Marillion Weekends 2011 part III – UK

June 12, 2011 Leave a comment

So here we go with part III – hopefully I’ll get up to date with this one!

Having got back from Exeter College Oxford at the start of May, I had a couple of days off before setting off for the third and final MARILLION weekend of 2011. An opportunity to spend a little time with family and friends and do a bit of work on my own gear, an upgrade of the connectors on the cable between my effects rig and my amp. I also called in to see friends at MOR MUSIC in York to ask about some gear for the band, and unexpectedly bought a PRS Custom 24, which is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been toying with the idea of a PRS for some time, and had a Custom 24 in mind, but I just couldn’t resist this. I love my Les Pauls and have no intention of parting with them. But I’ve had them about 7 years now, and was beginning to fancy something new.

The next morning, having spent a single afternoon and evening with my lovely shiny new toy, it was time to put it back in its case and head off for the MARILLION weekend in Leamington Spa. No flights this time, as Leamington Spa isn’t that far from Marillion’s studio. So we were packing down and loading the truck on the Thursday, and travelling on to the venue on the Friday morning, the day of the first of the three shows – Friday May 6, so out into Buckingham that night for a beer and a curry with Frenchie, Phil Brown, Marillion’s Tour Manager and Monitor Engineer.

Sometimes in this line of work, it only takes one phone call and an entire month of work is in the diary. Sometimes, though, it does happen the other way up too. Given that I’d just spent a small fortune on a guitar the day before, it was typical that I should get such an email that afternoon! Two DUFFY shows I had in the diary – St Petersburg in June and Monaco in August were off. Shame, I was quite looking forward to both of those, I’ve not been to either before! But that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Friday May 6 was the first of the three shows of the MARILLION weekend. The rig went fine, though the stage at the Assembly at Leamington isn’t huge (a fact made up for by the heavy machine gun on the stairs and the Dalek and Tammy Wynette’s trailer in the dressing rooms backstage…) so it was a little more cosy onstage than Montreal and Port Zéland. I look after Steve, H and Pete’s guitar and bass gear at Marillion, and Steve had suggested after Montreal that if Nial looked after guitars for H as well as his keyboard gear, it would reduce my workload. No problem here! Nial and I discussed it and we decided that we would try sharing it between us – I’d prep the guitars and he’d be responsible for delivering and receiving them back during the shows.

Practice really does make perfect, the more you do things the easier they get. Which is why rigging the show takes half the time at the end of a tour than it was at the start – because you’ve done it every night for a month. It’s why the show gets slicker and less likely to go wrong towards the end of the tour than at the beginning. It becomes routine. It’s also why it’s easy to make mistakes when you change that routine. Which is why Nial forgot the first guitar change for H… I thought that might happen, so I was ready. We’d changed the gig for Nial – we’d done this same show in Port Zéland and in Montreal on the Friday night – the Holidays in Eden album, but we’d changed the show for him. It would have caught me out too. He didn’t do it again!

It’s a very strange feeling not having to strip the gear off the stage and pack it into cases and then into a truck after a show, but having turned the gear off, we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs and wondering what to do. Until someone suggested beers. It would have been rude not to! Great to catch up with lots friends at the venue, and subsequently at a couple of bars in town too before heading back to the hotel with the rest of the crew.

The Saturday night – the A-Z of Marillion was a cracking show. Part of the job working as a band’s crew is knowing when things are going wrong, but the upside is you can tell when things are going well, and this was a great example of that. It was obvious by the third song – Cannibal Surf Babe – that we were in for a storming gig. They didn’t disappoint. Rothers was really on form for Sugar Mice! Once again, caught up with some friends after the gig during Lucy’s disco, and then back to the hotel for more drinks with the crew. Great too, to catch up with Dave Gregory again, who joined the band onstage for Senses Working Overtime as he had in Port Zéland for the X of the A-Z (X is for XTC song according to the setlist).

The Sunday night was the final show of the 2011 weekends. It had something of the feel of the last show of a tour – which I guess it was really. It went well – a couple of little errors from my point of view, but no real crises. Back to the usual routine tonight – show finishes, pack it down, case it all up and load it into the truck. It’s always a relatively slow load out from the Assembly in Leamington Spa. The auditorium is on the first floor, so the gear has to travel up and down in what is one of the smallest lifts I’ve come across in a venue (not the smallest which was a block and tackle arrangement with some large local guys on the other end of the rope), so it was off to the hotel for a couple of drinks with the guys and some friends who’d been helping us in Canada. And a couple more drinks. And a couple more drinks. The problem with hotel bars is that you have no real sense of what you’re spending when you put it on your room tab… as Mike Hunter will certainly agree!

One of the great things about doing gigs that locally is that it doesn’t take the truck days to get back before we could unload it, rebuild the studio and head home. Which was a good thing as I’d probably foolishly agreed to work on a conference in Manchester the following day! It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but when it came to it, I could have done without it! Luckily it was just the one day – and besides, I was dying to spend some time with my new guitar!

While I was in Leamington, various emails were flying around, as MORPHEUS RISING had been offered a slot at the Cambridge Rock Festival through the Classic Rock Society. I really didn’t want to have to turn that down! When we were in the Netherlands doing the Weekend in Port Zéland, we’d had word that Grae was leaving the band. Now, doing the UK weekend in Leamington Spa, it was beginning to look like we’d found our guy. Drummer Gibbo had had a Facebook friend request from Simon Wright and got in touch with him with a view to singing for MR at Cambridge at the very least. So by the Monday night after Leamington I was able to confirm with CRF that we would be able to play the Festival after all.

There was just time to see Si’s own band playing in York that weekend before I was off again – this time a conference job just outside Winchester for a week. MORPHEUS RISING had three remaining gigs before Grae left, one of which was at the army base at Blandford Forum. Luckily that wasn’t too far from where I was working, so I was able to do both, and was picked up by the guys from the hotel where the conference was taking place en route to the gig, and dropped off again on the way back up to York.

It was an interesting show this one, the set was cut short as the crowd got a bit rowdy. Four songs in, in fact. Bit disappointing, to be honest, but it was certainly the right decision, as someone was going to get hurt.

It’s a bit of a culture shock to go from strutting around on a stage to being the guy at the back of a conference looking after the PowerPoint, but it goes with the territory I guess!

MORPHEUS RISING’s next show was the FORCES FESTIVAL at Bulford – a show we’d played last year on May 29, and then back to York for Grae’s final show with the band at FIBBERS on the Bank Holiday Monday. This was a great show with a fantastic atmosphere. The support band, VELVET STAR did an excellent job of warming up an already partisan crowd. It was a great gig and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a shame to see Grae go, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for him and his family, a real no brainer really. I’d personally have been very uncomfortable had he decided to pass it up! I really do wish him and his family all the best for the future, and we’re really glad that he’s staying involved in the band but in an offstage role.

This weekend, we had the first rehearsal with the new line up including Si Wright on vocals. Si had emailed initially a couple of tracks of stuff he’d done, and then recorded vocals on a couple of MR songs old and new, and it was immediately apparent that he was exactly the guy we needed, and wasn’t just going to be helping out for that one show at Cambridge Rock Festival, but was joining the band full time. The start of a new era for MORPHEUS RISING, we had the first rehearsal yesterday with the new line up – and we had a fantastic afternoon. Working hard but it’s obvious that Si is going to fit in perfectly. He’s hired! It’s a very exciting time for me personally and for the band, as Si will push us to raise our game again. I can’t wait to put this on a stage again now! We’ve even put in a warm up show at FIBBERS in York before Cambridge.

So what’s next? A week or so off – hopefully I’ll get a chance to get some writing done – and then off to Oxford for the Christ Church College Ball, before the madness that is my itinerary for July. Six festival shows across Europe with LARRY GRAHAM AND GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION, MARILLION at the Herzberg Festival in Germany on 16th, then back for another Larry Graham show in France, then home and straight into rehearsals for the MORPHEUS RISING shows at York at the end of the month and Cambridge Rock Festival on August 5th.

So there’s still no rest for the wicked. Maybe I was Genghis Khan or someone in a previous life?!

Marillion Weekends 2011 part II – Canada

Right. Where was I up to? Oh yes, “Coming up, MORPHEUS RISING‘s first show of 2011; MARILLION in Montreal and Leamington, Russia with Duffy… No rest for the wicked!”

That last part has definitely been right. It’s now over a week into June, and I’ve been meaning to get this up to date for a month or so since the last blog post – Marillion Weekends part I… It’s been hectic. Still, busy is good.

The start of April saw the first MORPHEUS RISING show of 2011. This was a biker festival show for the Bottoms Up MCC near Boroughbridge not far from York. It was a relatively local gig for us, so not too far to travel. It had been a long break since the last gig in Hull last July anyway, as Grae is a soldier in his other life had been deployed out in Afghanistan for six months shortly afterwards. It felt fantastic to get out on the stage again rather than watch from the wings, even if a little odd for all of us as it was the first show since Grae announced he would be leaving.

A few days later and it was off to Montreal for the second of the three MARILLION weekends of 2011. Normally there’s gear to prepare and pack before travelling for shows, but on this occasion, it had already been shipped out days before we flew because of the distances involved, so Wednesday 6 April was just a travel day. York to London Heathrow, meet up with some of the gang – Jim and Moni, Sweagles, Rod, Phil, Stephanie, Nial… Heathrow to Montreal, airport to hotel, hotel to pub… the usual. Back to the Brutopia in Montreal, scene of one or two memorable moments two years ago – not least the then drum tech Andy Lycett on stage drumming on a small suitcase with a pair of empty Jack Daniels bottles. I think there’s a video on YouTube somewhere…

It was a good chance to relax ahead of the next few days work and a chance to meet up with the guys who would be looking after us for the weekend too – among them Andy, Annick and Richard who would become great friends.

Thursday was rig day. As ever, it’s a bit of a worrying moment turning up at the venue (L’Olympia, the same venue as two years back) to rig the show, not really knowing if you’ve still got everything. Imagine that moment at baggage reclaim when you begin to wonder if your luggage is actually at this airport or forlornly going round and round on a baggage carousel somewhere else, and multiply that by a factor of 10. Still, it was only a rig day that day so we had a good 24 hours should there be something missing. As it was, there was something missing. Somehow, Montreal Airport had managed to lose the drum mat – an eight foot square piece of relatively tired looking carpet which sits on top of the drum riser to help stop things moving around during the gig. Apparently it had arrived at Montreal, but nobody had seen it since, giving drum tech Marc a bit of a headache! But he got hold of a replacement carpet and the band soundchecked on the Thursday night as planned. Which meant we could get a lie in the following morning. We were still struggling a bit with the combination of the night before at Brutopia and the jet lag!

It had been a good day for the diary too, with an email about shows in July with LARRY GRAHAM AND GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION, and news about the dates in the Netherlands in November and the UK in December with MARILLION after the tour with Saga.

Friday’s show started with a bit of a fright from my point of view – Pete Trewavas and Robin Boult opened all three weekends, and Pete broke a string at the start of their set. It was something, stupidly, that I wasn’t ready for, so I had a bit of a panic getting Rothers’ Santa Fe to him while I restrung the Cort he was using. Apparently, Andy Wright got a photo of the moment the string broke, which I’m dying to see.

Next up was JOHN WESLEY‘s band, Wes and I had met a couple of years back, when we were last in Montreal in 2009. Great to see him again, and talk guitars and bands, and really good to see him with his band this time. Lovely guy and always a pleasure to have him in guitar world!

The three shows for these weekends are the same at each venue, so Friday night was the Holidays in Eden album. We had a couple of disappointing moments during MARILLION‘s set too, the first being one of the hired radios playing up on Rother’s guitar just at the big moment in The Party, and one effect unit which had crashed and spoilt the start of Invisible Man. In fact we had a few minor issues over the course of the weekend such as this – which I suspect was probably down to the UK gear not quite seeing the 240V which it’s designed for, as Canada is on 110V and has to be converted with transformers.

The best off script moment during the Friday night though was without doubt the ice machine in the kitchen behind the bar front of house catching fire. Lighting man Yenz tells me he looked over at one point early on in MARILLION‘s set and could see open flames being tackled by bar staff! I’d love to have been party to the phone call when someone had to explain to the Montreal Fire Service that their ice machine had caught fire…

As in Port Zéland, having no pack down to do once the show is over is an opportunity to join in the post show party, and we once again found ourselves at Brutopia with a little drink or two…

Jet lag hit me seriously on the Saturday morning – possibly not helped by the night before – and having had some breakfast at the hotel, I slept soundly in my room again until a precautionary alarm went off to get me to L’Olympia in time for soundcheck. Once soundcheck was done, I headed back to the hotel, and the same happened again. It was possibly a good thing, as the Saturday night was “War and Peace” as the band themselves put it. They’d decided on the second night to do the A-Z of Marillion. Inevitably this was a long set – around 3 hours, and involved some artistic licence and questionable spelling to complete the alphabet. I for Intermission for instance, and Z for Zeperated Out… In Port Zéland we’d got round X by doing “XTC song” – Senses Working Overtime with Dave Gregory of XTC, but Dave wasn’t in Montreal. The solution was simple… X for Extra Intermission!

This was also Mark Kelly’s birthday, and the crowd sang Happy Birthday for him. Post show, backstage, a few drinks had been arranged, and finding ourselves with no pack down to do, we joined in. It would have been rude not to. I knew it was going to hurt though… Arriving in the dressing rooms and greeted by Steve Rothery holding two large glasses of brightly coloured, iced liquid… “Hi Pete! Blue or green?”

And so to the final day of the Montreal weekend. As in the Netherlands, the Sunday was a long day – Swap The Band run through, followed by Swap the Band (which in Montreal featured Rick Armstrong, son of Neil, on guitar and Rick’s niece, Kayleigh on vocals). Then MARILLION‘s soundcheck, doors, support band, and MARILLION‘s final show, again with a choice of songs to be picked by the audience on the night… with the resulting challenge from my point of view of having a choice of guitars available and not really knowing what was going to happen next…

But the show went fine, no real problems, and we were soon packing down and loading up the truck to ship it all back home. Somehow it seemed to take much longer to get the guitar gear packed down than it had in the Netherlands a couple of weeks before. Possibly something to do with not having the same amount of space to work in as I’d had in Port Zéland. Unsurprisingly, we ended up downstairs backstage once it was done having a couple of drinks… before heading back to the hotel.

One of the highlights for me of the night was meeting Jaques Villeneuve. He’s a fan of the band, had been at the Sunday night show, and watched the final encore from guitar world. I’ve seen him race on a couple of occasions, but somehow it was more cool to have met him in my office rather than his! Struck me as a genuinely nice bloke. Always good to meet a personal hero and not be disappointed!

The following day we had the day to kill before the flight, so a bit of exploring in Montreal – Steve’s Music with Nial and Marc, and later coffees and some new jeans in a re-enactment of two years ago (taking advantage of prices this side of the pond) before checking out and heading back to blighty. Just as a couple of years back, the flight included a party of over excited school kids on a trip to London. I could understand their excitement, but the last straw was their staff, 40 minutes from the end of an overnight flight, explaining in full classroom style to everyone in that section of the cabin (including many who were not part of their party) how to fill in a landing card. I know that it is a requirement of my country that these cards are completed, but how to fill in your name, address, DOB, passport number etc is surely self explanatory, and even if it isn’t, that is not the best time to do it! Very poor forward planning, Ms Canadian Schoolmistress, but thank you for waking me.

Back home to York that day, and then back to Racket to meet the gear and rebuild the studio a couple of days later. I was glad of the break between times, but it took a while to get over the jet lag!

Sadly, at the beginning of the following week some really sad news began to filter back to us from Canada. One of the guys who had looked after us so wonderfully while we were there, ferried us from airport to hotel and back, joined us at Brutopia and had made sure we had everything we needed, had died. Richard Bruce was a lovely guy who I’d met when we arrived in Canada this year and who had become a great friend had had a heart attack and died just about a week later. A lovely, gentle, caring man, and a great loss. It was an honour to have met him, and to call him my friend.

I had a couple of weeks off now, which was a good thing as the jet lag really did take a while to get past this time. I don’t remember it being quite as bad in 2009. But before I knew it, I was off again, this time to Oxford to rig the Exeter College Ball. Four days rigging and then derigging lighting, stages and small PAs in marquees in a relatively small college. Good fun, but long days and not much sleep, that’s the way it is on these jobs. This one, though was good as it was a good crew who got on really well. It makes all the difference, and makes it all seem so much easier. It’s not all glitz and glamour in my office you know, there’s some pretty hard work goes on too. Honest.

And then it was May! Coming up in part III, MARILLION Weekend 3 – the UK, festival shows and a new singer for MORPHEUS RISING, Russia with Duffy… Busy busy!

Marillion Weekends 2011 part 1 – The Netherlands

April 18, 2011 2 comments

The View From My Office, Port Zeland, NL

So this guy visits his doctor and the doc says “We’ve not seen you for a while!” And the guy says “No, I’ve been well, thanks, doc!” It’s a bit like this with this blog…

Since my last update after the DEEP PURPLE outing in November, “I’ve been busy, thanks, doc.”

Those of you who know Colin Price will probably know that he’s working for IRON MAIDEN these days. Colin and I worked together on the second half of MARILLION‘s Less is More tour and became great friends, and he asked if I’d be prepared to look after some of his other clients while he was on the road with Maiden. So in January I found myself in Munich for two shows looking after guitars and bass for DUFFY‘s band.

I’d been down to a day’s rehearsal a few days beforehand, and Colin had labelled everything and left me wiring maps and so on for all three rigs. Well, I use the word “rig”, but it hardly seems appropriate in this case – I’m used to Steve Rothery and Bill Nelson’s rigs, neither of which could be accurately described as simple. Duffy’s guitarists, Sam and Mike, are using a single Fender Combo each and relatively simple effects, and Ben’s bass rig is an Ampeg cab, TC Electronic amp and tuner pedal. Marillion’s rig, this is not.

First shows with a new band are Always a fairly daunting experience. As is almost always the case with these things, I’m in a city hundreds of miles from the safety of home, working for and with people I have only just met, and looking after a show which I really don’t know.

But it all went fine, thanks to a combination of Colin’s labelling and notes, my having packed the gear and a little luck. The biggest problem we had was really dirty mains supply which caused a horrible mains noise on one (though strangely not the other) of the otherwise identical Fender Vibrolux combos, which was largely dealt with using a Mike Hill BIS box, though it needed resetting after a particularly big mains pop. In fact one of the guys said afterwards that they hadn’t noticed that Colin wasn’t there, which I took as a compliment.

The first was a Corporate party in a museum and things were set up much as they had been rehearsing, so that was relatively straightforward. But the following night was a bit more challenging – though less so for me than for others. We had to rearrange the stage as there was to be a string section, which meant that Sam, Mike and Ben weren’t together as they had been the night before, plus my sight lines were blocked by the keyboard gear so I couldn’t see them as well as I’d have liked during the show. That said, there were bigger problems for Jamie, the FOH sound guy, during the day so my day was comparatively stress free!

Barcelona was next at the start of February, again with DUFFY, and again at a museum, this time the Museu d’Art de Catalunya as part of the annual mobile phone congress. Again everything went according to plan, although it was a long day as we had a noise curfew during the day as the museum was open to the public!

We finally were able to start rehearsals with MORPHEUS RISING in February, as singer Grae had returned from his 6 month deployment with his “proper job” in Afghanistan, thankfully without any extra holes in him! Unfortunately, that’s been the only rehearsal so far as it’s proving more than usually difficult to get everyone together at the same time just at the moment. Obviously I’m away from home much of the time, as is Grae, and Andy Smith has bass playing duties with MOSTLY AUTUMN too. But it felt really good to dust off the amps and fire them up again after what is getting on for 9 months lay off since the last show. Has it REALLY been that long? Blimey!

Before I knew it it’s March and after working on couple of corporate events in the UK during the first half of the month I’m off on my travels again. This time to the Netherlands with MARILLION.

This was the first of three (this year) Convention Weekends – three different shows over three nights at Centre Parcs in Port Zéland. It’s a purpose built stage, PA and lighting rig in a purpose built marquee, which means it’s great as there are no space issues, and guitar world stage left at these shows becomes more like a guitar universe, with space for guitar racks and a workbench and room for cases and so on.

We flew out on the Wednesday, rigged the gear on the Thursday to be ready for the shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From a crew point of view, it’s unusual to do three shows in the same venue but the good part is, rig it once on Thursday, and that’s it, strip it out again on Sunday night after the last show, not after each one. Which does mean that a certain level of partying is involved. It’s a chance to catch up with good friends from all over Europe and elsewhere and meet new ones. Besides, it would be rude not to. I somehow managed to pick up a black eye on the Saturday night, and still have no idea how that happened. I suspect I was tackled by a piece of errant furniture on my way to bed after returning to my chalet! Personally I blame Edgel from SUN DOMINGO for buying me Whisky shots earlier in the evening.

These conventions happen every two years, and as this was the second time I’ve done them, I had a better idea of what to expect than last time, and it all ran a little more smoothly from my point of view than last time. One or two little hitches in the wings, but nothing show stopping. The most noticeable was probably when the radio popped out of H’s cricket bat, meaning we had to run a cable out to it, which then proved to be only just long enough and we had to start moving the rack containing the gear it was controlling a couple of feet closer to the stage. If you don’t know Marillion, that will probably make no sense at all.

The band had decided this year to give the audience a choice of two songs on occasions during Sunday’s show, which did present an interesting challenge from my point of view as we potentially had one guitar coming offstage, but one of two others ready to go on prepped and ready with radios, tuned for whichever song and capo if necessary. If I add in that this run of conventions involves a total of 17 guitars and basses, you can possibly begin to understand the predicament!

But it all came together in the end and from what I could see from my office stage left, there seemed to be a lot of happy faces in the crowd. There was one magical moment when the big confetti cannons had been fired, and the last piece of gold confetti floated down right in front of H. He was able to reach out and let it flutter down into his hands. You can’t write that stuff, and I really hope the film crew caught that!

So, final show on Sunday night, strip the gear out, load the truck. It always surprises me how quickly that happens after a job like this, but we were soon back out in the bars and joining in the party.

It was also great to catch up with some old friends who were playing as part of the weekend – SUN DOMINGO had supported Marillion in Canada two years back, Pete Trewavas performed with Robin Boult again this year, great to see Robin again, and it was great to meet Dave Gregory (ex XTC) and now a part of TIN SPIRITS with Dan Steinhardt.

While I was in the Netherlands, I’d had an unexpected email from the singer in my own band, MORPHEUS RISING. Grae is a serving soldier, and had been offered an incredible posting, a once in a lifetime opportunity for himself and his family. This being a military job, they needed an answer straight away. Very unfortunate timing, as I was in Port Zéland, Gibbo was in Cape Town on holiday and both of us would be away longer than the time that was available for Grae to make his decision. Sadly for the band, he has decided to take the opportunity to move to Nairobi and would therefore not be able to continue as the singer. There’s more on his decision on his blog, Songs from a Distant Theatre,

I shall be sad to see him go, as he’s been involved from the very beginning of the band, involved in the writing of all the current material, and behind the scenes in the less visible admin and back office stuff that every band has to deal with. The good news is that he’s not leaving us altogether, but will continue with much of the behind the scenes stuff online that isn’t really affected by his physical location – the website and communications. I fully understand his decision to step down as singer, turning down an opportunity such as this would have been frankly stupid. And I would not have been comfortable with the band being the reason for such a decision. We have all become great friends over the last few years and we’ll miss him and wish him all the very best in everything he does.

MORPHEUS RISING will continue, with a revised line up, as soon as possible – but in the meantime, there are still some gigs coming up. We will be playing a private show in Blandford in Mid May, but the final shows will be the FORCES FESTIVAL in Bulford on May 29 and York FIBBERS on May 30th. I’m looking forward to those shows, and it would be great to see as many of you at these gigs as possible to give Grae a great send off.

Coming up, the MORPHEUS RISING‘s first show of 2011; MARILLION in Montreal and Leamington; Russia with Duffy… No rest for the wicked!

Deep Purple + Marillion, Germany November 2010

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Tempus fugit… No argument here! The tour with Marillion supporting Deep Purple in Germany is already “last year”! In fact, it’s two months since I got home and I’ve only just got round to updating the blog. It certainly doesn’t feel like that long ago!

The first show was a warm up gig in Haarlem in the Netherlands, at Het Patronaat on 12 November to help iron out any kinks in the set or problems with the gear before we joined the Deep Purple tour. In the end, after the inevitable stressful first day of the tour, the only hold up in the show was when a fan proposed to his girlfriend from the stage (she said yes).

One of the worries we had as we set off was that we would have very limited time (by comparison with what we are used to) to rig and more particularly de-rig the gear once we joined DP. We’d have access to the stage between 1500 and 1700 to rig and soundcheck. Don Airey has the stage between 1700 and 1800 so we would have to have the soundcheck done by then. After Marillion’s show we’d only have 15 minutes to clear the stage for DP, to give their crew time to get their gear ready for their show. So Haarlem was something of a dry run and personally I was much more confident that we could get it done in the time available once we’d actually tried it.

Things turned out not to be as tight as we’d thought for the rig once we’d joined Purple in Trier for the first show the next day. Our gear came in from the truck about midday, while Purple’s backline was being built, and we pre-rigged as much as possible to minimize the amount of work still to be done by the time we had access to the stage. For me that was plugging up the rigs as far as possible, getting guitars out of cases and into the rack, getting pedal boards ready and so on.

Purple had already been out for a couple of weeks by the time we joined the tour so they were well settled into the daily routine. The band themselves don’t generally soundcheck after the first few shows – a simple line check from the techs is sufficient, so we benefitted from the extra time and were able to get access to the stage to build Marillion’s gear from about 1400 most days.

Once we were rigged and soundchecked, Marc and Nial (Ian Mosley and H’s techs) and I were finishing up and prepping for the show itself when Don Airey arrived to check his gear. Straight away, he came over to us, introduced himself and welcomed us to the Deep Purple tour.

During the show, Rothers broke a string on the black strat, so I swapped him over to the spare, and set about the first string change proper of the tour. The Kahler bridge is fiddly to restring in a hurry, as the string’s ball end tends to pop back out of the bridge as you work at the other end of the guitar. On this occasion though, Steve Morse’s Guitar Tech, Tommy was just there at the time, and knowing that bridge, helpfully applied his finger to the string to keep it in place.

Once Marillion’s set was finished, and our first high speed load out was done, Rod (Marillion Front of House Sound Engineer) and I went and stood just offstage behind Purple’s monitor world to watch some of Purple’s show. We were soon spotted and waved through by Rob – Purple’s monitor man, and watched the end of Purple’s set and the encores from Monitor / Guitar world (which for Purple are both Stage Left) – Smoke on the Water, Hush, Black Night…

All these were very typical of the way we (Marillion band and crew) were treated for the duration of the tour. Deep Purple and their crew were exceptionally friendly and welcoming, and we made some great new friends over the course of the next three weeks. We were all given a Zippo lighter engraved with the names of both bands as a souvenir from the promoter. Things definitely boded well for the tour!

Better yet, this tour was fully catered! Luxury! Three excellent hot meals a day from the lovely people at Gigabite. I’ve not been so well fed for years!

Another good show the next night at Freiburg Rothaus Arena saw Yenz Nyholm joining us to do lights, and it was good to catch hook up with Andy Rotherham there too who was there with friends. The following day was a day off in Mannheim, and that night I found myself out for a meal with Rod, Yenz, Marc, Nial and H and  realized I was already beginning to enjoy the tour. Much as I do enjoy what I do, it does usually take longer than 3 shows to get settled into a tour and begin to enjoy it at the time!

Mannheim SAP Arena followed the next night before another day off, this time in Memmingen, and then on to another run of three shows, Memmingen Eissporthalle, Munich Olympiahalle and Nurnberg Arena.

Mannheim was notable for me because I had the chance to meet Ian Paice, and for managing to make a rookie’s mistake by catching the cable plugged into the acoustic guitar under my foot as I handed it to H in Invisible Man and unplugging it. Luckily I spotted it as it happened and was able to plug it back in straight away it so it wasn’t a problem. Historically I’ve always taped that to avoid that, don’t really know why I didn’t. It was taped from then on!

Memmingen Eisporthalle… well, the clue’s in the name. It was freezing! It’s also the only time I’ve known H to break a string! Bizarrely I’d asked him that night if he wanted to restring the “bog seat” (as his pink Italia is affectionately known) and we’d decided not to bother. It was restrung the next day.

In Munich, Ian Paice and Roger Glover joined Don Airey for a jam after Marillion’s soundcheck, and I had the opportunity to meet Roger Glover – who introduced himself to me with “Hi, I’m Roger”. Yup, I know exactly who you are, I’m Pete. We chatted very briefly – I was particularly pleased to meet him, he’s been one of my Gods for as long as I can remember! Even better that he should describe Marillion to me as “what a great band”. Two other things of note from Munich; we had a sudden loss of output from Rothers’ Jack Dent signature guitar, which we subsequently traced to a dead or dying battery, and had to swap to the Blade for the solo in Neverland; and Munich’s load out was the record for the tour. From the finish of Marillion’s show to closing the truck doors was just 45 minutes.

By the time we’d played Nurnberg and were heading to the next day off in Berlin, we were already half way through the tour. I couldn’t believe how fast it was going! Yenz has a mate who was out with Bullet For My Valentine who happened to be playing in Berlin that night, so Rod, Nial, Marc, Yenz and myself went out that night to see them. It felt quite odd to be in the audience at a show!

Berlin Max Schmelling Halle the next day was the first of a run of three shows, followed by Rostock Stadthalle and Braunschweig Volkswagenhalle and a day off in Oldenburg. The Berlin show was the only time on the tour where there was a third act on the bill, which inevitably presents its own particular hassles with more people and more gear on stage when space is already limited. Don Airey told me during the day that the German press were giving the Marillion / Deep Purple shows very good reviews, which is always good to know. We had a near miss with Rothers’s Jack Dent signature guitar too, when the strap came off – which really shouldn’t be possible with straplocks, but it happened. Luckily, he caught it and I’d seen it happen, so it was quickly rectified. I still don’t quite know how that happened, and it’s not happened again since.

Jim Sanders came to Rostock, it was great to see him. Jim can more usually be found on the merch desk at Marillion shows, but we weren’t carrying merch on this tour so Jim wasn’t with us. Good to have a chance to catch up backstage after the show.

Following the Braunschweig show, we headed off to Oldenburg for the next day off. I went hunting for toys and found a great music shop. I was really keen on the TC Electronic Polytune tuners that Steve Morse was using and that his tech, Tommy had shown me. The Polytune allows you to see at one strum what strings are in tune and more to the point what’s not and I wanted one for my own live rig as well as my touring kit. The guy in the shop was brilliant – the conversation went something like “Hi, do you speak English?” “Oh yes!” “Do you have the TC Electronic Polytune tuner?” “Yes we do.” “Great. Do you have two?” “No, we have eighteen.” “Just two please…”

The Oldenburg day off also happened to be Rothers’ birthday, and the whole band and crew headed out to have a small sherry or two to celebrate. We were joined by Tommy, Mickey Lee (Roger Glover’s bass tech) and Props (Ian Paice’s drum tech) among others. An excellent night.

Again, the Oldenburg show the following day at the Weser Ems Halle was the first of a batch of three shows, going on to Hamburg Sporthalle and Essen Grughalle. Morpheus Rising drummer, Gibbo came out to see the show in Hamburg and meet the band again. It was great to see him and he chose well, it was a great show. The weather was beginning to get particularly cold, and it was starting to affect guitar necks, so Rothers decided to switch a couple of guitars on certain songs.

Essen was a bit of a rushed day. For some reason or other, the points in the roof from which the lighting truss and PA hangs were flown every day had gone in about an hour late, which had a knock on effect on the rest of the day. Added to which it was a Sunday so the show was an hour earlier than usual at 1900. Added to all that, our keyboard tech had left to join the Human League tour and Nial had taken over looking after keys for the last couple of shows. So it was a little fraught, but we got it done with tempers intact. We also had a horrible load out too that night, which involved packing the gear down outside in the cold. At least it wasn’t snowing. And off we headed to Stuttgart for a day off before the final show of the tour.

Stuttgart was a great place to have a day off, with a very large and picturesque Christmas Market. Rod, Marc, Nial and I headed into town to explore, and ran into Rothers, Pete and H. Beautiful surroundings, great company and plenty of Gluwein.

The final show of the tour was Stuttgart Schleyerhalle. It was a great show to end the tour, and the band were well on form that night. Rod, Yenz and I headed out front and watched the second half of the Deep Purple show from the seating stage right, and both bands and crews had a few drinks backstage after their show. I met Steve Morse that night, but sadly Ian Gillan wasn’t there, so I didn’t actually meet him on the tour. A great night. It certainly didn’t feel like three weeks on the road!

The UK was in the grip of freezing weather when we got back the following morning, and it was bitterly cold unloading the truck and rebuilding the gear at the studio the next day before heading home.

All told, it was a brilliant experience, which came to an end all too soon. Personally, if the last show had been half way and we had it all to do again, I would have been very happy to continue, and I wasn’t the only one. Putting two bands and crews together doesn’t always work so seamlessly, but on this occasion it most certainly did. It’s been some time since Marillion has supported another band on the road, but although sometimes the “special guests” moniker can translate more as “another bloody support band”, we – band and crew – were treated as well as we could possibly have hoped, better in fact.

I felt before we set off that this tour had the potential to be a very difficult few weeks, or to be great. Happily for all concerned, it was brilliant, and I’d do it all again with no hesitation. I was just sorry it had to end.

Next on the horizon with Marillion are the Conventions – three this year, as along with the usual weekends at Port Zeland in the Netherlands and Montreal in Canada, there’s an extra UK convention in Leamington Spa. I’ve a couple of shows coming up this month with Duffy. I’m standing in as dep guitar tech while Colin is busy with Iron Maiden. Rehearsals will begin soon for more Morpheus Rising shows, Grae is back from his six month tour in the sandpit later any moment and this year’s tour is beginning to take shape.

More pictures on facebook!

Marillion, Night of the Prog V, Loreley Germany 4 September 2010

September 7, 2010 1 comment

I was undoubtedly a bit distracted as I set off for Racket to pack down and load the truck this time. Suffice to say the previous week had been one of emotional extremes – bad and good, so the prospect of being busy and having less time to dwell on things best left undwelt upon was definitely welcome.

This outing to Loreley in Germany for the Night of the Prog V with Marillion was always going to be a little bit different from a technical point of view as our regular front of house sound man, Rod Brunton, was otherwise engaged as best man at a wedding. So on this gig, monitors would be handled by Stuart Every, while Phil Brown, who normally does monitors would be handling sound out front. Stuart worked as keyboard tech and front of house noise boy for Marillion in the past as well as studio manager at Racket. It’s the first time I’ve met Stuart as he’d moved on before I joined. We had a chance for a few drinks on the Thursday night having packed the truck and it turns out that we have also both worked for ARB in Buckingham! Small world.

The flights on the friday (3rd September) were at a sensible time, so there was no need for a silly o’clock start on the day, and we arrived at Frankfurt in the early evening. Loreley, however is some 100km from Frankfurt, so there was still an hour and a half in minibuses before we got to the hotel. That said, despite a little drizzle, the encroaching night, and some pretty hair raising driving, we got a taste of the incredible scenery we were in for over the weekend.

Jim Sanders was joining us on this show to run the merch. It’s been a while since I saw him so it was good to catch up in the bar that night. He would be heading back to the UK with us after the show as Jim is the guitarist in “the world’s smallest prog band”, Tinyfish and they are launching their new album The Big Red Spark in London on Friday 10th September.

My room was on the 10th floor, and come Saturday morning, the weather was cold and foggy – not boding well for the show – I couldn’t see anything from my hotel balcony, just thick grey fog. We had an early start that morning too, to get our soundcheck done before the festival opened to the public at 12.00. I’d not slept well the night before the show – partly as I knew I was distracted and therefore possibly less vigilant than usual when I packed the gear into flightcases – and was quite apprehensive as we headed off to the gig from the hotel – a good 30 minute drive alongside the Rhein at the bottom of the valley. Again, the scenery was pretty much lost to us as it was still very foggy.

The load in and soundcheck went ok in the end, and I hadn’t managed to forget anything. The only major snags were that the local crew clearly hadn’t been told that they were starting at 0730 and not 1000 until last thing the night before and weren’t particularly happy about it; and risers for drums and keyboards which clearly weren’t big enough and we had to insist they be extended. I had one or two minor glitches before the soundcheck began. Pete’s bass rig misbehaved again as it had at High Voltage a couple of gigs ago, which I now suspect was the socket on the pedal rather than the power supply and fixed with a small piece of gaffa; and H’s guitar did the same thing as it did at the last minute during the line check before the band went on in Poland which was why he was on a cable there. This time, unlike Poland, I had the time to trace the problem and found a faulty cable.

After the soundcheck we had a chance to visit catering and have a bit of a look around. By now, the weather had changed. We’d arrived in sweatshirts and jackets but by now, we were just in T shirts. Bright sunshine and clear blue skies – sunny and hot – a complete contrast from the morning. The festival site is in the hills overlooking the town of Loreley in the Rhein valley. The scenery is absolutely stunning. Marc (drum tech), Yenz (lights) and I went and enjoyed the incredible view after we’d had a bite to eat before heading back to the hotel. This time, we did get to see the scenery as we hurtled along the edge of the river Rhein on the way.

I took the opportunity to try to catch up on some sleep during the afternoon before heading back to the festival site for a second visit to catering and to get ready for the changeover while Gazpacho were onstage. We had originally expected a 30 minute changeover but the times seemed to have changed and we started a bit early giving us nearer to 45 minutes, which took the pressure off a bit. Line check went fine, and we got everything taped down without having to rush too much, and we were off.

It was just getting dark as the band took to the stage, and it was beginning to cool off. No major dramas during the main set, except that Pete was having trouble with his monitoring. Marillion use radio systems and in ear monitors and on this occasion, his pack seemed to be playing up. He got me to move all his pedals as he’d found that his reception was a bit better there and Stuart changed the receiver over and he seemed to be much happier. I mouthed “OK?” at him next time he came over to Rothers’ side of the stage and he smiled and nodded.

There was also a certain amount of running around for the crew during the show. As Phil is usually running the monitors, he and the band have a fairly well established communication about what they want, and Phil also has a fairly well honed sense of what they each need. As Phil was at front of house doing the out front sound, Marc, Hem and I spent a fair proportion of the first few songs relaying verbal messages to Stuart at the monitor desk, simply as he’s not used to them and they’re not used to him.

Come the encores was when the fun started. First of all they were going to do an acoustic version of Don’t Hurt Yourself with Pete on acoustic guitar and Rothers on bass, which required a certain amount of rejigging from my point of view, both before and afterwards. Next was This Town / 100 Nights, and Rothers broke a string in the solo. It was a pretty quick change to the spare I had ready, but even so the moment was already gone which was disappointing. It was too close to the end of the song to get the black Strat restrung before it was needed in Easter despite the fact that it starts on the 12 string acoustic. So he had to finished the set on the spare Blade, with the black Strat ready as soon as possible in case he broke another string (it’s happened before).

As soon as the band were finished, we got the stage cleared for The Enid. The upside of not being the last band (despite being the headline act!?) was that the local crew weren’t starting to derig the PA and lighting yet and wanting to get home, but the downside was that the packdown was in almost total darkness – especially when we’ve spent the last couple of hours watching our guys in the bright lights of the stage. As is usually the case before leaving the venue when the gear is all back in the truck, we raided the dressing room, and headed back to the hotel several beers each and a half a bottle of Tequila to the good. Time for a drink or two in the hotel bar with the crew, H, Mark, Ian, Rich and some of the guys from the other bands and their crews who’d played that day.

We flew back to the UK the next day – another long drive to get to Frankfurt airport and the quick flight to Heathrow – hardly long enough for a whole album on the iPod. Marc and I almost didn’t make the flight before the gate closed after a security alert in Duty Free and I forgot that at Frankfurt they have the security checks  at the gates rather than one big one for the whole of departures. We made it just in time.

Yesterday we rebuilt the gear at Racket again and pack the flightcases away till they’re needed to go back to Germany again, this time supporting Deep Purple in November, and then home. Luckily not via London, as there was a 24 hour tube strike which started at pretty much the time I was leaving Racket.

Overall then, a good weekend. Definitely did me good to get some perspective on the personal stuff that’s been going on!

Next up:
Marillion supporting Deep Purple in Germany in November.
Awards dinners and conference AV work in the meantime.

Current listening:
Iron Maiden – the final Frontier
Black Label Society – Order of the Black
Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

The week before heading off for Loreley was an emotional one for me after a couple of life’s unexpected curve-balls, both in one week.

Suffice it to say the prospect of being busy and having less time to think was definitely welcome. But I am currently a bit distracted as a result.

Head down to Marillion, pack down and load truck thurs. Fly out Fri, gig day sat. Different engineers – Stuart Every on mons and Phil at FoH. Rod best man at wedding.

Very foggy on show day morning, couldn’t see the ground from hotel room on 10th floor.

Slept badly night before show. Very apprehensive, partly because I’m tired and partly as I was possibly less vigilant when we packed down than usual but rig went ok. Didn’t seem to have forgotten anything.

Back to hotel after lunch at catering. The festival site location at Loreley is in the hills overlooking the Rhine valley, and is absolutely stunning. Although the driving itself was a bit unnerving, the scenery along the valley on the drive is incredible.

Got some sleep and then back to the festival site. Little more food then tune and prep and before I knew it, it was time to changeover after Gazpacho. Line check went well, we even managed to tape cables down to concrete stage. Weather had been gorgeous all day but it was cooling off as the show began.

Lots of running around as Stuart’s doing monitors. Had to move Pete’s pedals for him as he was having trouble with his radio and the reception seemed better there.

The two things I was really concerned about were fine… H’s guitar misbehaved in soundcheck, same problem as in Poland where I put him on a cable. Swapped a cable between radio receiver and his pedal. Pete’s bass rig, again a recurring problem as at High Voltage which reappeared at soundcheck, suspect a power socket problem now rather than power supply on pedals. Fixed with gaffa tape.

Don’t Hurt Yourself with Rothers on bass and Pete on acoustic guitar, repatching for that as first encore. This Town Rothers breaks a string, switch to spare but as Easter is next no time to restring black strat before that’s needed, but was done before end of song just in case.

Pack down in dark (almost total) while The Enid are on. Back to hotel after raiding several beers and half a bottle of Tequila left over in the dressing room with some of the crew. Beers in hotel bar with crew, H, Mark and Ian.

Fly back next afternoon – nothing too uncivilised. Overnight in Buckingham (slept well – needed it).

Rebuild at Racket and pack away cases. Some stuff out of racks for Rothers to use for writing. Then home. Luckily, not via London ad the tube strikes started on the Monday.

Overall, a good weekend. Definitely did me good to get some perspective on the personal stuff that’s been going on!

Next up:
Marillion supporting Deep Purple in Germany in November.
Awards dinners and conference AV work in the meantime.

Current listening:
Iron Maiden – the final Frontier
Black Label Society – Order of the Black
Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

Marillion Legends of Rock Festival Słupsk (ish) Poland

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks on from High Voltage in London, it was time to head to Poland for the Legends of Rock Festival with Marillion. The last time we were in Poland was Gdansk was the third of three Polish shows as part of the Happiness is the Road tour last year. The word that best describes that particular day was “freezing” and gig was in an apparently abandoned submarine factory in the shipyards and it was February, I can honestly say I have never been so cold in my entire life!

Even though Scott of the Artic had left with the truck two full days before we flew out, we still felt like he had the better deal by the time we finally got to the hotel… There’s a limited choice of airlines offering direct flights to Gdansk from the UK and none that don’t depart at silly o’clock AM, so we’d flown from Heathrow to Munich, and then Munich to Gdansk. Despite some concerns, the flight connection worked out – and we still had all the luggage by the time we were picked up at Gdansk’s Lech Walesa airport. But as a touring party of 12, there was a certain level of discontent about being met by one car and one 8 seater minibus for a 110km drive through rush hour on a Friday to the hotel, which was the far side of Słupsk.

On a brighter note, the weather couldn’t have been more different from that last experience of Gdansk… it was 30 degrees plus, and very humid – which was to present problems on gig day.

Once we did arrive at the hotel, it was time to dump our bags, quick freshen up and find food and more importantly beer. The really good news of the day (other than the forecast thunderstorms hadn’t yet materialised) was that food and drink was to be put on the room tab… and would be picked up by the festival. It’s a hard life. A lesser highlight was the delicious mis-translation on restaurant menu, “Beef Collapse”.

By the end of the night, Ian’s drum tech, Marcus and I found ourselves at the bar possibly a little worse for wear, hanging out with Arthur Brown and his band and crew who had played that night, and the local backline crew, one of whom had been at the freezing Marillion show in Gdansk show last year. Arthur Brown said he’d been hoping to stay to see Marillion but had to fly out early next morning for another show elsewhere. The headline that night had been Eric Burdon & The Animals who we’d heard from the restaurant on an island in the middle of the lake earlier on.

The Dolina Charlotty hotel, where the Legends of Rock Festival is held is absolutely stunning. Set in acres and acres of thick woodland, overlooking its own lake and the landscape itself provides the amphitheater for the festival. But look a little deeper and there are a few problems – not the least of which was a brick-cobbled pavement outside the building along which the linen trolleys are wheeled early in the morning, thus waking up guests who may possibly have drunk one too many lemonades the night before. And no air con, so windows were wide open in an attempt to cool the room to sleep it off… Not the best start to show day!

Gig day itself was bright and sunny, humid and hot, which as I mentioned before presented it’s own problem: gaffa just wouldn’t stick to anything. Not too much of a problem at this point, but the band and particularly H is pretty mobile during the show so it was a worry for later on as there’s quite a bit of cabling which needs securing. From my point of view, the rig was without any major problems, and all three rigs fired up as expected. No repeat of the problem we’d had with Pete’s bass rig at High Voltage. The biggest worry at this point was the keyboard rig, with a broken jack socket causing problems on the output for Pete’s bass pedals.

Mark’s keyboard tech was not with us in Poland, having pulled out at the last minute for a gig with The Human League, so Mark was rigging his own gear on this one, with help from Niall who was standing in at short notice. Anyone who follows Mark on Twitter (@markke11y) will probably have seen his post of the offending rack unit in bits with about 10 minutes to soundcheck… “Ever wish you’d never started something”, as he swapped out the broken socket for one he wouldn’t need on the gig.

Come soundcheck it was all working again, and once the usual array of things arriving at the wrong channel on the desk was sorted out, everything seemed to be behaving apart from the radio on H’s cricket bat, which Niall switched to a cable rather than the usual radio pack. It’s usually a little temperamental but the radio just wasn’t playing, though it seemed happy on a cable. From my point of view, all three rigs and guitar radios were behaving, and the band seemed happy by the time we were clearing the stage for Dave Kelly and the British Blues Quartet and Maggie Bell. I had a chance for a quick chat with Zoot Money as we were leaving the stage, I was sure we’d met before probably on one of the various German festivals I’d done when I worked for The Hollies. Soundcheck done, back to the hotel in a vain attempt to get out of the heat… except there’s no air con.

As is always the case with these shows, the changeover between bands is always organised chaos when there’s no rolling risers or big local crew as we’d had at High Voltage.The routine here is put everything that was moved post soundcheck back in place, a quick line check to ensure it’s all working again and off they go. On this occasion, though something weird was going on with H’s guitar rig. It really wasn’t sounding happy at all, and in the end I took the decision to put him on a cable rather than a radio pack. I suspect it was probably a frequency problem – there were lots of security guys onsite now who hadn’t been there at the soundcheck and I really didn’t have time to find a clear frequency. Pity, but that’s what the line check’s for. Would have been a bigger problem to discover halfway through King that the rig wasn’t working.

It wasn’t my turn to have the technical challenges on this occasion. There were problems with one of the drum mikes, and with H’s cricket bat just wasn’t working at all now. Niall was clearly gutted, and I really felt for him – I know how that feels! H played the parts on the keyboard instead so it wasn’t a complete disaster. Without the hihat mike it was a bit of a tricky one for the band and Pete in particular I gather, but from what Rod and Yenz said afterwards, it didn’t show out front, and the crowd clearly enjoyed themselves. Rothers was definitely on form from where I was!

Once packed down, Marcus, Niall, Rod and I headed for the bar for a quick snifter before going to bed, and hooked up with Ian, Frenchie and Phil there. It got a bit silly (pictures on FB soon), possibly something to do with quantities of Long Island Iced Teas and Bloody Marys. A great night! I left about 0330, but Marcus tells me they left the bar about an hour after me. For once I was sensible and decided to get some sleep before leaving the hotel at 08:30 the next morning.

The return journey wasn’t quite as bad, Frenchie had organised two minibusses for the drive Gdansk. Flights from Gdansk to Munich, then Munich to Heathrow, and finally the drive from Heathrow to Racket. Two days to kill waiting for Scott of the Artic to get back with the truck were rather better this time as this hotel has wifi throughout (and free!!) and freeview LCD TVs in the rooms… as opposed to no wifi and 6 channels (but no channel 5) on a tiny CRT TV. Bizarrely it was cheaper too.

And so finally I’m up to date in terms of blog… Today I’m on the train heading home (having been away 8 days for one show!) having rebuilt the band’s gear in the studio. We’ve just passed through Derby so I’ll be home in a couple of hours. Looking forward to catching up with mates at the weekend…

Morpheus Rising news update: Grae shipped out to Afghanistan with his day job about two weeks ago now. Our man in the sandpit reports that the creative juices are flowing there, albeit slowly, despite or possibly because of the meds he’s on for a glandular infection!

Next up: Marillion at Loreley Festival, Germany, September 4

Current listening
Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare
Porcupine Tree – Nil Recurring

Morpheus Rising, Marillion, Transatlantic… No rest for the wicked!

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

June felt like a very quiet month for us at Morpheus Rising Towers, after the tour with The Reasoning and the festivals in April and May, suddenly finding ourselves with several weeks before the next gig was a bit of a shock. We had one date in the books which originally was due to be part of the Lord of the North Tour – in fact the original date for Sharkeys in Hull was on the tour shirt, but the date was rescheduled at the last minute for July 7th, after the merch was printed.

Sometimes gigs are like busses… As we were gearing up for the mid week rescheduled Hull show, we were asked to play this year’s Staxtonbury Festival that weekend. After a rapid ring round we were able to confirm and found ourselves onstage there almost before we had time to think about it. It was a great day out with great people, and we thoroughly enjoyed the show. We had a bit of a technical problem with Daymo’s gear – but got it sorted. Festival shows are always fraught when there’s no soundcheck before the show starts. Plus we didn’t have the “Monster Crew” of Ally and Josh for these two shows, so maybe that was it!

A couple of days later was the rescheduled gig at Sharkeys in Hull. I had the technical glitch on this show which was probably only fair as Daymo’s had more than his fair share – I lost power to my pedals suddenly half way through the second song. I’m still not sure what happened but I got it working again and it was fine from then on, could have done with a guitar tech! It was a shame we had a technical problem as it will probably be the last show we’ll do before Grae was due to ship out to Afghanistan for his next tour. Great show, but it did feel a bit odd for that reason.

A couple of weeks later I was out again with my crew hat on for High Voltage Festival in London. This was always going to be a bit of an intense weekend for me as Phil Brown (Marillion’s monitor guy) and I were involved in the Marillion at Leamington Spa as a warm up for the Festival, then both Transatlantic on the Saturday and Marillion on the Sunday in London. That said, we weren’t the only ones having a busy weekend as obviously Pete Trewavas was also playing three shows, and Mike Portnoy would be in playing the second of three shows with three different bands in three countries in less than a week.

So it was off to Racket to pack the gear down and load the truck, and then head off for the first of the three shows, Marillion at the Assembly in Leamington Spa the following morning. Everything seemed to go together relatively well this time – I was bit less apprehensive about Steve’s rig this time having done a couple of shows with it now. It was good to get a chance to catch up with a couple of good friends too – Jim Sanders who I’d not seen since I helped with his move to Sweden and Andy Rotherham, who’d helped crew for Morpheus Rising at the Forces Festival. It was just a shame I didn’t have more time to spend with them.

The show went without any major troubles – which was a relief after Italy! No broken strings this time. It felt very odd for me to leave before the truck was packed, but on this occasion my load out was limited to packing down Steve, H and Pete’s rigs and head off to London with Pete Trewavas for tomorrow’s Transatlantic show at High Voltage.

The 06:55 lobby call for Transatlantic crew was a bit of a shock to the system to say the least, but the plan was that the band would be soundchecking first thing, so we were onsite pretty much before anyone else to get the band’s gear built for soundcheck. I had chance to help rig Steve Hackett’s gear too as he’d be guesting with the band for the encore. Collin, Transatlantic’s TM soundchecked for Mike as he was flying in that morning for the gig after finishing the Dream Theatre / Iron Maiden tour in New York a couple of days before. John Zocco who was also part of Dream Theatre’s touring crew was doing the same, so how he got through the day I have no idea as he was there for the build too!

One high point of the weekend was running into Abbie Marshall who was the promoter for High Voltage – I’ve known her for ages and not seen her for years since she left York and headed to London to work at the Barfly Camden. Great to see her and catch up if only briefly.

Back at the festival site later on, and Asia were about to go onstage when we got back. The schedule was running pretty much to time, but the curfew was very strict with the site being in a residential area, and the worry backstage was that if Asia overran, Transatlantic couldn’t pull a song or they’d only have the encore. I have to say it was the shortest setlist I’ve ever worked – and the only one I’ve ever learned and not needed a setlist! I enjoyed the gig – which I spent between Mike’s drumkit and Pete’s bass gear. It was very different seeing Pete onstage with Transatlantic as opposed to Marillion – quite apart from the unusual layout of the stage with the drums sideways on stage left and Pete not his usual stage right.

Two down and one to go.

Phil wanted to get a head start on the monitor rig for Marillion so we headed back to the festival site first thing on the Sunday morning. It was good to get a chance to see The Reasoning again after Morpheus Rising toured with them earlier this year. This time I stayed at the festival site all day and ran into a variety of friends during the day – both working there as crew and festival goers too. I even ran into my Morpheus Rising compatriot Andy Smith who was there with some of the guys from other band Mostly Autumn.

Come show time, we had a problem with Pete’s bass rig – which was misbehaving – presenting the ultimate nightmare – I needed to be in two places at the same time. As H joked from the stage, “the guy who’s trying to make the bass gear work is supposed to be bringing me a guitar…” Hem (keys tech) delivered the guitar, prompting H to point out that “the guy who’s bringing me a guitar is supposed to be looking after the keyboards!” We tracked down the problem to a problem with the power supply on Pete’s pedals when we rebuilt the gear at the studio on the Monday.

So today, I find myself back in the UK after the Marillion show at the Legends of Rock Festival near Słupsk in Poland, waiting for the Scott of the Artic to get back with the truck so we can rebuild the studio for the band to rehearse for the Loreley Festival in Germany at the beginning of next month. I’ll include the Polish trip in the next blog.

Current listening:
Transatlantic: The Whirlwind
Porcupine Tree: Fear of a Blank Planet

Coming up
Rock Legends Festival, Dolina Charlotty, Słupsk, Poland

Transatlantic plus Steve Hackett, High Voltage 2010

Transatlantic plus Steve Hackett, High Voltage 2010