Thursday, November 02, 2006

Growing Pains With Dan Sartain 7-22 October

3 piece band arrive in Amsterdam and rush in cliche mode from airport to coffee shop as fast as the van will carry them without so much as a "how's yr father?" The first time that you meet a band is a bit like how an artist approaches his virgin canvas with a new painting in mind : you have no idea what will the outcome will be like but you approach it all with an open mind and hope that your energy and enthusiasm will leave you with something worthwhile to remember. The initial hours in the van, the first show, the first day....these are the moments when your well primed bullshit detector pretty much fathom out what the next 2.5 weeks of your life will be like. Drove to Belgium listening to the football on the radio as the other three fell into a coma in the back.
Sartain and his band make music a la Hasil Adkins and Link Wray and not the cheap-ass Johnny Cash comparisons that those brain-dead NME journo jerk-offs would like to think it is. But hey, if Cash comparisons sell his records, then I guess he doesn't really care.
Belgium was the first stop. Amongst the goatee beards and black-rim horned glasses of that land, you will find the finest brewskis known. Thousands of small breweries ensure that the country never goes thirsty. I did not go thirsty. The band definitely didn't go thirsty. Approached their sound with no trepidation. Gave him his 1950s slapback on his vox and cranked the sounds to a rebel yell. That Sartain is definitely the new Billy Idol in the making.
Holland-Paradiso...the pop temple. Despicable term isn't it? This time the Dutch journos first stop in their thesaurus when they look up Paradiso in there. I wish the thesaurus would read "use your imagination slimeball". One of the band's label people was over for the show and was magnanimous in his praise for the sound emitting from the PA for band. I took his praise like a man....and thanked him! Konkurrent had put on some "you haven't quite heard of these bands yet but one day you will and then you'll come on your knees to us, the primary tastemakers of the Dutch music scene, you scuzzball no good for nothings, now let me go and drink all the beer backstage so I don't actually have to see any of the drivel upstairs" kind of festival. It was a quiet evening in Amsterdam.
Then the first of many days off. It's always a bit disturbing to learn that a band that comes all the way over from the USA to play their music to as many people as possible gets landed with too many days off. There were 5 full days off in 16 days, and this is not counting one of the days on which they only had an in-store appearance. So actually 6 days off. I ended up having to add another string to my bow of jobs undertaken...that of tourist guide/nursemaid/counter-boredom taskmaster. More of this later. It's at times like these that a band begin to whine about label, booking agent, press agents, their mother's cooking, etc
We took the boat from Amsterdam to Newcastle. A 16 hour overnight journey. We had a cabin with 4 beds in it. This journey is perverted. In the holiday season, the ship is filled with families and friends enjoying a pleasureable mini-cruise as they embark on the first leg of their holidays, or are in the process of returning from holiday. In the non-holiday season, it becomes like a death camp on the waves. Miserable truckers mingle with balding businessmen mingle with fraggled old farts mingle with the unemployed on an away day drugs and drink binge mingle with bored musicians. And the only thing they all have in common is alcohol. For there is nothing else to do but get bananed to ease the pain of this crossing. The ship is not even a quarter full. You sit at the bar and watch the world go by very slowly....and then see it return again 5 minutes later......and again.....and again! So to ease the eye ache, you take in the entertainment in the ballroom. The ship is a Danish concern but the crew is entirely made up of a Thai / east european potatohead consortium. Cheap labour ushered in to make the sailing a nautical nightmare. This is no complaint about the service rendered by these fine people. They did what they had to do and did it well. The entertainment on this ship however was the lowest common denominator tripe I have ever witnessed. The most musically anaemic top entertainment band should have been made to walk the plank. Cover versions of the worst kind played with as much feeling as the band that must have been playing when the Titanic sank. Ugh! A compere who couldn't even laugh at his own jokes, they were so crap. The horse riding betting game had to be cancelled due to there being too few people in attendance. That was what i was looking forward to the most goddamit! The magician managed to magic himself out of performing so bored was he. That only left the band! And duly they complied with their toe-curling crackers. The singer delivered each word with force in the thickest east european accent: "Heet za rood jeck". I hit my bed jack!
And so to Blighty....a nice slice of fog on the Tyne and heaps of dirty streets were an assuring welcome back to the UK. Breakfast at my mum and dad's place first, in the countryside of North Yorkshire. A good start. And then onto Manchester, my old stamping ground. Lots of old friends in attendance as always, good record stores, and we stayed at pals of mine to save costs for the band. Highlights of the Nottingham and Liverpool shows were the drives through the Peak district. We didn't stop for Bakewell tarts but we saw plenty of tarts along the way. And met me ol' pal Rob waite in N'ham with his Julie.
Another semi-day off after this. We had to do an in-store in Newcastle and play a show there the day after. I was damned if I was going to stay in Geordie land overnight. Some research had profited me with information that The mighty Fall were playing in Sheffield that night. Does one need any more excuses to head to sheffield for a night out? No siree. As soon as the in-store was done, it was chocks away and destination The Boardwalk. Many thanks to Vanessa for taking care of our entrance to show (Action Records in Preston is an excellent store for music fans and their online service is second to none....check it out: Attending a show by The Fall is like attending an old pals network.....lots of sad old farts who are equally obsessed by the greatest band in the world. Its great though. You catch up on news, get bought drinks, and then you pogo. And tonight the band are MAGNIFICENT!!! Mark is the most focussed and clear I've seen and heard him in the last 3 years. The band blitz their way through an hour of the best tunes heard this side of Blackpool and God are they tight! Its the Yank band tonight....2 bass players, guitar, drums, and Elena on kbds. Absolutely life affirming stuff! Kids don't all records, attend all shows, kill all i-D "punks".
After a Newcastle show, more days off. I nursemaid the band with lots of meals at my folks mother is on cooking overdrive for days on end. She is an absolute star. The band start to piss me off when they start expecting meals to be had at my folks and don't even turn in a thanks to her for her magnanimous efforts. I have to tell them that i am taking money out of the band kitty to buy her a present on their behalf as a thanks. They stare into space. One of them looks like a speed freak with razor cut cheekbones that could slice yr eyes out at a hundred paces and he yearns to be a redneck with constant talk of wanting to fight and f**k. But he is a sook when it comes to the crunch and spends more time whining about how his wife won't let him play his hoo. Another is a dead ringer for Tommy Chong and even speaks like him, and I'll be damned if he doesn't have the same manners as Tommy on film....a rude hog. The third is a pu**y-whipped nancy boy who runs up bills of over $600 in less than 2 weeks on his mobile phone as he spends ALL his time (apart from when he's onstage) with his wife on the phone, who is paranoid about him being away. I doubt if he'll be touring again.
Anyway, I show them the castles and old abbeys of North Yorkshire and it sure beats a day at the music store, sushi palace or record store. In the evening we go to the movies to witness the cruddy texas chainsaw massacre of a film. There is some gratitude for initiating this away day and we can all sleep happily knowing our brains have been enlightened.
More free days...this time in Glasgow. Now I plan my escape from band for a night and go and see The Lemonheads (Evan not actually bouncing from wall to wall) and erase Errata (they went to the Lemonheads aftershow, got completely rat-arsed, took the taxi home, woke up at 6am to drive to the ferry port to get the boat to Ireland, and realised they had left ALL their tour money in the taxi on the way home at 3am!!!). Both shows were lousy.
Glasgow gig was ace.....Dan said it was the best of his career!!! Audience were nice'n'rowdy at nice'n'sleazy and we were all happy'n'sleepy. And then another day off.....thank God for Monorail Music.....a fantastic record store. spent 3 hours there. Stephen Pastel fends off all the japanese tourists who come to see a real Pastel behind the counter and Dep does all the hard work! Only joking! Spend wads of cash on tons of vinyl which amazingly makes me happy! I always do this at Monorail and the effect is always the same. stephen and Dep just wring their hands when they see muggins come in. And then I somehow end up at Sleazys with Eugene at 5 pm and don't leave until 1am! How time flies when you're having fun.
cambridge and Birmingham....a combination of youth club shows and art happenings in drab surroundings. Uhhhh...yes, all very dandy. I was not there in spirit, and sometimes not even there in body.
London...shiver, tremble its the big show and all press will be there and label will be bricking it and running around like constipated hyenas barking at the moon and it'll be sold out and its make or break time and and and..........we break down at 2am on the motorway just outside of Birmingham and don't get rescued until 8am! We get into London at 9.45 am and wake up at 11.45am (having not slept as you know that you have to wake everyone else up)...get to venue to s'check at 1230pm, doors are delayed until 1.30pm and band plays at 3pm. Go to pub next door to watch United trash scouse freaks. The perfect fillip for me before show. Show goes off without hitch, we pack up all gear into van, and drive directly from London back home to Holland in one go.


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