There are hardworking bands and then there are hard-working bands. In Neon Waltz’ case, a nine-date tour around the UK is no small undertaking, based as they are on the most northerly tip of Scotland, a place closer to Norway than London. Having already extensively toured in support of a handful of singles, including the recently aired ‘Heavy Heartless’, the restless six-piece choose a life on the road as they gear up for the release of their debut album this summer on Ignition Records.
Their most recent, triumphant trek around the nation took them to Southampton, a cool 700 miles from home, via petrol station arguments, open-swimming in a picturesque Highlands dam and a surprisingly palatable venue-prepared lasagne. Clocking up an estimated 2,000 miles in just over a week, Neon Waltz could have equally driven to St Petersburg or Athens from London.
In this exclusive tour diary, Neon Waltz’ drummer, Darren Coghill becomes a fly-on-the-wall in his own band, to give a glimpse of life on the road for a band that always travels the extra mile.
Friday 26 May – Manchester
Our feet hit the first stage of this tour at 5.15pm at The Ruby Lounge, Manchester. I left my front door, just 20 metres of grass and a cliff face away from the very north coast of Scotland, at 10am the day previous. That’s a day and a half in the back of the van behind us, watching over half of the country pass by the window.
I suppose to some people that'd be the ball ache of being in this ban,d but for us that journey gives us the time we need to adjust. A travel day is a luxury for most bands, hustled from venue to venue, but it’s a necessity for Neon Waltz as we travel from Caithness.
The journey to Manchester involved a lot of something we're not that familiar with – SUNSHINE! In Scotland it's bred into you that when the suns oot, you immediately get down to as few clothes as possible. However, we saw this as an opportunity to get out of the boiling van (its name is Morrison, for future reference) and into an outdoor swimming hole. That doesn't take long in the Highlands, so within 20 minutes we were in a dam near Pitlochry, sunning ourselves, swimming and sinking tins of Tennants. That’s about as good as travel days get. There are always downsides and a local woman, strolling along the bank, stood on Swannie's Ray Bans. A real pisser. They now reside at the bottom of the River Tummel.
It was class to hang around after the Manchester show. With the sun hanging low for a while we had a few beers in the park. We bumped in to Joe from Blossoms before quickly catching The Growlers and heading off towards a bed in Crewe. The people of Manchester blew our minds, just three days after the Manchester Arena attack and the streets are filled with people refusing to show signs of weakness. Two massive fucking fingers up to terrorism. The Growlers silenced a crowd of a few thousand for a full minute with ease and it truly was one of those special moments in life I'll never forget. So we drank to that in the van as we moved out.
Saturday 27 May – Bristol
Bristol was class and afterwards we stayed, glamourously, in a motorway Travelodge. Very little can happen at a roadside hotel near Crewe between 3am and 11am, other than visit the Shell Garage for supplies. Everyone’s hungry by 3am, just wanting to eat and go to bed. Nobody wants a debate with the cashier through a window about whether your Scottish notes are legal tender. Nobody wants to, but Swannie will if it's absolutely necessary. This time it escalated relatively fast. I arrived only in time to hear Cashier Colin offering to call the police rather than get Swannie his Wispa. We were gone by the morning, no love lost.
Sunday 28 May – Nottingham
So, the three Dot 2 Dot Festival shows were a pretty boss start to the tour. In summary, Manchester's artist catering was pumped by Bristol's, Manchester's vibe pumped both Nottingham and Bristol, but the Nottingham show to an absolutely rammed Rescue Rooms at 2:15 on a sunny afternoon takes the overall prize. Pat on the back Nottingham! Assisting this victory was that night’s accommodation. We stayed with the family of friends nearby. We'd never met them until that day. Things like this are the best, meeting and spending time getting to know new people and enjoying the hospitality. Even if it means Jordan has to suffer the odd battering at the hands of four kids that are lethal with a tree branch.
Monday 29 May – Liverpool
Liverpool is a sort of home from home. Our Glasgow in England. Gigs in Liverpool are always great, so are the support bands, so are the venue staff and anybody else you meet. There was nothing different this time at The Buyers Club on Hardman Street, although we did have a run in with one wanker in a BMW. We took a look to into a nice little establishment called Sound for a nightcap after the show. All good, everyone's had their pint and we're in Morrison – who, by the way, is in less than perfect condition. We once fixed him with a loaf of bread but that’s another story for another time – heading to our Travelodge at the Docks. We're on a back street and this BMW tears round a corner onto our side of the road to avoid parked cars on his and after a 30 second stand-off, the good guys reversed but not without opening the sliding side door of our van to gesture our feelings towards his lack of gratitude. He didn't take it well, so much so that he turned and followed us up Duke Street in the middle of the road before overtaking us and throwing bottle of water at the side of Morrison and running a red light to get away. I hope he's pleased with himself – down a bottle of water & up a £60 fine. Twat.
Tuesday 30 May – London
Time to spend some money in London with its long-term ‘40% ON' sale. I joke, but it's definitely a little harder to have fun on a budget there, given that our expense account isn’t quite up there with Elton John’s. The show at Camden Assembly was a tour highlight though. At this point it really feels that people are committing to our band, which is why we put these miles in. Wallet challenges forced us to spend a day off in Regents Park, kicking back in the sun with a few refreshments. We thoroughly enjoyed watching this lad trying to impress a female, on what I can only assume was a first date, by attempting and failing to row their boat around the duck pond. Romance is not dead but it is definitely struggling. Shoulda got a pedalo, mate.
Thursday 2 June – Southampton
So, here we are in Southampton, literally as close to home as Lisbon is round the corner from London. Our show was fuckin' roasting hot, but we took a pre-gig stroll for some food and were pleasantly shouted at by some teenagers, telling us they loved the new single. I'd come back to Southampton if not for that then for the intimacy of world’s smallest smokers garden backstage at the venue, The Joiners Arms. The three smokers had to take turns.
Friday 3 June – Bedford
Bedford was a blast and for reasons unknown to any of us the show itself ended with Jordan wrestling Calvin to the ground in a headlock and a cymbal ending up under the organ. This is new territory for us.
Saturday 4 June – Aldershot
The penultimate show was in Aldershot, quite literally new territory for us. We'd been staying in London after the Southampton and Bedford shows and we were doing the same tonight. We arrived early and spent the afternoon in the park – this is definitely the most time we've ever spent in parks on tour – messing around with an Instax camera and playing some tunes. Calvin was even up a tree at some point. The West End Centre treated us like kings. It's a community centre type vibe, the kinda place everyone chips in to make the gig great. That and they fed us well from a local Indian Takeaway. But the high of a boss gig and a first time in Aldershot could not be sustained as we read the news unfolding of terrorist attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market as we drove ourselves back into London to spend the night about four miles from where it happened. The mood in the van was low.
Sunday 4 June – Birmingham
The following morning we're leaving London and moving onto Birmingham for the final night with a now evident, dangerously bald tyre on the van. The van has also lost its power steering, which attracted a weirdly helpful gentleman called John who gave advice and offered one of us to jump in with him. We declined - safety first! Later, and un-abducted by John, we had a fuckin’ blindin' night in Birmingham's Hare & Hounds. Aside from the show itself, Birmingham was a perfect end to the tour for a number of reasons.
-The in-house vegetarian lasagne which surprised every one of us.
-We got a long overdue catch up with our Brummie pals, Cut Glass Kings and Yung Jimmy - who was so happy to see us he'd taken a concoction of downers.
-We met The Mersey Beatles who were playing the other room in the venue. Sound lads with sound advice, such as “stick with the original music until you get some lass pregnant and need to pay the bills.” They're off to Norway next week. Go see them, got some great songs.
Anyway, all good things come to an end as we set off on our head-clearing journey north immediately after changing the worn-through-to-the-canvas tyre on the van. I am finishing the diary on the way home, completing what must be around our 2,500th mile of the tour, it’s rained on and off about 33 times. We’ve had eight piss stops. My phone battery died twice and we are only just north of Perth, with about 6 hours to go to John O'Groats and, finally, my front door.
Photo Credit: Ronan Park