Interlude: in which i thank you and let you know what the future holds

Christ. I’ve honestly been a bit blown away by the response to this poxy whinging blog. Your kind words and condolences have been extremely appreciated, and i’m glad i’m not coming off as too much of a massive wanker.

So part 10 will be up tomorrow (sorry!) and will be the last entry as far as this particular tour is concerned, and i’ve been wondering what I can do to keep this nonsense alive. So it’ll be carrying on in a couple of ways.

1) I’ll continue to update this blog with some one off stories from various tours, albeit a lot less frequently than i’ve been sharing the stories from this tour. I worry they won’t be quite as endearing as these horror stories as they’ll likely be coming from a friendlier place, but who knows.

2) I will be turning ’I Want To Go Home Now Please’ into a weekly podcast, which i’m really excited about. I started a GoFundMe page a few days ago to try and raise some funds to make this a reality and smashed the (admittedly small) target I set. The page is still live, and I would love it if you could donate anything you can to help out with the setup and ongoing overhead costs that are going to be involved.

You can donate here – https://www.gofundme.com/2npjrn3d?pc=fb_dn_cpgnstaticxlarge_r&rcid=5d42d83075ae11e6aab3bc764e065f4f

The basic concept of the podcast will be that one week i’ll present a shorter episode in which I discuss an entry from this blog in a bit more detail, and then the following week it’ll be a longer episode in which i’ll sit down with a musician/someone involved in this crazy touring industry and we’ll talk at length about their horror stories as far as touring is concerned. I figure this’ll keep it a bit fresh, and will mean i have new content every week rather than just doing it every fortnight. I’ve got some fun tours with some amazing people coming up, so i’m confident that it’s going to start off with a bang.

Thanks again to all of you, hope you don’t think the last part is too much of an anticlimax (spoiler alert, i’m not done being fucked around…) and enjoy what i’ve got in store.

Summers

Chapter 9: in which we separate entirely

“It’s honestly not my job to do that, and I think it’s a pisstake you’d even ask.”

We’re early to rise, largely because our Italian host has to go to work and doesn’t want us in his house whilst he’s not here. Can’t really blame him. We head to a coffee shop underneath his flat and make small talk for a bit. The guys want to see the sights, and I want to desperately not go anywhere near the centre of Milan with the van as it’s a god damn hellscape. We decide i’ll drop them off in the centre of the city and then drive back out to find somewhere a bit quieter to park/catch up on some sleep. On the way to the van I see and stroke a dog, which is always a morale raiser.

image

Milan is truly terrible. It’s like Paris in the respect that people seem to have a certain perception of it as a wonderful, romantic city when in fact it’s a trash city full of some of the worst driving outside of playing your mum at Mario Kart. I’d say there was nowhere to park, but what I mean is that there are no designated spaces so people park ANYWHERE. Nobody seems to care. I guess they’ve got more important things to worry about.

Anyway. I drop them off in the centre and make a quick escape. I drive 10 minutes or so out and find a space big enough for old blue. The van has become an oven in the midday sun, but i’m so tired from lack of sleep and being in a consistent state of heightened anxiety that i fall asleep in the back seat for most of the day.

I awake some hours later a horrendous sweaty mess, and sigh as I realise it’s time to pick the guys up. I drive back to the centre of Milan, find somewhere to temporarily park and let them know where i’m at. After a fair amount of faffing about, I have the guys in the van. I also seem to have acquired 2 Italian girls, neither of which speak fantastic English and both of which have been made to sit in the front with me. It’s a bit odd. I’m told they’re fans of the band who had previously seen them in London. After a day together, the band apparently have zero interest in any further interactions with the girls. Great.

We arrive at the venue, and after some trial and error with parking I decide i’ll just park fully on the pavement. It’s stressful but i’m satisfied after discussing it with the venue staff that the van will be fine to stay there for the duration of the evening. I’m happy with that, and now i’m just keen to get the night over with as i’ll be leaving the party in Milan after the gig.

The band soundcheck, still awkwardly ignoring the girls who joined us. The girls i guess have gotten the hint, and let us now that due to a bus strike they’ll need to get the train home which means they won’t be able to stay for the night. They explain that the train station is about a mile away, which is easily walkable.

Here’s where it gets awkward.

Aussie 2 butts in and in a tremendously patronising manner advises them that ‘Summers will give you a lift there.’ I’m noticeably uncomfortable about this prospect for a number of reasons which should probably be evident at this point really. They sense my hesitance and insist that it’s fine, but Aussie 2 pushes it further.

‘Summers doesn’t mind, he’s a nice guy.’

Fuck. Off.

I’m equal parts anxious and angry, faced with the dilemma of wanting to straight up tell him to get fucked which would cause an unnecessary argument mere hours away from the end of this tour. The girls are clearly a lot more perceptive than he is, and insist that they’re fine. I walk off and leave them to say their goodbyes, and sit upstairs.

A short while later, feeling a bit guilty, I head outside to find the girls. I double check with them that they’re fine, and after they assure me that it’s a short walk in a busy area, I leave them to it. I re-enter the pub and see Aussie 2. He comments that ‘that was fast’ and I let him know the girls were fine walking to the station on their own. He disappears outside, and I don’t see him or Aussie 1 until just before doors. They let us know when they arrive back that they decided to walk the two girls to the train station. Great. Good for you guys.

A short while later, i head backstage to grab some food, and am confronted by Aussie 2.

‘Would it really have been so difficult to just take them?’

It’s delivered in such a snide fashion that I momentarily contemplate dumping the plate of pasta i’m eating on his head. Showing remarkable restraint, I explain to him that I was confident they were fine, and it would be so much more of a hassle for me to move the van, navigate Milan and then hope the space we have is still there when I return than for them to walk 15 minutes. He’s not satisfied with this, and continues with the snarky remarks. He delivers some macho bullshit about how ‘we’ve all got sisters, wouldn’t you want to make sure they were safe in the same situation?’

Jesus christ. First of all, you’re talking to the wrong guy as far as that train of thought is concerned. Both my sisters served in the navy, one now lifts big weights for fun and the other fixes snow ploughs in the french alps. Unless it’s a situation in which the danger can be diffused by a Pokemon card battle, my sisters are generally going to be able to look after themselves a lot better than I am. Secondly, what year is this? Is this patriarchal garbage really the way you want to go about this? And third, the girls clearly politely declined my offer to drive them. Why then would I, a complete stranger, insist these two young girls get into this van with me? Not that i’m any sort of a threat to anyone (unless as previously stated we’re playing Pokemon cards) but i’d rather take a 15 minute walk in a city i’m comfortable with than get into a van with a complete stranger.

He won’t let it go. He follows this up with ‘this is your job. it’s what we’re paying you for.’ I respond that first of all, he’s not paid me a thing, and secondly my job is to get the musicians in my party from point A to B. He states that as guests of the band, these girls are also my responsibility. Save for the fact that the guys lost interest in these girls hours anyway, it’s crap. I don’t back down, because ultimately it’s the last day of tour and i’ve had enough of being treated so shoddily. I’m also full of wonderful righteous anger, because I know i’m right on this one and can’t believe i’m even having this conversation. Eventually he backs down and leaves it, still of the mindset that i’m some terrible monster who values a parking space and my own sanity over the safety of other humans (spoiler: he’s right, but that’s irrelevant.)

I’m severely fucked off, and i’m fairly close to just leaving. I really, really should have, but despite this entire blog being evidence to the contrary i consider myself a professional and want to finish what i’ve started.

The show itself is surprisingly busy, and turns out to be the best night of tour according to the group. It’s a late one, and as per usual there’s no sense of urgency as far as unloading. We probably leave the venue at 1, and I ask where i’m driving to. They have no idea, as apparently it didn’t cross anyone’s mind to arrange for somewhere to sleep tonight during this entire day of free time they’ve had. I couldn’t care less as my plan is to start my 15+ hour drive tonight by getting the hell out of Milan and sleeping in the van at a rest stop somewhere down the motorway.

We fuck about for so long as I gently remind them all I’d like to leave asap to get some driving done tonight. As usual, nobody cares. After driving to a McDonald’s so they can use wifi to find somewhere and then driving to 3 different hotels they finally find somewhere they’re happy with and unload their bags to leave. I say a faux friendly goodbye to Aussie 1 who’s been more of a general irritant than a true bad guy, and I discuss when and where i’ll be meeting the band back in the UK to drop their backline. I ask for some cash to cover fuel and toll costs, and they give me 200 euros. I explain that due to tolls in Italy and France it’s incredibly unlikely that this will cover all costs, however they’re unwilling to get any more cash out and at this point I just want to leave so we decide i’ll keep all receipts and settle it when we next meet. I’ve got a boot full of their gear, so it’s not a massive gamble, although i’m not happy i have to put these costs on my own card.

Aussie 2 is nowhere to be seen. He has disappeared into the night without so much as a wave goodbye. It turns out he was the true villain of the piece all along. Who knew?

A huge smile spreads across my face as I blast some music on and pull away from the dead weight i’ve been carting around for the past week or so. I pull over about an hour outside of Milan, and have the most peaceful night of sleep since the start of the tour, ready for the epic drive home ahead of me.

worst tour ever milan diary music blog

Chapter 8: in which not that much happens, if i’m honest with you

“I don’t think anyone’s going to show up.”

After the chaos of last night, everyone is trying to be a bit more positive about this whole experience. Not even the realisation that death is a very real and fast approaching concept can make me positive about driving this bunch of morons to Switzerland, however.

Despite my many warnings and scare stories, we have absolutely no issues getting into Switzerland. Nobody stops us at the border, nobody pulls us over on the highways, it’s a stress free drive really. Sorry, boring, i know.

We arrive in the beautiful town of Bellinzona. It really is stunning. There are hills with castles on and everything. Our venue tonight is a quirky pub/rock bar which when we arrive has a bustling outside seating area. We’re there fairly early and despite Aussie 2 supposedly being our tour manager at this point, no-one is being very proactive. With this in mind, I spend a painstaking few minutes expertly reversing my mile long van into a snug parking space beside the venue.

I enter the venue to find out what’s going on, the staff are very friendly and advise us they will be feeding us soon. Wonderful. We sit down and enjoy a lovely candlelit meal of venue pasta together as we discuss plans for after the final show tomorrow in Milan. We had already established that the Aussie’s were not going to be coming back to the UK with us, they want to milk this all expenses paid holiday for all it’s worth and do a bit of traveling together around the mainland. I discuss the 15+ hour drive from Milan back to the Brits practice space, and they let me now that they’ve been giving that some serious thought.

“Yeah, i think we’re just going to fly home from Milan and meet you there.”

So essentially what they’re trying to say is ‘enjoy driving 15 hours on your own mate.’

I find it pretty ridiculous that they’re so unprepared to spend a day more in a van that they’re going to pay out further expenses to fly home, but i’m actually secretly pretty ecstatic at the prospect of getting rid of them all sooner.

A short while later, and Aussie 2 is barking orders about load in. He insists that it would be far too much of a hassle for us to move the relatively light backline from the van where it’s parked now and demands it’s moved directly in front of the venue. I tell him that’s pointless as we’d be moving it 10 seconds closer to only have to move it back again, but he’s having none of it. I resentfully huff off to the van and in my haste to move it forget about the waist high wall i’ve parked next to. A disgusting noise tells me i’ll be looking at some body repair work when i finally escape this nightmare.

After load in me and Aussie 2 have a nice walk around the town, admiring our surroundings. We look unsuccessfully for a cash machine and lament over the disaster this past week has been.

It’s difficult to not be smug as the night plays out exactly as I imagined. All the casual drinkers disappear once the sun goes down, and aside from a lone couple who have traveled to see the gig, the venue is empty. I hold off the urge to scream ‘I TOLD YOU SO YOU DICKS’ in their faces as we load out post show and begin the drive over the border to Milan to stay with tomorrow night’s promoter.

The moment we enter the guys house i find a single inflatable mattress in a room and fall asleep on it whilst everyone else is faffing about with showers etc. Fuck ‘em.

worst tour ever gig diary blog bellinzona

Chapter 7: in which a day off turns into a literal disaster

“Did he just break the front window of the car with his elbow?!?”

I wake up in a bed, it’s the best thing that’s happened to me in days. We eat breakfast at the venue, and then assemble in the van for another discussion about plans. I make a last ditch attempt to try and push the Bratislava/Holland plan but Aussie 1 is not having any of it.

I haven’t written a lot about the Brits in all this, because whilst I can’t really say I got on well with any of them, I definitely felt bad that they’d dropped a ton of money on this and were getting less than nothing in return. I tried to position most of my arguments around the fact that as they’d paid for the tour to happen and were still paying all fuel costs, they should really get the final say on what we do. At this point however, I think they’d just had enough and wanted to cut their losses.

They decide we’ll drive halfway today, stop in Ulm (Germany) and then carry on the journey tomorrow. Aussie 2 also decides at this point that the tour is really missing a TM, and he should step up to fill that role. His main strategy in the attempt to bail out this sinking ship seems to be that I need to be given money so I can fill up the van every morning before they’re all ready to leave. Because sure, that’s where the tour was falling apart, the extra 5 minutes we took to fuel up in the morning.

On any other tour, this would be a particularly dull entry. It’s a day off, and we have no plans aside from driving to a hotel.

It’s gotten dark all of a sudden, and I’m driving on the autobahn somewhere, maybe an hour or so from Ulm. Aussie 2 is asleep in the front, and everyone else is asleep in the back. I’ve got a single headphone in and am listening to a podcast, a little bit zoned out from a dull drive.

Suddenly, I shout as loud as I can.

“SHIIIIIIIIITTTTT!!!”

Everyone wakes up as I slam the brakes on and pull the van into the hard shoulder.

Moments before, I’d witnessed probably one of the scariest, most insane things I’ve ever seen. About 100m ahead in the distance, from out of NOWHERE, a car had flipped 3 times in the air from the fast lane right into the slow lane, landing on its side.

I’m pretty much frozen, still reeling and not really sure what’s going on. After a few seconds I snap out of it, realising what’s happened. I look to my left, and Aussie 2 is nowhere to be seen. I look ahead again, and I see Aussie 2 sprinting towards the toppled wreck like a quiffed hipster action hero. He tries to open the door, it doesn’t open. He then proceeds to start smashing the passenger side window of the car with his elbow, no concern for a potential fire/explosion, to be able to drag the couple inside to safety.

This. Is. Bonkers.

I run over with a couple of bottles of previously snatched rider Sprite to give to the very lucky, very disorientated couple who have now emerged from the wreckage, and we all stand around in disbelief as a German lady who has also pulled off calls the police.

The police take a statement, and initially think we actually caused the accident:


“You hit the car?”

“No?”

“Why does your van look like that then?”

Oh. NICE ONE BANT-GELA MERKEL.

After establishing we were just bystanders, we get back on the highway and pull off soon after to grab some food and talk about how lucky we were and how we should just take the rest of the tour in our stride. They’re even complimentary with regards to my driving and avoiding the accident. It’s a nice moment.
It doesn’t last.

I get cosy in the van as they go up to their hotel.

Chapter 6: in which the goal posts are moved to a different stadium and sound advice is soundly ignored

“Has this guy ever actually seen a map of Europe?”

I wake up in sunny Prague with a fine van sweat about my person, cursing my luck for not having slipped into an endless coma. It’s 11am, which is the checkout time for the hotel, so naturally nobody is here yet. I snooze for a bit longer before the Brits and Aussie 2 appears, Aussie 1 is having that crucial third shower I guess.

We decide to have a bit of a look around for breakfast, and let Aussie 1 know where we’re going. The touring party settles in a cafe that’s out of my budget, so I wander a bit further and find a dirt cheap Asian restaurant that serves me a mean breakfast chow mein and also offers me the added bonus of eating alone.
The guys have been talking over breakfast, and Aussie 1 makes it abundantly clear that he is still ill, it’s probably the most ill that anyone has ever been, and he’s not sure he wants to do the rest of the tour. We sit down and discuss the dates we have left: Chemnitz (Germany) today, Bratislava (Slovakia) after that, then Bellinzona (Switzerland), Milan (Italy) and the last show is of course, according to the tour poster, in Offenbach (Germany.)

Or, at least, it was in Offenbach before it got cancelled. Now it’s in Amsterdam.

Look at a map of Europe right now.

Google ‘Milan to Amsterdam.’

Apparently our beloved booker thinks it’s no issue at all for us to drive 1000km+ after a late show, and expect to a) be there on time and b) be able to function.

Now, if I’m honest, I’ve done worse drives. However they’ve always been on a day off, or at the end of a tour, basically when there’s no set arrival time or pressure. The drive can be chilled out and plenty of breaks can be taken. This news, added to what was already a trainwreck of a tour, was enough to send me over the edge.

“I’m not doing that drive, guys. This isn’t what I signed up for.”

Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty chilled, and if I like the people I’m on tour with I’ll almost always go above and beyond to do what needs to be done. As you probably have gathered by now, I don’t like the people I’m with and I don’t want to do anything for them at all really.

Luckily by this point they haaaaaate being in the van. From what I understand of touring Australia there isn’t a great deal of driving: it’s too big for that, so tours are usually short runs in more concentrated areas. (Apologies if I’m way off on that, that was just the impression I was given.) So they really aren’t enjoying these (relatively short and simple) drives and definitely don’t want to do a 12+ hour trip for what isn’t even a paid show.

The group decision is to cancel the Amsterdam show. Thumbs up.
Problems arise, however, when it comes to the subject of the rest of the shows. Aussie 1’s illness means he doesn’t want to do all of the shows, and so we do a bit of investigation to see what the best course of action would be. A quick search for the Facebook event reveals that tonight’s show has a low ‘attending’ number, however there is a guarantee, so it’s decided we will head to Chemnitz. Great.

Now here’s where things get a bit silly and I have trouble understanding the trains of thought going on. The show in Bratislava looks to be great – over 100 people ‘attending’, a guarantee, local bands, etc. In my mind, it’s an obvious choice to not pull it.

Switzerland and Milan I have historically not had great experiences with, and Switzerland especially can be a real nightmare for DIY tours. As they’re not a member of the EU they will almost always stop a foreign car at the border, and are especially savvy as far as touring bands are concerned. Once they identify you are a band, they will ask if you plan to sell merchandise whilst playing there. If you have merchandise, you are expected to pay an amount of tax, upfront, for every bit of merch you have. The tax is refunded on whatever you don’t sell on the way out, but it’s still an awkward and time consuming thing to worry about for an already incredibly unorganised tour. I also state that we need a vignette, which I don’t mention that I actually already have from a tour earlier in the year.

My helpfulness is at an all time low at this point, my bad.

Anyway, my point is: Switzerland is absolutely not worth visiting as a band unless you have a really solid show/run of shows. As this show was in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday night and there was no guarantee or even a Facebook event, I make it very clear that they should cancel this show. In fact, my suggestion is that we cancel the shows in Bellinzona and Milan and instead play the shows either side in Bratislava and Amsterdam. It means a heck of a drive from Slovakia to Holland, but it means we have 2 whole days to do it in.

You’ve already guessed what happens here, right?

They, for reasons unbeknownst to me, decide to pull Bratislava and Amsterdam so they can play Bellinzona and Milan. They want to cancel the only show of the 4 that looks like people might turn up to and commit to 2 shows which will undoubtedly be terrible and will result in all kinds of aggravation and awkwardness.

I have 100% lost all faith in humanity. I wonder if this is an especially cruel reality show before realising that even television executives must have more humanity than to place someone in this situation.

I argue the points, believe me, but they’re adamant. We play Chemnitz, take a day off, play Bellinzona and Milan and then take a day off to drive back to England.

The rest of the day is largely uneventful. The drive isn’t too bad (though they still find cause to stop during a 2 hour drive) and when we arrive the venue and surrounding area looks pretty incredible.

They don’t seem to agree. Noses are turned up immediately, and heavy sighs are audible from the back of the van. Fuck these guys. The place is great, inside and out. We’re given an incredible spread of various culinary delights, there are beds above the venue, and there’s even a gym that i’m delighted by but in reality will never use.

The show itself, I have no idea. There was a bed and wifi. Night.

Chapter 5: in which the medical diagnosis is ‘being a wet lettuce.’

“I honestly don’t think there’s a world of difference between a hostel and a hotel in the centre of Prague.”

I awake from a wondrous Travelodge slumber and grab a much needed shower before myself and Brit 4, who have shared a room, check out. Brit 4 is a bit of a quiet intense guy, and him not wanting to indulge in any small talk is just fine by me. We head for the van for 10, which was confirmed as the time for van call the night before. Nobody else emerges for at least half an hour.

The other Brits and Aussie 2 eventually show their faces around 10.30, by which time I’ve indulged in some breakfast delights at the neighbouring McDonald’s. They’re disappointed to have missed the breakfast cut off, and I am resoundingly unsympathetic as I munch quietly on a sausage and egg Mcmuffin.

Another problem with this tour is a complete lack of management. I enjoy and have a lot of experience with tour managing, and on any other tour i would have taken the reigns of this rickety wagon and steered it back on course. But it’s hard to want to go above and beyond for people who care so little about you or your well being, so I figure I’ll do what I’m told and nothing more. Whilst I feel anger on behalf of the promoters they’re letting down, I decide that if they’re late it’s their own fault.

We wait for at least another half hour for Aussie 1. He respects neither the rules of the travelodge or of van call. In my eyes, he is a heathen and we should leave him to die here, but unfortunately with him being the headliner we can’t really do much without him. He eventually saunters out at a leisurely pace, checking his hair in the wing mirror and sitting quietly in the back of the van with barely a word said.

We find out at this point that he’s feeling a bit under the weather today. Specifically, he has a sore throat. He lets us know that he’s not sure if he’s going to do the show tonight. This does not bode well.

Dessau to Prague isn’t too bad of a drive, and we arrive at our destination a fair bit earlier than necessary. So I suppose he DID have time for that second shower. The club had some… interesting graphic design choices.

After a period of hanging around the van, our promoter shows up. I’d say he was in the top five most punchable people I’ve ever met. His English is great but delivered in a faux American accent, and he spends the entirety of the time with us telling us about his band, and what labels are interested in them, and what famous bands he’s friends with… My dislike of him momentarily detracts from my dislike of the touring party, so I suppose every cloud has a silver lining.
Inbetween the extended moments of him being a gigantic dullard, he lets us know that he’s pretty sure no one is going to show up tonight, and he actively tried to talk the booker out of doing the show. I’m not sure if he or the booker comes off as the bigger moron in this one. It’s like they decided to have a twat-off and they ended up just deciding that rather than declaring a victor they’d team up and try and make as many people miserable as possible.

It’s around this time that Aussie 1 decides he isn’t playing tonight.

Aussie 2 and the Brits are naturally a bit perturbed by this as if he doesn’t play they can’t justify charging into the show, and attempt to talk him into it, but he’s adamant. There’s a bit of back and forth with the promoter, and apparently his response is:

‘The venue say you can cancel the show but you have to drink at the bar until 9pm.’

A peculiar compromise which would be nigh on impossible to enforce (what were they going to do if we left, not book them again?) but as we’re fairly out of the centre we agree. I have a coffee and they start drinking. After some more conversation, it’s agreed that Aussie 2 and the Brits will play acoustically, and they won’t charge in. Which means nobody gets paid, but as least there’s the chance to sell some merch.

A couple of hours later (it’s a late one) a few people have shown up, and it’s a nice friendly atmosphere. Again, it’s a smoking venue so I’m outside in the van. I think I bought and ate an entire tub of ice cream. Unfortunately due to his fragile condition, Aussie 1 is also joining me in the van so I have to feign interest as he awkwardly talks to me. I’m made aware that a couple have driven 2 hours just to see him tonight, but he still has no interest in playing.
There are obviously 2 trains of thought here:

1) having a sore throat on tour is shit, especially when you’re a vocalist, and a night off would probably do it a world of good, especially if it means staying out of a smoking venue.

2) stop being an absolute lettuce, suck it up and give this small cluster of people who are somehow fans of your music what they came well out of their way to see.

I want to tell him that “some of these people have come from Stoke” but I don’t think he’d get the reference, so why waste my good material on him.

I’ve been in the same position, I get it, but you just get up and do what you can. Which, thankfully, he ultimately does when he heads down to play a few songs.

It’s probably around 1am when we’re all done, and we’re told that we’re welcome to stay with the promoter at his place. Aussie 1 soundly rejects this when he hears there wouldn’t be a bed for him, because god forbid he sleep on a sofa, and insists I look online for somewhere to stay. Which is great, as whilst I had zero interest in spending more time with our obnoxious promoter, it would likely have meant somewhere for me to stay other than the van. I can’t justify the cost of booking a room, and nobody is forthcoming with wanting to cover the cost of one for me so I guess I’m in the van again tonight.

It’s always an interesting one with the subject of accommodation. In my mind, you want to look after your driver. They’re the one responsible for your safety, you want them well rested. Most British DIY bands will adopt a ‘driver gets the best bed’ policy, which is always great. Not so much with international bands, sadly. But, I digress.

After a few minutes of looking, I find the cheapest, closest hostel. I show my findings to Aussie 1 and he  rejects it, stating that it should specifically be a hotel, not a hostel. I offer a slight glance of disbelief, wondering if he’s taking the piss, but he appears to be entirely genuine in his rockstar request. He takes my phone, and a short while later seems to find accommodation suitable for someone of his standing.

Luckily for me, it’s a 5 minute walk down the road. I breathe a sigh of relief as I throw their bags out onto the pavement, lock up the back and hop inside the van. I silently wish for a meteor to fall and crush the van with me in it as I drift off.

worst tour ever blog driving touring diary prague

Chapter 4: in which it becomes apparent that someone has made a very poor business decision

“Wait… You PAID to get on this tour?!”

We wake up in time for check out, and it’s around this time I’m regaled with details of the groups adventure on the Reeperbahn the night before. It’s then I find out that there was an inordinate amount of money spent on one of Hamburgs finest prostitutes. According to Aussie 2, he initially went in with a low cost offer, and as the festivities went along he was asked for increasing sums of money for additional services. I guess prostitution is a lot like used car sales in that respect.

We have a fairly leisurely morning in Hamburg, the guys decide to eat at a local cafe and as is my M.O I try and find a way to eat as well as I can for as cheaply as humanly possible. I think I hit the Penny store on the Reeperbahn and grab some sub-euro pastries and a dirt cheap coffee.

The drive to Dessau for the next gig is fairly uneventful, around 4 hours of efficient German scenery. Dessau itself isn’t really what you’d call an ‘A’ town. Or a ‘B’ town really. It’s eastern Germany at its post war best, blocky and clinical. The venue itself is kind of cool. The stage basically looks like a front room: wallpapered back wall, and some standing lamps on stage in lieu of any sort of lighting rig. It’s a cool place, and as per usual the promoters and venue staff are very accommodating.

Not that anyone on the tour appreciates it, mind. After the grimy metropolis that is Hamburg, Dessau is apparently far beneath them. Sulky faces match the whiney complaints and it’s clear we’re back to square one as far as morale is concerned. I chat with Aussie 2 outside, who is characteristically fine with the whole thing.

“As long as I can sell some merch, I couldn’t really give a fuck where we play.”

Which, hey, isn’t the worst attitude in the world. Aussie 2 isn’t getting paid for any of the shows, I find out. Aussie 1 is giving him a daily amount for food etc, but aside from that he’s just making money from Tshirt sales. It’s not really an uncommon thing to happen as far as supports, especially if they’re sharing transportation. Hell, I’ve done it.

It’s my conversation with some of the guys from the band that sheds light on something I really hadn’t anticipated, however. I find out that the reason they’re especially down on how this tour has played out is that they paid £2000 just to play the shows. On top of that, they were solely responsible for the costs involved with hiring me and all fuel, parking, toll, ferry etc expenses.

I’m left pretty speechless by this, to be honest. I’m sure it’s just my naivety coming from a DIY punk background, but I’d really never come across paying for tour support before. Especially not at this level, playing these kind of venues. They had essentially dropped thousands of pounds to be able to play to 10-30 people every night. Whoever made the decision to agree to that probably needs to rethink a lot of their life choices. Apparently the £2000 was specifically requested to be able to cover the Aussies flights to and from Europe, which is kind of crazy.

The way I see it, a well booked and promoted tour should recoup any and all costs associated with actually doing the tour. Again, from what I gather (I wasn’t tour managing this run, so I wasn’t privy to settlement amounts etc) the guarantees were really not great, if they existed at all.

The show itself was fine, though complaints were still loud and frequent. There were around the same amount of people there as there were last night, albeit in a much smaller room. I spend most of the night outside in the van, as it’s a smoking venue and I’d rather not feel and smell any worse than I do already.

We’re put up in a travelodge room next to a McDonald’s, which is the absolute dream, right? I get to sleep in a bed, good times.

Chapter 3: in which difficult conversations are had, and it becomes evident this party is not cut out for this

“…you guys know if you cancel this tour you’re still paying me, right?”

So, a bit of background. I picked these guys up halfway through their tour of the UK and mainland Europe. Another driver was covering the UK dates, but wasn’t able to do the mainland shows, so that’s where I come in. When I picked them up, they were already pretty miserable. Apparently the UK shows (save the Leeds show: Yorkshire, Yorkshire etc.) were pretty dire. No accommodation or food, poor promotion and non existent crowds.

I think one of the issues (besides the horrendous booking) was that this tour was based around a headliner without any real presence in Europe. They were a big deal on YouTube, supposedly, so I guess in their mind they could come over to this continent and expect immediate success. As I was told many times throughout this run, they would sell out headline runs in their native country, so this was a bit alien to them.

So I wake up in the van outside a travelodge in the middle of nowhere to some savagely defeated human beings. I’d seen this look before: these guys were ready to go home. We drive a short distance to a service station so we can fill up, grab coffee etc before a disgusting 7+ hour drive through Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

As I return to the van I hear them discussing something. I quietly listen, and it’s apparent that they’re talking about calling it a day and cancelling the remaining dates. They’re totally down on mainland Europe after the Paris show, and don’t think it’s worth going through with the remaining dates. Whilst I disagree entirely regarding mainland shows not being worth it (touring mainland Europe is the best) I’m pretty keen to call this whole horror show off before it begins.

It’s around this time, however, that they start to speak in hushed tones regarding money. And specifically, that if they cancel the dates then they’ll be able to save money on paying the driver/van hire.

Couple of problems with that.

1) Whilst Mutiny Touring isn’t a corporate powerhouse by any means, we do issue invoices which detail terms and conditions. These are pretty standard and state something along the lines of ‘if you cancel for any reason, we’d still be owed payment in full unless we’re able to find alternative clients for the time period.’ It makes sense really, it’s not the sort of work that is generally arranged on the fly, it’s usually booked months in advance and so if I suddenly find myself with no work due to no fault of my own I’d expect to be compensated for that by the cancelling party.

2) I’ve already been paid in full.

You see, as well as ensuring a deposit is taken before any tour is 100% confirmed, I tend to make it a condition that if it’s a client I haven’t worked for/with before that payment in full is required up front. Some people aren’t happy with that, but it saves a ton of stress and hassle later down the line. And fuck, was I glad they’d paid in full already.

So being the awkward socially anxious mess that I am, to have to turn around and interrupt their conversation after knowing them for barely 24 hours to let them know they wouldn’t get their money back was a horrible, horrible thing to have to do. The second after I let them know this, there was a moment of awkwardness before they all promptly left the van stone faced to head into the service station.

The drive itself was grim. What was already a lengthy drive wasn’t helped at all by their incessant need to stop pretty much every hour, so a 7 hour drive became a 12 hour drive and we arrived in Hamburg fairly late. Luckily Hamburg isn’t exactly a place that likes to start early, so there are no major issues. We get an awesome spread backstage with a ton of food and drinks, the venue is great with very accommodating staff and we’re given the details to check into a hostel just around the corner. There’s even a parking space right outside the venue. Things are looking up!

Everyone has been perked up by this bit of European hospitality, and I make sure to let them know that this is the norm for these kinds of shows as opposed to last nights fiasco. I’m feeling a bit better about the run. I feel like the tides are turning, that yesterday was a one off day from hell.

I decide to watch everyone, as I’ll pretty much always watch the bands/artists I’m driving at least once during the run. The band is very middle of the road with a Don Broco vibe, and I decide I’ll probably give them a miss for the remainder of the tour.

Aussie 2 is alright. He’s a pretty typical heart on sleeve singer/songwriter, and he’s entertaining between songs. Again, at this point I’m definitely most fond of this guy. He’s my guy.

Aussie 1 is… well, he’s talented. And I can understand the appeal. But it’s definitely not for me. I think at one point he’s playing a Taylor Swift cover, but I guess he just ripped off the chord progression. Not losing any sleep over missing his sets for the rest of the tour.

The gig itself is pretty poorly attended, but everyone is on a real high about it, I guess just relieved to not have a repeat of last night. And that’s kind of where it ends today really. The hostel is great, and I get a bed to sleep in and a bit of wifi. I kind of wish I had something more brutal to end with.

Oh, I’m led to believe that both Aussies spent around €200 on hookers that night.

Stay classy, guys.

worst tour ever Hamburg driving diary blog

Chapter 2: In which the van dies, plans are changed and first impressions are made.

 “Just so you guys know, the van doesn’t usually sound like this.”

I can be an incredibly anxious person, especially amongst people I don’t know. So picking up 6 strangers at 5am for a drive from the outskirts of London to Hamburg only for my beloved van, Old Blue, to begin making ungodly noises, is really not the first impression I want to make.

You see, this is Old Blue.

image

And Old Blue is called that for a good reason: it’s just over 18 years old, and it’s blue. I love it. Most bands I drive love it too, because what it lacks in modern technology and exterior good looks it makes up for in character and comfort. It’s like the old chair in your living room you can’t bear to get rid of because you worry it’ll take a lifetime to make a new chair that comfortable.

Regardless of what the majority of people think, i’m incredibly conscious of how old blue looks and operates. If something minor goes wrong, even if it’s something as simple as the aux cable being faulty, it torments me. I can’t stop thinking about it, and how I imagine the band sat in the warm embrace of my Old Blue are judging me for this horrendous letdown.

So it’s a gut wrenching feeling when on the way to the Dover ferry terminal Old Blues engine begins making disgusting noises whenever I accelerate. I discuss this on the ferry crossing with one of my new van-mates, Aussie 2. He’s a bit older and more world wise than the tour headliner, Aussie 1, and throughout the majority of this tour is the person I get on with the most. We discuss how it could potentially be an issue with the fuel filter and contemplate how we’ll address the issue on the other side of this journey. We’ll hit the first garage we can, it’ll be a simple fix, and we’ll be on our way to Paris.

Wait.

“…to Paris?”

I guess I wasn’t sent the updated tour book. Or any tour book, as it happens. It’s explained to me that what was intended to be a travel day to allow us to make the already lofty journey from London to Hamburg has instead been designated a last minute gig, in Paris.

Why did it have to be Paris? There are few places I disdain more than the French capital. For a number of reasons really, but paramount is that it’s an absolute nightmare to drive, park, and generally be inside a vehicle in.

I take this news in my stride, with the issues with the van wiping out any semblance of self esteem i might have had to be confident enough to advise my new acquaintances that it was a pretty awful idea to fill this day off with a last minute Paris show for the following reasons:

1) There’s no guarantee of payment.
2) There’s no accommodation arranged.
3) It’s really out of our current tour route. Calais to Paris is roughly 3 hours, and Paris to Hamburg is AT BEST 8 hours. As opposed to the 7 hour trip we were previously looking at from Calais to Hamburg.

TL:DR – This gig would almost certainly lose the touring party money, and would make the proceeding drive even more daunting and would give us a day less to do it in. It made zero sense, but who was I to argue at this point?

We arrive in Calais, and hastily find a garage.

“No Mercedes.”

This happens at 3 garages before I eventually concede that I need to call my breakdown cover to come out and assist us. We park near a McDonalds so the guys have wi-fi and food options, and I await my french saviour.

My beautiful breakdown assistant arrives a short while later and after some ingenuity passing a translator app back and forth, we establish that it’s an issue with the exhaust manifold and he will tow us to a local garage that will be able to fix the issue that day. He can’t guarantee it will be done in time for us to make the Paris show, so I figure this is as good a time as any to let the party know I think it’d be a much better idea to just cancel the show and proceed to Hamburg as originally planned.

Nobody cares.

This would be a recurring theme.

A decision is made that whilst I wait for the van to be repaired with Brit 2, 3 and 4, both Aussie’s and Brit 1 will get public transport to Paris. The Aussie’s are keen to proceed with the show and can play with no gear aside from their guitars, and the Brit is apparently just dreading the idea of sitting around for a few hours. The Brits won’t be able to play tonight, but they seem undaunted by this at this point.

After a relatively cheap and simple temporary fix which i’m assured will last us the duration of the tour, we’re back on the road by late afternoon, and after some wonderful times in traffic we arrive in Paris late evening as the show is wrapping up. As the tour party is reunited, we’re told of a poorly promoted show with no PA which they were paid very little for playing. (”I Told You So” tally: 1)

As i’m completely exhausted already and i’m now faced with the prospect of an 8+ hour drive to Hamburg the next day, I’m keen to know what the groups plan is with regards to accommodation. I’m advised that nothing has been arranged, and under accommodation the tour book reads “Night Drive.” It’s at this point I begin to realise that the tour booker has absolutely no idea what he’s doing.

Whilst Old Blue is, as mentioned, tremendously comfortable, it’s unfortunately not kitted out to sleep 1 person, let alone 7. On top of that, after driving most of the day there’s no chance in hell i’m prepared to do an overnight drive to Hamburg as i’d rather not, you know, fall asleep at the wheel and kill everyone. Not at this point in the tour, anyway…

I suggest it would make sense for us to escape Paris whilst the traffic was slightly quieter and try and get an hour or so shaved off the journey. I recommend Mons, in Belgium, as it’s a beautiful location and would get us just over the Belgian border. Again, my suggestions go unnoticed as a travelodge is booked just outside of Paris without consulting me. After impressing upon everyone the importance of me sleeping as soon as humanly possible, I realise my physical and mental health are just about the last thing on everyone’s mind, as they want me to drive across the city so they can see the Eiffel Tower.

Now, I get it. As much as I hate the city, the Eiffel Tower truly is an incredible feat of architecture. But let’s keep in mind that three of the party have been in Paris for hours, and we’ve also just spent 2 hours after the show has ended procrastinating whilst I had to pretty much force them to book a travelodge so we could leave. I’m not exactly in a great frame of mind, but I concede and allow them to get some nice selfies in front of the tower before we leave the city.

After an hour, we arrive at our location, a roadside travelodge with all the charm of a clog of wet hair in a shower drain. Immediately they grab their bags out of the back of the van and enter the building, without a word said to me about what my plans are for the night since they didn’t book me a room.

Guess i’ll sleep in the van then.

This is going to be a fun tour.

Chapter 1: In which background information is provided and disclaimers are given.

I drive a big blue van for a living.

When I quit my last “proper” job it was a bit of a task trying to explain to my future ex co-workers what exactly it was I was quitting my exciting life of managing consumer complaints to pursue. To people who have barely any knowledge of the music industry beyond the CD selection at Tesco and The X-Factor, trying to get across the concept that small bands a) exist, b) tour and c) need transportation to do so was about as easy as trying to explain to them the concept of skacore.

“You know Madness? And The Specials? And Green Day and Blink 182? Yeah, well… not really anything like any of those bands.”

It’s alien to a lot of people who exist outside of a certain section of society, and that’s fine. A lot of bands don’t value it as a service (”you want paying a decent wage for sitting on your arse and driving a bit? Our budget is £20 a day, take it or leave it.”) but those who do truly make doing this worthwhile, because whilst it can be incredibly rewarding and provide incredible memories, ultimately it’s a largely thankless task with numerous drawbacks .

You’re basically on tour but without any of the real fun of “being on tour.” Drinking and drugs is a generally bad idea since you have to be ready to drive to and from venues each night. Crucially, it’s often pretty likely you’ll be stuck in close confines for an extended period of time with a group of people you don’t know. Those people will have their pre existing in jokes and idiosyncrasies, and sometimes it can be an isolating affair trying to endear yourself to a group of people you just can’t click with. You can make some friends for life, or you can spend weeks longing for the sweet release of death to free you from your self imposed prison sentence. It’s a 24/7 job, you don’t get to go home. Unless the tour hits your hometown, in which case you do. Always good.

This became all too apparent during a week and a half run in November 2015, during which I went through just about the full range of emotions. Anger, depression… Well, I guess mainly just those 2. One of the first things a band I haven’t worked with before will ask me is something along the lines of:

“Have you ever driven someone you haven’t gotten along with?”

And my answer is generally to launch into a muted tirade about this particular tour. It becomes apparent each and every time I start talking about it that not only was this the worst tour i’ve ever been a part of in my 10+ years of touring, but it was a consistent stream of aggravations and issues from day 1 right until after the tour had ended. This tour made me want to go back to listening to people complain for 8 hours a day. This tour honestly made me consider driving the van and its occupants off of a cliff, multiple times. I hated this tour.

And so now I guess for whatever reason, I’m going to write about it to the best of my recollections.

Some disclaimers:

1) I am not a reliable narrator. At all. My memory is awful. Whilst everything i’ll write about happened in one form or another, i may get slight details wrong. My bad.

2) I’m not going to name any of the artists featured on this tour. Once we’re into it, a bit of googling can probably give you the answers you’re after. I have no long lasting malice towards anyone i’ll be writing about, and i’m honestly not really that fussed about them reading this. I doubt they even remember me.

3) The touring party included 2 acoustic singer/songwriters from Australia, and a band from England. For the purposes of this blog, they will henceforth be referred to as Aussie 1, Aussie 2, Brit 1, Brit 2, Brit 3 and Brit 4. Imaginative, i know.

4) If I were to pinpoint the primary reason for this particular tour being so incredibly unpleasant, I would place the blame on the booker responsible for arranging and routing the tour. Again, not going to name names, but it was an absolute shambles and I feel a lot of the shitty behaviour from the touring party can be traced back to his subpar work in advancing this run.

Now that that’s out of the way…
If your interest has been piqued, then give this blog a follow and await the first thrilling installment of this series of unfortunate events in which the van dies, plans are changed and first impressions are made. Or don’t. I just have to get this off my chest.

Summers

blog driving touring music worst tour ever