought me to the nearby cemetery and took my photo next to the grave of The Wizard of the North. I decide to try and find the Wizard again, but can’t see him anywhere.
I head to The Tunnels and bump into Mike and Mark the promoters. It’s great to see them again. The gig is fun, despite feedback for the first two songs. Vetiver have a great time and there is a big crowd at this one. It’s fun after at the merch table. Andy and I talk to lots of friendly people. Some people remember me from Fence Collective’s Homegame festival.
Alan has planned a few visits to bars and late clubs. Recently I’ve developed a taste for single malt whisky. As we walk to another bar, I notice the glow in the sky.
“It’s almost midnight and it’s still not dark”, I remark to Alan.
“Ah that’s because we’re so far North, y’see?”