22 Little Hours
By The Talks, Aug 18 2015 09:49AM
France, Switzerland and Germany Tour - Part 1.
16th to 19th July.
By Iain Allen
It was the evening of Wednesday 15th July at around 8:30pm. Although, the festivities for this tour really began the day before, when our channel crossing was changed from Dover-Calais to Dover-Dunkirk, just to throw the proverbial pre-tour cat amongst the pigeons and really get things off to a flying start. Calais was on absolute lock-down due to strikes by French ferry workers over huge job-cuts from Eurotunnel. The French reaction to this - set fire to a sizeable pile of HGV tires on the entrance to one of the Eurotunnel lines and walk off all of Calais' ships. Well, the French have never been known to do things by halves have they! And what was more unnerving was the rather nonchalant (no pun intended) text message I received from DFDS briefly explaining, in text speak, that we were now sailing to a different part of France. So really not wanting to take any chances, because we've been down that road too many times before, we thought we'd give our selves plenty of time. So 8:30pm and we were away. We took all realistic diversions going (not the ones where you're heading for Birmingham and end up in Norwich), made really good time and as sods law would have it arrived at 1:30am. Our ferry wasn't until 5:15am. Better to be safe than sorry I suppose. So we queued.. and queued... and queued. Eventually we got to a check-in point - "OK, so your ferry was suppossed to depart to Calais at 5:15, we're gonna see if we can get you on an earlier one", so a drive round to the departures office. 10am!! they said 10am!! We were abruptly told to leave the site and return at 8am. I questioned it and questioned it, but barring punching the smarmy little twat in the mouth, there wasn't a lot I could do about it. We were determined not to be beaten on this one so we took to the BP up the road for a coffee and a think. Kep (Jody): "we could always just go back around again and go to a different check-in point".. Oooh! So back down the road, different booth and would you believe it "yes, we've put you on the 6am Sir". The odd few minutes of blurry shut eye in the vans foot well then off. On the ferry Titch got escorted away from the main restaurant area after pitching himself up a bed on some of the leather seating; a family were wanting breakfast and the sight of him sprawled out dribbling wasn't appetising. He came and found me and Jolt (Joe Holt) who were trying to avoid the hoards of riotous, parent-less children that seemed to engulf the entire passenger deck. Not appearing to bother Titch too much he practically dropped on the floor, put his snood over his head and fell unconscious. We made the point that we should draw a white line around him as he looked like he'd just fallen from a building. Pat had stayed in the van during the crossing, saying that if the ferry sank at least he'd have a calm death.
On the other side and Dijon bound. A couple of hours down the road and it was seriously hot by now... and getting hotter. We underwent the obligatory extortionate French service station stops - 7 euros for a cheese sandwich, that kind of thing - and sweated it out for another 6 hours; for some reason Google maps decided to shag us over on the timings for this one. By the time we arrived in Dijon the back of the van had almost liquefied. We opened the side door to a dissipating plume of steam and the honk of 22 hours worth of feet, farts and fags (cigarettes). Joe Holt looked even more waxed than normal. Yes 22 hours... from Hull to Dijon. The gig was at the Peniche Cancale, a boat harboured on the Port Du Canal in the centre of Dijon. It was 40 degrees. Apparently it had been like this for the past three weeks; it is July and we are in mid France but it usually settles at around 25 degrees, whereas this is unheard of. It was 5pm, we were expected at the venue at 3pm. The owner had a slight problem with the band sound checking after 6pm, which was doors, which we met with a question mark and said that basically this needed to happen if he wanted us to play the hour and a half set that was expected after a full days driving on no sleep. He saw our point and we got on with it.
This was a painful gig. By the time we went on, although the temperature outside may have dropped a couple of degrees, it had heated up the window-less, un air-conditioned main stage room / deck of the boat into a sweltering sweat box, the humidity through the roof and a stage consumed by stagnant air. It was like playing in an oven. Titch nearly passed out twice, Pats voice was really struggling, Kep had just technical problem after technical problem and Jolt broke a sweat. Every second of that hour and a half felt like an eternity. And I just hoped every song would be the last. I really can't ever recall playing in harder gigging conditions than that, it was the hottest, sweatiest thing we've ever done. When we came off stage Kepple's light blue shirt was now a deep navy and I felt like I'd just jumped in a swimming pool with my Bass, shortly followed by Titch. Albeit Titch decided upon this show to be his debut shorts and topless fare - steady on now ladies! The nights accommodation was an apartment at the other side of town and by this point sleep was about as overdue as a can of fly spray in the back of the van.
The next day was Pats birthday. So we all indulged in the compulsory 'being more vulgar toward him than normal procession', gave him the bumps - out of the window - and set off to Dieulouard... (we didn't really.. we were the same level of vulgar as we usually are towards him). A 3 hour drive proceeded and the temperature hadn't dropped; the sort of climate where you stand outside doing nothing, leaning probably, in only a pair of shorts and your still absolutely dripping with sweat. And the back of the van had not yet reformed. East Summer Festival in the North Eastern Lorraine region town of Dieulouard was our destination. The outdoor festival has been running for about 10 years and is hosted in a field next to a Football stadium. We arrived at mid-afternoon to full crew that were all hands on deck and ready help set up the stage. These guys were really on the pulse, quick off the mark and had our best interests at heart when it came to making the show as comfortable as possible for us - this may sound like they were just doing their job, but believe me a lot of the time its almost like its anything but their job. The sound crew were equally as on a the ball, they knew what we needed out front and they took their time perfecting it, and its always a good sign from the stage when you can see Pat laughing with the front of house engineer, oppose to pulling chunks of hair out, the little bounce he does and the phrase 'look mate' rearing its head at every turn, that's if he hasn't just pushed him off the desk by that point. As we arrived with good time before gates we managed to put in a good sound check, resulting in a really well rounded on stage sound from the monitor engineer, actually being able to hear all the things you need to hear to play the gig is really quite profound and liberating, it happens that rarely its almost like receiving a gift.
Our stage time was 10pm, so we had a bit of time to kill. We played a bit of football, resisted the urge to get drunk, well.. apart from Jolt, sweated some more and gave Pat his birthday presents. Pats birthday presents consisted of a colourful necklace and bracelet making kit, age 8 plus, and a bumper pack of Bodyform sanitary towels; we got him the ones with the extra large wings just to avoid any additional unpleasantness. He was thrilled. Billing wise, on before us were 'Respublica Von Taztika', an electro hip hop band from relatively close by. These guys had some really smart grooves going on, with a lot of searing samples and live Drums and Guitar with ragging, abrasive riffs that answered the two vocalist trading lines. A really good, typically French hip hop band. And this language just lends itself to the genre so well, the poetic flow of the French tone marries up with that quick fire spitting seamlessly; there's just so much you can do with it. Then our turn. A really good billing for us here as we were about 2nd from headline, just as the sun is on its last legs and people are really getting lively. The intro booms in and were off. The crowd were slightly subdued at first, but you could tell it was one of those where they weren't going to take much persuading. Enter 'Can Stand The Rain' and they're off, and they multiplied quickly. It got nicely packed in tight down at the front and they really did make it a wicked show for us. 'Hacks' came around way too quickly and the atmosphere was that electric that we really could have played the set again.
We came off stage and I went to check on the merch stall at the other end of the site. I walked past the backstage catering area, past security and through into the main arena. Just after I'd got through the gate a swarm of about 20 teenage girls shouting 'The Talks, The Talks' ran towards me. This was pretty damn scary. Thankfully the security guard was ready with a pen so I could oblige in signing their tickets and then after about 10 selfies later, I was free. I haven't blushed for quite some time but I must have come out like a beetroot in those photos. The merch woman had about as much sales experience as a damp flannel so I cracked on with selling. Meanwhile Pat was getting smashed on Jack Daniels with Prince Fatty and Mad Professor, who had done duelling DJ sets on the main stage after us. Prince Fatty (Mike) was a nice guy, they talked about touring, producing, recording and general studio stuff. They talked a lot about dub delays, spring reverbs, tape machines, popping echoes and the sonic array of things when it comes to room sounds and mood. Prince Fatty described his affinity for old fashioned Dub-Reggae and those real vintage, organic recordings that just wouldn't be possible with modern software. And then another bottle of Whiskey came out and by this point I think comprehensive speech had well and truly left the table. We then left for the accommodation, which took us on a long slopping drive out of the town and up an extremely steep, hilly road - Kepple driving and keeping his cool, the smooth number that he is - to a series of log cabin hillside Gites. This was one of those rare occasions where you get to stay somewhere that is really special, out of the ordinary, something that would never happen if you didn't sling your arse around like this, and more importantly it someone's home, which just adds to the moment a bit. We had a few more beers on the patio area with extremely nice fellow George (the proprietor) and Jolt decided to join us wearing nothing but his briefs... it was a balmy night after all. We whiled an hour away and then it was heads down, ready for Switzerland.