Never before so apparent, one huge change since the early days is the fact that I'm no longer a clueless 17 year old running a record label only in name from his bedroom at home, cooking and cleaning thrown into the two-figure price of rent. These days I live in an expensive city centre, have real bands selling real CDs to real fans. I'm still just one man, watching life speed by as he struggles to run his out of control hobby, finding almost as much amusement in the letters addressed to the "A&R department" as those to the "accounts department". Going away for a week isn't a simple case of plonking the contents of your 'in tray' onto your colleagues desk, or asking your team leader to pick up the slack for a few days. If you don't do it, it just doesn't get done. The term "bedroom indie" may no longer be true, but "corner of the living room indie" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
One of the things I used to really enjoy was packing two bottles of vodka and a change of pants into a bag, waving goodbye to my mum and spending the next fortnight in the back of a windy transit van, hurtling up and down the motorways of Great Britain, all in the name of watching one of my bands play in front of 5 - 50 people in one of our fair isle's many toilet circuit establishments. Problem is, that was 7 years ago, and it turns out your body ages an unimaginable amount once you cross the mid-twenty border. Unfortunately for me, this was a lesson I learnt the hard way, and in all honesty the idea of watching one of my own play with one of my favourites every night would probably have been a temptation too far anyway. When Kevin Devine was confirmed to support Brand New on their sold out UK tour, taking place just 3 weeks before his album was due out, the lightbulb above my head flickered into action.
I'm not sure if it makes me a smalltown boy, but gigs of more than 300 people have a habit of striking fear into my quickly beating heart. I hadn't realised it until recently, accidentally going off the highboard as I tried to shrink and hide behind the merch table at the Manchester Academy surrounded by 2300 raging Brand New fans piling forward attempting to get their hands on their expensive t-shirt of choice. This isn't how it was meant to be.
Some changes were made to the old touring routine. The Transit van was swapped for a series of National Express and Megabus coach tickets. A luxury splitter van they're not, a moment's peace and some downtime, they were. The venues were upgraded from 100 capacity sweatboxes to 2000+ capacity academies, throwing the old '5 band members means a 5 man touring party' rule out the window as every role from front of house sound to drum tech to head of security had a delegate. And possibly most surprisingly - although importantly - the alcohol intake was kept in check, with a balanced diet a scarily important requirement each night. On the flipside, some things never change. The lack of sleep still reigns supreme, I can never find a fan's required t-shirt size in an acceptable amount of time, student house bedspace is always appreciated - although often mouldy - and there's nothing better than watching a band you work with receive a raptuous reception.
All in all I spent 6 days on the road incorporating 30 hours of public transport, 3 student houses, 2 budget hotels, 4 sold out Brand New gigs and 2 packed out Kevin Devine headline shows. I pulled my hair out as the printers in New York failed to deliver the album sleeves ready for the first 2 nights, I wore the buttons out on my phone checking email and replying to text messages asking for guestlist places, I set up magazine interviews, kept an eye on the merch and tried desperately to catch up with friends in each city. By the time we reached Birmingham, and the daunting prospect of breaching the 3000 people mark that night, the luxury of a shower, a quiet hotel room and Wimbledon on the TV reminded me of what I was missing at home. I guess this is growing up.
...And then Kevin Devine was confirmed to support The Get Up Kids in the US through October and November. A whole bloody month of shows with my all-time favourite band. Brand New is one thing, this is another. This is serious.
I end this with my head full of wonder. How quickly one forgets the big venue fear, the hankering for home cooked food and a night in a comfortable bed. It would almost certainly be a terrible idea but I just can't stop daydreaming. What if...? Could I...?
Maybe growing up can wait another next year?