04.02.11 Kingston Upon Thames - The Fighting Cocks
Nic has a cold, Phil has a cold, Mark has a cold, Gareth is recovering from a cold, Rupert doesn’t have a cold and neither do I.
This felt a bit like a warm up show because we were only across the road from our house and Triple Jump were putting the show on, which is us. We didn’t feed any of the bands or give them beer [something we’d usually try and do and something we’d ideally want from the people who put us on!] but we did split the money between Hag and Palehorse as us and Solomon Grundy didn’t need the diesel money because the van wasn‘t used.
We were first on and started shortly after eight o’clock. It was surprising to see the venue filled with people and if you were there, a massive thanks to you for turning up early to catch us. We played Tactic A and Plunder for the very first time live and we didn’t fuck either of them up, which was nice. Solomon Grundy, whom we were about to go on tour with, went on second. As my brother would say, they is sick bruv. Actually he wouldn’t have because he likes utter wank and once went to see scouting for girls and said he liked it. He usually listens to chart rap music. Hag and Palehorse tore the place to pieces and all in all it was a very good start to The Pants Tour [Gareth observed that both Grundies and Fronts are alternative words for underpants].
We partied back at our house into the small hours and though we spoke about how good we are at it, never played MarioKart on the Nintendo 64. There were a lot of random people I’d never met in our house and I met another Marmite lover. I made us some toast and showed her the wonders of adding sugar free Peanut Butter to the Marmite which she agreed was very good. In return I got a recipe for a bacon sarnie that I plan to try one day.
05.02.11 Liverpool - Don’t Drop The Dumbbells
After a quick tidy up [though Phil left a two day old pot of stew on the cooker] we loaded up the van, got some supplies from the Supermarket and headed for Liverpool.
Rupert bought us all a Kinder Egg from the supermarket and we were impressed with the quality of the toys. Rupert got a plane in his and I remember feeling a bit jealous because all I got was a rabbit. Once fully erected, it was a good eight inches long and we couldn’t understand how they’d managed to get it in. During the journey I was keeping an eye on the Football scores and if getting the only shit toy wasn‘t enough, Newcastle United [Rupert’s team] came back from four nil down to draw four all with Arsenal [My team].
Don’t Drop The Dumbbells is a special place despite the rather rubbish name. The Building used to be a gym and is being looked after by a chap called Jake while they decide what to do with it in the long run. It is currently being used as an art space and they have a few rehearsal rooms as well as pictures of body builders on the walls. It was being billed as a video shoot and Jake was filming it for a show he does on the internet. Outside the venue they had put a sign giving directions to the “Silent Front Film Extras”. There wasn’t a bar as it was a private party [that anyone could attend] so everyone brought their own alcohol and smoking was allowed inside the venue. Good job too as it was pissing down with rain outside.
A few friends of ours (All three of Georgia Asphalt) turned up shortly after we had loaded in. They had come for the night from London to see the show and to hang out in Liverpool plus Mike was due a visit to his parents house. Luke [one of the promoters] made a soup for us which was once again very good and I spilt a bit on one of the Solomon Grundy t-shirts which Nic and Mark were not too pleased about. The line up was Iron Witch, Aeroplane Flies High, Solomon Grundy then us. The room was big and it was full of people and the atmosphere was friendly and just generally ace. We had an excellent show and the sound was perfect.
We went back to Jon and Luke’s house [the promoters] and drank some more with Aeroplane Flies High. Aeroplane Flies High are still in their teens which is incredible considering the quality of their music, when Phil and I were at a similar age we were rubbish. We stayed up very late with them and told stories about shit [literally] and swapped urban legends. The one about the brother and sister who farted into a jar and opened it up twenty years later, had a sniff and died is probably my favourite one.
In the morning Jon and Luke made everyone tea and an English breakfast and Phil, Gareth and I chipped in with the washing up. Later on Phil did a poo and the smell spread around the whole house so we had to open some windows. He blamed it on food poisoning from the fried chicken he’d eaten the night before. At around two o’clock we said our goodbyes to Jon and Luke and hit the road. Proper good lads Jon and Luke.
06.02.11 Middlesbrough - The Tavern
On top of his cold, Phil had managed to get food poisoning and didn’t look at all well whereas Gareth, Nic and Mark were starting to feel better. Rupert and I still hadn’t caught anything from the others.
The venue was a pub with a huge function room above it which meant carrying the equipment up a steep and narrow staircase and Joyce [my bass cabinet] was particularly hard to navigate into the room. The room was full of tables and chairs so we rearranged it and set up our equipment at the far end, we met the ultra nice Holly and Stacey who were putting the show on and headed out for some food.
Nic had been craving cod the whole journey up and I was determined to spend as little as possible so we went looking for a chip shop. On the same High Street we found seven pizza takeaways and one chip shop which was not only closed but completely shut down. Defeated, we returned to the pub for food with the others. Phil, Rupert and Nic ordered the roast, Mark ordered nachos, Gareth ordered the chicken burger and I ordered the roast beef giant Yorkshire wrap. Mine was nearly the same as the roast except it’s served with chips and peas instead of roast potatoes and vegetables and is wrapped in a giant Yorkshire pudding instead of the pudding being used as a basket for the food. Confused? The bar staff were and I was still waiting for my food to arrive when the others had finished. It eventually turned up but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Fifteen minutes earlier we had seen a roast dinner being marched around the pub looking for its owner and eventually the penny must of dropped so they took it into the kitchen and folded it up to look like a roast beef giant Yorkshire wrap. When I questioned it the manager came over and shouted at me like it was my fault. I didn’t mind what they’d given me and I didn’t even kick off about it, I just told them that it was wrong and that I was happy to eat it anyway. I’d of preferred an apology but seeing a member of staff go red in the face and get stressed about a Sunday dinner was good enough for me. Everyone headed back upstairs leaving me to finish up on my own. As they left me, each apologised and went anyway.
Cuss Words went on first and I realised that I recognised them from a Shield Your Eyes show in London a few months earlier, only now they were a trio instead of a duo. During their rather excellent set, Nic was holding her ears as she had forgotten her ear plugs and Tom [Drummer] leapt over his kit and handed her a spare pair of ear muffs. He works for the Queen, and it shows. Rose Valle went on second. Solomon Grundy went on third and it hit me that they are something special, they have that thing I love in a band though I’m not entirely sure what it is. We played our set stone cold sober as Phil was ill, Gareth was driving and I had no one to drink with [Solomon Grundy weren’t drinking either] plus it was a Sunday. The sound was great and we played set two [we’d made two set lists and were alternating between the two].
We drove to Leeds after the show to stay at Stacey’s house. Cuss Words stayed too so to make space Solomon Grundy stayed with a friend of Nic’s. I started drinking and we watched the North American Rules Super bowl with Cuss Words and exchanged cuss’ until the cocktail of white ace cider, white wine and gin caught up with Tom. I slept in the van as Phil was clearly too ill and Gareth never does because he drives. I don’t mind the van as it means I don’t have to listen to moaning the next day about my snoring.
07.02.11 Leeds - Nation of Shopkeepers
As we were already in Leeds we were able to have a long sleep, shower, eat another fry up and chill. In the afternoon we headed to the city centre to find a Primark as Mark and Gareth wanted to buy the Dr. Dre Primark T-Shirt. They also bought two pairs of underpants for the merch table and planned to write Silent Fronts on one pair and Solomon Grundies on the other. Phil bought some medicine for his runny botty.
The usual worries of playing a show on a Monday night quickly dispersed as the venue filled up early on. Trog and Justin [two friends from Bradford] turned up for the show as did Phil’s youngest brother Simon. Solomon Grundy played first, us second and the brilliant Humanfly last. It was an excellent night and as usual the Leeds crowd were great.
We headed back to Nodders house [promoter/British Wildlife Records] with Stacey from the night before and played MarioKart and Monkey Ball on the Game Cube and built a human pyramid. The human pyramid consisted of Me, Phil and Rupert on all fours at the bottom and on top of us was Gareth and Mark and at the peak was Nic. We had a few goes at it as we were a bit wobbly and having the smallest person on the bottom [me] was never a good idea. Stacey and Nodders looked on and took some photos of us. Next up we played some MarioKart - We split everyone up into teams; Promoters [Nodders and Stacey] Bassists [Rupert and I] Guitarists [Mark and Phil] Drummers [Nic and Gareth]. The Guitarists won the MarioKart with Drummers coming second, Bassists Third and Promoters last. Nodders was let down significantly by Stacey. We kept the same teams and played Monkey Ball - the game of real skill. Bassists won it and by a massive margin. In fact if you added everyone else’s scores together they’d still not have been close. I can’t remember who came third last, second last or last but their wasn’t much in it.
We all chatted some more, Stacey got a cab home and we all went to sleep.
08.02.11 Edinburgh - Henry’s Cellar Bar
We woke up around nine, showered, ate toast and Nodders served us tea in mugs with a Gollywog design. We made a quick detour into the town centre as Phil had bought the wrong medicine and the shitting hadn’t eased. We parked down a side alley next to Boots and Mark and Nic said they’d never seen the Willy Bum Bum video. Either Rupert or Gareth got it up on their smart phone and we linked the sound up to the stereo and watched the video with significant volume. After this moment everything was one of three things - Silly old, smelly old or friendly old - If this makes no sense, type in Willy Bum Bum on your browser search bar.
Leeds to Edinburgh was the longest drive on the tour but it was made ok by the scenery. We past a pub called “The Craw Inn” which lead to us shouting out things like “Craw Blimey”, “Crawshank Redemption” and “Crawdon Bleu”. Nic Crawshaw loved it. I was sat next to Rupert for the journey which was good as he had a constant supply of sweets and maize snacks.
On first impressions the sound man seemed like a really nice guy but during the evening he managed to break an amp head by knocking it of the cabinet, split the resonant head on Gareth’s bass drum and tried to emotionally blackmail Rupert into giving him some weed. Sound check was a bit ropey but when we went on everything clicked into place and the sound was actually pretty good - so fair play to the man! We all make mistakes…
It was the hottest most sweatiest of the shows so far and the heating was on and the venue was packed tight with people. We had been lucky with attendances on this tour as traditionally Sunday, Monday and Tuesdays are a bit thin. Secta Rouge and Jackie Treehorn, the local lads, ripped the crowd a new one. Again, the crowd were great and very friendly. This was Jackie Treehorn’s album launch show and it was extremely nice of them to let us play too. The album is called “Everyone’s an Expert”.
Earlier in the evening Solomon Grundy shared a deep fried Mars Bar and I bought a Hamburger only to discover that it wasn’t going to be served in a bun with a bit of salad and maybe a bit of burger sauce. Instead it came battered and deep fried.
After the show we were given a crate of beer and we went back to Secta Rouge’s house for beer and pizza. Mark and Rupert debated for about three hours on whether or not salt is a seasoning or a condiment. This was a theme of the tour and the rule was that the promoter of each show gets a vote and by the end of the tour we would have a democratically elected answer. We were using the first past the post voting system as the alternative vote wouldn’t work with just two. The loser was going to have to play the Unicorn show in his pants - Mark was condiment and Rupert was seasoning. After the debate the promoter cast his vote and seasoning was winning with three votes to condiments two. Secta Rouge and co are a great bunch and this was the second time they’d let us stay in their house and they are always really good to us.
09.02.11 Newcastle - The Northumberland Arms
We started the day with a drive into the beautiful city centre of Edinburgh and went to a Wetherspoon pub to get at least two days worth of calories in one hit. By now everyone was feeling a lot better and Phil celebrated having normal gut behaviour by ordering the mixed grill. Nic made an observation that usually when touring you feel gradually worse as the days go by due to excess and this was the first tour she had been on where everyone was feeling better by the day! On our way to Newcastle we tried to visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne but decided against it when we discovered that the tide would be coming in in twenty minutes and had we got across we might not have been able to get back. Instead, we parked up and had a skimming competition and took some photos.
The venue was a tricky find as it was in a pedestrian zone and we were not aware that we should have been looking for the service entrance. As we were loading in Rupert pointed out an elderly lady drinking her lager through a straw, we then took turns walking past her and slyly taking a look.
Eugene, the promoter and brother of Jon [promoter from Liverpool] made us a beef stew loaded with massive bits of beef in it. It was the donkey’s nob. My dad used to say that whenever he made stew, as in “Russ, try this, it’s the donkeys nob“. Basically like the dogs bollocks but reserved for sentences describing stew.
Reich’s and Cauls where the local bands and apparently hadn’t been together for long. Both played great shows despite the thin attendance and were very well rehearsed. After Solomon Grundy played I overheard one chap saying that he could tell that the last two songs they had played was where they really wanted to be heading musically. This was the sixth time in a row and eighth time in total that I’d seen them and I’d never worked that out. What a clever guy, I thought. We played set one, sold some merch and headed for Eugene’s house.
Eugene made us some pizza and let us play with his kitten. Lois the kitten spent the rest of the night jumping into our faces and finding creative places to lay as we slept.
In the morning Eugene had to go to work but left us with the facilities and ingredients to make Bacon Sarnies and coffee. We did a sterling job of cleaning up the kitchen of the mess we had made and said our goodbyes to the other two chaps who lived there and headed for Clough’s. Clough’s is a sweet shop that sells boiled sweets from the jar. I got some Rhubarb and Custard, Apple Sours and Blueberry Sour Bonbons. As I bought mine I turned around and asked where the local primary school is and two local women overheard and didn’t see the funny side. Next we headed off to find Byker Grove and though we were already in Byker we had to go to another part of the city to find it. When we got there we realised that it wasn’t going to be possible to get up close but we could still see it over a wall if we crossed the road. We each got a photo of us jumping into the air with it behind us in the distance. Mark and I later confessed that we were frauds as we didn’t particularly like Byker Grove and we were joining in the excitement to fit in.
10.02.11 Nottingham - The Chameleon
This was the worst day of eating on the tour. We had started the day with a bacon sarnie, ate bags of sweets, packets of crisps and service station sarnies on the road, had a *McDonalds before the show, a **Greggs pasty after the show and a kebab before bed. Nic had two chocolate éclairs somewhere in between all that too.
On the way back from parking the van, Gareth and Rupert were verbally attacked for not wanting to dish out their money and were called grebs as a result. Greb comes from the word ***Grebo which was largely used to describe a short lived early nineties, mainly Midlands, music phenomenon of hard working touring bands that sold lots of t-shirts. The scene was very community based much like our own except they all went on to sign to major labels. I’m guessing that the guy who said it to them didn’t know this and probably uses it to describe anyone not wearing the latest high street fashions. Gareth gave some lip back and Rupert got scared as he thought that they might have had a knife.
Soft Pyramids, Hymns and Shapes were excellent and the crowd were clearly happy with all the bands. It’s the busiest I have ever seen the Chameleon having played there twice before and it made the carrying of Joyce up two flights of stairs well worth it. We sold some records and even more t-shirts [see above paragraph].
Afterwards we tried to hit Rock City but the queue was massive and it was raining. Instead, we bought a crate of beer and headed back to Johnny’s house, a friend of Rupert and Mark. We stayed up watching Scuzz TV which I didn’t find very fun nor amusing. To me it just looked like a load of grown up men acting out their childhood fantasy.
*The McDonalds was the most depressing one ever and we chose not to eat in. It was full of sad faces, gobby pregnant women and angry looking men eyeing up Nic.
**This Greggs was open twenty four hours a day and sold curry pasties!
***The word Grebo itself is a lot older and is the name of a subgroup of people within West Africa.
11.02.11 Brighton - The Hobgoblin
The Hobgoblin had had a refit since we were last there and the venue bit had been moved upstairs. The other change they had made was the beer prices and the beer. They had stopped selling its trademark ale Hobgoblin and had opted for some Real Ale from micro brewery’s which was annoying as I‘d been looking forward to a pint of the ruby ale most of the journey down. The venue upstairs had a few teething problems and the shit PA and general sound of the room is definitely something that needs to be addressed. This didn’t ruin the show though and the Dead Beat, who went on first, were once again brilliant. Solomon Grundy were next and they were still making me very happy despite this being the eighth time in eight days I had seen them. Our set was noisy due to the PA constantly feeding back but once Phil turned the monitor off things improved slightly. It was a frustrating show to play and probably more frustrating to watch but the crowd seemed to understand and were very complimentary afterwards.
We hung out in the downstairs bar afterwards with top lasses Sarah, Kerry and Kate until it shut then headed to a party. Craig, the guy whose house we were staying at, was disc jockeying at a party and he invited us along too. The party was full of students and Gareth later commented that it was like an episode of skins in there. My own take on it was that it was like a group of Key Stage 4 children having a party, maybe to celebrate the end of their GCSE’s and their impending Key Stage 5 status. We stayed for about fifteen minutes then headed to Luke’s House [one of Rupert’s friends]. Outside the house, a girl hanging out one of the windows told Mark that he should have gone to Specsavers. Mark had been to Specsavers.
Nic had gone to stay at Kate’s house so we sat in Luke’s kitchen with a few more beers and flicked between the different variations of babestation that Sky TV had on offer and discussed male oppression and who was exploiting who. It was a similar thing to watching Scuzz, only now it was grown up Women acting out men’s fantasies.
On our way back to Craig’s house everyone got chips in pita except me and Gareth. I got chips on pita and Gareth got himself some humus and salad in pita, only they had run out of humus. To be fair it was gone 4am.
12.02.11 Camden - The Unicorn
We woke up covered in sweat and headed out for breakfast and a go on the bumper cars. We did the usual walk to the end of the pier, drive some cars, then walk back again. When we got to the van there was no need to wait for Nic as she had made her own way to London with Sarah so they could spend some time together. We loaded the van up as the equipment was still in the venue, bought some milkshakes for the journey and headed to London.
The journey from Brighton to London was pretty much perfect, it was a sunny day, the roads were clear and as a result we got to the Unicorn early. The venue filled up quickly and seeing lots of our friends turn out for the show made it feel like a proper homecoming. The Black Heart Orchestra went on first and were excellent. They’ve got a bunch of new songs and a slightly different sound - something which I‘ll not try to describe as I‘ll just sound like a dick. Mark had lost the Condiment versus seasoning debate but refused to wear the pants because he felt he had come to an agreement rather than losing to a vote [Mark had conceded a few nights before when he realised that he was wrong]. Fully clothed, Solomon Grundy were yet again amazing and I could tell that the last two songs they played was where they really wanted to be heading musically… We played a different set to the two that we had been alternating between because we felt that we should play all the newer songs since we had played the older ones many times to crowds in London.
It was a great night to be a part of, which made the fact that I’d be going to work on Monday all the more difficult. I put those thoughts to one side and drank as much alcohol as I possibly could before the bar shut.
We said our goodbyes to Solomon Grundy and loaded the van for the last time on this tour and headed back to Kingston feeling inebriated and sad. When we got back we unloaded the van and did our usual end of tour group hug. Phil still had some energy and headed out to a party, Gareth went to bed and I made myself a cup of tea in the company of a mouldy pot of stew.