My First Tour (Part 2)

Astrobotnia & Bogdan Raczynski (Rephlex) November 2003
I must confess at this point I only found out last year some time that Richard and Grant had been taking the piss in Edinburgh… Read on.
After another Travelodge night, we moved on quite early to Leeds. To our Posh Hotel experience. Said Posh Hotel (Wood Hall) is a lovely stone building perched atop an oh-so-English hill, overlooking several oh-so-English fields (crammed full of Magic Mushrooms) and a view over an oh-so-English little forest which had it’s very own river along which we went for a long walk – Manchester and Leeds are close enough that we had plenty of time to sample the country delights of Wood Hall before retiring to the hotel drawing room, its fire and comfy, comfy sofas. Curled up with a good book…Aaaaahhhh. Also had the best cup of Earl Grey tea ever in my whole life (I should hope so, at £3 a pot) – beautifully blended, with all the good bits of the taste of Earl Grey, without that soapiness which characterizes Twinings. Yum yum… Served by an old career waiter, order taken by the snooty gay receptionist/concierge bloke, with silver tea strainers in pretty china… I could get used to this! (And the really huge comfy bed with the bazillion puffy feather pillows and the DVD player in each room and the giant flatscreen TV and the posh proper coffee and cafetiere instead of the usual Nescafe sachet…)
Richard (Aphex Twin) and Grant were meant to be driving up from London together and meeting us at the hotel. They were running late so we met them at the venue: the Brudenell Working Men’s Social Club. For those unfamiliar with the British Working Men’s Social Club, allow me to describe. The décor dates from somewhere in the early 70’s, with ne’er a penny spent on’t since. The drinks cost next to nothing and they are usually furnished with red or brown 70’s melamine tables and chairs, threadbare carpets (with fag burns) and mirrors on pillars. This one included washable wallpaper and light fittings straight out of Brooklyn Methodist Church’s church hall. South Africans, imagine the quaint look of a West Coast local in the apartheid years. Non South Africans, imagine that bar in Priscilla Queen of the Desert where the old drag drinks the butch local under the table, shot for shot. The wall to the rear of the stage is dark brown face brick and is the backdrop for the ‘Welcome to the Brudenell’ logo: done in multi-coloured glitter, accompanied by a bright shiny-smiley glitter-sun, a sweet smiling glitter-moon, various (expressionless) glitter-planets and a nice big glittery Christmas star! All of this wonderment was finished off with a number of those airbrush prints so beloved by teenage girls in the 80’s, including the plastic gold frames; and commemorative plates (royal weddings etc) on display above the bar. There was even had a hand scribbled sign up:
The Brudenell also has to pay water rates!
And this is claimed to be one of the best venues in Leeds… Hmmmm…
Nevertheless, this was to be a night to remember – especially as I had my first sound dramas to deal with. The house guy, who owned the rig, was fabulous and between us we managed to rewire enough stuff to make the gig happen – although ideally this should have been done way before we arrived, at least he was very co-operative, if somewhat under-informed about his own rig.
After the sound was sorted out and the two boys played their sets, Grant hit the decks and what was already a near frenzy turned into a full force hardcore techno rave. On a Tuesday night. In the Brudenell Social Club. In Leeds. Absolutely superb! Quote of the Day (courteousy Grant) “kids today have so much pent-up aggression, they listen to really fucked up music”. And Rephlex definitely cater for them….
Back to Wood Hall for a round of drinks in the posh bar, and more drinks in a posh room. Heading back to my own room, I decided to stop outdoors, atop the stairs that lead to the magic mushie fields, to have a breath of fresh air and contemplate the day’s proceedings. Suddenly I find myself mid-air, with the lowest step heading very fast towards my face. Thank god for adrenaline! Somehow I managed to get my left leg out to break may fall and ended with a neat somersault onto the perfectly kept lawn. And a very, very sore knee. The night was spent sitting upright (on many fluffy, posh cushions) with an ice-pack on my knee, watching re-runs of Stargate- 5 (luckily for me I never saw the original runs – what a crap TV show!) on the posh many-inch flatscreen TV. In the morning I could just about limp my way round, and was suddenly very grateful for the automatic car – there was no way I could have dealt with a clutch!
Had an awesome breakfast of much posh-ness and then, the best treat of all, had a full-body salt and aromatherapy oils scrub and an aromatherapy back massage. Yum yum yum yum yum yum….. Highly recommended! The really lovely salon lady also put some oils on my knee. A light lunch at the hotel (which really did have the world’s best vanilla ice-cream, even though it made no claims to) and off we went to…
Newcastle. Another short drive, with detour via one of my favourite things: the Angel of the North. This is a giant iron sculpture by Anthony Gormley with the body of a man and the wings of a Boeing 747. Absolutely beautiful! 
The contrast in hotels could not have been more pronounced! The Osbourne had completely tasteless pub-style carpets (mismatching ones in the bathroom), an old motel-style radio fixed into the wall, some really rough characters in the downstairs pub and we were generously given exactly 2 teabags. Nevermind – I got to see friend Nathan and had a decent rig for the first time.  The gig was in the Students Union, which is a funny ol’ place, but we had Richard playing as well and it was properly loud. Once again the kids were crazy for it and I had the best time messing with the sound, although dancing was severely limited by injured knee (damn damn damn damn damn!). We finished off the night with a fabulous sit-down Chinese meal.
We left Newcastle quite early (woke up with knee back to it’s normal state of usefulness, YAY!) and headed for Glasgow. This was the prettiest drive of them all – half an hour out of Newcastle and the roads emptied, began to get hilly and the abundance of trees bursting out in magnificent autumn colours was breathtaking. Along the way we stopped at a lovely road-side farm stall and coffee shop for breakfast which was truly delicious and a good break from Little Chef fare. Arriving in Glasgow, we drove past the venue (a deconsecrated sandstone church) and I started to get excited. Checked into our hotel, the long-named Kelvin Park Lorne Hotel (half-way between a Holiday Inn and the Osbourne from the previous night, with pokey rooms but recently refurbished bathrooms, which were lovely except for the brown gunk coming out of the bath-taps. I showered and hoped for the best) and went to see the venue: it was huge, cavernous and generally fabulous and I was very happy to meet the PA crew – they were the same guys who used to bring down extra rig for Mish Mash at 93! We’d always got on and it was great to see them again and knew I was in good hands when it comes to sound. Went for lunch at the (apparently) legendary Air Organic (the food is definitely worthy of legend status) and I went for a desperately needed snooze before soundcheck. Soundcheck over, some of the boys were due in town for a radio interview, so I adopted the first unoccupied person to go and have dinner with me. Going by the name of Robert, he is friend of Joana’s who’d come up from London for the gig, and never have I laughed so much with someone I’d met two minutes before. I officially declare Robert Surname-Unknown one of the funniest human beings alive and probably all the dead ones dead too. An absolutely brilliant dinner which was only improved by the sticky pork and mango salad (again at Air – do not miss this restaurant if you’re in Glasgow – but you’ll have to do it without the company I had).
Then the gig – walking in from the punter’s entrance was enough to give me goosebumps and take me back many years – it was a massive dark cave inside a gothic-feeling church with the highest of high ceilings and the music pumping out at you from the darkness, giving you chills up your spine at the moment you walk through the doors and it hits you full force. There were about 6 lights only, each a scanner with strong narrow beams that change colour and swing through the smoke-filled cave like helicopter search-lights. Oh my god – if I’d been a punter… Luckily I was working… And again, hundreds of kids going out of their minds screaming ‘HARDER! HARDER! HARDER!’
A quick and easy drive the next day to Edinburgh, where we checked into the Jury Inn, and had a bit of a break before a late 10PM soundcheck, during which I went for a long walk (I love Edinburgh! So pretty!), a quick email check and a fabulous slice of carrot cake. The venue was The Bongo Club, and it turned into an excellent gig, but one fraught with sound hassles. Having hung around and checked that all was ok for ages, I thought it safe (and by this time necessary) to pop to the loo. Not to be! While happily ensconced, I hear the music go very, very quiet! Horrible moment! I’m stuck! Rushing back out (and fighting through the massively over-filled dance-floor) I can’t figure out what the hell’s going on! The music is there, just very quiet! House sound-man nowhere to be seen we suffer through about ten minutes of this (Richard and Grant are playing back to back) eventually Richard finds the ‘talkover’ switch… but this stupid little switch is not only very difficult to see in a dark room, it is right next to a really useful knob on the mixer and is very easily switched on by mistake. Phew. This problem now sorted, I am paranoid and go hang out next to the front of house mixer determined not to be caught out again. How wrong! How very wrong! By this time the house guy had returned from wherever he’d been hiding, and he’s in the sound booth with two girls. I assume they are with him. He goes off somewhere, leaving them behind. I find them annoying, but they seem pretty harmless and if they’re his friends, who am I to argue? A few minutes later, they pretend to mess with the sound desk. I look disapprovingly at them and suddenly they look each other in the eye and actually do it! They grabbed every fader and knob they could reach, totally moved everything up and down and switched things on and off until I screamed so hard at them they realized their lives were in danger and ran off giggling! Oh my god was I angry! When the house guy turned up again it turned out he didn’t know them, and had thought they were with me… 
Even more paranoid now, I glare at anyone coming anywhere near and exude don’t-come-anywhere-near-this-desk vibes. Hah! The system was still not inviolable! There is a ladder that goes up to the area where the lighting desk lives. Bogdan and the rest wanted it dark in the room, as dark as possible. This had been sorted out before opening. All of a sudden a big bright light goes on, aimed straight at Richard. I leave my precious sound desk and eventually find the ladder, scale it and find ANOTHER punter up there trying to operate the lights! Not being a lighting person I couldn’t get the damn things to go off again and had to go find security to call the house guy to get them off again! Ridiculous! But it was nevertheless a totally brilliant gig (SO SWEATY!) and I fell into bed at 5AM, only to be woken by Joana at 8 to get the car keys to put money in the parking meter. I was still asleep at 11 when I was woken by a phone call saying they were all waiting for me in reception, ready to go…

Getting a Foot in the Door

Getting a Foot in the Door

How to Make Your Way in the Live Sound Industry
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