October 9, 2009

Varsity Drag UK Tour Diary 5: the road to Leamington Spa; owls gone wild; open-mic madness!

[Photo Credit: Joshua Pickering] This morning, Josh purchased one of those traditional newsboy-type "flat hats": he now looks a proper bloke. Indeed, if he takes my advice and shaves his chin, he'll be sporting the full-on Lemmy whiskers by the time we hit Leeds.

On the road again by midday, we discover an odd accessory in the van: one of the fold-up tables is equipped with an attached mirror. As in, a horizontal mirror, glued down to the table. Hmmm. The mind reels with whatever depravity the actual owners of this borrowed van must be up to... at least, that's what the owls think, as they proceed to crush up some sugar, roll up a 5-pound note, and enact a tableau of debauchery. (Josh took pictures.)

Leamington Spa's The Robins Well turns out to have a unique way to load-in: via one of those foodservice lifts that you pile up with palettes of frozen shrimp or cans of tomato sauce... or, in our case, Marshall stacks and piles of drum cases. It's all dealt with in remarkably short order: the damned thing actually works pretty well.


TOUR GOSPEL 101: To be on the road is to live an existence punctuated by the sudden, desperate need for commonplace objects... which simply aren't there to be had. A coat hanger. A piece of scotch tape. A plastic cup. A magic marker. All of these homely items would be so EASY to lay hold of -- if you were at home. But you aren't. Instead, you're desperately canvassing your bandmates and billmates, or scouring the backroom of some dingy rock venue, thinking: There's just GOT to be small piece of wood here I could use for a shim. A matchstick? A toothpick? ANYTHING!

These moments can lead to new and exotic torrents of invective, kinda like the dad in Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" with his cursing-raised-to-an-art-form. My recent favorites have encompassed a fairly wide swath of expletives -- I am, after all, a man of catholic taste -- such as the "f*cking f*ckjam!" and "f*cking C*CK!" Of course, when brevity isn't called for, there's always "MOTHERF*CKING F*CK F*CKITY-F*CK F*CK!" to fall back on. "Son of a mother-f*cking f*ck-jam" neatly sums them all up, its sweet cadences truly capturing the unique hassle that is this rock and roll thing.

It was just such an echoing symphony of curses which accompanied my realization that one of our precious coat hangers (with which we showcase the t-shirts for sale) had bit the dust, snapping off at the bend. Can I fix it with tape? Charlie from the Mags simply bends it a bit more, and manages (barely) to get it to hang from the weird netting on the wall behind the merch table. Problem solved, for the moment.

Before our set, Josh has discovered a (much more robustly attended) "open mic" night upstairs in the venue's restaurant/bar area, and proceeds to grab a guitar and throw down such classics as "Wanted Dead Or Alive," "Close To You," and Journey's "Separate Ways"... the crowd goes wild, and he gets some free drink tickets (which is more than either band has been offered, or will be offered). Alas, his exhortations to the crowd to join us downstairs are largely ignored [Where are the flipping YouTube clips of this, Deily!! -- Ed.].

The show is fun, albeit tiny (and apparently unpromoted, alas) -- we declare it an "open rehearsal," and proceed to cover off on a few songs we haven't tried yet, figuring, "who cares?" Good to get some rehearsal in. We meet a few lovely folks including the phenomenal Miss Nick (who made off with our set list!)... and sold a few CDs to boot, so who's complaining?

Evening ends up at the Best Western somewhere not too far away. Clean beds, towels, fabulously overpriced internet -- all the better things. We are contentment itself. -- Ben Deily

COMING NEXT: Cymru am byth! On to Cardiff, and a night of boogie fever...

[originally posted here]

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