Oct 5 2008

Down and Out in Paris and Denmark (Part II)

Hello folks. Thanks to all of you that left comments and messages on Part I, it’s always good to know that you’re enjoying my tales of rock & roll calamity. And also thanks to all those of you who have subscribed via Feedburner over the last week or so. It’s great to see so many people getting involved in the blog. I had 25 new subscribers today alone (this is a record for me, I usually average around 15), which is very encouraging.
Thought it was about time to compose Part II. My memory is notoriously crappy in these situations and if I don’t get it down soon, I will have forgotten all the details. As it is, the Danish extravaganza was quite literally a whistle-stop tour and I’m finding it rather tricky to work out what happened where… I think it’s about time I started blogging whilst on the road. Expect something of a running commentary on the Duke Special Irish tour in November…
I finally arrived in Denmark late morning after the aforementioned Journey From Hell (including 1 taxi, 1 bus, 2 planes and the joyous overnight stay in the bus shelter). I was expecting to be met by Chrys and the band with our splitter van at Billund airport. As there was no sign of the van I gave him a call to discover that our van hadn’t even made it past Willesden Green. Chrys had spent a lot of time making the van more comfortable and had installed a little flatscreen TV for some on the road movie action (Pimp My Van style), but sadly the van decided it would break down before even leaving London. It turned out they had to hire a new van at Brent Cross, and Mark and Steve had to hire a car when they arrived at Billund earlier in the morning. I was met by our Danish promoter Bent who drove me the extra 90 minutes to Holsterbro. 
We were playing at the Kielgatan in Holsterbro. This is a great little venue and they looked after us really well. Which was lucky; I’d already been up for two days by this point. The stage was a bit of a squeeze, so we had to set up the wrong way around, ie; bass and keyboards stage left instead of stage right. For some reason this buggered me up no end on the gig. I seem to stand stage right in pretty much every band I play with. It’s incredibly strange to me how such a simple thing as where one stands on stage can totally throw you during the performance. I’m making too much of this really, to be honest it just threw out all my rock and roll moves which didn’t really work pointing the wrong way! The gig was really busy; it was a seated audience but plenty of people were standing so there was a good atmosphere.
We moved on to Sonderborg on Thursday. We were staying at the same great little hotel we were in last time. Don’t ask me it’s name, I have no idea. But it’s by the sea and has a windmill attached to it. We were playing at the Sonderborghus again, which is an artsy theatre-type gig in the centre of town. I do have a tendency to remember gigs on the quality of the food (shallow? yes) and this one was not a disappointment! A great little bit of buffet action was a welcome change from the deluge of cheese and speckled ham I’d been subjected to thus far that week. 
I’d had more than my fair share of technical issues during this trip, with virtually every one of my leads crapping out on me at some point and my pedal board performing it’s obligatory “I don’t like European voltages” hums and buzzes all through the week. My setup comprised almost entirely borrowed and stolen leads by the end of the run.
The show went down a storm, so much so that we were forced to bung in a second encore of Family Man at the last minute. Much to the surprise of our keyboard player Gordon, who had never played it before! Luckily, it only has a few chords…
After the show we found ourselves back at the hotel in that classic post-gig scenario we always seem to face in Denmark; the bar was shut. I really cannot fathom why hotel bars in Denmark insist on closing at around 11pm. We seem to end every night during the tour sat in some lobby or passageway nursing whatever spoils we had managed to liberate from the rider earlier on. It’s hardly rock & roll now, is it?
Which brings me on to Gadstrup. We arrived in Gadstrup (which is apparently near Roskilde) the following afternoon to met with the least glamourous of our hotels thus far. To put it mildly, they looked like what can only be described as a poorman’s Butlins chalets, directly facing the noisy railway line in a small town in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I found myself compelled to take a little photo to show you….
Oh, the glamour! Horrible, stinking, spider-infested shithole. The complete polar opposite of the previous night’s accommodation. O well, we thought. Onwards and upwards. Anyone who tells you that touring is all glitz and glamour is frankly talking shit. You can show them this picture if you like…
I got instantly bored after we checked in and went for a stroll around ‘town’ in search of a decent coffee. Fat chance my friend. It was one of the most bizarre towns I’ve ever been to. The centre essentially consisted of one main high street which had a small supermarket, one cafe/restaurant, two charity shops and five (yes, five) hairdressers. Why a town that small requires five hair cutting establishments is beyond me. Christ knows what these people spend their time doing during the long Winter months, but you can be sure none of them will be in need of a haircut.
We played a show at the Ramso Musichus up the road. This was one of those venues, apparently quite common in Denmark, which are run by a committee who get together and hire a band once a month to play in their own venue. I really like this idea, it’s something I have yet to come across in this country. Basically, they all club together and decide who they’d like to see, then approach the artists themselves. Because they owned the venue, they took great pride in the upkeep and had hired in a great sound system. 
It’s always a little odd playing these small folky clubs with Maggie. We are not the quietest of bands and it’s always a bit tricky playing the full-on show in such confined spaces. The room was laid out with a series of long tables set out for dinner, like some kind of masonic luncheon. I jokingly said to Maggie just before we went on that they were having a raffle in the break, and maybe a quick round of bingo. Unfortunately, Maggie didn’t quite realise I was joking and wished the audience good luck in the raffle just as we left the stage at the end of the set. Oops. The show was small but fun. Both the audience and the band had a great time and were very appreciative.
The biggest show of this little run was at Train in Aarhus (“In the middle of our street”). Train is a fairly large venue, which is very popular on the Danish music scene. It’s one of the places everyone plays at and it was good to finally play somewhere with a decent capacity after all the smaller shows we’ve been playing of late. You can tell almost instantly when you walk into a venue what sort of place it is. Train even smelt like a proper rock and roll venue (ie; it smelt like stale beer and sweat, but in a good way!). Nice big stage, fat PA and good lights. We knew as soon as we arrived that this was going to be the best show. It was.
We played the full-on set this time (we tend to tone it down quite considerably for the smaller venues) and loved every minute of it. Maggie’s show works best when we can stretch out with the dynamics. Which kind of requires a bigger venue. Train was definitely the highlight of the Danish run and I’m looking forward to playing there again soon. It turned out that after the show, Train turns into the clubbing venue in Aarhus with literally hundreds of people queuing around the block to get in. We made our escape back to the hotel (bar shut) and watched the carnage unfold outside.
These were the last shows this year with Maggie. Hopefully we’ll be back on tour soon in the new year with a new album, so watch this space.
Since I’ve been back I’ve been busy rehearsing with Jonathan Jeremiah and Duke Special. I’ll be touring Ireland with Duke Special in November promoting his excellent new album I Never Thought This Day Would Come, which will be released in Ireland on October 17th. The dates are all up on my MySpace page. 
As soon as I get a chance I’m going to go into solo bass overdrive as I’ve just got my hands on a new bass. It’s a Warwick Thumb NT VI (my first sixer) and will from now on be known simply as ‘The Beast’, because quite frankly, it’s a monster. I’ve just got it back from Martin Petersen at The Gallery who has worked his magic and given it the perfect setup. Let me tell you folks, it’s been a challenge putting it down long enough to write this blog post. Make sure you subscribe to my Solo Bass Podcast to keep up with the veritable deluge of new tracks that will inevitably come through in the near future!
On another note, I downloaded the new Lawson/Dodds/Wood album Numbers a couple of days ago and it’s the best thing I’ve heard in ages. Go forth and purchase people. If you order it now, you get the download version with a bunch of excellent bonus tracks, and then when the CD is released in November, you’ll receive that in the post too. Such a great idea. You can order the CD from Steve Lawson’s online store here.