Tour Diary: Curse Of Lono - Day Two
In the second of 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 for their trials, 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 Frank Zappa Suite...
Awakening in a hotel in an overcast and gloomy Brussels to another unwelcome early morning alarm call, I throw myself under a hot shower in anticipation of the first lobby call of the tour. Twenty minutes later I'm at breakfast, poking at an assortment of suspicious-looking yet delicious sausages and hams whilst trying to drink as many cups of coffee as possible to kick start my batteries for the long day ahead. Sleepy Lonos are scattered around the place, gathering for the lobby call and, before long, we're all loaded and the tour bus is on its way to Hanover in Germany. It's a long drive from Belgium but we've got Mark up front with his eyes on the road while we're in the back watching the Exile On Main Street documentary and an assortment of other rockumentaries. Hopefully the bus DVD selection will keep us company through the next couple of weeks to while away the clicks. It's that or we have to talk to one another. Bands have broken up over that kind of thing.
We have a very big day today and onboard the bus we know it. Today is the day we meet our fellow tour buddies Uncle Lucius, the Texans we're are joining on the last two weeks of their extensive European tour. Having watched and listened to them on Spotify and YouTube, we've done our homework and are more than aware that they are a very accomplished and highly polished band. These things often add to the apprehension before two bands collide. Will they be cool? Will they be crazy? We're about to find out..
We arrive in Hanover at the Bluesgarage to find a huge, sparkling white Cadillac outside the main doors of the warehouse style venue. I like this place instantly. I've often seen this venue listed on other bands' tour dates so walking into the massive bar adorned with cut up American cars, towering PA system and large stage is a strangely welcome sight. Two gigantic pictures hang either side of the stage, one of Jimi Hendrix looking super cool with the Grim Reaper looking over his shoulder, and one of Frank Zappa shamelessly enjoying some quality alone time on the toilet. We're in good company it seems and it’s a real hoot exploring the venue and nosing around all the crazy US memorabilia. We actually could be in Texas right now..Speaking of which, Lucius's bus has just pulled up outside.
There's always a little apprehension before you meet your fellow touring comrades for the first time. It's comparable to a blind date. Will you have anything in common? Ten musicians meet for the first time...what could possibly go wrong? Warm introductions, greetings and hugs are quickly exchanged over hot coffees and sandwiches as we ease into realising that we're as cool as they are and they're as cool as we are! There's now a bunch of new names to remember: Kev, Johan, Johnny, Josh, Mike and Steve their tour manager. Our road army has just doubled in size. Everyone is smiling. On tour everyone needs to be smiling – it's as essential as having fuel in your bus.
We're pleased they like our backline equipment, which is a relief as we’ve agreed to let them use it for the next couple of weeks as we haul it across Europe, bringing our joint crazy circus to many places. Josh their drummer is especially pleased as he's been using a 'challenging' hire kit for the Scandinavian leg of the tour they've just completed and was beaming from ear to ear when the beautiful Lono kit was unearthed from its road cases. They're happy. We're happy. Life is sweet.
Playing support to another band can be both a blessing and a curse in equal measures. As a support band you often get smaller dressing rooms, cheaper beer and shorter sound checks. The upside is that you get to jump into someone else's world and effectively piggyback their musical journey with most of the hard work and tour framework having been laid down already. The pressure is also off because it's not your ultimate responsibility to sell out every show. I guess in some minds there's also a misconception that the support band won't be any good or at least not as good as the headliners. Every concert, audience and show is a challenge to prove that misconception wrong. There are a multitude of ambiguous ways to judge your success such as social media, merchandise sales, audience reaction and, most importantly, how many drinks you're bought after the show. You're only as good as your last gig and last night in Belgium was pretty damn good! After all, that's what all of this is about.
Uncle Lucius are amazing. Their effortlessly tight sound during their soundcheck reflects their years of hard gigging. We're impressed with their music and harmonies. We're even more impressed with their hair and beardage. Band beard envy is a terrible thing (unless you’re Charis, our female bassist). Our sound check follows and before long everyone is happy and the stage is set for night one with the Lucius boys.
It's nearly show time and both Lonos and Lucius are sharing the comfy dressing room and enjoying a few pre-gig drinks and nibbles. The noisy, excited chatter coming from the backstage is a good sign that both bands are getting on like a house on fire and the floor and balcony is rapidly filling up with punters. Some have been rumoured to have travelled over three hours by road to get here to see the show. Lucius wish us good luck and we hit a German stage for the first time.
A good on stage sound ensures that it doesn't take long for all of us to settle into the set and enjoy ourselves under the hot stage lights. Our mission satisfyingly complete, it’s time to retreat to the bar for some cold beers and to enjoy the headline boys. Lucius rock and we hugely enjoy their show, frequently interrupted to sign CD's and records for a large part of the audience who have clearly enjoyed the show enough to part with some hard-earned cash. It's always a nice thing when people hear you play and instantly want to own some of your music. It's even nicer to see real music fans clutching a signed copy of your latest release. It's what makes the endless unseen hours of writing, rehearsing and recording worthwhile. Taking it out on the road directly live to the listener is easily the most enjoyable part of the music making process.
We depart the venue in a convoy of tour buses and soon find ourselves outside the most incredible motel I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying a cold beer in and I've stayed in one or two mad ones over the years. Stretched limos and American police and fire trucks line the car park outside the entrance to the truly unique Motel California, where Uncle Lucius are staying and have very kindly invited us to enjoy a post show beverage with them. Judging by the premises’ name and all the vehicles parked outside, I suspect someone round here in Germany loves shiny American things and the motel doesn't disappoint. Each band member has been designated a different musician-themed suite, all with pre-installed mixing desks, guitars, cymbals and drums hanging from the walls and ceiling. Coupled with an insanely varied selection of signed music memorabilia decorating each suite, this beats a Travelodge any day.
The Frank Zappa Suite is chosen as the party room. He's followed us back from the venue it would seem as he's on another huge picture on the wall, still on the toilet. I had no idea Frank likes shitting so much but you learn something new every day on tour. With missions and responsibilities complete for the day, cue the cold beers as it's band and crew downtime. It's been as perfect a first day as could be imagined with our new tour buddies and, encouraged by their general willingness to help us consume copious shots of Jagermeister after the show, I'm sure we're going to get on well. Possibly too well...
I suspect many of us may soon be spending as much time as Frank in the bathroom suite over the next couple of weeks.