So, here we go with Week One of the tour blog, and what a week it’s been! As a fan of Sex & The City I must say I feel a bit like Carrie Bradshaw sitting here typing a weekly column, except much less thin and in my lounge in Driffield rather than in the window of a New York Apartment. It’s a whole new world this weekly writing, and I can’t resist the urge to take a puff of my cigarette and type ‘I couldn’t help but wonder… ?’
Seriously though, it’s the first time I’ve ever written a blog and I was thrilled to receive such lovely feedback from my introductory post last Monday, Thankyou very much for the lovely comments.
Well I’ve been making notes and taking photos since the tour began a week ago, and have put them altogether here along with the pre and post-gig updates I made on my personal facebook page each day for an added daily insight, and here’s how it all went!
Friday 31st January, The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury
‘Very happy and excited to be heading off to Tewkesbury for the first gig of the Fairport Wintour tonight. Ive almost become a daytime person this past few weeks, getting up early, going to bed early, answering the phone before 10am, offering people cups of tea ‘come in, have a cup of tea, I’m being a daytime person today!’, and its been quite nice actually but I’m very much looking forward to getting back to being a lady of the night again (in the non-prostitute sense of the phrase I hasten to add) and whizzing about all over in my car with my guitar. Here goes! :o) xx’
The first night of the tour was The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury and after a very wet and windy journey down from East Yorkshire, I arrived at the venue and parked up my car next to the big blue tour lorry and the band bus as advised by Mick the Tour Manager. He had asked me to park up and unload my things, and after that to go and find the car park.
So I gathered all my things up and made my way in through the stage door, and found myself immediately at the side of the stage where the band were soundchecking. Standing there with my guitar and bags still in hand and seeing them there playing was thrilling and I felt very excited. I was soon greeted by Mick, who gave me a warm welcome and showed me where to put my things. After popping my bags and guitar into a dressing room I was then introduced to Stevie and Andy from Iconic Media, Fairport’s PR team, and also I was led through to the foyer to meet Peggy, Martin and Ellen, who were setting up the merch on the CD table. I also met Ian, a lovely photographer and Fairport reporter, and Andy Salmon from Midland Sound and Lighting, the tour crew manager who I was especially delighted to see as Andy is also a long time member of Jools Holland’s tour crew and I worked with him back in 2004 and 2005 when I supported Jools Holland on tour.
Andy’s a lovely guy and he put me onstage every night at 7.30pm for every one of the 26 shows I did over those two years with Jools, so it was really nice to see him again. After a huge hug, he told me some very sad news about two long time members of the Jools crew who I remember very fondly, Pete The Hat and Buff. Buff is also one of the Fairport crew and he has sadly been very poorly and was unable to be on the Fairport tour this time, but is recovering and will be okay, which was a great relief to hear as he is a fantastic guy. Pete The Hat however had sadly passed away, just three weeks earlier, which I was very sad to hear. Pete did my sound on all those Jools gigs, and was always super lovely and Ive thought about him a lot this past week, a very sad loss indeed. After hearing about Pete and Buff, Andy then told me that the very spot we were standing on in the wings, was the spot where Eric Morecambe had collapsed and died while giving his final performance in 1984. It was a sombre moment all round standing there taking in such a lot of sad news but the mood was suddenly broken by a loud car horn beeping from outside, and to my horror I suddenly remembered the car.
Sure enough, I had parked up in front of a car park gate, and the beeping was someone wanting to get out! The next few minutes were a flurry of grabbing my keys and running out into the rain to move it, kindly assisted by Mick who came with me and showed me where the car park was. I was mortified! I had been in the building about 14 minutes at that point and was already causing chaos.
With the car sorted and after a whirlwind of more introductions to theatre staff, I got my guitar out and walked onto the stage and finally met the guys in the band.
We had arranged to go through the two songs we would be playing together on the tour at this first soundcheck, and to walk onto the stage and meet them all and then start playing with them right away was a real thrill, and a little bit scary too! Owain the tour sound man was in the front of house doing the sound, and he soundchecked my mic and guitar, which sounded amazing, and then we went through Speed of The Sound of Loneliness. Not being used to playing with a band I was more than a little apprehensive but the guys were lovely and made it very fun and easy, and it was wonderful to play with them. By then it was getting quite late and as the crew had been there since 10am that morning, Simon called a break and said we would leave Meet On The Ledge till the next evening and we all went off to the dressing rooms to get ready. Having practised it like crazy and being more nervous about that one number than my whole set put together, I didn’t mind leaving it till the next night at all, as there was already so much to take in.
Back in the dressing room area the band and crew all wandered in and out, Mick brought me a copy of the tour set lists, Simon came to chat and brought me some crisps and a drink as that particular venue is one where there are no backstage refreshments provided, I chatted also to Matt and Chris and got a very big hug from Ric, who I had met years before when he played fiddle and I sang on an album by Shane Lynch, which never saw the light of day and which neither of us ever got paid for! I have no wish to speak ill of a born again Christian former boyband member, so I will just tell you that one of the songs was a spoken word version of the Hothouse Flowers classic Don’t Go, with Shane speaking the lyrics over the top of an instrumental, and leave it at that. Gerry was lovely also and there was much good-natured banter and joking and an air of excitement about the first gig. It was then that I noticed my name on the door of the dressing room, put there by Mick, as it would be every night I would later discover, and a little gold plaque above it. The plaque had Eric Morecambe’s name on and upon checking, sure enough it turned out to be the dressing room Eric had used on that fateful evening. Well, with only minutes to go till showtime, thinking about Eric somehow calmed my nerves, as I felt very humbled to be in that dressing room and headed to the stage thinking about him.
At the side of the stage was Peggy, arm in a sling and looking almost as nervous as me as he had been given the role of introducing the show each night due to his hand injury. I stood there with my guitar next to Peggy with his arm in a sling, waiting for the cue and he was really lovely and funny as always, and the rest of the band came to stand with us to wish us luck. There we all were, stood on the spot where poor Eric breathed his last, and then it was house lights down, and Peggy went on. He gave a lovely introduction to the evening and then invited me on, and on I went! That short walk to the mic felt like a mile, especially as the band were all in the wings, but somehow, once there, I plugged in and started to play and it all felt wonderful. Owain’s sound made singing a joy and I played five songs before introducing the band, and on they came to join me for Speed Of The Of Sound Of Loneliness. I then went off leaving the band onstage to play their first set and the tour was officially underway!
In no time at all it was almost time for the interval, and I made my way to the CD table to join Ellen, Martin and Peggy where I would be selling my CDs each night and they would be selling the Fairport CDs and programmes. The audience all came out for the interval and after a whirlwind round of CD signing the second half of the show began and I sat and chatted with Martin, Peggy and Ellen for a while, all of whom were lovely and gave me lots of tips and advice about the tour. With not joining the band for the last song on this first night, it was suggested that I perhaps set off home early as it was a long drive home and such a bad night weather wise. I packed away and after a lengthy round of goodbyes and hugs with all of the lovely people I had met this first night, I set off home, wheels floating about 4 foot off the tarmac all the way with happiness.
By the time I got home about 2.30am I had already had some lovely comments on my facebook page from members of the audience, and I felt very happy, excited and lucky. What a night!
‘Having the most amazing time in Tewkesbury, it’s all been lovely from the moment I arrived, the band and crew are all absolutely wonderful and I’m incredibly honoured to be in the dressing room Eric Morecambe used when he played here in 1984 which sadly turned out to be his final performance. Magical stuff indeed all round xxx’
Saturday 1st February, The Stables, Milton Keynes
‘Heading off to the lovely Stables in Milton Keynes for the second show of the tour tonight and really looking forward to it. Hoping for a much less rainy drive today, yesterday was ridiculous all across Birmingham and down to the M5, I had to have my wipers going at top speed all the way, its a pain! Here’s hoping its dry! xx’
After the excitement of the first gig, I headed off to the Stables still on a high and reassured somewhat by having played at the Stables several times now over the past 10 years, both as support in the big theatre and also as a solo headliner in their smaller room, Stage Two.
I arrived uncharacteristically early and headed to the back door, where I was comforted to see Andy and Owain’s big blue crew lorry. Andy and Owain typically pack up and load all the tour equipment after every show, and then Andy drives the blue lorry through the night to the next venue where they both then get some sleep before unloading and setting up in the next venue around noon the next day, having everything set up and ready for band soundchecks at 5.30pm. They are real troopers indeed and while Owain does the sound during the performance, Andy gets a few hours sleep ready for the night drive. Thanks to a print-out from Mick the tour manager, I know each night what the parking situation is at the venue, and my favourite ones are the ones that say ‘loading dock/car park’ as that means ‘find the big blue lorry and park nearby!’
The band soon arrived and I headed to the foyer to meet Ellen, Peggy and Martin and put my CDs out ready for the interval, along with my free matching badges, slightly non PC Pour Me A Drink lighters and my lovely friend Leila’s Moonbeams flyers, and then headed into the theatre to watch the band soundcheck. It was really lovely to sit and see them play. The Stables lighting man Dave was adjusting the stage lights at the same time, I looked up and saw him up in the rigging, and halfway through the band’s soundcheck he turned them on and they really looked fantastic.
I also spotted Owain up in his sound booth and got a photo of him from down in my seat, 4 miles away! I am sure we had been introduced the night before but after so many introductions and with slipping away before the end, I hadn’t quite got a handle on everybody’s names and faces and all I really knew about Owain at this stage was that he was tall with tufty blonde hair and his sound was amazing!
During this soundcheck I was invited up to go through Meet On The Ledge, and I was more nervous about singing the five lines of the second verse than I was about my entire solo set, but it went really well and all I could do was hope it would go well during the show. As they had been the night before, the band were super friendly and warm and lovely, and so so so good!
For anyone reading this who may not be familiar with Fairport, the band members are:
Simon Nicol – Rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Dave Pegg – Bass guitar, backing vocals
Matt Pegg – Peggy’s son, standing in for Peggy on this tour
Chris Leslie – Lead vocal, fiddle, mandolin
Ric Sanders – Violin
Gerry Conway – Percussion and drums
All too soon it was showtime, an 8pm start tonight rather than the usual 7.30pm start, which gave a leisurely feel to everything but also allowed me much more time for faffing about worrying about my hair and make-up and outfit before going on. After fiddling about with my tights and dress for the seventeen thousandth time, it dawned on me that what Id really like to do is lose three stone, which no amount of fiddling was going to make happen in the next five minutes, so I pulled myself together and concentrated on the gig instead!
After playing my set and a second time playing Speed Of The Sound with the guys, both of which were lovely, I spent a few minutes backstage putting my guitar away and thinking ‘oh my god I can’t believe that went okay, I’m so glad I didn’t trip over in my heels, I’m so glad it went okay etc… ‘ at top speed in my head before heading to the foyer to join Ellen, Martin and Peggy. I got to know them all a bit more this second night and was fascinated by Ellen’s electric cigarette, with which she has given up smoking completely! Matt also has one and he has also given up and so I am seriously thinking about trying one. Matt’s lovely wife and son had come up for the evening for the gig and it was really nice to meet them, and the camaraderie at the CD table was great fun.
I didn’t expect to sell a lot of CDs at The Stables, having played there before, but to my surprise I sold quite a few and the feedback from the Fairport audience during the interval was again really lovely. The guys did a fantastic concert, both sets bringing down the house, and I went up with Peggy to join them for Meet On The Ledge after their last song, the brilliant Matty Groves. I was nervous all over again going on and the first thing that dawned on me was how strange it was to be onstage without my guitar. Having nothing to hide behind is quite unnerving and my hands felt like giant heavy plates at the end of my arms! Thanks to the professional and easygoing manner that the band have onstage, particularly Simon, who wanders over to say reassuring things onstage in a way that is very cool and laid back, the whole thing was delightful and lots of fun, and in the nick of time, after Simon’s last verse, I caught Peggy’s eye and stopped short of coming in for the chorus on my own, as they all hold off for a drum fill bar from Gerry before coming in! I am still so glad I looked at Peggy as the horror of coming in early, on my own, would probably have haunted me for the rest of my life otherwise!
So it was all amazing and all went well and after some lovely post gig chats with the band and crew and audience and staff in the foyer, I hugged Mick, who is wonderfully always there to help with absolutely everything, and headed across to Hitchin where I had booked a hotel. The next night would be Canterbury and from there I planned to drive home as Monday was a day off. I got to Hitchin and checked in and it was one of those hotels where you check in and its all grand and lovely, but then they direct you to your room which may as well be in another timezone it’s so far away! After finally finding it, I checked a few emails, rang my Mum, ordered a pizza that never came (hardly surprising, they probably went to the next county looking for my room) and fell asleep!
‘Just got to my hotel after a second wonderful gig and after negotiating 27 firedoors with my guitar and two big bags to get to my room Im arm achy but very happy. Singing Meet On The Ledge with the guys has gone straight to the top of my personal high charts, overtaking meeting Angela Rippon on a train and my emails from Bob Dylan’s manager Jeff (that I keep in a folder called Jeff). Really its something else singing with those guys and everybody on this tour is so lovely, am absolutely loving it. So now am wide awake in this hotel room, which was once a priory apparently, theres a Corby trouser press which always makes me think of Alan Partridge and I can see a three pack of digestives on a tea and coffee tray and its very, very quiet. All the stories about rock bands trashing hotel rooms probably all came about not because of drink and drugs but because they went mad from too many individually wrapped biscuits from the least interesting end of the biscuit variety spectrum and mini cartons of uht. But back to the tour, its amazing and I feel very happy and proud to be a part of it xxx Oh dear god I just heard someone clear their throat! Where did that come from? Outside? Through the wall? I think I’ll put the telly on xx’
Sunday 2nd February, The Gulbukien Theatre, Canterbury
‘Having coffee and eggs on toast in Hitchin and researching how to write a tour blog. Just read lovely John’s one from last year and also the weekly one that the band did, both of which are wonderful and witty and fab. I’ve never thought twice about rambling on about endless minutiae here on facebook but the thought of writing something that people I don’t know can read is quite daunting, I’ll give it a whirl anyway as they’ve asked me to do one and it’d be rude not to! Off to Canterbury for gig three tonight and really looking forward to it xx
After checking out of the hotel, I headed into town to find some brunch and decided to start looking into how to write a blog! Having been asked to do one, I hadn’t really thought too much about it and so I decided that afternoon, with a little time to spare before heading to Canterbury for the third show, that I better do some research.
Over eggs on toast at a lovely little cafe called the Fourleaf Clover, I read John Waterson’s blog from last year. John goes by the name Fake Thackray and supported the band on last year’s Wintour and he is very funny! I really enjoyed his account of his time supporting the guys in 2013 and you can read his blog here: Fake Thackray Blog
I also read the bands own weekly Tour Blog that they did last year, which was hosted on a website I’m reluctant to mention here as I wrote to them asking if they might host mine this year in exchange for me buying some advertising on their website, which they seem quite keen to sell, and they didn’t reply! Charming! However, being well brought up and with it being a great read, I shall rise above such rudeness and post the link here: Fairport Convention 2013 Tour Blog
Research done I made my way to Canterbury and horror of horrors couldn’t find the big blue lorry anywhere on arrival! I checked my parking sheet from Mick and it said ‘venue car park’, and I was in the venue car park, but where was the lorry? I parked up and found a kitchen door and knocked on it, and a lovely girl inside told me to my relief that the backstage area was the next door along and I was fine to park in that car park. It turned out that due to some construction work being done at the venue, the lorry had gone through a barrier that was now closed, and was round the back, and all was well.
I made my way in and found lovely Mick who showed me to my dressing room, and then it was soundcheck and then I took the CDs down to the foyer and set up and later found Martin and Peggy, but sadly no Ellen tonight as she can’t be at all of the gigs. We were all offered a lovely roast dinner at this venue by the super nice promoter Deborah, but sadly I forgo mine, as eating before playing is something I find really hard, and so I had brought an egg sandwich to have afterwards instead. Such glamour!
For some reason I felt very weary tonight, very unsparkly, and I had only driven an hour or so down the road instead of the 3 or 4 the past two nights. I was really puzzled as to why and wondered if not being used to having such a lot of time to kill before a gig had something to do with it, or if the adrenalin of the first two nights had subsided a little, I didn’t know. I remember once going to see a gig at The Old Vic, and being appalled by how much the two girls who were the support act were moaning about how tired they were. They even did a song they had written all about the tiredness of being on the road. I remember thinking ‘sit down, I’ll get up and play instead!’ I couldn’t believe they were complaining, and onstage too. At that time I was just starting off doing gigs, and would have given my right arm to swap places with them. I vowed never to complain about any gig ever, as however tiring it may get sometimes, it beats digging a hole for a living, and many other jobs hands down. I actually saw two men digging a hole twice last year! Once outside my front door, two council men who I made cups of tea for and passed down to them in the hole, and again in Dunkeld, while at the Pertheshire Amber Festival. I walked past two guys working in a hole in the pavement there, in October, carrying my guitar, and they smiled and shouted ‘give us a tune’ and I thought they were heroes. So I would never, ever complain, but I was mad at myself for feeling weary. All I have to worry about is my half hour set, how could I possibly have ended up feeling tired before it?? I had time to think about it later on the way home and had a bit of a word with myself. I thought about the men in the holes and all my friends who get up and work all day in offices, and have children and are hectic all week-long and how much I had been looking forward to the tour, and how much I wanted to do a good job for the band after they had been kind enough to invite me to open for them, and I reminded myself how lucky I am to swan about playing music for a living.
Wonderfully I finally met Owain the sound man backstage after soundcheck, and was able to say hello and Thank him for the lovely sound and have a bit of a chat. Then a tall guy with a hat on walked past and smiled and said hello and I smiled and said Hi and asked him his name. He said ‘are you joking? I’m Owain’ and for a second I was very confused. Then I saw the Owain I thought I had met walk by and realised he was actually a foot shorter and was the venue backstage manager, who happened to also have tufty blonde hair. Having only seen Owain from afar the past two nights, and with him now having a hat on, I really hadn’t seen his face properly and was mortified! He was very nice about it and let me take his photo for the blog, one that I later sent him to which he replied that he takes a terrible photo. Ladies, if you are reading this, when you scroll down and see Owain’s photo, I think you will agree with me that he does not take a terrible photo, quite the opposite in fact!
Anyway, all went very well during the show, the guys were wonderful again and I met some lovely audience members again in the interval. The Cropredy banner had arrived and Martin and Peggy had set it up in the foyer, which was wonderfully exciting to see! The banner will join us at the CD table from now on and while I’m mentioning the merch, I must just tell you that Tour Programmes are actually calendars too, which is fab! They were designed by Mick Toole who designs all the artwork for the Fairport CDs, posters, flyers and programmes and they really are fantastic.
The Gulbukien theatre is very lovely and has a wonderful foyer full of art deco style chairs and tables in bright colours, and Peggy was as always brilliant company all through the evening, both on and off stage! Meet On The Ledge went really well again, Peggy and Chris both tipping me the wink for the delayed chorus which was lovely of them! I had a lovely email from Chris While just before the gig, in which she asked me to give her love to Chris Leslie, and also asked if the two of us might play something together when we are at Chris and Julie’s Party on the Lawn Festival in June. I mentioned this to Chris who said he would love to which was very thrilling as he is not only a wonderful musician and singer but an incredibly lovely person too, something that was becoming clearer each time I talked to him. Likewise with Gerry, Simon, Matt and Ric. After only three nights I was slowly getting to know them all and they are all gems.
After a post-gig round of goodbyes and hugs, and a send off again by lovely Mick, who again made sure I was okay and saw me out, the drive home was smooth and clear and after a quick stop at Peterborough Services for coffee, I was home by 3am and after faffing about for ages and lots of cuddles with the cat, who had been very well looked after by Mum and Alastair, I headed to bed.
‘Just pulled in at Peterborough for coffee halfway home and there’s only me! And piped INXS! Just looking through my tour photos from the last few days and feeling very happy and lucky. Tonights gig was another lovely one, I especially loved the sound of the band tonight, in particular Gerry’s drums which made me think of Pat McInerny (one person not three people) at one point, really fab stuff. In other news I had a go at trimming my fringe backstage with a pair of scissors I found in my travel bag, largely because Im an idiot and shouldn’t be allowed time to myself in big buildings with dressing room mirrors, but its not as bad as it was last time I did it so think I got away with it. Its a night off tomorrow so am homeward bound to the cat on night-time empty road heaven and looking forward to pottering about and catching up with everything at home before the next show on Tuesday xx’
Monday 3rd February, Day off
Monday was a day off and a chance to pause and reflect on how it was all going, and to do some washing! I spent a lot of Monday afternoon and evening joining this blogging website, WordPress, working out how to use it and posting my first post, with a lot of help from the WordPress forums! It was reassuring to find so many other people as technophobic as myself and in need of help with things such as font changing. Changing the font took an hour as it turns out you have to pay $30 for that feature, and once paid you then have to know how to write something called a CSS code! I finally figured it all out and went to post my introductory update, which I had already written and saved in a draft, and found it had completely disappeared! It was nowhere to be found, only the title, ‘Introduction’ and an empty page. I could have wept! So, I took a deep breath and started all over again! One burnt Tescos chicken and potato bake later I had rewritten it and voila, my first post was complete!
After that I had a look in the wardrobe for some more stage clothes to wear, as having dressing rooms every evening on the tour is a luxury I’m not used to, and it means I can take an outfit to change into, rather than having to wear something I can also drive in. So I dug out a selection of dresses, most of which were unworn, some of which had to go back in the wardrobe as they were too small, and packed them all ready to take. By then it was pretty late, so I made a couple of calls to family and friends to catch up, repacked my gig bag, and with square eyes from being on my laptop all night, headed off to bed all set for Oxford.
One thing that stands out in my mind from Monday night is chatting to my good friend Alastair, a touring TM and sound engineer who regularly travels the world making artists sound great, who, after kindly allowing me to waffle on for ages to him about the first three shows of the tour, simply said ‘welcome to proper touring.’ :o)
Tuesday 4th February, St. John the Evangelist Church, Oxford
‘Off to the ford of Ox and its a lovely sunny day too! Cold but sunny! Its almost like the sun is saying, Im going to shine, but Im going to blind you and at the same time you will be freezing xx’
Renewed and refreshed and with the first blog post done and published, I set off for Oxford in the sunshine and had a very happy drive there. Unfortunately by the time I arrived at the venue the rain had started again and after a few goes around the block I found the back gates with help from Mick, and pulled in next to the big blue lorry and the band bus. the band bus is a silver minibus that the band all travel in, driven by Mick, and so seeing that told me the band had arrived.
The venue was a beautiful church and the promoter for the evening was a young lady called Sonia and her team of volunteers. The band were soundchecking as I arrived and with it being a church, I was thrilled to see the CD stall was in the same room, which would mean we could all watch the show, and I headed over to Ellen (who had returned!) and Martin and popped down my CD bag before heading to the back to put down my gig bag and guitar. Sonia had allocated the vestry for the dressing room area and it was all very Father Ted! There were loads of jokes flying around between the band and the crew and various priestly items had already been commandeered for photos and general larking about. Mick had popped a white collar on and was henceforth known as Father Michael for the rest of the night, and I spent about an hour taking photos and being silly in the back, it was comedy heaven :o)
Less heavenly I think were handling the acoustics and Owain did a stellar job with his PA system in making everything sound wonderful in such a huge cavernous room. The sound onstage was actually my favourite of the tour so far and I felt like I sang my very best, which made up for what I felt had been a less than great performance in Canterbury.
I got to see the whole show from the front for the first time which was amazing, and had fun sitting with Ellen and Martin during the evening. I also met a lovely guy called Walter Forever Young (not his real surname!) who is a good friend of the band and who had travelled over from Germany for the concert and has a radio show there. The audience were really lovely and I chatted to lots of lovely people, in particular a lovely lady called Margaret, a fiddle player who told me she had a recital coming up that she was very nervous about. I wished her luck and hope all goes well for her, she was so nice.
‘Backstage’ on the Father Ted set, after the show, I was very honoured to be asked by Simon if I would like to sing Who Knows Where The Time Goes with him. The band play it each night, third song from the end in the second half, and I was absolutely bowled over by Simon asking me to join him in singing it. I said I would love to. Not having not ever sung the song before, even though I love it and have it in my car in fact, I played it non-stop all the way home, with just one or two other CD breaks so as not to overdose myself on it. I marvelled at Sandy’s singing anew, listening in the car, and wondered how it would all go. Sandy is so loved, its a huge honour and not a small thing to attempt to sing her most well known song.
All in all it was my favourite gig of the tour so far. The day off after the first three gigs, had somehow brought everything together and I really felt like everything was clicking. I was nervous at the thought of singing Who Knows Where The Time Goes, but so honoured to be invited and I floated home feeling very happy and proud and lucky indeed. It was very rainy again on the way home but a smooth journey and other than a quick coffee stop at the Tibshelf Services, I sailed home.
‘At the Tibshelf and just had two cortados, straight up. I love them, they’re so cute! Two thirds of the way home from the Oxford show which was in a church and quite stunning. I got to see the full show from the front tonight which was a treat and my hair behaved for a change, although I wasn’t keen on my sleeves. The band were amazing and the audience were especially warm and friendly. Heading home for a big sleep before a leisurely journey to Lincoln tomorrow via Beverley where Im hoping to find a new black gig cardi xx’
Wednesday 5th February, The Drill Hall, Lincoln
‘Simon Nicol is a superstar! He just did a wonderful Birthday dedication to Barbara before the finale number which tickled me pink on her behalf! What a lovely gig in Lincoln tonight, and its stopped raining too! So lovely to see Barbara and Peter and gorgeous Miss Lily and lovely Les from Faldingworth Live xx’
Gig five was Lincoln and almost a home run for me being only an hour and half from Driffield, and so I expected it to be a smooth run there and I could not have been more wrong! After arriving at the gigs for about 5.30pm the past four nights, but not soundchecking at any particular time, I decided I should probably ask Owain what time he would like me to soundcheck each night, so it could become a proper time and a routine. He very kindly suggested 6.30pm, or half an hour before doors, and like a fool I set off at 5pm for Lincoln, not allowing any extra time for delays. Well it was a horribly rainy and windy night and the run to the Humber Bridge was fine but from the A15 down it was 40mph all the way and when I arrived, the parking situation was ‘car park next to venue’, which didn’t seem too bad until I realised it was pay and display and I didn’t have enough change! Arriving so close to soundcheck I decided to risk a ticket and head in, and Owain was really lovely and did my soundcheck and I then grabbed some change and headed back out in the rain to put a ticket on my car. By then there was a huge queue at the machine and I heard someone say it wasn’t accepting 10p pieces, of which I had loads! So I ran back into the venue and found Martin and Peggy and asked if they could give me two pound coins which they kindly did. By this time the queue was even longer and I had to go to the back again. With a handful of coins in one hand, brolly blowing inside out in the other, I realised that the queue was going to take ages, so I ran to my car and got a piece of paper, borrowed a pen from a kind lady in front of me and jotted down the telephone number on the machine which was an option to pay over the phone, and headed back in. Simon had suggested we might go through the song after soundcheck tonight, and to my horror I realised I had only got time left to get ready, and call up and pay the parking before going on, and so we decided to leave it till the next evening instead. Paying for the parking by phone took ages, and I was bellowing into my phone at the voice activated automated menu giving my card details till about five minutes before going on! Peggy came to find me ready to go on and he was very lovely as always and on we went!
It was a lovely gig in spite of the totally self-inflicted stress beforehand, and I was thrilled that some family friends were there, Barbara, Peter and Lily from Driffield, and the lovely Les from Faldingworth Live. Simon gave Barbara a lovely Birthday mention during the show, and I recorded the band doing Who Know Where The Time Goes on my phone, so I could learn Simon’s phrasing and practise some harmonies. I got a fab photo of Peggy, and of Ric doing a Kenneth Williams impression, and a lovely one of Chris and Ric, and some lovely photos of the gig also from the side of the stage and from the front.
It was a lovely gig all round and Peggy and Martin were great fun on the CD table as always. No Ellen tonight sadly again but she will be returning soon. I decided that even with my soundcheck being 6.30pm, I would aim to arrive at all gigs for 5.30pm from now on, just to be on the safe side! Lesson learnt I headed home, very happy again after another wonderful show, after being seen to my car by Mick, who was yet again amazing and super lovely.
‘Home from Lincoln, washing in, slippers on, cat cuddled and packing for the next run of shows in the North West before a bit more cat cuddling. I must not forget my cafetière! After a rainy drive and a car parking experience that was like something from a comedy sketch due to the ticket machines not accepting 10p pieces and everybody in the gigantic queue having 10p pieces, the gig tonight was really wonderful, I loved it and particularly enjoyed Meet On The Ledge. Shrewsbury tomorrow and can’t wait to see lovely Miss Jo :o) xx’
Thursday 6th February, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury
‘After a lovely show in Lincoln last night, the Fairport Convention Tour rolls on to Shrewsbury today and on into the North West this week.’
It was yet another rainy but smooth drive to Shrewsbury and I parked up next to the big blue lorry outside the Theatre Severn early! Having booked a hotel for the next three nights due to the gigs all being in the North West, I had a car packed to the rafters with things! I had my ‘hotel’ bags and my ‘gig’ bags and after pulling up I was about to get out and unload my ‘gig’ bags when a man knocked on my car window. I wound it down found it was a little elderly man in a trilby hat who told me his name was Alan and asked if he could please have my autograph. It was raining again and he handed me an autograph book through the window so it wouldn’t get wet while I was still recovering from the shock of being asked for my autograph! I managed to say that I was only the support act, but it didn’t put him off, and after flipping over a page that had Bill Wyman’s signature on it and finding a blank page, he handed me a pen so I signed his book. He said he was going to wait for the band and asked me if I knew what time they were coming, and I said any minute now, and told him that they would be coming out to sign autographs after the show, as they always do which I think is lovely, but he was set on waiting and so I got my bags and guitar and headed on in.
The first thing I noticed was how beautiful the venue was, so lovely. The theatre and the foyer, and all the staff were simply wonderful and I knew right away it was going to be a lovely night and it really was.
During soundcheck Simon switched out my mic for a really posh one that he had just had repaired which was quite an honour, although I was more than happy with the SM58, and I decided to start using my in line tuner on stage at this gig, rather than my clip on one, as after playing my set I thought it would be good idea to tune up to a plug-in tuner same as the band, with all of us playing together on Speed of the Sound. Being a solo artist for so long, I usually only ever have to worry about being in tune with myself as a rule, but having a Boss in line tuner at home, I decided to bring it along and give it some use for a change! I was pleased to hear Owain say that soundmen always like it when artists use one, as it takes away the need to do the whole thumbs up ‘is it safe to unplug?’ meemo-ing after your set!
Poor Simon had a cold and was definitely going through it that night but was a trooper and very philosophical about it all, saying you just have to put up with them for a few days till they go away, and his performance and the bands was faultless as ever. We left going through the song for another night and soon it was showtime.
I really enjoyed my set and playing with the band, and went off to join Martin and Peggy ahead of the interval and got chatting to a lady who was asking me all about the history of the band. I didn’t know some of the answers to her questions, and so I asked Martin, and he told me some amazing stories which were followed by Peggy telling me some stories too. I really loved chatting with them both and Peggy gave me one of his Peggy and PJ albums which was lovely. He recommended I get a CD by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, as I’ve never heard their music, which I have since ordered on Amazon, and it was just a real treat to sit and hear such wonderful tales. I also loved seeing my old friend Jo at the gig, a lovely girl I met in Australia in 2003 who has been a dear friend ever since. Jo is from Shrewsbury and her family grow the potatoes for Smiths crisps which I have always thought was brilliant! We had a good old natter after the show along with her sister and adopted Mum, and they met the guys in the band too and had a lovely time, as did I.
So, after a lovely night, and a cheery round of goodbyes which included a sleepy hug from Andy as he emerged from his pre-drive nap in the lorry, a lovely wave from Owain as he and the venue crew loaded up the lorry, and assisted once again by Mick to my car with all my things, I headed off up the road to find the Holiday Inn Chester West, which was right in the middle of the next three nights gig locations, and which was to be my home for the next few days.
On arrival I was greeted by a warm and friendly reception staff who confirmed that the smoking room I had booked was indeed available (!) and I made my way up to room 308 to find it was an executive suite! Small but perfectly formed with a fridge and a lovely en suite, a lounge area with table and chairs, an office area complete with Mastermind chair and an ashtray! It was room heaven! It was a luxurious feeling to know I was only 38 minutes from the next night’s gig in New Brighton, and that I didn’t have to check out. I think the checking out at Hitchin and the subsequent hanging about threw me off a little, so I was hopeful that my plan of booking the same hotel for three nights in a row would work much better! Being so used to driving home from gigs, I rarely stay in hotels, as I find getting home late and lying in much more preferable to lying awake all night and checking out early after not enough sleep, and I do all of my admin and emails and gig bookings and post in the afternoons, all of which is easier to do at home, so I have got used to driving home late and a four-hour drive to a gig and the same back has never fazed me as I gear up for it. But doing such a dense run of gigs like this is a whole different ball game and a very new thing for me, and even though I gig all year round, and have opened some big shows in the past, I have never done so many nights of such big shows, all in a row, for so long before, and I realised this week that I simply can’t drive home from them all as I had thought I could beforehand. As Alastair said, welcome to proper touring!
Anyway, very happy and completely over-excited with my executive room I swiveled about in my chair for hours and after accidentally running over my own slippered toes while wheeling myself over to the fridge to get a complimentary Kit Kat, I decided it was probably time to go to bed.
‘Made it to my Holiday Inn after a lovely show at possibly my favourite venue of the tour so far, and am over the moon with my room! I requested a smoking one with 20 per cent hopes of success as a lot of hotels still have smoking rooms listed on the booking websites but when you get there they tell you its old info and they’re now ‘none smoking throughout’, but not here, its a smoking friendly place and my room also has a dressing gown and slippers and a fridge, that has sparkly water, diet Pepsis, Kit Kats and two chilled glasses in it! And the en suite has a boxed in sink, my favourite kind as you can put all your things on the side, and its hotel room heaven! This will be my home till Sunday and I’m very happy with it indeed. There is free wi-fi and am thrilled to find that my laptop has come on okay as its taken to resetting itself to April 2008 this past week, in protest at being taken out of the house I think, and its been a really big pain but it seems to be behaving so very happy about that too. Im still on a high from having a lovely chat with Peggy about the history of the band tonight and from Simon giving me his gorgeous microphone to use for my set and I absolutely loved seeing Jo, one of my dearest and oldest friends. It was a wonderful night and am now going to set about using the ashtray and having a JD and diet while my glass is still chilled :o) xx — at Holiday Inn A55 Chester West’
So that has been Week One! Its been an incredible week and I have loved every second. I have learnt a lot of things, heard loads of amazing music and wonderful stories, met some wonderful people, seen some fantastic places and been humbled, inspired, looked after, terrified, delighted, worried, relieved, high, low, and everything in between. I have fallen a little bit in love with every single one of the band and crew and am having the most wonderful time, and one I know I will treasure always.
Thankyou so much for reading and I will post Week Two next Monday. Being three gigs ahead of the blog in real life, I can already tell you there are lots more lovely things to report that have already happened and I know there are lots more that are yet to come!
See you next week,
Love Edwina xxx