The Whacky World of DIY Touring

June 25, 2015 by cosmoakacitizensmith

imageHit Austria after an eleven hour trip: National Express from Cardiff to Heathrow, a flight to Munich and a train to Salzburg. I was wired as fuck and ready to let rip. I’d left my job the day before due to stress and wasn’t too steady on my feet. But I managed to meet my travelling comrades for this trip in the station without any problem.

James “Bar” Bowen (left) is a veteran of the European tour scene I’m involved in. He was the one responsible for initiating me onto it a few years back. He’s won an award for songwriting and made his name at festies, venues and house concerts all over the world. Johnny Campbell (right) was a relative newbie when I met him a year and a half ago in the Netherlands. He had joined forces with his accordion playing mate Sam Bell to make anarcho-folk duo the Merry Looters and we all toured together. Sam has since joined folk-punk legends The Roughneck Riot and Johnny has forged a solo career that’s led him all over the UK and beyond.

imageSalzburg is the home of Mozart, and now it was going to have to deal with us lot: three DIY anarcho-folk-punk singer-songwriter guitarists vs one of the finest classical composers ever. Talk about one extreme to the other! 😉

We turned up at the venue for the evening, a squatted cellar bar called Sub. The first thing you get at places like these is lots of hospitality. “Here, have a seat, how are you doing, want a beer, any preferences for food..?” There was a political meeting going on that was just finishing up and we were sorted out some delicious spicy soup and beer while we waited. The place started to fill up.

As always, the politics of such places is shouted at you from numerous stickers and posters on the walls. There is a picture of My Little Pony with the words: “Gegen sexismus und homophobie”. On the wall behind the space of the floor where we are to play, there is a red and black flag with the words in English: “Refugees welcome here”.

imageBar is a bit like our tour anarchy-sergeant major. He always gees us up, gets us talking during long train journeys so we don’t die of boredom and make sure we think strategically about everything we do. “Right chaps, what about the running order for the show?” he asked. He and Johnny have been on the road for the last few weeks and are used to the routine of gigging every night. I was a bit shattered from travelling. Nevertheless, we agreed to Bar opening the evening, Johnny next and me last.

Bar hits the stage and has the advantage of speaking German. The crowd, about 30 – 40 people, are listening but some at the back are talking. We decided to do the show unamplified which sometimes can work really well but it can be difficult if you have to shout over people talking. Bar handles it well, though, and grabs the audience’s attention when they talk by wondering though seated area singing at people. It’s only when he comes off stage we can see he’s sweating. “Difficult crowd!” he explains, slightly irritated, but I thought he’d done well and judging by the their reaction the audience seem to think so too.

Johnny is next up. He’s got some great new tunes since I last saw him live and he lets rip. The audience get into it, and if they flag Johnny stands up on a speaker cabinet just in front of him to get their attention. “Hills of Cleveland” and “Ballad of Johnny Magee” sound like folk standards but it turns out they’re originals.

So with Johnny done it’s my turn. I’ve got my loud Red Mutha jacket on and it feels a bit hot. I let rip at the audience with a new song, “These Streets Are Ours,” but I am not all confident with it. I start sweating immediately and feel self conscious. Finish song. Vague applause from audience. Time to do something I’m more familiar with. Attempt to speak to the audience, but although they all understand pretty well, they’re not that interested. I play “The Notorious Clench Of Professional Brits.” Slightly more interest. Keep going. Slow down a bit, give ‘ em some slow and meaningful stuff: “Sans Papiers”. Take off jacket cos I’m hot. Final hurdle: the EDL song and “Not So Fast, Mr Mosley”. Got ’em! Anti-fascist stuff always goes down well. Then the finale: “Strike, Occupy, Resist” and “Oi Mush”, which works just as well even when English isn’t people’s first language.

Proper applause at last. Hooray.

We appear to have pulled the first night of the tour out of the bag pretty well. We spend the rest of the evening talking to people, selling CDs if possible and making new friends. It isn’t going to be a mad, boozy night: we head back to the promoter’s flat just through the grounds of a nearby hospital, have a final nightcap and a chat, then crash out.

The guys and I come round the next morning to find the promoter and a young lady shagging. We pretend to be asleep, but when the coast is clear we make our exit and head to the station to get the train to Ljubljana, our next stop four hours away. A technical fault turns it into more like six.

Welcome to the whacky world of DIY folk-punk touring.

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