Tour Diary: Curse of Lono - Day One
In a new series, Curse Of Lono are giving us an exclusive look at the inside view of life on the road. Over the next couple of weeks drummer Neil Findlay will be shining a light into the dark recesses of the reality of a touring band. Supporting country rockers Uncle Lucius, they're taking in Europe and the UK. Join us daily for their trial, tribulations, and highs. You can find the dates of the rest of their tour, as well as music and videos on their website.
Today's diary entry is subtitled: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread..
As a musician, it's always a joy to jump aboard a tour bus and head out for musical adventures unknown. Today was no exception. An obscenely early alarm shocked me to my senses and within a few seconds I realised it was tour day. It's usually the day that follows a night of little to no sleep as your brain turns over with the kind of secret excitement reserved for going on a mad holiday or a trip with your mates. That and the feeling of abject terror, that you've forgotten to pack something extremely important that you'll discover when the time is right for you to do so..when you need it most.
Our first tour as Curse Of Lono kicked off with the arrival at the studio of various sleepy looking Lono's and Mark, our fantastic new tour manager, driver and chaperone who arrived with our tour bus: our mobile HQ, office and home for the next two weeks. It's surprisingly comfortable, with big reclining seats, a DVD screen and a Playstation for amusement over the many miles or 'clicks' we've yet to cover.
After a very efficient game of instrument Tetris, packing the back end of the bus with the mountain of cases, stands, amps, drums, guitars, keyboards and luggage, we're quickly on the road, out of London and heading to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel. For those not familiar with this mode of transport, it basically involves driving the tour bus onto a big train which then speedily delivers us to France via a tunnel. Crazy or what?
Thankfully for us, the French Police seem far too busy tear-gassing and sledgehammering apart the migratory refugee camp known as 'The Jungle' just down the road to bother ripping the tour bus apart. The stark reality of their recent work becomes quite real as we watch plumes of smoke rising from the distant horizon, signifying the horrific end to some unfortunate souls of what was their temporary community, churches, schools and homes. Watching the black smoke from the cocooned, blacked out windows of your comfortable mobile home brings home the dark reminder that outside our crazy travelling-tinted world, life mercifully carries on without us. It's lucky on the road that your world and scenery change very quickly and I am relieved when the bus points away from the smoke and towards Belgium, the first destination of the trip.
Not officially part of our tour, we've decided to break up the journey to Germany by adding a bonus show at the Toogenblik in Brussels. Upon arrival to the venue, we are given a friendly welcome by Guido – the promoter, manager, sound guy and general all round runner of this incredible homely little venue. If you ever find yourself in Brussels on a Friday or Saturday night, this place is pure gold. Imagine a small American saloon-style bar that's existed for over 60 years. Unglamorised and untouched by the recent gastro phenomenon, this place has a heart and soul dedicated and entrenched in real live music. The kind of place you find many famous artists of music history have dropped in and played at on their past travels of Europe. The dusty and faded photos adorning the walls displaying the calibre and prestige of musicians who have graced their small and cosy stage. There's history in those walls..
It's always a great relief for everyone to have the first show of the tour successfully under your belt and to make sure everything that's vital to your show works at the time you need it to. An incredibly easy sound check follows, aside from [lead singer] Felix complaining of small electric shocks from his microphone. Being in foreign climes only adds to the stress of performing shows as equipment, voltages and plugs differ and the reliance on adaptors and converters makes things interesting for those using electricity to perform. Knowing how much Felix can perspire under the lights certainly adds the extra exciting unpredictability of him possibly being electrocuted on the first night of the tour. It isn't in the script but hey, that's rock 'n' roll...
After a generous sound check it’s onto the serious job of chowing down on the delicious home cooked chicken curry the venue has kindly provided for us. All of us, that is, apart from Mark, who over steaming bowls of chicken, announces his membership to the vegetarianism party. Apparently they don't do many vegetables in Belgium. Apart from chips. Which, luckily for Mark they do on a world class level. When travelling from town to town and city to city, eating properly doesn't always come high on the list of priorities alongside the importance of getting to and from gigs and sensible food is often substituted for Lucozade and cigarettes. The opportunity to sit down to a home cooked meal can be extremely rare on the road so we take full advantage of the copious helpings of food, drinks and the warm friendly Belgian hospitality with not one waffle in sight.
Luckily for some, the unique venue for tonight's show has a beautifully long tradition of setting up a special alcoholic bar dedicated to the location and origin of each band that plays there. Scottish artists enjoy a wee whiskey bar whilst I guess, the Jamaican ones enjoy a good rum. Being a London based band, 'The Gin Bar' is swiftly erected and 3 different types of Gin are soon in full flow. But that's enough about the tempting and refreshing beverages on offer – I'm (for now) staying sober as we have the very serious business of a show to perform.
Walking on stage in the tiny venue to an enthusiastic response from the loyal patrons of the Toogenblik, it becomes apparent that this is going to be one of those special nights. It doesn't take long for the band to settle into the cosy, intimate atmosphere and our onstage arrival is just what is needed to release the adrenaline after a day lounging around on the bus. The intimate venue surroundings add to the uniqueness of the show as the audience comes on our journey through the tight and extremely relaxed set. By the end of the show, I think it’s very safe to conclude that Brussels enjoyed the gig as much as we did. We leave the stage to a standing ovation from the previously seated audience, with one Belgian gentleman displaying his appreciation with the slightly unusual heckle of; 'You are the best thing since sliced bread..Europe is yours!' This is what the day is all about!
One of the best things about performing more intimate concerts is that you get the chance to interact with the audience and to hang out with everyone when you're done with the show. Before long most of the Toogenblik seems to be clutching a gin and a freshly signed copy of our new vinyl record or CD as a momento of a special night that we will always remember as the perfect start to our European jaunt. I look forward to coming back in the future to perform there again. Thank you and goodnight Belgium..
Back at the hotel and a late check in to our rooms for some much needed sleep. On arrival to his room, Felix complains of a highly annoying and strange buzzing noise coming from somewhere in the room which is undoubtedly going to play havoc with his sleep. Suspected to be a broken aircon or generator, a hotel representative is summoned up from reception. Having arrived and checked the fridge, adjoining wall and bathroom, the hotel representative makes the deduction that the strange buzzing noise is emanating from Felix's luggage. Upon closer inspection, the electric razor which has been accidentally activated in his bag is swiftly silenced by a very sheepish looking singer, bringing an eerie silence to the end of our first day on the road.
We made it across the channel, no forgotten passports, so far everything works great and no one got electrocuted. As a band we are now officially airborne. It really is the best thing since sliced bread.
It's good to be back.
You can find the dates of the rest of their tour, as well as music and videos on their website.