It doesn’t matter what age you were when you saw it, if you are musically inclined or dabble into music journalism/blogging, Almost Famous probably stroke a chord with you.
At least it did with me.
So, for a long time, I really wanted to go on tour with a band. Previous attempts fizzled due to:
A) Bands splitting
B) Bands going broke before tour even has started
C) Bands not inviting me to go on tour with them (understandable)
D) Bands thinking I wouldn’t write about them after going on tour (unforgivable)
Thankfully, the very lovely people of Firesuite thought it would be nice to invite me to their minitour in February. Sadly, PhD stuff got in the way, so I only attended three out of the five dates. So much for goals…
Anyways, here’s a write-up of how it all go. Sure, it was a few months ago but we all had to decide how to present this. Sarah (guitar, vocals) and Christopher Anderson (guitar, vocals) chime in with their experiences:
First stop : Leeds
Chris – Around an hour before we were due to set off, I poured boiling cooking oil all over my hand whilst making sausages. My good lady shrieked as I dumped my hand in the sink filled with cold water. It was my Superman 2 moment. Not a mark! Am I Superman?! I didn’t have time to test any further, sound check beckoned!
Bad Owl were promoting and were thoroughly awesome, inviting, handsome. The works. Two other bands were grand, Suzy Blu, who intercut snippets of pop culture stuff into their garagey/Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs style melange and Laboratory Noise, with their dreamy noise-pop. We played, it was HOT. Not just because we’re so damn pretty, but because it was HOT! Chris disrobed, which looked very much like a cynical attempt to grab the audiences attention, but I assure you it wasn’t. Maybe. My over-riding memory was that we played ‘2/1/2’, our new song first, and during it I remember thinking, “we’re getting this right!…”. I hope we did. Some people noted they liked our new stuff, which is always good.
Sarah – Trousers too tight, should’ve worn the other ones, ability to breathe quite important at this juncture. Old friends, slight nerves, friendliest promoter in the world, 2 intimidatingly good bands, hot as hell, friendly crowd (a crowd!). Textbook.
Sam – I shot a lot of the video at the start of the evening, hoping to do a sort of Vlog. Sadly, most of the stuff came out unusable, so I had to conform with lots of photos. Quick dinner at the venue, the Fox and Newt and onto the music.
Suzy Blu were gloomy and clinical, but whatever lacked in emotion more than made up on musical expertise and a great timing to match stage times and their samples. Dramatic and engaging. Firesuite ripped the place a new one and ‘2/1/2’ is my new fave track by them. Gritty, rocking and that usual Firesuite moment of “ready for takeoff” and then it’s escape velocity.
I can’t listen to ‘Beneath the roses’. My liver turns green, but I must march on. Laboratory noise are a real revelation, lend your ears to them.
Second stop : London
Chris – We have a van, but it is out of action. Leeds, we borrowed a people carrier. London, we’re in a borrowed transit. We can pick up BBC Radio 1, so we listen to that for a while. Proves to be an unwise move with our ears battered first by the Stereophonics, then Fall Out Boy. It snowed, a lot, all the way down to London stopping shortly before we arrived.
We have the friendliest sound engineer in the world, he sounds a little like Borat and takes photos of us at our request like we’re tourists, he loves it!. Lots of familiar faces come down from another lifetime ago, which is very sweet. There’s a backstage area where about four or five regulars are set up drinking, swearing and pissing on walls. I think this could be rock and roll, but it could just as easily be a horror show. Show is big fun, we inadvertently get an encore we haven’t rehearsed for. Journey home is long but sweet. We’ve journeyed home from London under a black cloud before thanks to a clusterfuck of a show. This is not so big fun.
We stop at a service station on our way home. Thinking of writing a book on the characters we find there at 3a.m.
Sarah – Walking in and hearing ‘Gloria’ by Patti Smith, wanting to adopt the paternal, unruffled sound engineer. Refreshed cabbie “disappointed” by our soundcheck disappointingly found later pissing openly in the tiny beer garden. Friendly people there to see us. Snickering boy sent up by friends to say “I like your Big Muff“ (never not funny, right?). Last band turn up in all their rock finery and play to no one. Looooong journey home. Entire weeks wages spent in service stations…
Our last stop on the way back from London, another service station. Posh, loud man dressed as Timelord joins us in the coffee queue decrying the state of the nation as he has had to leave his dog outside. Tells us his labrador is called Jan. Someone asks “Is that with a J or a Y?“. It seems like a reasonable question at this hour. We all go outside to make a fuss of Jan deliriously stroking and petting until it occurs to us that the man is Richard (drums) in 30 years time and we have slipped through some kind of wormhole. Rest of the journey home is conducted in thoughtful silence. Nobby’s Nuts consumption starting to become a problem.
Third Stop – Manchester
Chris – Richard is there before us, which is as rare an occurrence as an asteroid hitting Russia. This could be a great omen, or a bad omen. Turns out it’s more of the latter than the former. Traffic problems mean we are late setting off, we find shelter in a nearby pub waiting for our van. We settle on a table with lots of pictures of an old couple in frames on it, there’s a buffet to our left and a nearby table of sharply dressed folk are staring at us in a “what are you DOING?” Kind of way. It’s then we realise we’ve gatecrashed a wake. No harm, no foul.
We arrive in Manchester, my guts are all over the place, the venue staff are very lovely and accommodating. First band are on already, the bar staff have made me two cups of tea gratis which is pretty damn ace. New strings on guitar mean a frantic tuning session ensues backstage. We’re on and the mic doesn’t work, the monitors on the fritz too. All because Richard unbalanced the universe by arriving first? It’s possible. Sound guys unplugging things and plugging things back in mid song, it all starts working. Then Chris Minor (bass, perfect torso) breaks his bottom bass string! Which is no easy feat, it being as thick as a rope. We get by, apparently there’s very little indication anything went wrong out front which is good. Last band have a theremin! This makes everything ok.
Our journey home is tremendous, we drink much then start an impromptu a capella group, bashing through Elton John, the Grease soundtrack, Soundgarden. We’re christened first, the B-Shits, then as we improve, the B-Not So Bads.
Sarah – Late due to van still unexpectedly being in bits. Friendly venue, Gdansk 81 doing their pleasing Joy Division/Echo and the Bunnymen type thing. Fun to play. Slight nipple injury sustained in “insistent bi-curious woman in toilets debacle“. SHOW TUNES with Sam and Glen!!!
Sam – I’m quite hungry when I arrive to Firesuite HQ and after gatecrashing a wake at The Cremorne (a place where I’m supposedly banned? Too bad – great ales, friendly service), I find that I quite fancy Nobby’s Nuts (sweet chili, of course). We push a motorbike down a van and haphazardly get in, with me riding shotgun, getting a cramp somewhere outside of Manchester.
I love Manchester and every time I visit the place, Doves‘ ‘Black & White town’ plays in my head. We take the equipment into the venue and the extremely nice (and good looking) woman at the ticket booth smiles, burning a hole in my soul. I don’t see her afterwards. Oh, well.
The gig is a bit shambolic. Firesuite rocks, but it all seems like starcrossed lovers as strings break, drums rattle and Chris‘ vocals get karaoked out. Still, they march on and the sound fella does a mad dash to fix it all.
Hunger gets the best out of me and I stagger to the kebab joint next door. The server thinks I’m Turkish and gives me extra meat and chips. I eat them by myself when in comes a pack of Spanish people, loudly talking and discussing about eating or not. Three order pizza, which the loudly say will split between all 12 of them. Two of them start talking shit about me, thinking I don’t understand them. I interject in Spanish. They eat their pizza outside.
Fuck this Latin temper of mine.
Still, last band has a theremin and Chris and me plan to nick it somehow. This plan is never carried out so we take out all the stuff in the van and I start filming in the pitch black van. The hazy atmosphere lends itself to a sing along and although it doesn’t feature Mark Kozelek rockin’ out ‘Tiny Dancer’, it makes the journey absolutely enjoyable. “Oh wella wella wella – tell me more, tell me more“, Billy Joel and Smashing Pumpkins are my highlights. Selah.
Fourth Stop – Nottingham
Chris – We’re a last minute addition to the bill, We Dig For Fire invite us on along with Safe In The Crossfire, some Sheffield friends. First band CAN’T be any older than 15 and they’re amazing! Richard dances, such is their charm. There’s a comic book shop across the way but it’s closed. Bah! Sarah’s got some more Nobby’s Nuts things, we worry about the long term effects, and trying to wean her off of them. We Dig For Fire are very, very sweet. They headbang along furiously throughout everyones set. Can’t recall the journey home…tired.
Sarah – Playing with old chums Safe in the Crossfire/bonding with We Dig for Fire. More old chums turning up. Beginning to realise that a woman cannot live on Nobby’s Nuts alone. Fun set. Standard.
Fifth and final stop – Sheffield
Chris – Played with Awooga, one of our favourite bands. Love the Red House, small, cramped, sweaty. All the best shows are like this. Lots of faces we know, pinballing around talking to folk, drinking cider after cider. Pretty standard stuff, thoroughly enjoyable, two other bands are ace and get a great response, it’s a big love in. Generally don’t like playing in Sheffield, but tonight feels really, really good. Get enthusiastically invited to Corporation after the show, but turn it down to go home and sleep. Rock and motherfucking roll.
Sarah – Back with Safe in the Crossfire and the fantastic Awooga. We have a home crowd! A warm and wonderful end to our little adventure.
Sam – Although I love gigs, time and mood don’t always help. When Awooga first hits the stage and start to peddle their mojo-fuelled music, I start cursing and having a foul mood. Why aren’t they being booked around? Why aren’t they talked about? It’s not only a half-decent band, it’s a rocking, expansive band with lots of chops and talent. This place is not big enough to let their music shine as well as it should. Give them a shot, fuck it, you can’t bother looking for them? Here’s an embed:
In a world of bands playing it safe or offering bland stuff, Awooga are a proper vaccine.
Safe in the Crossfire are relentless and unstoppable. I can’t fathom why they couldn’t play a 2 hour set. Certainly have the charisma and energy to keep going. In the words of Doris “just keep rockin’, just keep rockin‘”.
There seems to be a bit of an emotional atmosphere for Firesuite and I don’t delve too much into it, I just let them reach catharsis by their music. And so they do. Again, ‘2/1/2’ is a monster and whatever stopped me from enjoying their set 100% the other two dates is gone now, burnt and scattered by the windy forces lashing out at the smoking bit (sorry, beer garden) of this dive bar.
The set is monumental. Still, questions remain:
What is the name of the “xylophone” song? Is Red World the Magnum Opus of this band? Will more band appreciate the beauty of ebow? Is Stu, their lovely synth dude, a long lost relative of Simon Pegg? Will they tour again soon?
Time will tell, but for three dates, I got my Almost Famous fantasy almost realised. No Penny Lane on sight but probably that was for the best.
So it goes.
Sloucher.org would like to thank Chris, Sarah, Chris (Minor), Stu and Richard for this chance to go on the road with a band. Many blessings and hugs to you, lovely people.
Check some more photos of the tour.
Firesuite appear courtesy of themselves.
Orestes P. Xistos got lost in a sexy toga party with some Greek friends. He’s back.
Sam appears courtesy of his Mom & Dad. All clothing by Carlos y Elena Records.