from belgium, the first stop on the way to monkey island (england) was in calais (france). this is where we had to get off the bus to go through passport control, followed by the ferry ride across the channel. waking up at 5am, still somewhat drunk from the previous nights party...not something i really recommend to anyone, especially when dealing with passport control. but we had the proper paperwork and work visas, so getting through wasn't too difficult. that said, it was very typical bureaucratic nonsense...i cut through some of the extraneous queue lines, and they made me wait extra long before they'd process my paperwork...then it was back onto the bus, and the bus boards the ferry. keep in mind that it's pouring rain of course, freezing cold, and did i mention that it was 5am?
once the bus was parked on the ferry, we all had to get off the bus and proceed upstairs to the lounge area for the next ninety minutes while crossing the channel. i can imagine that during the day, this could be a conceivably pleasant activity, but when you're still half asleep, and half drunk, and the wind is moving at 100mph and the sea is rocking the boat back and forth...it was a bit torturous. we were all pretty unhappy to be there. geoff, sean, pete, da5id, and i all went outside to the top deck of the ferry, where we were nearly blown off by the wind. i think the stated goal was to try and catch the sunrise, but with the clouds and rain all we got was a dull glow off in the distance. with the wind and rain, it was scary, painful and exhilarating all at the same time. you couldn't really stay topside for very long before the elements sort of pushed you back downstairs. so after that, i tried to sleep on a bench in the lounge, but no dice. aaron managed to sleep a bit, and da5id was a bit seasick.
finally, we were allowed back onto the bus to continue the journey into london. i fell back asleep, more or less, for a few hours while on our way, but couldn't stay asleep once the bus had stopped moving. i thought for sure the crew must have loaded in all the light rigging, so i got up and started wandering around trying to find the backstage. however, i'd wandered into the stockroom of an hmv record store instead (oops!). the venue itself was attached to a shopping mall, and i couldn't find a way in, nor could i find anyone on the crew anywhere. i decided to give up and go back to sleep.
when i woke up again, alex told me there was someone waiting to see me outside! it was lisa, who'd come over to surprise us, and catch the last two shows of the tour. quite surprising indeed! she'd been staying with our friend colin for a few days and exploring london before we arrived. we went into the venue, to check out the backstage, and learned we'd be sharing the tiniest dressing room of the tour, with the other support act (kloq). after finding out that the showers were completely non-functional, we decided to just go out and grab some food and catch up a bit. lunch was delicious japanese soup (actual nutrients!), and a pleasant change from the usual coldcuts and cheese sandwiches. came to find out that there really was no catering to speak of at the venue anyway, so it seemed like the right decision.
after a somewhat stressful load-in, we had to soundcheck immediately, since we were to be the first band of the night. this put our soundcheck at approximately 5pm, with doors at 5:30, stage time of 6:30. soundcheck in this venue was a complete disaster. venue staff were quite unhelpful, and we had the worst soundman since berlin. he seemed quite nice to deal with, but as soon as we made a suggestion regarding the volume of the backing tracks ("would you mind cranking the backing tracks up a bit?"), he basically shut off completely. aaron has a good rant about dealing with soundguys, over on his blog. he rushed us through soundcheck, and then we went downstairs to order some dinner. once we'd ordered, we were told we had 15min to stage time, so no time to actually eat dinner. meanwhile, the other support act had moved into the closet size dressing room, and drank all the alcohol, so this was another sober show for me. i believe the brits refer to this as "bollocks".
the show was a complete nightmare from the very beginning. we were paged and told "you have to be onstage right now", so we go up and walk out, and the dj just continues playing some moaning gothic tracks while we stand there looking like idiots to the 40 or so people in the room. finally, i said, fuck it and walked offstage. turns out the soundguy is in the toilet, so we have to wait a few more minutes. finally we go back out there, and get started. it should also be said, between mesh's setup and the gear that kloq brought onto the stage, we had possibly less room onstage than we did when we were supporting combichrist in san francisco at the beginning of the tour. so, already it's all fucked. and as soon as we're into the first song, it's very obvious to us that the sound is completely mangled, whatever people were hearing was wrong, and not what they were supposed to be hearing. i looked across at the soundguy, and he is literally reading a book two feet from the desk!! it was suggested later that perhaps he was studying up on how to properly mix a band or something? in any case, it was quite clear he wasn't going to do anything to help us. it was really really difficult to not just walk offstage at this point, but there seemed to be a few people who were genuinely interested in what we were doing, so we had to power through the show. when aaron and i switched instruments, i asked into the mic that the bass guitar be turned down a bit. i watched, quite stunned, as the soundguy looked up at me, then immediately looked back at his book, without touching the desk!!
needless to say, we played a short set and walked offstage. for me, this was the absolute worst show of the tour, pretty inexcusable on the part of the venue staff, and i was in a rotten fucking mood following that show. finally our dinner was delivered, so we ate that instead of watching kloq's performance, which was unfortunate as i did want to catch their show. i liked what i'd heard from them, and liked the main dude's old band (empirion) quite a bit. but we didn't get to see any of that, nor much of anything else. i sent lisa back upstairs to watch mesh, and went out to the bus to drink vodka by myself for the next half hour. once i felt a bit more relaxed, i went back in to catch the remainder of mesh's set from the balcony upstairs. another interesting weird aspect to the venue was that there's a 'mezzanine' area above the stage level where you can get a great view of the stage, but only if you're right up against the rail, it's like being literally pressed against the ceiling. one thing that i thought was quite nice was seeing a bunch of mesh's family members (even mums and dads!) watching the show. they really delivered that night, so i'm sure the family was all quite impressed! typical of the evening, the whole thing had to be wrapped up by 11pm, so that they could kick everyone out of the venue and open up a pop nightclub that would run until around 4am. i saw the queue of people heading in, and i'm glad we left!
after the abortion of the show, the after party was moving over to the slimelight, which is a sort of legendary club (at least from the stateside perspective) catering to the more gothic and industrial persuasions. there was a great deal of confusion after the show, as to who was going, and when and it was all kind of annoying. as we were heading over to the slimelight, da5id noticed a vegan buffet restaurant, so we took a slight detour and ate some of the most amazing food of the tour. we were like gluttons, going back for round after round of vegan food, it almost (but not quite) made up for the shitty show we'd just done. then it was over to the club to party! some of the awesome german superfans who had flown in from germany that morning were already there, so we had a bunch of drinks with them, and just hung out. those folks are just so cool, and sweet, it's always fun to hang out with them! it was very sad that it would be our last night seeing them!
we explored the many levels of the club for a while, swinging between the ebm room, and the hard techno room, drinking all the while. we definitely had a killer time at the club, i wish we could have said the same about the show, but c'est la vie...
finally around 3am, get back on the bus to find that the crew had consumed nearly all the remaining alcohol on the bus instead of coming over to the club. it was kind of funny. we hung out with alex and tueni for a while, they played us a bunch of german rock music, it was pretty cool, and we stayed up til at least 4am just drinking and hanging out. then off to bed to rest up for the final show in wolverhampton...
thanks only to the catering girls at the venue, you were sweet. everyone else was bollocks!!