Jim Carroll

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On the Road – Adrian Crowley in the UK and Northern Ireland, part 3

The final installment of Adrian Crowley’s diary from his recent adventures on tour these past few weeks. This time out, we’re in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Birmingham via trains, taxis and flight 666. Adrian will be playing dates during July …

Tue, Jul 1, 2008, 09:26


The final installment of Adrian Crowley’s diary from his recent adventures on tour these past few weeks. This time out, we’re in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Birmingham via trains, taxis and flight 666.

Adrian will be playing dates during July at Dublin’s Crawdaddy (July 4, his first Irish show with Emma Smith on violin and Vince Siprell on viola), Cork’s Cyprus Avenue (16), Limerick’s Dolan’s (17), Galway’s Roisin Dubh (18), Dundalk’s Spirit Store (26 ). He also plays the Electric Picnic at the end of August.

Saint Pancras Parish Church, London

There are cricket players getting ready for a game in the morning haze in Vincent’s Square as I leave my hotel in search of breakfast. I find somewhere to eat near Victoria Station and consider what to do with the next few hours before the gig.

There are hundreds of people standing outside the Tate Britian. There’s been a fire alarm and everyone’s been cleared from the building. After the alert has been lifted, I find myself walking alone through the museum hallways and rooms. People haven’t yet filtered through the spaces and for a few moments, it’s like there is nobody around.

There is a placard in the portico of St Pancras Church announcing the evening’s bill: Vetiver + David Thomas Broughton + Meg Baird + AC. I soon realise there will be no time for a soundcheck. Things are running late. Sarah from the label arrives from Coventry with the fender twin. In the car are Andy and Halley from the Tin Angel crew. They’ve come all the way to London to give me support. We wheel the amp through the load-in door (sacristy) and onto the stage (altar). Emma and Vince arrive and they look fresh and neat. My shirt is badly creased and I feel I need a haircut. Meg Baird (Espers) arrives and I give her a hug. I haven’t seen her in two years.

Emma, Vince and I set up in front of the now waiting audience. All the pews are occupied. I start off the set solo and then Emma and Vince join. I feel we play well the sound soars around the naves and aisles of the church and across the ceiling. David Thomas Broughton performs next He really uses the space and ends up in the pulpit doing a ukelele solo. People love him. Meg plays shyly with her fringe hiding her face. I take a photograph of her from the side of the altar. She’s brilliant. Vetiver do a great one.


(Photo by Adrian Nettleship)

The Barfly, Cardiff

Another train takes me away from Victoria. Goodbye Victoria. The train leaves the station. Final stop Cardiff. I’m going to stay with Katell Keineg tonight in her new house in the new home. A taximan explains that the paler bits in the base of the castle wall are from the original fortification. He asks me if I’m interested in nature. “Yes”, I answer “I like nature”. As far as I understand, he tells me that on the other side of the clock tower there is a falconry. Katell later tells me there is no such thing as far as she knows which leads me to think I misheard him. Something to do with a Welsh accent or the noise of traffic through an open window meant to ease my travel sickness. I find myself at Katell’s door. She welcomes me in.

Later after an afternoon sleep, I walk back to town with my two guitars. Standing in the dank and reeking basement that is the Barfly, I discover I won’t have a soundcheck. There are a lot of flies in here. Maybe they are attracted by
the fruity scent of day old beer spillage. I decide outside is a good idea and go for a pint with the local support band. One of the friendliest collection of people I’ve met on the trip. Can I remember the name of their band? No I can’t.

I expect the worst sound in Wales as I get up on the stage. The amp is verging on feedback the whole time, but once I start playing, I don’t mind. There is an unexpected energy in the room. People sit on the floor. Some girls are talking loudly. Someone tells me later I have a terrifying stare. My friend Charlotte Greig is in the audience. After I play, we talk about writing and the novels she’s written and a recording project we’re both working on. It’s a tribute for a Domino artist. I wonder if I’ll meet the deadline. I finish the night in Katell’s kitchen.

The Black Box, Belfast

Sanders and Brent from Vetiver are kicking a football around the interior of the venue. They’re using the stacked up chairs that stand against the wall as targets. I join in for a shot. Stefan is taking ages as usual to set up the PA and EQ the room. I notice a hip looking woman putting up a poster in the lobby. “Do you know of somewhere very close by with seats outside, preferably in a sun trap where you can drink cold beer?” Apparently, I’ve just perfectly described a place right around the corner down the lane from the venue. I stay there until soundcheck time.

When I finally play, it feels good. Otto joins towards the end of the set and I think it’s our best one of the tour so far. The sound is amazing and we seem to revel in it and lock into some kind of repetition for the last song that could have gone on for much longer (in my mind anyway). I plunder the rider while Vetiver play then join Rich and the others from the Tin Angel crew at their table.

After the gig, I’m cornered by two fellows who tell me they had been waiting for me to come play in Belfast for ages.It’s great to hear. One says that he listens to “Long Distance Swimmer” between double shifts at his place of work. I think he has some kind of snooze room there. I speak to another guy who someone tells me later has the biggest ‘old school’ porn collection in Northern Ireland.

I pile into a van with Rich, Sarah and some of the Tin Angels and finish the night in a hotel room drinking beer before I announce I must now head to my own as I have to get up in three hours to get the train to Dublin to get the plane to Birmingham for the last gig of the tour.

The Barfly, Birmingham

Sitting on the train for Dublin waiting to leave Belfast Central, I’m pretty pleased with myself for making the early train (6:45). It should allow me to drop some luggage and one of my guitars in my house in Dublin, have some breakfast in my own kitchen then head off to the airport. I start to nod off before realising that I’m not being rocked to snoozeland by the gentle motion of train moving over sleepers. We’re still in the station. It’s way past seven. There’s an announcement. We are waiting for a mechanic – engine trouble. Eventually we switch trains to the opposite platform , change again a few stations later and end up on the later train to Dublin. I COULD HAVE STAYED IN BED AN EXTRA HOUR. Oh well.

I don’t really sleep. I’m thinking of how exhausted I am, measuring my exhaustion with mental callipers and concluding that this is the most impressive specimen of fatigue I’m produced in months. I should be proud. Then I imagine how great it would be to just stay in my house once I get home and not run back out the door to Birmingham like some kind of nut case. I have a strange feeling that the next 24 hours will be a test and a slightly futile one at that.

My flight number is 666. I ignore that, but I still get a feeling that something utterly shitty is about to happen. My limbs seem to feel heavier as the day progresses. Birmingham is searing as I step out of the airport and wait for the coach to the city. At least I decided to leave one of my guitars at home. It’s utterly sweltering on the bus. Nobody else seems bothered by the heat. I’ve been known to open windows on ‘freezing’ buses to let in some air..

Finally I step off the bus at The Bullring in central Birmingham. I realise I haven’t eaten anything in ages and find a place that sells pies and mash. Things seem to look better. I make my way to The Barfly. It’s almost 12 hours since my phone alarm went off in my hotel in Belfast.

As I approach the load in area of the venue there is a guy standing at the doorway, looking slightly belwidered.

“Alright? You with the band?

“Yes, well I’m touring with them, I’m the tour support, I’m Adrian…”

“Hmmmmm, interesting…”

It’s at this point I begin to hear distant alarm bells. He tells me I better go to the venue office and talk to his boss.

I’m standing in a room with people at computers. It slowly dawns on them why I’m here. I say that I hope everything is OK, as I’ve travelled from another country to play this gig.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah” I’m assured.

I don’t feel reassured at all. Vetiver have been delayed on their way from Belfast and I’m advised to take a long walk. When I return to the venue, the sound guy and the other staff seem slighly worried. I feel like I’m slowly retracting into myself and dont feel as chattly as I normally would. Vetiver still haven’t arrived and I’m sitting back stage. A girl starts singing on the stage and seems to play her heart out.

When she finishes, nobody comes to find me to say I’m on next. I skulk around side stage and notice audience members patiently waiting. I go outside to the loading area which is a sun trap. It’s nice outside and I lean against the wall. The venue manager is there with the soundman and they both look sheepish. I suggest I start my set in five minutes.

They look at each other and one says “actually the way we see it, there is no time for you to play. Sorry about that mate.” They walk off.

A kind of slow shockwave takes me over and I go for a walk. I feel like arguing would be pointless and embarrasing. When Vetiver arrive, they ask me what the hell happened. They are shocked, but don’t have much time to spare. I spend most of the remaider of the evening standing outside frowning. I would just head off to my hotel if it wasn’t my last ‘gig’ of the tour.

After Vetiver’s gig, Andy suggests that I join them for a farewell meal before they hit the road for London and I head for my hotel. We find an Indian restaurant with a really friendly waiter. We chow down and chat. Then it’s high fives, hugs and goodbyes. I hail a taxi.

As I lay on the hotel bed, I’m thinking how utterly relieving it is to have the day behind me. The volume on the televison is turned down low and I drift off to sleep. But the hazy apparition of an Indian meal is walking abroad in the wilderness of my sleeping mind, rubbing its hands together plotting a sickly epilogue.

Travel day – Birmingham to Dublin (Flight number 667, the neighbour of the devil)

8:30am. I awake, soaked in sweat.

8:31am. I discover I have food poisioning.