The Road Less Travelled.. On Tour With Clare Teal, Part II

Hello folks,
Thought I’d fill you in on what’s been going on recently…

At the end of last week the Clare Teal band embarked on a three day northern excursion, starting off in Scunthorpe and finishing off in Durham via Leeds. And what fun we had!

This time all three shows were just with the trio of myself, Chris Dagley on drums and Mike Gorman on piano. We began on Wednesday with the big(ish) drive up to Scunthorpe. Almost the minute I reached the M25 I received a phone call from Clare informing me that the M1 was closed. Marvelous start. It took me almost an hour and a half to reach the A1 because of the traffic stuffing up the road onto the M1. Terribly dull. Now, I always make a point of working out exactly how long any of these epic journeys are likely to take, and generally add an extra 30 minutes on top for the purposes of ‘getting lost’. This cunning ruse (which usually works out a treat) fell flat on it’s face and I found myself running horrifically behind schedule in a losing game of Beat The SatNav.
As was everyone else it seemed. Luckily Muddy and Clare were already halfway there as Clare was recording at the BBC in Birmingham.  So I arrived at the Plowright Theatre a full hour late. But still managed to beat the others. Poor Chris didn’t arrive until just before they opened the doors for the punters to come in. He missed dinner..
We had a great show in Scunthorpe, with a lovely crowd. This was Clare’s Scunthorpe debut and I’m hoping we’ll be back there soon. We stayed at the Forest Pines Hotel down the road (narrowly missing the Chelsea football team it seems, who’d just checked out). Great hotel, although I regretted the decision to carry my bass to my room, which literally couldn’t have been further away from the foyer.
By the following day it became apparent that there was some horrendous cold-related lurgy gradually making it’s way around the band. It started with Mike and by this stage Chris was feeling ropey too. Luckily Leeds wasn’t too far away. We were playing at the Music College. I met Clare and Muddy at the Hotel (‘Hotel Posh no.2’, this time The Met on King Street) so we could go grab some lunch in town. The promise of Clare’s local knowledge proved a little sketchy (“I keep forgetting I used to live here…”), and we wandered the streets in the rain until we decided that it was frankly too cold and wet to continue and dived into the first place we came to. ‘Cafe Italia’ looked good from the outside…
What followed was one of the most ridiculous restaurant scenes I’ve encountered on my travels. We sat there at our table for what seemed an eternity. Eventually our eastern european waitress deigned to come over and take our order. Clare wanted a pizza. “We don’t have pizza” Really? But this is an Italian restaurant, and this page in the menu is the pizzas? “Yes. We don’t have pizza today”. Right… Clare then went for her second choice, bruschetta and a main course from the set menu. “The set menu doesn’t start until 3.30” says our waitress. Really? Doesn’t say that on the menu. All I wanted was some tomato soup and some garlic bread. Apparently there was no garlic bread because it was somehow pizza-related, so just the soup for me then. After jousting over the menu for a few more minutes, gradually ascertaining how little of what was offered was actually available, we managed to finally order some food.
Shock horror… It wasn’t very good. Never mind.
Clare dropped in at the BBC opposite the music college for a quick interview on the local radio and Mike and I joined her to play a quick tune live on air. Then we dashed back over the road to get ready for the show. The hall was fairly new it seemed. It reminded me of a larger version of the Lecture Recital Room back at my old college. It had a lovely 9′ piano, but a rather strange acoustic. It’s funny how drummers and bass players rarely agree on what makes a good acoustic. Chris loved it. His drums rang out through the whole space with no amplification, as did the piano and Clare’s vocal. But that same acoustic sucked all the life out of my bass and I spent the whole night bashing away at it just trying to get a sound. O well, the gig was good nonetheless. We were joined by Russ Henderson, a final year student at the college who came to play sax with us on a few tunes in the first set. It was great having Russ come to sit in; really lifted the show.
By this stage in the run Clare had also caught the cold. I was now the last remaining band member in perfect health. When we returned to Hotel Posh No. 2, it became clear that virtually the whole place had been hired out for some big corporate function. There was loud music playing throughout, the bar was stuffed, and there were various drunken folk falling about all over the place. We managed to find a little cosy spot by an open fire in the foyer and proceeded to order copious amounts of food. Marvelous stuff!
On Friday we played the Gala Theatre in Durham. I really love Durham, it’s such a beautiful town. I fully intended getting up at a decent hour and heading over there to have a look around. Typically I woke up in Leeds far too late (12.15 to be exact… I know, I know..) and completely buggered up my plan. I arrived in Durham mid-afternoon in the pouring rain, got pretty lost in my car trying to find the venue, then got pretty lost on foot trying to find Muddy and Clare. We had a great show that night to a sold-out house. By this point the others were really feeling the effects of i) all the driving and ii) the cold they seemed to have given each other. So you can imagine how we were all relishing the thought of the 4 1/2 hour drive home…
I’m pleased to say that somehow I managed to avoid catching any illnesses on the northern run. Back in London now and concentrating on getting ready for Nina Ferro‘s album launch at the 606 next Monday, and of course the tour with Duke Special. Nina’s new album is fantastic and the band are sounding awesome, so if you’re going to be in town on the 10th, make sure you’re at the 606 in Chelsea. And let me know you’re coming too so I can say hello!
Until then…