Vauréal

We had finally reached the last day. Woke up in Köln and prepared to head off. We were actually on the outskirts and in, what were in daylight, pretty bleak surroundings. The guy who showed us to our apartment was from Galicia and a nice dude, but the whole area was pretty grim. When we drove out we passed a ton of industry and about thirty tiny, scruffy little caravans on the side of the road. There were enough open windows to see that each one had a girl in it. Pretty sobering sight to be honest.
So we high-tailed it for the border, tore through Belgium and were back in France in good time. By now Reece and I were both feeling pretty tired even with short drives. We had a five hour run and checked in to the hotel before heading to Le Forum; an excellent venue with – once again – amazingly helpful and friendly staff, right down to the large security dudes.

It was great to see my old friend Laurent Nozérac who came down to the show wearing the Kill and Destroy shirt I designed while in the Blaze band. Haven’t seen one in a while. Laurent is a top guy; well in to his music and just a pleasure to hang out with. He also very kindly brought a nice bottle of wine as a birthday present 🙂 Cheers Laurent.   

  
With soundcheck done in good time, we, Fire and Water and the Mindcrime band and crew all sat down for an excellent meal. Was nice to just relax and talk for a while.

  
Before long, doors were open and the place quickly filled – probably the biggest crowd of the tour Tomás and Clodagh hit the stage and gave a spectacular performance. They were joined by the Operation:Mindcrime band on ‘The Liar’ which was great. Plus Thomás and Clodagh gave a shout out for my birthday – much appreciated, thank you.

We hit the stage ready to bring the noise and had quite a cracker of a gig 🙂 The audience were fantastic. It was slightly surreal at one point during a tuning break when I looked around and saw a bunch of people on stage. The first person I saw was actually Emily – with her bright blonde hair – and she was carrying a bottle. Clearly my train of thought was still boarding at the station, and I wondered why she was on stage. Was she bringing extra water? It was hot after all…

Gradually the cogs in my mind meshed together and I saw she was also with the rest of the Fire and Water and Operation:Mindcrime people. They came onstage with Champagne for us. John got on the mic and said some very very nice things about I.C.O.N and then got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to me. I know it makes me sound like a sap, but I actually felt quite emotional at that moment. Ha! Must be getting old 😉 Thank you very much ladies and gents for the exceptionally nice gesture. 

With a glass of Champagne to steady the nerves we blasted through the second half of the set and then our part was done. The crowd were spectacular – what a way to end our tour. 

All that remained was to watch Operation:Mindcrime one more time, while also flitting around between friends old and new. They were – predictably – superb.

After many goodbyes we were eventually off to the hotel. Calais tomorrow and then home eventually – I wonder if The Lord will send another nun to guide us?

This tour has been quite a trial in many ways. By the time I get home, we will have driven 7,000 miles in four different vehicles – one of which is still stranded in Trieste with a bunch of grinning imbeciles who claim to be mechanics.

But, as difficult as that has been, the people we were on tour with made it incredibly easy too. Tomás and Clodagh of Fire and Water were always a joy to be around. Incredibly talented and equally nice, it was great to meet them and I know we will be seeing more of them. Geoff, Kelly, Scott, Randy, John and Simon (fantastic drummer!) of Operation:Mindcrime were the same – an absolute pleasure to share a tour with; hugely talented and very very cool people. Tour manager Ingo was awesome – a great TM and great guy. It was nice to see Emily’s smiling face at each gig and she was not only a really cool person to be around but also helped us no end with our Merch. Susan was fantastic and without her idea to haul our backline we may have been well and truly fucked when our van broke down. And last, but definitely not least, the hardest working crew, Ty and Ollie – two fine gents that it is my privilege to know. 

This may sound like mindless gushing – but I can honestly say it’s a great thing when everybody you are on tour with is so cool. I’m going to miss them all, but hopefully we will cross paths again soon.

And, of course, thanks to our guv’nor Anna who organised the daunting – and ever changing – logistics that meant we never missed a hotel or scheduled arrival (apart from Rome which nobody could have made happen!)

What a blast this tour has been. If you ever get a chance to check out either band – don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed! 

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Bochum

The trip from Salzburg was pretty tiring actually. Pouring with rain and Reece and I were flagging a bit behind the wheel. The plain clothes Polizei pulled us over for a document check, which livened things up. The funniest thing was there were two of them – very polite and cool – but one guy looked pretty miserable standing in the rain as I opened the back of the van for inspection. Polizei A then asked Polizei B: “Should I get them to unpack the equipment?”

“Neiiiiiiin!” Said Polizei B as he hunched lower into his jacket. 

And so we were on our way with a tiny bit of air guitar from Polizei A.

We were staying at an Ibis in Frankfurt which foxed us at first by hiding down a small slip road, but we manfully tracked it down. A Chinese meal followed before a final gathering in the bar. I then bumbled off to bed and that was the end of our travel day.

  
Only two hours to Bochum – but we were coffee deficient so it felt like four. However, we got there to be greeted with a nice bunch of guys all wanting autographs. The venue is magnificent – very very cool, and apparently Ingo’s old stomping ground where he used to come and strut his funky stuff at the rock club.

Everything was perfect: great crew, excellent food (and mountains of it), fantastic stage with plenty of room. After about half a ton of dinner we waddled on stage and blitzed through the set without major hiccups. The Jedi Ty was in charge of our sound so I believe it was suitable thunderous.

Ingo begging for second helpings
Soundcheck

 

Interesting wallpaper. Makes a change from UK dressing rooms where people seem compelled to draw dicks everywhere.
  
Then…pack up and an hour to Köln where we are in an apartment on the 17th floor. Was tempted to tell Mark the lift was broken…but failed to be convincing.

 

Köln
 
Last gig tomorrow. It’ll be sad to leave Deutschland but Vive la France!

Salzburg

We rocketed down into Austria along what are now familiar roads. I’ve been to Salzburg a few times and it’s a great city, but we didn’t have time to have a look around unfortunately. Checked into the hotel (which was an awesome old building that had been a Gasthof since 1437). The venue was less than five minutes away – The Rockhouse – and it is magnificent. Really nice place with exceptionally nice staff. You knew you were back in Europe – there was a ton of food and drink laid on, and that was before dinner which was cooked by a nice lady upstairs. Geoff and Susan had been into town and had dinner in a restaurant that dates back to the 9th century!!! Awesome. The original staff must have been virtually Roman.

 

Soundcheck
 
Fire and Water opened the show, then us and then a German band called Wolfen Reloaded. Nice guys. As they were after us I used their drum kit, a Yamaha double bass setup. This, of course, led to cat calls and mockery from various Mindcrimers and Fire or Waterers who were watching from the balcony as we sound checked! Bloody cheek! I’m an artiste don’t you know…;)

Anyway, I weathered the storm of these outrageous slurs from this riff raff and we sound checked without any (more) hassle. The onstage sound was great and all in all I reckon we played pretty well and seemed to go down well. Made a lot of new friends.

A great night all round.  

After that, back to the hotel and a beer before crashing out.

The next morning we ambled off into Germany, taking a short detour to show the guys the remains of Adolf Hitler’s house, the Berghof, at Obersalzberg. It’s a fascinating historical place and always interesting having a look around there. The hotel that acted as garrison for the SS guard is still a functioning hotel and – with a little more time – you can ferret out the houses belonging to the Third Reich’s hierarchy…and assorted tunnels and things 😉

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The Berghof

So, now that it’s pissing with rain, we’re off to a hotel in Frankfurt. Bochum tomorrow \m/

Five a day!

Pretty straight forward way to spend the day yesterday: driving from England through France, Belgium and The Netherlands to Germany. Camped the night in an excellent hotel in Heidelburg which, dangerously enough, had a bar. 

So we had a couple…just to be polite. A few Weissbiers until we were full, pints of Bloody Mary until they ran out of vodka and a couple of Pina Coladas to finish the evening.

Very nice.

 
 

Pints of Bloody Maries
 

Brighton

I really like Brighton. It’s a very cool place and I always enjoy visiting. Been a while since I played here; I think the last time was with Blaze at Concorde 2, which is going back a bit. Debbie was still alive when we played that one.

Tonight we were in The Haunt. Never been there before. Late load in, swift sound check and go.

Gig played, gear out the door into the van and off. Only the second time that we’ve had to leave before Operation:Mindcrime have finished 🙁
Anyway…I took the chance to be a fan and got a Disturbed album signed by John, an AC/DC single by Simon and the first Queensryche EP by Geoff 🙂

    
It was an absolute pleasure to see Charlie Male again, who came down to the show – great guitarist and a good mate. Cheers Charlie.

Off to Dover tomorrow for a two day trip to Salzburg, stopping in Germany tomorrow night. Awesome.

 

A picture paints a thousand words
Here’s another thousand
  
 

Day off in  Larndan

 

The Vans for Bands steed heads for Brighton
 (Parental advisory: contains explicit lyrics…any similarity to living people is entirely planned…may contain small parts).

We had a day off in London which was spent back at my house, washing clothes and attempting to stop three cats from climbing in suitcases. We – and the superb Fire And Water – didn’t play the London show; nothing to do with the Mindcrime crew but the show was farmed out by the UK agent (who had already managed to balls up two out of four shows that he was supposed to book) to another London promoter who changed the bill completely. So, to paraphrase Princess Leia in her exchange with Darth Vader after her ship was captured near Tattooine: “Fuck off Darth Promoter and keep fucking off until you get there…and then fuck off some more.” We all hope your raging case of syphilis improves soon. So we had a day to recharge at least before the next leg which begins in Brighton. 

After Brighton we head back over the Channel to Salzburg, which we’ve driven past three times in the last ten days and then on to northern Germany (which we’ve been through twice). It’ll be nice to be back in Greater Europa for the final sprint.

Once again, I’d like to go on record and say that the entire Operation:Mindcrime band, manager and crew and the Fire and Water duo have been an absolute pleasure to tour with and to watch perform every show. I’ve seen a few internet heroes taking pot shots at Mister Tate and – on behalf of I.C.O.N I’d like to say – bite me. 

Looking forward to seeing them all at the next shows.