Larry’s BRA Diary
(stolen lock and stock and barrel from the I.C.O.N website)
Yes, it’s finally time for the BRA Tour. Just to be clear – for those familiar with Sid James’ work – it’s not the BRA tour because it’s a pair of heavyweights travelling together around the UK…no…it stands for British Riff Alliance; I.C.O.N and The Heretic Order
hammering eight venues this February.
The night before we kicked off, I.C.O.N had a good rehearsal during which I messed around once again with the drum set-up – going single bass once more because a couple of stages are quite small and because some (but thankfully not all) sound engineers come over all faint at the sight off a double bass kit. These are sad times…
First up was Grimsby and a welcome return visit to Yardbird’s. It’s always a pleasure playing here and Robbo and the Warlocks look after bands very well. So we loaded up and headed northeast.
Now, you may notice one or two minor exaggerations in the following story – but they are only tiny alterations to the facts.
Clearly we had entered another ice age. It was COLD. VERY VERY BLOODY COLD. Even the snow refused to fall and it just remained grey and COLD as we began the tour. By the time we arrived in Grimsby we were expecting to see Mammoths, Polar Bears, Abominable Snowmen (which I think I actually did see) and Imperial Walkers ready to storm Hoth’s rebel base. And it wasn’t just me with my thin New Zealand blood, it was the Lancasharians who were also complaining of the cold. We arrived after having turned blue and Robbo must have been surprised to see a band comprised of four freakishly oversized metal Smurfs. Anyway…once
we had broken the ice seals off the van (which is now repaired and fighting fit after committing suicide in Trieste) we loaded in with assistance from local Sherpas and huddled around whatever radiators we could find and began to thaw out. It was so cold that when Merch Empress Angie attempted to gaffa tape an electrical lead to the floor (health and safety and all that) the gaffa tape told her to bugger off and refused to stick to the frozen tiles. The Heretic Order arrived not long after – and a fine bunch of blokes they are and a bloody good band as well.
The gig was smooth considering we haven’t played live for a few weeks. We had some excellent pizzas before we played and had actually managed to thaw out – no doubt the Heretic Order were burning witches somewhere to help raise the ambient temperature. I was overjoyed to discover that I still had toes just before showtime and – thanks to the gift of feeling in our hands and feet – the gig was rocking.
We crashed in the Yardbirds’ bunkhouse and even managed to drive Heretic Danny out of the room with a concerted snoring offensive. So it’s 1-nil to I.C.O.N.
It was a fairly early (and COLD) start for us the next morning as we were due to head to Lincoln for a live session for Siren FM Radio courtesy of the mighty Tosh and Kev – top blokes, good radio presenters and proper supportive metalheads. We found the station among the icebergs in the grounds of Lincoln University and loaded all our gear into the second floor studio. A pseudo-policeman/security bloke seemed a bit perplexed at the arrival of the
Metal Smurfs loaded with backline but Kev fended him off and we were away.
Now, being inhabited by waif-like, narrow waisted young students, the University building was heated as if from the fires of Isengard itself and we were comfortably roasted and back to our normal pink/grey British complexion in no time. It was fantastic!!!!!!!!
We ripped through four tracks with two cool student blokes at the helm and then a quick interview with Tosh before slinging out hook back into the frozen wilderness headed for Birmingham.
Scruffys was the destination and we reached it bang on load in time. It may be small, but I really like Scruffys because you can get a good vibe going and the sound is always spot on. Our backline was up this time as we were last on and everything ran smooth as a smooth thing -apart from Reece attempting to find free parking and apparently travelling to the Outer Hebrides in search of it while we were growing old standing on stage ready for soundcheck. But he prevailed and parked near the venue and all was eventually well.
Koncept were opening, featuring Iron Knight alumni Jamie Gibson and it was great to see him again. They were on fire too and have an album out soon. Bassist Craig spiced up the gig by breaking his strap so spent most of it playing his bass on the floor. The Heretic Order were excellent as always and we played a set that we were all happy with. It was also good to see another Iron Knight, Wayne, who came to see the show (and now slings strings for Guts For Glory), Dan Carter from Left For Red and Gizmo from Estonia (by way of Birmingham). Good gig 🙂
We got back to HQ at about 2 or 3am or something. I couldn’t tell because my watch had frozen as it’s so BLOODY COLD!
The adventure continues…
(Warning: Reader discretion advised. All opinions are mine. The following update contains waffling about irrelevant things, profanity, heresy, blasphemy and nudity. I haven’t written it yet but it’s a pretty safe bet…)
The BRA jiggled into Manchester for the third show of the tour. After suffering the torments of frozen doom over the previous days the Ice Age had now receded slightly and correspondingly the Severe Weather Warning had been downgraded from what the BBC shipping forecast designate as ‘fucking cold’ to a mere ‘bloody cold’. Now…I don’t believe in deities, but on this occassion it was clear that Höðr (the God of Winter) was still suitably pissed off at the world and it was a miserable rainy grey day. Kind of like most of a British year.
Anyway we rumbled into Manchester for a gig at The Rebellion Bar, which, if you haven’t been there, is a spiffing place that has good sound and a nice wide stage. Opening the show were Vice who we’ve played with several times before, so all in all it was a solid night of metallic goodness. I even noticed that the demons from Devilskin had defiled the dressing room with one of their stickers from the show they played there a few nights before. Bloody New Zealanders….they’re everywhere.
Anyway, we loaded in no problem. Tonight as it was the Heretic’s turn to close the show I was using Ernie’s kit. He opted to use the house bass drum with his own bits added to it and it sounded mighty indeed. There was a brief problem when the catch on his new Hardcase hardware locker jammed solid and actually had to be broken off to liberate the aforementioned stands. I’m sure it’s a temporary glitch that will be remedied tout-suite as I use Hardcase religiously…well, I don’t exactly chant and pray over them, but you surely get the picture…and they are the most excellent high quality bits of gear for looking after the trusty Mapex, Paiste and Duallist pieces of my drum arsenal. Great cases that I cannot recommend highly enough.
Anyway…soundcheck came and went and before long doors opened and the evening was off. It was most excellent to see some familiar faces who came to spend the evening with us all, including my old mate Tom who used to strut his funky stuff as the bassist for the now-defunct Marshall Law. Excellent bass player and all-round good egg.
We bumbled on stage at about 9pm or so and blitzed through the set which now had Prizefighter added to it. There were a few equipment hassles. The second tom mic was positioned cunningly in the way of my right arm so I proceeded to knock it flying after one song and it hung next to my double bass pedal’s left beater; swinging backward and forward every time I did a tad of double-bass work (which I do quite often). However, the mic was not destroyed and I managed to reattach it reasonably effectively for the rest of the set. Made drum rolls a little interesting as you had to map a way around the kit that was pretty unnatural…but hey-ho. Scott’s guitar sound disappeared at the beginning of Welcome To My War which became Welcome To My Bore as Reece and I went round and round…and round…..and rouuuuuuuund the intro as he chased the problem down to another mic that had decided to playfully leap free from its holder and hide from the perplexed guitarist.So – if you are of a religious persuasion – you can take your pick of deities that were messing with us on this night: Loki (God of mischief and pissing about), Bragi (music) or Elli (old age). I doubt it was Vör (Goddess of wisdom) and being in a band it sure as hell wasn’t Njörður (wealth). In fact running through the various Norse Gods, Goddesses and ‘Mrs Gods’, I realise that we are frequently visited by the God of Inspiration when writing new tracks. But his official online description doesn’t really make him look too good:
“Kvasir – God of inspiration. Killed by Dwarves.”
Anyway, my train of thought appears to be getting derailed…
We rocketed through the rest of the set and apparently the onstage hassles were not evident from off stage and people seemed to really enjoy it. The Heretics were excellent again and this time our very own God of Haircuts Mark Sagar joined them onstage for a blistering version of Killed by Death (not Dwarves) in honour of the Mighty Warted One whose presence is being sorely missed in this world. A fitting tribute.
Then it was done. Gig number three in the can for the BRA Tour and a gap of a few days before we trundle through the language barrier and into Newcastle. Looking forward to returning to Trillians.
On a personal note I’d just like to end this by expressing my outrage at the dickheads who appear to enjoy dropping litter at every available moment. Driving into Manchester (and pretty much everywhere else) I was depressed at the bloody mess EVERYWHERE! Lazy ignorant fuckers dropping their shit all over the place and destroying the world one piece of crap at a time. Here’s a news flash for you nimrods: it doesn’t make you look hard; it doesn’t make you look cool; it makes you look a thick ignorant bastard. Speaking of which, the night ended spectacularly as we drove away when a group of ‘well dressed young men’ who clearly can’t handle their booze got their collective arses handed to them by a bunch of bouncers. Blood for the Blood God. Idiots…
Oh yeah…I ‘promised’ nudity as well. Here’s my naked leg. I have two of them but this one’s my favourite.
We had a short break of a couple of days after Manchester. On Monday morning I headed south to say goodbye to a special lady who has left us at the ridiculously early age of 46; proving once again that there is no natural justice in the world.
The tour resumed in Newcastle which meant a train ride from London to Manchester and then into the trusty steed to head north-east. The train was hilarious as it showed the absolute determination of people to avoid any form of human contact. Sitting down next to and opposite people, you say hello (because my mum and dad taught me that being polite is important) and they completely avoid acknowledging that you even exist. You have to admire their determination; it takes a steely nerve to be such a completely ignorant bastard. So…I communicated with my phone and iPod instead. Fuck ’em.
Anyway, the train of joy reached Manchester on time where I was picked up by Mister Knowles and we reconvened in Burnley for the rest of the trek. Pretty uneventful other than endless bloody roadworks in the way. It was still cold – but not quite the glacial conditions of the previous few days.
The target for tonight was Trillians which – if you haven’t been there – is a complete bastard to find. The load-in is conveniently disguised as a car park with not a single clue that there is a venue on the other side of it. The Heretics were there before us and had apparently enjoyed their tour of Newcastle searching for the bloody place.
I like Trillians a lot and am pleased that it has fought off the closures inflicted upon it over recent years. We were finishing the show and it was just us and the Heretics tonight so an easy set up.
I’m not sure if it was the accumulation of some strange weeks almost since the year’s beginning or what, but I didn’t really play like a champion at the show. We got through it without any major derailment but I personally felt pretty disconnected from the kit so flailed around a bit aimlessly here and there. Ah well….still raised a sweat and fucked my hearing up a little more. Im sure my focus will come together more in Scotland.
Trusty Travelodge hosted us for the night and then the main event – Morrison’s breakfast! Yes…it’s always a good indicator of a proper UK tour when you have the ‘combo-divine’ of Travelodge and Morrison’s.
The good thing about Morrisons is that there are plenty of healthy salads and lighter, but still filling, choices to eat. So, a big fried breakfast it was, topped off with endlessly refillable coffee. Wunderbar.
Scott – who had breakfasted earlier – opted to have a ‘currant tea-cake’ which is a peculiar monstrosity beloved of all these northern people in I.C.O.N. It’s basically a bread roll with what appear to be dead flies in it. Kind of a hot cross bun without the cross. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have these hideous items in New Zealand, but I am not a fan, as most things with currants in taste like shit to my delicate palette. So henceforth Mister Knowles will be known as ‘Tea Cake’ for his unrepentant sacrilege to the God of Food.
Because we are a juvenile pack of bastards, a smirk and a titter were raised when a staff announcement asking for a ‘Charlotte Moist to report to checkout’ came over the tannoy. It’s not big or clever to mock people’s names – but somehow it happened anyway. Even Tea Cake was chuckling. Poor girl, that’s a name destined for schoolyard problems.
(Party Political Broadcast follows on behalf of the ICON Party) Of course any guilt that I may feel about such juvenile behaviour was completely alleviated by seeing footage from Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster on Farcebook. Never fails to amaze me how this herd of gibbering over-paid buffoons is allowed to continue without us peasants staging another long overdue revolution. Absolute pile of shitbags. The U.K. needs an enema.
Off to sunny Edinburgh now – the gradual loss of feeling in my feet an indicator that it may well be chilly over the border in Bonny Scotland…
Two Minutes To Lunchtime
Over the wall into Bonny Scotland – one of my favourite countries. It’s always good to be back up here and we were headed for Edinburgh and the show at Bannermans. It’s a nice drive along the A1 and we made good time to the venue.
Now, apparently Beira is the ancient Queen of Winter in Scotland and made the Scottish mountains by accidentally dropping rocks from her wicker basket while striding about the place. She carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys, and is said to be the mother of all the goddesses and gods and herds deer, fights spring and freezes the ground. She also apparently hangs over our band, looking at me and says ‘fuck this guy in particular’. Because I was COLD! Yet again my feet seemed to have deserted me. Yes the scenery was awesome; yes the sky was blue(ish); but my vibrating eyeballs made it hard to take in. By Odin’s frosty scrotum, it was cold! Now I know why Mel Gibson’s face was blue in Braveheart. Thanks Beira 🙁
Traffic ground to a familiar UK-style halt in Edinburgh but once we reached the venue load in went without hassle. The Heretics were finishing the show tonight so once Evil Stu had coasted into sight in their mighty chariot all the gear was in and we were ready to rumble. There’s a very nice band flat upstairs and it was actually warm!!! So bonuses all round.
In a slightly unexpected moment one of the first faces I saw in Bannermans was Jamie Gibson from Koncept who we had played with in Birmingham. He and his good lady Julia were holidaying in the frosty city, so it was cool to catch up again.
I have to mention as well that over the road were a bunch of blokes standing round in kilts. Kilts!?!! Have you guys got no blood in your bodies!?!!! There I was in hoody, jeans, boots, leather jacket, hat and gloves while talking about how nice the day was to a bunch of blokes in bloody kilts!
No opening band meant we were first on and I’m pleased to say that my drumming mojo had returned. The band sounded absolutely thunderous and there is a fantastic bass thump in Bannermans which made the drums sound massive. I.C.O.N played an absolute blinder, which felt good.
The Heretic Order also played a complete cracker. Funniest moment of the night unintentionally came from Heretic Danny mid-set. Now, Danny (Lord Ragnar) is from Gibraltar so he has an accent that combines Gibraltese with English, Spanish and a touch of Hades. To this interesting mix he decided to have a stab at Scottish too…
“Hello Scotland. Good to see you here…you men…and you lassies”
“Okay, this one is called…..”
It reminded me of The Heretic show in Manchester where Lord Ragnar confidently roared through the microphone: “Hello Birmingham!!”
Ha ha! Great stuff 🙂
Anyway, the gig was superb and then we all scuttled upstairs to demolish the excellent rider of food and beer while swapping road stories. Was a good chance to sit down together and talk bollocks.
Next morning we loaded out and bumbled off for a Morrisons reload. Dumfries was the target for tonight and we reached there early enough to waste a few hours in the nearby pub.
The Venue is a cool place and the gig went smoothly. A reactivated Turbyne were playing too and it was good to see them all again; they toured a bit with me when I was in the BB band.
Nothing to report from the gig – everybody played well and we had a blast. Lord Ragnar didn’t try his Scottish on the unsuspecting audience this time. Mark got up again to do Killed By Death as well.
Back in the van….hurtling through the frozen night….landed at I.C.O.N HQ at about 2.30. Two more shows to go: Deeside tonight. I wonder if Ragnar will have a stab at a Welsh accent….
Yes, back in sunny Dragonland. We bumbled over to Deeside with a short run; Captain Bevan piloting the trusty steed on all of this tour. The chariot’s new engine appears to have some extra steroids compared to the last one that was cruelly murdered in Trieste; so all is well as far as HMS I.C.O.N goes.
Spent the trip plugged into my iPod; mainly listening to Exodus and Exciter (Violence and Force). I remember when Exciter’s Dan Beehler tried to get Jay and I kicked out of the Headbangers Open Air courtesy shuttle bus once on a BB gig. After he failed he decided to completely ignore our existence. Dick. So, enjoyed listening to the album again, but bite me Mister Beehler.
We were closing the Deeside show so got all our backline on and checked in no time. Strange acoustics on stage at first made the kit sound very quiet – an affront to the God of Thunder and all drummers everywhere. Normally I can make ‘Tea Cake’ Knowles do an involuntary bowel movement with a surprise snare hit – but this time nothing! Not even a gust of wind! Very disappointing. Nonetheless, by showtime it seemed to have perked up a little volume-wise; maybe it just needed a few bodies in the room.
The Heretic Order were particularly good tonight – though we are all getting concerned about Danny/Ragnar who is getting far too fond of his makeup routine. Anyway, they were grand. Evil Stu even belted the lights while attempting to encourage the audience to clap along – his infernal bass majesty giving the innocent lighting rig a hearty wallop in his fit of paganistic and infernal enthusiasm. Marvellous!
We hit the stage and blitzkrieged through the set without problem. Everyone played a blinder and we were all pretty happy. Cool organisers and crowd made for a smooth gig.
Back to HQ and now on the way to the last show in London. Of course now we deal with the ire of Smogasaurus: the God of Deeply Fucked Up Traffic. This isn’t the kind of jam we enjoy!
See you later London; lets get royally blasted into oblivion with a night of metal – if you’ve got the balls for it.
London was evidently calling and after a few hours sleep the steed was pointed south on the M6 – delayed slightly by traffic chaos but reaching the wilds of Islington at just about the right time for load in. The Heretics pulled up at about the same time and before long the venue was full of gear and getting set up for the final show.
Because the Heretics are a London band we figured it would make sense for them to close the show so I was back on Ernie’s kit for the night. An extra support for the BRA had been added in the last minute shape of Die Kur (we were, of course, hoping for a band called ‘Underwire’) so we were just going to line-check before going on. With that in mind it seemed only polite to bumble over the road and express our admiration of Mr Wetherspoon’s work until doors opened.
It was great to see some familiar faces at the show – much appreciation to those of you that came along. It’s been good to see people during this tour still checking out and supporting original bands in the UK rather than sitting on their arses at home or treading the same old covers routine while bitching about the lack of up-and-coming future metal acts. The irony of that never fails to amaze us all! It seems that there is still no shortage of metal fans who ‘listen’ to what is good and what isn’t depending on who is ‘in or out’ or what part of the scene has been officially sanctioned as acceptable (or mandatory) to support. One of the strengths of heavy metal right from its early days was that people didn’t just follow the herd, but instead made up their own minds about what they did or didn’t like. Plus, it didn’t matter whether other people were into the same stuff or not…music is a personal thing anyway.
But, I digress…
Back at the gig Die Kur kicked off and within minutes the bass head on Ernie’s kick drum gave up and split down the middle. I had a suspicion it would as it was a single-ply Evans and right from the first show it had looked a little taken aback by the hammering it had received. A hasty run (yes I can do a hasty run when I need to) to the van allowed me to grab my spare trusty Aquarian Super Kick II that was in the back. It was already a used skin and had seen months of action, but was still in good shape and complete with double kick pad. So with a keyboard solo whirring away on stage, Ernie and the Die Kur drummer changed the skin and the gig rumbled on.
Our turn rolled around and we hit the stage for 45 minutes of loud headbanging noise. The sound both on stage and out front was superb and I really enjoyed the whole thing which flashed by in no time. (My daughter Megan had come along too and took a few photos – photography is her new endeavour while she’s doing her physics degree and I think she’s got a great eye for it. She doesn’t do gig photography, it’s more events and ‘general life’…have a look at her Facebook Page.)
After that it was time for a beer and watch the Heretics rip it up. Then it was over. The BRA was finished…for now. Loading out had that familiar strange ‘end of tour vibe’ that hangs over everything. It’s an unusual feeling that is part tiredness, part accomplishment and part melancholy as you realise there is no soundcheck tomorrow and you have to find other things to do. Even if you have another job or activity that you really enjoy, it always pales in comparison to a good tour. There was the brief diversion of freeing a slightly confused (and big) rat that came into the venue and couldn’t find the door again until it was herded in the right direction and then we were on our way.
The tour was an absolute blast and The Heretic Order were not only an excellent band but truly top notch blokes to hit the road with. Hopefully we’ll do some more show together sometime soon and I’m pretty certain that the ‘British Riff Alliance’ will rear its ugly head once again.
So to keep abreast of any future BRA news, keep tuning into the I.C.O.N website and forum. By the way, thanks to those Metal Bastards that have registered on the forum, and thanks to those metal bastards that braved the ire of the various Gods of Winter to come and get crazy with us and the Heretics on this tour.
Europe now beckons in a couple of weeks…..