Thursday, 13 October 2016

"Has anyone seen my leads!"

hmmm.... leads?
"Morg... can you reach down and see if my leads are in the case?" said the piano player from his perch in the front. "You're joking!?" I said lowering my book. "No, no, it should be fine, they should be there!" he said trying to reassure me. They weren't. The backlash that fell about was as predictable as ever, cut and paste from the last 10 times his leads have gone missing. Left in bars, clubs, fields, friends car's, at home, at someone else's home. Not to mention the countless times we've found them slumped in the corner of a stage, and picked them up and played a trick on him. Or the countless times we've started a journey with "Have you got your leads?" to which he runs back up the steps to his house and gets them. Perhaps that's the reason they get left everywhere, as he still relies on us to oversea them. Or perhaps it's because somehow or other, misplaced leads never mean he hasn't played a gig, there is always a borrowed keyboard, or a pub piano, or his mum or dad on hand to drive miles to collect them at the drop of a hat. Brand new ones come all too frequently, he must have spent over £200 on replacements over the years. Perhaps it's all tactical; if we ever play at the Underbelly in London, his leads from 2014 should still be there. Or, if Samuel and Samantha ever get re-married and use the same field in Higginbottom his first set of leads will surely still be there, behind the portaloo. "I must have left them at The Eden Project!" he said, head in hands as we sped north to Bournemouth for a gig that night. "What am I going to do tonight?" he exclaimed. "I'm not worried about tonight" answered the bass player, "you might be able to borrow a keyboard in Bournemouth, it's next week when we tour the Lake District that'll be a problem." There was a pause and then, "If you order some new ones on Amazon now you can have them sent to the Lakes" said Louis Gulliver King (once again in for the guitar player). "I haven't got any money!" came the reply. "Well then you better call your dad and borrow some!" I said and relaxed back with my book.

Arriving in Bournemouth we were welcomed into one of the best pubs I've been in; The Firkin Shed owned by the charismatic Paul Gray, was like a large shed; a quirky, handmade micro brewery scattered with beer barrels and kegs and curious collectables and in the far corner an out-of-tune honkytonk piano! "You're in luck!" I said. We played well enough, the jarring scratchy piano notes sometimes complimenting the rougher and bluesy songs, and sometimes ruining the more subtle numbers. The atmosphere was charged, the beer was delicious and the busking hat we laid out was most generous. We were quite literally playing for our supper and our petrol and that always brings out the best in us.

The tour veered north the next day, 196 miles up country, into wild England, surely one of the last expanses of wilderness in this overpopulated island of ours. The Lake District is the wettest, most mountainous region, with the largest population of sheep and red squirrels, not to mention lakes! Although officially only one of the 16 bodies of water is actually a lake! It is also home to The Odd Folk for a week, and Screes cottage in Glendale has two sets of leads waiting for the piano player on his arrival; Amazon and Eden had both posted and both arrived in the same delivery! The tour took us up mountains, scrambling up rocks in perpendicular approaches. Standing on lofty peeks as the wind blew the wind out of us. It saw us chasing sheep, getting caught in bogs, skinny dipping in icy rivers, making Ray Mears survival videos. It saw us gorging on Kendal mint cake, gulping down craft ales and playing our little hearts out in cosy pubs nestled in the arm of a mountain. It saw us lose phone signal and lose touch with home; we drove to 'signal corner' on the first day but after that we didn't bother. It saw winding roads, criss-crossing the foothills like plaits. Tiny cottages sprinkled about, hardy walkers, but the biggest inhabitants was the space. Empty stretches of land. Mountains like a crumpled blanket. We were welcomed everywhere we went; felt the warm generosity of this corner of England. We drove over Hardknott Pass, the steepest road in England, found the secret Emerald Pool with it's crystal clear waters and visited England's smallest church. Screes cottage was opposite Wastwater; England's deepest lake; at the foot of England's biggest mountain; overlooking England's best view, and the local pub is home to England's biggest liar! Needless to say, it's a pretty big place.

Langdale Valley

 As we pulled away on our 456 mile journey home, we reflected on another wonderful week in the life of this band. We came on this tour with not a penny to our name, every gig was hand to mouth, or purse to petrol. We wanted a walking holiday and thought that a cheap way to do that was to play for our supper. I never expected to return home with a week's wage, having had a week's holiday. That is down to the generosity of the people we met, the kind landlord's and ladies. It was 7 gigs in 9 days, the largest concentration we've ever done. From the manicured gardens of Eden to the wild's of Lakeland to the urban art of Bristol. We've traveled 1000 miles, climbed a 1000 meters, drunk 100 beers, but the biggest achievement of all is that we returned home with 2 piano leads!

Morgan, Louis, Oscar and Shelley outside The Screes