October 5, 2009
Varsity Drag UK Tour Diary 2: The Portland Arms rocks our world... Joshua arriveth... show no. 1
Our first actual day (that is, the first not addled by sleep deprivation-induced auditory hallucinations) dawns in the UK to find us at DS and Georgie's place, tucked into our customary room -- which we notice is now equipped with an economy-sized plush owl, whose goggle-eyed & deranged gaze tells us we're clearly among friends.
Cambridge -- which of course we never even really had a chance to see last time -- is pretty amazing, what with the punts all over the Cam, and the castle-like 800-year old college buildings constantly on every side. There's also a clock -- said to be one of the most accurate in the world, for what it's worth -- topped by a hideous insectoid-racheting thing: think HR Giger's pocketwatch, only 2 meters tall. We get lunch at a joint called the Anchor, which proudly claims via several prominently-placed placards that Syd (née "Sid") Barrett hung out there constantly as a young man, listening to the live music which ultimately (the sign goes on to claim) inspired him to biff off on his own musical thing. Er, Happy Atom Heart Mother's Day to you, the Anchor.
Later in the day, our Boss Tuneage label honcho/president and chief impresario Aston Stephens and wife Julie arrive, bearing gifts: t-shirts, and a box each of For Crying Out Loud, Rock & Roll Is Such A Hassle and... as my heart pounds in anticipation... one which is revealed to contain freshly-pressed copies of [the forthcoming long-player -- Ed.] Night Owls. I hold it in my living hand! Triumph! My life has not been in vain.
This evening, we get the luxury of being audience rather than entertainer, and enjoy a fantastic slate of bands at the Portland Arms, including a brace of label-mates: Vanilla Pod and Southport (featuring the remarkable Simon Wells, formerly of Snuff). After the show, 'round midnight, Josh rolls in with bags in tow, apparently none the worse for having run London's gauntlet of treacherous, malevolent old ladies.
Next day, after a somewhat (expectedly) rowdy evening spent with DS and Georgie's placed filled to the rafters with Southport and us, we're up and preparing. A few million revisions later, we've got a set sorted that seems to balance old stuff (the first record, and the live record we probably should be promoting) as well as the brand new stuff that we've felt compelled to unleash so precipitously on the world. Sigh, 2 records out within 4 months of each other makes for this kinda balancing act, gaah. :-)
The Saturday night lineup at the PA is a fabulous (and resoundingly gyno-centric) array of bands including Tiny Tigers, We Rock Like Girls Don't, and Beverly Kills -- fronted by our very own Georgie! Upon taking the stage for our set at evening's end, I feel compelled to apologize to the audience for Josh and I not being girls -- but at least we have Lisa's cred to warrant our presence on a stage graced by such feminine rock power.
An incredibly loud set, but the audience seems psyched as hell, bouncing all over the place and cheering, so who's complaining? In tribute to Josh's quasi-religious pilgrimage here to the Portland Arms, we play our Soft Boys cover -- after all, Robyn and the boys recorded a live record in this very room. (Josh has punctuated the last 24 hours or so by glancing around whilst repeating, in somewhat stunned tones, "Hey, we're in England. I can't believe we're in England. I can't believe we're at the Portland Arms.")
The usual after-party and after-after-partys rage on, but L & I manage to crank up the white noise machine and hit the sack. After all, tomorrow is another working day. Albeit the Lord's one. -- Ben Deily
COMING NEXT: We meet our great benefactors, The Magnificent...a most excellent van...punk & disorderly in Peterborough!
[originally posted here]
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