Tour Diary: Friendly Fires
It's no secret that DiS has long admired St. Albans trio Friendly Fires - they've made one of our albums of the year for sure - so when they set out on a UK tour last month we asked them to scribble some words about life on the road. Here's what they came up with...
Edd Gibson writes...
Day 1: Southampton
A lot of people refer to Southampton as boring, depressing and the town Betjeman overlooked when composing 'Slough'. Not me though, I love the place. I spent three years living there and had the pleasure of meeting a handful of beautiful humans. Glad I was to return and play Joiners, and on the same stage I had once seen Melt Banana make an awful lot of lovely loudness on. The bar walls were graced with posters of the great bands who had previously been this way on the long road to fame and fortune. It was at this point I looked down to find an eyelash had fallen onto the back of my hand. Looking up at the mighty collage I blew the hair away, wishing as hard as I could that, one day, our poster would be up on that wall too, nestled between Dodgy and Cast. Unfortunately, now I've told you my wish it ain't going to come true. The show sold out and the crowd did singing and dancing at all the rights bits, god bless them.
Travelodge: Just as we thought nothing could top this evening of pure joy we found the Travelodge lobby had an ice cream machine with a vacuum type contraption that slurps up your chosen treat and spits it out before your very eyes. We have arrived.
Day 2: Northampton
Inside Roadmenders, this weird purple blob on the skyline, we found a guy painting up a picture of Bowie on the wall. It was pretty good but looked like he'd rushed the legs a bit. If the man who fell to earth had landed on these withered limbs, they would have undoubtedly snapped beneath his frail frame. After sound checking on the piece o sheet stage we made for our dressing room to gorge on a packet of crisps and kill time with yearbookyourself.com, a stupid site that takes your face through the decades of fashion. All you sexual deviants will be pleased to know it even allows you to indulge in a little virtual transvestism. Halfway through the gig the throng decide to stick it to the man and bum-rush the show. Always nice when that happens, but the party got a little out of hand. Ed's analogue synth that he treats as if it were made from egg shells and rizla had its keyboard all smashed up. Sad times but at least it was a result of unconfined ecstasy and not premeditated violence.
Travelodge: Dubious Lewinski stains on the upholstery. Two cups, one milk. WTF?
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Day 3: Hull
I'll be honest with you: expectations were low for this one. The second the gig was in our diary, our soundboy started swearing like a docker who'd trapped his genitals in a car door. We arrive hours before we can get in, so set about entertaining ourselves with a flat football. The Adelphi looks like a scout hut from the outside. Inside, though, it's genuinely charming. A bus in the back for a bar. A telescope through a wall that looks onto the stage. A toilet a prisoner would feel at home on, just a room with a chod seat and three urinals, no pretentious doors or walls or any of that bourgeoisie bullshit. There's a book on the bar called One Man And His Bog charting the history of the gaff, featuring accounts of The Fall, Oasis, My Bloody Valentine amongst others. It's pretty jokes, look it up. During our sound check a load of masonry starts falling from the rafters. Start getting images of firemen following the sound of a distant agogô bell to retrieve our bludgeoned remains from the rubble. On stage is the hottest I have ever been at any show. The sweat is gushing from everyone and turning into pure B.O. humidity. It feels like doing a rock over a kettle. Absolute da bomb gig. The fine people of Hull are alright by me.
Travelodge: It's the night of the daddy long legs, that special 12 hour period where the most ineffectual insect hatches across the country and bumbles by a window until it's time to die. If only the poor fools knew what actually awaits them on the other side of the glass they'd probably do something more rewarding with their entire lives. Attempting to achieve climax over the Ikea catalogue anyone?
Day 4: Liverpool
It's Everton vs. Liverpool today and the streets are awash with blood, smashed teeth and broken police batons. Not really, hooliganism seems to have lost its edge. A few playful taunts are exchanged between red and blue. It's more like flirting than cold hatred. Shame. Tonight we stay in a Premier Inn. This thought has me giddy as a school girl. Unfortunately, the Inn's right next to the Beatles museum which blares out the Fab Four's hits like a noon day gun from 9am to 7pm. All night long morons gather to sing ‘Thank You For The Music' at the fucking door to the place. I like the band, 'Strawberry Fields' is me fave, but I like to choose when I listen to it, and generally that ain't for ten hours a day. Korova is a great bar next to this square where the brave ladies of Liverpool face snow, sleet and hail with only a fake tan to protect them from the elements. Below deck is the ‘stage', a tiny box walled by mirrors, presumably the old estate agent's illusion to give the impression you could fit four people in it in the first place. A few brave souls start crowd surfing. Some poor sod comes over the top and gashes his head open on a monitor. A ridiculous amount of blood starts spewing out of the wound like a deleted scene from Cannibal Holocaust. And so to bed.
Premier Inn: Lovely building, shame it's situated next to the cultural capital of Europe's very own Guantanamo Bay, complete with sound trauma tactics. Disappointment.
Day 5: Glasgow
Our unfortunate soundboy Bars was eaten alive in his sleep by some nasty looking bugs. He caught a few in a cup in the morning, they were pretty sluggish with bellies full of the old red, and took them to the mad woman at the front desk. In an amazing display of honesty/stupidity she revealed that he was lucky because some other punter had woken up with a rat in their bed. We're taking this as high as it will go. With any luck we'll bring down Travelodge and use the debris to erect monuments of our good selves in their place. During the course of the day, these bites swell up to the size of nipples. The brave soldier marches on through the day and everything's sounding great for the first song at King Tut's until the fire alarm goes off. The whole building is evacuated, which would be irritating enough in itself if it weren't sound tracked by a tireless barrage of Friendly Fires puns. Get back in and everyone's still upbeat and raring to go, probably thankful for the nicotine break, dirty addicts.
Travelodge: Location, location, location. On our door: bingo, Nando's, cinema, bowling. It's an eight year old's wet dream, if that wasn't a conflicting anatomical conundrum. Order an overpriced half chicken to take back and eat in the only table and chair in the room, in front of the fucking mirror. The meal gets ever salty as my tears boost the sodium content.
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Jack Savidge picks up the story...
Day 6: York
Not the most eventful night on the tour by a long way. In fact, nothing at all springs to mind when I think of York. I think there was a Back To The Future pinball machine at the venue, so some time must have been spent trying to avoid getting off with your own mum via the manipulation of a little steel ball. Other than that....
Travelodge: Pisspoor. Promising stone-clad exterior never lived up to. Bizarre eggs meets fish meets hot iron smell permeating the corridors, and there's a muddy stain on the wall in the room.
Day 7: Manchester
The Mint Tounge has a kind of Chinawhites meets Mad Max vibe about it that I'm sure would be popular with Man Utd trainees before they graduate to the private members' clubs and cigar bars that the first team frequent. It sports kitschy leather upholstery and velvet drapes, alongside camo netting and cages that inadequately-clothed dancers with tiger face paint might claw at. Sexy. Richie and Matty from Jape (our kick-ass support act) show up with a haul from a local joke shop. The cream of their swag is some creepy glasses with fleshy eye bags printed on them, and a musical instrument that would doubtless be a bigger deal than the electric guitar if it could play more than five notes. You play it by swinging it around your head hammer-throw style, and it whistles until someone inevitably knocks the clock off the wall. Attempting a conventional tune on it would lead to a dislocated shoulder at best, so a selection of Growing covers is the order of the day.
Travelodge: Approaching decent. Largish rooms, a well stocked if depressing bar downstairs, and Magnum vending machine. Two bars of Pritt Stick soap each in the shower; must have been the maid's last day.
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Day 8: Oxford
Nice to see Friendly Fires' name up in lights as we arrive at the venue. First time ever I think. It clearly works because by the time we're ready to go on there's a baying crowd in attendance. By the end of the last song, a circle pit had begun in earnest in the middle of the floor, presumably by some Fear Factory fans who didn't look beyond the initials of our name. A special moment of family pride tonight as my younger sister's on merch duties alongside her new boyfriend, who sports a skinny tie and haircut only a mother could love. Overcoming these disadvantages with flying colours, they fare better than anyone yet on the tour, and ensure that we'll be kept in Bollinger and Faberge Eggs for at least another five minutes.
Travelodge: Wake up in the Brighton 'Seafront' Branch (which isn't even within friggin' eyeshot of any water, bar the greasy slime that comes out of the taps). Wow, this is nothing like a Travelodge! There's a cafe instead of a vending machine full of John West's tuna lunches, a breakfast buffet instead of a breakfast box, a selection of newspapers instead of a stack of leaflets about boring-arse local attractions. The penny drops when I see a sign that reads: "Apologies for the inconveniences while we turn this into our newest Travelodge". Aha.
Day 9: London
Arriving at KCLSU we'd be forgiven for thinking we'd turned into Metallica overnight. There were special lights being put up, camera crews filming them putting them up, a troupe of Brazilian drummers tuning their wares, dozens of stressed people running around, and ol' matey from Hard-Fi on the guestlist. Big Time. Not sure what I think of KCLSU as a venue. The journey from dressing room to stage involves a long and awkward ride in a lift which stops at every floor to pick up giggly under-graduates dressed in their hockey kit. As far as preparations for rock shows go, it's hardly a Jägermeister-fuelled Black Mass. Despite this, the gig's pretty good. Perhaps not the best on the tour, but people swoon at the pretty lights, and when we bring on the samba drummers for 'Jump In The Pool' it feels so much like Mardi Gras that I start hankering for pancakes and the onset of Lent. One modest party in the dressing room later it's time for bed.
Travelodge: N/A (Hell yeah!)
Friendly Fires play some shows in Europe (including one in, yes, Paris) this month and headling Koko on December 12th before embarking on the NME Awards Tour in February 2009.