Friday, 9 July 2010

And So I Watch You From Afar: Them Crooked Vultures Tour Diary

So, we got home from a mammoth 8 week tour on the 17th of May that took in, Toronto, New York, a few dates in Austin, Derry, Dublin, plus the Majority of the UK (with the towering Riff Inferno LaFaro) and France, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Denmark and a host of other places (you get the general idea).

We were looking forward to some writing and rehearsing time when outta nowhere we get asked if we wanna hit the road again on short notice. It's only three dates over ten days we were told to soften the "blow". The "blow" was more like a warm embracing hug from an estranged friend if anything else as we were asked to be the main and only support for a new little beat combo that goes by the name of Them Crooked Vultures. Comprising of Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, Josh Homme and Alain Johannes. Needless to say we mulled over it for a while before giving it the go ahead.

That last sentence is a barefaced lie. It was an instantaneous YES, of course! We didn't have much time to get ready for the tour but we're that used to it by now it all seems like second nature.

We hit the road with a slighly larger crew than usual as the difference between our normal 250 capacity club shows in Europe and the arena sized ones we'd be doing with the Vultures is a tad larger. So we brought on board our good friends Niall Kennedy of Panama Kings, Simon Crowe of Team Fresh and the legendary Dermot McBride of Glasgowbury fame along with our trusty TM Graham Smith and our bearded sound wizard Andy Coles. TEAM ASSEMBLED!

Tuesday morning at 6am we disembarked from Rory's place outside Portrush. It was a short jaunt to Vienna. 44 hours later we arrived, in various forms of discomfort. Poor ol' Graham Smith had the back of a 90 year old war veteran, but he's a trooper and never complained once, which merely encouraged us to laugh at his velociraptor like stance and posture, sorry Graham.

When we got to the outdoor Vienna Arena the Vultures were still on a transatlantic flight (on a plane, they're not actual Vultures... I think...) so their crew had set up everything and were soundchecking the gear, they played some TCV tunes, and a couple of Zeppelin riffs were blasted out. The crew are the world's finest TCV cover band, honestly, these guys were so tight, and a great group of fellas to boot.

We kicked about the backstage eagerly waiting to soundcheck, shortly thereafter we got the go ahead to set up our stuff. We set up in front of the guys' gear, something we'd done on support tours before but this was by far the most illustrious gear we'd ever set up in front of.

Sound check went great, with alot of TCV's crew coming up and saying they loved our sound and were looking forward to the set, always nice to hear. We went back up to our room and talked our usual round of guff, then from out of nowhere Josh (or Joshua as he would later introduce himself to me) walked by our room, stuck his head in and said, "Hi, I'm Dave Grohl", then 5 seconds later stuck his head in again and said, "Hi, I'm John Paul Jones". Big ginger liar.

We chatted briefly with the band and they were super cool and thanked us for coming out on such short notice, then... showtime.
Our set had to be half an hour sharp, and we adhered to it. During the first song, my guitar decided to be an idiot but after some serious guitar butchery it came back to life and we were fully in business. More and more people filtered down to watch us and by the end of the set the place was pretty much capacity, just shy of 2500, and they were going nuts. Job done.

A seriously quick load out followed and we went back upstairs, where Dave Grohl met us in the communal dining room and grabbed me by the hand, shook, thanked us again and said (and I quote) ,"You guys rocked, thanks for warming 'em up, that was one big roar from the crowd!". Nice way to finish a gig, huh?

Vultures were amazing, the musicianship on display was second to none, obviously! Needless to say we enjoyed a few post gig beers. Roll on the next gig...

So...where were we? Ah yes the first show with TCV in Vienna had just drawn to a close and our next date was Luxembourg in three days time so we had to contend with our biggest enemy...time spent not playing music. The plan was to drive to Frankfurt for two days, then hit Luxembourg and be nice and fresh for the next gig, not to mention how gagging to play we'd be. The plan pretty much went smoothly, then we got stopped by some very friendly Austrian Police who literally laughed in our faces when inspecting our passports, we couldn't blame them, we look hilarious in our respective photos.

That short, insignificant hold up led to us drifting a little off schedule but if it hadn't happened then we wouldn't have seen this...

WARNING: This video contains explosions and swearing - some of it in slow motion! For a few short seconds we all felt like we lived in an action movie, pretty cool huh?! (NOTE: The driver was safe)

We arrived in Frankfurt pretty late, checked into our hotel and got a few beers in the lobby to unwind, then hit the hay. A sleepless night was had due to a mix of the heat and the knowing dread that we didn't have a gig the next day. As funny as it seems we're genuinely not used to having days off when we're on the road, it seems like a wasted day when we do, but since the invite for these shows came at such short notice we didn't have time to book our own shows in the free days. So a day of doing nothing followed. Damn.

Dermot and I went into the city centre to check it out, have a beer and put the world to rights, the rest of the lads did something similar, only with a lot more alcohol involved. Responsibly imbibed though, of course.

Next was another travel day, no explosions this time (gutted).

Onto the next show in Luxembourg, it turned out we had really impressed the band and the crew in Vienna so we were afforded another valuable 5 minutes stage time, which we were delighted about. In my opinion we went onto play our best set of the short jaunt (in my opinion I should stress, I think the rest of the guys thought Amsterdam was the best). Vultures went on a little later than they were supposed to as Josh Homme was a little late, when he did arrive, Johnny and Niall were chatting to Dave Grohl who apologised about cutting the conversation short with the immortal line, "Sorry guys gotta go, Axl's here!". By the time they went on, the crowd were at fever pitch and they responded by playing what was by far one of the best sets I've ever witnessed. They all flared that little bit more, but never for a second in a self indulgent manner. Every lick, beat, slide and pulsing bass note was to total perfection, but then again, you kinda expect it to be with maestros such as these guys. Having said that, musicians of this calibre take your expectations and smash them against the wall at 1000mph at every twist and turn and shift and drop. That's what makes them such maestros. In short, they rocked.

That night we enjoyed some wine with our gracious hosts and exchanged tour stories, albeit theirs being a tad more varied, exciting and in depth than ours, pesky long time rock legends. Dave even had his laptop out showing us family snaps whilst talking about Nirvana playing Belfast back in 1992. I told him TCV had to come to Belfast, telling him we'd put the show on in Laverys and they could crash at mine. I'm still awaiting a response. He then showed us a pic where he was playing guitar but he was slighly obscured by two heads in the shot, I jokingly asked, "who are those bozos ruining the shot", to which he courteously replied, "oh those bozos are Barack Obama and Paul McCartney". Oops.

We even drunkenly challenged Josh to a drinking contest, the nine of us versus him, with a smile on his face his cooly delivered response was, "...I don't think you guys realise who you're dealing with". Cool ginger medical wonder that he is.

We said our goodbyes and John Paul Jones told us to take every last drop of alcohol and food with us, needless to say we obliged. Cue a gaggle of drunken Irishmen stumbling down the stairs with more free booze than its advisable to give aforementioned drunken Irishmen.

Another couple of days off (curses), the first of which was spent in Eindhoven then onto that haven of touring rock band cliches, Amsterdam.

The Amsterdam show was another triumph, our manager Alan and our agent Beckie flew into town, always a pleasure to see them.

Again, we were afforded an extra 5 mins of set time, it may not sound like alot but believe me it really is on a ship that's run as tightly and smoothly as Them Crooked Vultures. All of this gig (bar A Little Solidarity...) is available online, with sound coming direct from the desk, so hop on over to it and you can be the judge on how it went!

We stood side of stage for the final time, the guys came out and gave us a wave, Dave Grohl pretended to fly kick me, then put me in a half headlock, half embrace, I believe the technical term is a "noogie". Probably one of the strangest and coolest moments of my life. The teenage Nirvana obsessive that lives inside everyone of us was beaming from ear to ear, and genuinely still is...AMSTERDAM


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