Having worked with Porcupine Tree for quite a while already, and forming a tight team with Ian, the band’s long-running front of house engineer, I was glad to be asked to join him on a tour with a new band (in every sense of the word).
He’d been with the band in rehearsals for a week or so already, and they had been looking for a guitar tech. He didn’t go into detail that much yet, except for that their drummer was (he’d actually leave shortly after) Andy Gangadeen of Massive Attack fame, and were about to do a pub/club tour in the UK.
Of course I said yes.
One of the anecdotes that Ian had shared me was this:
Band: “we’d like to get a sound desk with us on tour, how much would that be?”
Ian: “About 450 a week.”
Band: “No, how much for a desk?”
Ian: “About 450 a week.”
Band: “No, we want to actually buy a desk, use it in rehearals, and then bring it on tour. how much would that be?”
Needless to say that this band did actually have ‘some money’ to spend for this tour. It shouldn’t have suprised me that the touring crew we got together was ‘quite substantial’ for the size of the tour. Ian (FOH), Dave (lights), Ade (merch) and me (backline) from Porucipine Tree, completed by Matt (tour manager) from The Darkness. We’d be joined by Iain, the band’s manager, and we’d be travelling on a Jumbocruiser bus.
All that, for a good 10-day (including 2 days in the rehearsal studio for me to get to know the gear, and set it up to be road proof) tour through the UK; I say UK, but I should probably rephrase that as “direct surroundings of London and Birmingham”.
The tourbus (it was brand new, it had only 4000km on the odometer, which pretty much means that no one has even used the toilet or the coffee machine or any of the bunks on the bus yet) met us at the Music Bank rehearsal studios in London, and we’d have to travel for – what was it, an hour? – to our first show, the Milton Keynes School of Rock. We would be the opening band there for the ‘end of year exhibition of the students there’; their average age could not have been much over 15 years.
And here’s us, a five-piece band (Shake, Russell, Matt, Ian, and (sorry, forgot the name of the German roots session-keyboard player) where the youngest could technically still have fathered any of these school kids, full of seasoned session-musicians.
And there we arrived, with a tourbus, a full backline, a sound desk, and more crew than the other bands had teachers/minders combined.
We were going have a laugh on this run!
Due to the absolute silliness this would be, the band had actually decided against bringing Dave and Ade along. We’d be playing venues that had “a lightswitch that went on and off”, and “no room to set up merch booths in”.
Right after the show, we drove back to London Tesco @ Earl’s Court, to drop off the band, since it wasn’t even 9pm, and we were done and dusted, and all the band and crew (except Ian and me) lived in London anyway. Why sleep on the tourbus when it takes you 30 minutes to get back home? Same for Ian, who’d need to drive a bit further, but didn’t mind to.
Next day we’d meet up around 1pm again for our next show. I’m not sure about the routing anymore, but think that was Filthy McNasty’s in Twickenham, where we opened up for another local band. After the show, same procedure, except for Ian actually deciding against being on the tour bus at all; he’d just drive up and down from Cambridgeshire every day, and so would some of the musicians.
Next day would be our much-needed day off, due one of our shows being cancelled. So, by this time, I knew that nights would be spent on the tourbus, alone with Steve the driver, with toilets and a massive 24h super market overhead. So I could test the microwave, the coffee machine, the media hard disk, and each and every single bunk (each of course fitted with its own DVD player).
After the day off, we’d actually have our first headliner gig, at Stourbridge Rock Cafe, where Ade had deemed it fit to come and pay us a visit, and actually bother to buy a ticket. He was one half of the paying audience. Earlier that afternoon we’d received a pleasant phone call, the other show that had been cancelled could potentially be filled by doing a second show at Filthy McNasty’s again, and we’d actually get paid this time, being headliners ourselves. All of 50GBP.
The rest of the tour was pretty much the same, but I forgot what venues we played; I think it was about 6 shows in 8 days? I do remember one detail of the tour very vividly though; the singer’s artist name; and the reason behind him being called that.
Shake was short for Shaikh Hassan Bin Rashid Al Khalifa.