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So, 6 months after my first European Tour I thought it was time to go do it again,only smarter.The first smart thing I did was cut the time on the road in half.Instead of 16 days away it'd be 8.I figured I could earn around the same without missing the family too much and getting knackered.Second smart thing I did was plan in a few rest days.These adjustments made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the tour and as I've intimated the financial implications proved negligible.
The first gig is in Bristol,England,a favourite city of mine to play.The Mother Beef are playing and want me to support.Always happy to join the Bristol boys I set off north for the first 80 miles of a 1550 mile journey.We soundcheck and all goes smoothly.Downstairs is a solo punk guitarist called Rita Lynch, so I go and check her out.She looks my age yet has retained a fabulous. blonde, slim, glamourous rock chick image.Her set is enjoyable and when I watch the crowd watching her I'm reminded of why I like Bristolians-eager,open minded and ready to party.Later on,she buys me a drink and we swap cd's.
I get the call,go back upstairs and hit the stage-all goes well enough though the trouble free soundcheck proves a little misleading, as weird booms seem to be emerging from somewhere or other.I plough on regardless, sell a few cd's then watch The Mother Beef do their thing.
At something o'clock I bid farewell and drive west towards London.My plan is to drive until about 2am then pull into a service station to sleep.I pull down the bed and settle in for a nice kip in The Bellybus.I wake rested at 8am and see a sign I hadn't noticed in the dark-two hours parking are free, its £10 a night or a £90 penalty fee-this is bloody typical of England.On the continent you can pull in and sleep or rest to your hearts content-not in UKPLC-where every opportunity is taken to squeeze every last penny out of joe public.I jump bleary eyed into the drivers seat and scarper.I pull into the next service area and cook up some breakfast in my bus in rather less hurried fashion.(If you are entertaining the notion I got away think again-I just paid a £50 fine this morning).Thank you England, you sclerotic old witch.
I take the M25 round London and on into Folkestone towards the Eurotunnel.I pull into a shopping area and cook a meal.A mum is watching her two kids ride their bicycles in the deserted carpark.Eventually its time to board the Eurotunnel.I drive onto the train and 30 minutes later emerge in France.I pass roadsigns showing the names of towns and cities I've played before..Kortrijk,Brussels,Ieper,Lebbeke,and so on.My next stop is an area familiar to me-Roeselare in Belgium, where I will be entertaining The Outlaws MC West side chapter party.I arrive on time and Francky shows me around the Clubhouse.Its a mighty fine clubhouse it must be said.Outlaws from England,Germany,Belgium and many other countries arrive on their Harleys and mill around.There are Outlaws guarding the entrance-a necessary precaution-two of the Outlaws were shot to death in a white van recently and three of them attending this party carry bullet wounds from run ins with the Hells Angels.I wonder if there's another drive by whether the guy on the stage gets spared-somehow I doubt it.
After a lovely veggie meal I do my thing-it proves to be hard work-its kinda difficult singing your heart out to peoples' backs..but I realise after a while The Outlaws are not here because it's a Hollowbelly gig-they're here to meet and chat-they haven't seen each other since last year and naturally they've a lot to catch up on.The guy providing the music is secondary and thats fair enough.Certainly Francky looks unperturbed-he's having a great time.I set my ego aside,dig deep and deliver my show.
I retire to The Bellybus.I have a comfortable nights sleep,which is remarkable given that The Outlaws like to party all night long ( til 10 am the next day to be precise). Francky and his rather lovely wife take me back to their pad where I shower and eat a nice breakfast.I pass on some bands he might be interested in booking-Left Lane Cruiser being one of them.
I set off for Lous bar in Leige-150 miles east-a nice distance.I plan my tours so they make logistical,geographical sense because diesel costs will of course eat into your profits.All is well until I get to Leige,where I find a festival is on- cops have set up road blocks-I hit the sat nav to 'avoid road blocks' but every effort it makes to find me an alternate route meets with yet another road block.I give up,jump out the bus and phone Lou.His English is limited and in desperation I thrust my mobile into a cops hand and get her to talk to him and tell him where I am! Eventually I am rescued,and we both jump in the Bellybus and make it to his bar.
Lou's bar has a great reputation amongst touring musicians as a super enjoyable venue to play.It doesn't disappoint.It is small and lo fi- the tiny stage is made up of used wooden pallets with a carpet thrown on the top.No pa.The punters are here for the rum and the music and they know what they're getting.I drink white rum and my late afternoon sets go down a storm.I eat some great pasta made by an Italian bloke.Then its dark rum and coffee.A black dude from Chicago gets up and sings the blues whilst I grin,drink rum,whoop encouragement and generally lap it up.Unusually, the bar closes early-this is done to avoid drunken idiots later on apparently.Its great for me cos I can leave the bus parked up,drink then walk over to my hotel for a relatively early night.
The hotel turns out to be a sort of hip,internet savvy hostel.I go to my room (which uncannily is room 101-again!) to discover there are 2 bunk beds! I have no idea I'll be the only one in there all night-I choose a top bunk cos I'm already carrying quite a bit of cash and I dont wanna get ripped off in the middle of the night. The walls are unrendered breezeblock,the ceiling bare concrete-I guess its supposed to look minimalist, but juxtaposed with the bunks,the effect is rather like staying in a nuclear fallout shelter. Being slightly drunk I fall off the bottom step when going to the loo and mash up my toe-oh well.I decide to pull on a clean sock and not look at it for a day or two-lol.Anyway, my early night plans are sabotaged when I hear an explosion outside, followed by more-its a minute or two before I realise it's fireworks.
I wake with a mildly throbbing toe,brush me teeth and check out.I have time to walk around Liege.I sit by the banks of the river and watch the heavily laden boats go by.It occurs to me that this is the way to earn your living.I feel good.I feel confident being onstage.It feels natural.I'm making good money so I can take it back for my family.
Eventually the bar reopens and I load out.Next country is Holland.I head north towards Amsterdam,stopping off en route to feed the bus with oil and screenwash,and me with rice and coffee.I reach OT301 and load in smoothly enough.
Its great to see Dawn and Joe again and I decide to stay an extra day in Amsterdam after tonight's show.Its a Monday night but my seemingly realistic expectations of a quiet night are not to be fulfilled-this is the first of several shows where people who have seen me before in March have returned to see me play.I can't believe the crowd that shows up-theres only me playing,its Monday,surely there's been some mistake..I play my set and we all have a great time..I begin to understand that they are coming back to see the show and that that's a good sign for my future.I come offstage and Its more cd selling/signing and t shirts too.
Mark of Cain live @ OT301 Amsterdam-ee my page for the video
We catch a cab to Dawn and Joes flat, and Dawn wants to learn CBG-after a quick lesson,she treats me to a drunken rendition of Long Road "ooooooooooh baby'sha long long road" heh heh its great.Eventually I sleep in the spare room amid Joes records and guitars.
The next day we enjoy Amsterdam,eat a nice meal out,stroll in the park, that kinda thing.I am in much better spirits than the last time I was here thats for sure, for reasons you may recall.I eventually depart for Germany the next day.I have forgotten my drum mat during load out but it aint worth turning around for a grotty bit of carpet.I reach Bremen a little later than planned due to traffic.Its great to see Andreas and Daniela again (last time was Muddy Roots Festival,Belgium) and I join them for some lovely pumpkin soup.By now its Thursday and I have time for a quick tour around Bremen with Andreas as my tour guide.Its fab to have time to actually see the city and its these time outs that have made all the difference on this tour.
In the evening we load in-I'm playing onboard a boat-the Betonschiff Treue.Yet again a good sized crowd turn up-theres a few Hollowbelly t shirts in the crowd.Once again,the people who saw me play in March have turned out.Dani tells me later people were singing along to the songs.The show goes great.As usual when in Germany I leave Andee to sell my shit-when I eventually go across to the merch table I wonder where the hell it's gone he's sold so much its untrue.Excellent.I meet a dude from Bear Family Records and I'm also offered the opportunity to record my album in Hamburg.I'll be flying out for a week in November to do just that.
(Yeah Yeah Yeah Studios,Hamburg,Germany-my home for the week beginning 3rd November 2012)
So the next day I set the dials on the Bellybus to 'south'.I feel sad leaving Andee and Daniela and the feeling doesn't wear off until I reach the autobahn later on.
Next stop Dusseldorf.I haven't played this city before-the gigs are being organised by Patrice (Slydog on cigarbox nation) at his art/tattoo gallery and I am unsure what to expect.I needn't have worried.Patrice is a class act.His art gallery is cool and I set up ready for tonight's gig.The gig is intimate-it really encourages the storytelling aspect of my show-the crowd and I have a great time-somebody tells me he's travelled three hours to get to the show and it was well worth it-I tell him its much appreciated.
Next morning I awake on a sofa amid lovely artifacts and feel confident about the final show tonight.I feel like I've got a cold coming on but I know I'll be fine.The gallery becomes packed and I set about giving it my all, as I can afford to go a little extra crazy given its the last night.It gets recorded and I may very well release it, as it does capture what the live show is like.It's lovely to see some old friends in the audience-
and after the show we head behind the scenes for a private party-the food is totally vegetarian and delicious..I contemplate staying the night, but decide to load out late and do a 100 miles or so that night, thus making the final homeward leg of the journey a little shorter.
So it is I find myself driving into a Belgian truck stop at 2 am.I try to sleep but can't stop coughing when I lie down-it's so bad I nearly puke.It's autumnal and cold.I cough up phlegm and blood.I pull on my woolly hat and curl up in a ball under my duvet.I should be pissed off but,after a successful tour, my spirits utterly refuse to be dampened.I'll be fine.I eventually drift off around 5am and wake around 8.I piss in a bottle,(I'm a classy guy).fire up the bus and drive on to Calais and board the Eurotunnel train.
I reach England but my excitement at being nearer to home and my girls is sabotaged by the weather-last time by fog, this time by extreme,driving rain.I nearly aquaplane twice before I see sense and slow down.Someone is going to crash the conditions are so bad and sure enough the traffic slows as we reach two freshly mashed up cars being attended to by the cops and ambulance dudes.Its square wheels,so I stick one of the cd's Joe has given me on-Little Richard-damn! I'd forgotten how wild he sounds-I sit there in the traffic screaming "Luciiiiiiiiillle!!!" and dancing in the drivers seat like a man possessed-lmao! I eventually reach home-the kids don't hear me come in-Maisy turns round, sees her dad and her little face crumples-she runs into my arms and won't let go.Suits me.My 14 year old walks up and holds me too- we both look down at Maisy but all we can see is the top of her head as she's squashed between us.The embrace lasts a good while.Maggie is in the bath and later on she welcomes me home too, but that, dear reader, is a story decorum forbids me to share ;)