Saturday, 18 February 2017

Into the wild

It's that time of year again. When nothing much is happening over here. Nothing's been happening for months now. We're all a bit a bored, sitting idling, itching our feet. After the misadventures of last year's musical pilgrimage to Berlin in a 30 year old broken motorhome, this year we've turned our attentions to Scandinavia. Utterly foolhardy. Bold and brassy. Reckless. We do have a decent van this this time, the drummer's bought one and is doing it up ready for the road ahead. That, however, is the only thing we have. We have no money
this year. No new merchandise. Dwindling CD stocks. No new songs. The guitar player has just pulled out. His replacement, the ever dependable Louis Gulliver King, still hasn't received clearance from his theatre contract. The piano player can't afford to come. The bass player finishes his audio contract a matter of days before and is praying that they don't run over. I am having a baby at the end of March and am praying it doesn't come early. Sound familiar? Welcome to The Odd Folk!

Temperatures in southern Sweden could drop to minus 5, with an icy Baltic wind. We have no snow tyres. No breakdown cover. We have no money to book any accommodation and so are completely reliant on the generosity of the crowds in order to get a roof over our heads, otherwise we'll all be huddled together in the van. The drummer will be huddled in the van regardless. NOT because he snores. Just in order to protect the thousands of pounds worth of equipment we carry with us.

This time, even I am pessimistic. There is so much at stake it'll be a miracle if we get through it. To start with; money. We have none. Since the guitar player's paternity leave, bookkeeping has gone out of the window, funds are shared out after every gig and the 'band' (the 6th member) hasn't been paid for months now. This is bad form. Bad practice. No doubt influenced by the fact we were winding down, parking the old bus, putting this baby out to pasture. In many ways we were liquidating The Odd Folk before we walked away. But that didn't happen, as many of you know, we organised a farewell party only to announce we weren't quitting! So, the bank is empty. We can't afford to get to the first gig.

What else? Availability. The drummer is the only one who is 100% sure he can attend. The guitar player has pulled out. There is a chance his replacement, Louis Gulliver King, will be denied clearance meaning we are one man down. The piano player can't afford to come, he owes money in every direction and is being carefully monitored by his landlady, escaping off on tour with us could result in him being homeless upon his return; that would leave us two men down. The bass player's contract could well overrun meaning we are three men down. And finally, my partner could go into labour 2 weeks early (not unheard of) meaning we are four men down!

Anything else? Oh, did we I say we are completely unprepared for a journey of this magnitude. We're effectively driving 1250 miles to Malmö to play in a 'folk kitchen' run by hippies where they will serve us a vegan meal and probably little else. Our gig in Copenhagen is in the autonomous neighborhood of Freetown Christiania, where the police aren't allowed, meaning our two fans in Denmark, both police officers, can't even attend! The booker in Hamburg has gone quite on us, though the venue receptionist says this is normal and just "turn up" on the day and he'll be here. Nice and vague. We haven't sorted a gig in Holland, the only country we have a fanbase, and instead travel to places where we know nobody. At least we're returning to Den Hopsack in Antwerp for the third year in a row. You can always guarantee a bit of dosh there, shame it's right at the end of the tour and not at the beginning when we desperately need it. 

Any amount of scenarios could happen; the worse being that the drummer tours alone because nobody else is available. Now, obviously that wouldn't happen. But perhaps this could...

... Having rounded
all the troops we set off to Tunbridge Wells for our first gig. The drummer's filled the tank with his own money and we're banking on some cold hard cash for the performance. But the gig is a house concert and only a handful of people turn up, probably because we forgot to promote it and we don't know anyone in Tunbridge! We make enough money to pay the drummer back and arrive at the tunnel penniless again, having to re-borrow the money in order to cross the channel. In Europe we make it as far as Holland as night draws in. The drummer's shattered as he's doing all the driving because we can't afford to put anyone else on the insurance! In Holland we have 100's of fans but no gig. We stay with a couple of them, grateful for a plate of food and curse ourselves for not organising a house concert here where we actually know people. Our Dutch friends buy some CD's off us even though they already have them, probably out of pity, just so we have some cash to get to... Herning!? Where's that? DENMARK - 500 miles into the frozen north.

The drummer drives on into a headwind, progress is slow and the piano player receives a text saying 'all of your belongings are in the front garden!' Ouch. We arrive in Herning for our gig but there is no gig. It never got 'green lit' and we hadn't read the email. With no money we huddle in the van, much to the drummer's distress. The next day in Copenhagen, we approach the 'homemade' city of Freetown Christiania; a maze of wooden houses and shacks propped up against each other, workshops and arts galleries and hippies selling hash all along Pusher Street. Our excitement is shortlived when we realise no cars are allowed. Our gig starts in 2 hours and we're late for our soundcheck! We're forced to carry our gear while friendly freetowners ask us where we're playing. Some offer to help but we are unsure whether they might run off with our instruments. The gig is pleasant enough but we make little to no money and to make matters worse the bass player recieves an email from his work saying some of the scenes need re-editing and he is forced to buy an expensive dongle and start work immediately in the van. We cross the bridge to Malmö, to the 'folk kitchen' and play for our supper, but that is about all. From the last two gigs, we've raise enough money to pay the drummer back again. The next night in Hamburg, the booker never does materialise and therefore nor does our fee! We play the gig regardless, passing a hat around the audience and raising just enough for the road ahead. En route to Belgium I receive the call that my partner has started contractions and immediately fly home only to find it's only Braxton Hicks! The final venue is canceled. The tour is abandoned. The piano player is homeless. The bass player is being docked his salary because of unfinished edits and we all owe the drummer money. The guitar player chuckles to himself, glad he stayed at home.

Only, The Odd Folk ;-)