Deep breath everyone, I made it to the other side!
June is over and done with and so too the now annual week of touring has been completed. That’s half the year over with, where has it gone? The good news is that there is no time to look back as there are plenty of things to keep everyone busy over the next six months, allow me to tell all..
So it was 9 gigs in 11 days for 28 Boulevard including four different sets and two different line ups – quite the challenge which they accomplished with ease.
Thursday, 19th July was the unofficial start of the tour with an outdoor acoustic gig at the Clare College garden party held in the grounds of the college buildings in leafy suburban Cambridge. It was all aboard the ‘Boulevard Bus’ for the first time this year as the lads, suitably suited and booted played a mix of their own songs and some favourites from the hit parade including ‘Hey Ya’ and ‘Get Lucky’. I stood in the background, occasionally venturing forwards to operate a smoke machine which they’d foolishly said we could use to our hearts content! A few drunken students, a stage invasion and a failed attempt at snogging the lead singer mid-set later we departed having entertained the masses and left them to enjoy the rest of their evening – whilst we went back home to watch England effectively go out of the World Cup.
The next day we packed the van (I say we, I stood and observed – managers prerogative) and set off for Norwich to play the official start of the ‘Sunclouds’ tour at Olive’s Bar in Norwich but not before a visit to Stephen Bumfrey at BBC Radio Norfolk. We were running a little bit late thanks to traffic on the journey but we made it to the studio in time for a quick chat and acoustic track.
We were joined in Norwich by Cambridge/Ipswich rockers ‘Fenrir’, a band from my ‘home’ town (King’s Lynn) in ‘Afterglow’ and funk four piece ‘Loco Motif’ who went on to support us on another couple of dates in the tour. The gig went well even if the venue wasn’t really that suited to four electric bands (think of a gig in a café and this is what it was like) and served as a good launch pad for the tour. The next day we began a northern descent, stopping at the ‘steel city’ of Sheffield and gig #2 at South Sea Live, a dingy venue/pub with old gig posters lining the black painted walls. The gig was OK though, credit to Michael for dealing with a broken mic stand that had to be gaffer taped up twice. The crowd was modest although grew at the end to the extent that the band were mobbed outside for photos. I went back to our hotel, they went out in to town and the next day we swapped South Yorkshire for North Yorkshire and the beautiful cathedral city of York where we hooked up with Cambridge/York band ‘Nudists’ who were our support for the next two days. The venue was The Duchess, a large underground venue with the stickiest floor I’ve ever experienced (they’d do well to invest in a mop and bucket) but the stage was good, the sound was good – shame the same couldn’t be said for Michael’s voice which was on it’s way out after over-doing it the night before! He battled on and the small crowd went home happy. It was nice for Michael and Cameron to perform in front of some relatives who’d come to the show – Cameron’s sister and Michael’s aunt and cousins. Before the show in York there was the matter of another radio interview to go to, this time at Minster FM (a sister station of Star in Cambridge) and host Rik Witter (the front man from 90’s group Shed Seven) who’d invited the band in after I’d contacted him to make him aware of their gig in town, thanks to him for having them. From a radio geek’s point of view (that’s me) it was cool to look inside another radio station I’d not visited before!
Day 3 and a journey to the furthest northern tip of our trip – Durham. I tell you what, I’d be a lot fitter if I lived there and had to walk round there all the time, Cambridge is a doddle in comparison – people get excited at the sight of a mole hill here, we’ve got nothing on them! This venue was an interesting one, above a fish and chip shop (who by the way serve delicious food, best fish and chips I’ve had for a while), a room with an equally sticky floor as the York venue with a PA and a bar – no sound man (we put the guys music technology knowledge learnt at college in to action on that one). This was the best night of the tour in terms of crowd, the room was packed and all the bands put on a really good show. Due to Michael’s earlier voice problems he was on ‘voice rest’ for the night but Tim and Lewis LK did a good job of keeping things as usual as possible in Michael’s vocal absence. Day 4 was a trip from Durham to Nottingham with a stop off at just about every service station along the route (don’t ask), we joined up with Loco Motif for the last time on the tour at a venue called The Maze – a nice place, good sound, friendly sound guy and a good crowd too. We were able to park right outside as well which as I am fast finding out is a novelty for music venues – way too many times have I had to venture round to find road side parking or open air car parks because we couldn’t fit a big van in to a multi storey car park, it usually involves a long walk back and forth and when you’re like me and forget where you’ve parked your car in a supermarket car park, parking a long way away from a venue you’ve never been to before in a town or city you’re not familiar with is tricky business!
The longest journey of the tour to date was Nottingham to London which for road fans amongst you took us along the M1 all the way in to London and then a picturesque trip across town to the venue in Lewisham. We had a bit of time to kill so we stopped off via Xscape in Milton Keynes for a few games of Bowling – one of which I whooped their asses #justsaying. The London venue was the New Cross Inn which was effectively just a pub with a stage, we were tagging on to their regular Wednesday band night. Probably not one I’d visit again in a hurry if truth be told – having a guitar stolen outside leaves a bad taste in the mouth. On a positive note, it was a really nice to see someone who’d seen the band play in Brighton on tour last year make the trip to the capital to see the band play again – shout to to Amelia.
Thursday was a rest day and back home but Friday saw a line up change as Tim and Cameron had better things to do that evening (something about a leavers prom?) so Michael and the two Lewis’s (sp?) joined me to head to Bury St Edmunds ‘Rock City’ for a gig alongside Flux32, Lost Lungs and The Facade. They did a great job playing a ‘greatest hits’ set as a ‘power trio’ with Michael alternating between drums and acoustic guitar and singing lead vocals with his newly rejuvenated voice. The highlight of the night was all 3 of my drummers collaborating on Lost Lungs’ version of Seven Nation Army by White Stripes, as much as three drummers playing one kit can collaborate..
Last Monday was arguably my highlight of the whole fortnight as the band played the Comberton Village College leavers ball which was held at the Cambridge Corn Exchange. We turned up mid afternoon, parked at the side of the venue, unloaded and hung out backstage after sound checking – lots of photos and videos were taken, some of which have made it in to the bands new music video. Clearly it was hugely exciting a little bit surreal to be walking around backstage at the city’s biggest music venue – one which many superstars have played before but rest assured we made the most of the experience – there isn’t one part of that building we didn’t go and have a nose around in! I hope one day the band will be back to play on that stage in front of a crowd of paying public.
So, all in all a thoroughly enjoyable few weeks – the months of sitting indoors during the winter arranging this were well worth it, it’s just a shame it all came and went so quickly! Well done to the whole band for working so hard in the run up and whilst we were away.
Exciting news! We’ve today just released a brand new video featuring lots of footage from the tour and we’ve set it to the track ‘Space Arms’ which features on the Sunclouds EP, I feature in it – trying to beat Cameron up with a mattress.
So, what next? Well, a headline gig at the Portland Arms next Saturday actually! We were thrilled to be approached by Richard Rose at R*E*P*E*A*T records to headline a bill including local bands Motor Tapes and Dirty Little Rebel. It’s on 19th July, hope you can come down – there may just be the premiere of some brand new songs!
Speaking of new songs, 4 of the lads are now officially on a gap year so there’s plenty of time to start recording new material – apparently there’s lots of it and they’re quite hyped about how some of it sounds so I expect there will be a new single release before the end of the year, maybe even another EP. As with the last, all will be recorded by the band themselves – it keeps them busy!
Finally, now the tour is over it’s time to start working on booking more gigs. We’re looking at another London date in September as well as a return to Brighton and Swansea where we toured last year with possibly another special Cambridge gig in the pipeline too. Watch this space.
Whilst all that’s been going on, The Staycations finished their exams and are back down to the business of gigging every week again throughout the summer. They played two stages at the Strawberry Fair as well as making appearances at Bell Solstice in Barton Mills, Burwell Carnival and Newmarket Carnival – someone came up to me last weekend and said how they thought they’d improved again in the last 6 months – I have to say I agree, I think that’s down to playing so many gigs, there’s nothing better for improving yourselves than having experience doing the real thing.
Before I went away we had a trip to the BBC again, this time to record an interview and session with Tom Simkins at BBC Introducing who’s fast becoming a fan. To make two appearances on the BBC in the space of 6 weeks is a great achievement, one not many local bands manage so this shows just how well regarded the band are becoming.
The gigs keep coming with appearances at Lark in the Park this weekend (Mildenhall) followed by the Race for Life start with Heart Radio next Sunday, another set at the Junction J1 on Thursday, 24th July and that’s even before we’ve got to the Folk Festival and Lodestar!
The future? Well, once the summer gigs are over the band will be heading back in to the recording studio to put down some new stuff for release and there’s a debut London gig on the horizon too.
Lost Lungs are back on the scene again too after a little break and I’m happy to report their new EP (snazzily titled ‘The Bitter Light EP’) is complete and ready for release next month. Thanks to John at Crooks Hall Studios for all of his work!
Gigs at Stowfiesta, Suffolk Pride, a headline set to a packed Hunter Club and a rainy Ipswich Music Day have followed since with more including Gig In The Garden this Saturday, an acoustic set at the Arc in Bury St Edmunds for Homegrown Festival the following weekend, a return to Cambridge for the first time in 7 months – at the Corner House with Flux32 on August 1st and a set on the pitch at Stowmarket Football Club on 2nd August are all still to come – and that’s before the big one at Homegrown Festival over the late August bank holiday.
Finally, Flux32 have been busy gigging too taking in Strawberry Fair, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich Music Day. This week they’re at St Ives Festival and next weekend playing a home town festival in Haverhill. They’re continuing to make a buzz in the scene, playing lots of gigs really helps that and they continue to pick up new fans at every new gig they play.
In my last blog I was preparing for Cambridge 105’s stage at Strawberry Fair which I’m pleased to say passed off very successfully despite a couple of power outages which weren’t our fault! All 19 artists we had performing put in really great performances, the weather turned out to be decent once the morning down pours moved away and the crowds flocked once again – we ran out of balloons and everyone had a jolly good time. Thanks to everyone involved.
I’m looking forward to working with Homegrown Music Festival over the next few months – firstly compering for them in the Arc next Saturday in Bury St Edmunds and then hosting the main stage itself over the 3 day weekend from Friday, 22nd to Sunday, 24th August. I’m also setting the organisation wheels in motion for the 2014 edition of the NMG Awards which are at the Portland Arms on Friday, 17th October. I’ve sorted 3 judges out with a couple more to confirm, I’m approaching sponsors and putting together the long list for nominations – I hope to announce that mid August.
Radio wise, I’ve had a break from Star Talent for the last 3 weeks but I’m back next Monday with guest Dickon McCarthy and my guests on Cambridge 105 next week are exciting new band Ambury Night who hail from Huntingdon (someone has to!)
That’s all, if you’ve made it to the end of this blog and you’re still awake – well done you!
See you next month