I have spent more time this week somewhere between 25,000 and 35,000 feet than I have in bed. This fact was presented to me as my alarm woke me at 4am this morning. Last night I had half purposely set my phone down on the other side of the room atop a glass shelf so if Underworld's 'Always Loved a Film' didn't wake me, the incessant buzzing would. They both did...
I peeled opened my hideously gin-filled eyes and got ready. Feeling wimpish, I added some warm water to the cold to wash my face; I couldn't imagine James Bond doing that, but I'm hardly James Bond. Waking up the proper way, with a double espresso downed in on go, I grabbed my bag, decanted my into the motor and put peddle to the metal.
I can't believe the amount of roadworks. This does seem to be a fairly common complaint amongst most Brits, but my mind trickles onto thoughts of French, German and even Dutch roads where driving is taken more seriously. They realise the need their populations have to move around the country as quickly (not in the Dutch case), and freely as possible. So why would you have 436 miles of cones and only be working on 10 feet of road? I should have gone into road cone manufacture.
Motoring toward Manchester Airport for a rendezvous with Echo and the Bunnymen. Well, Echo has already jumped a flight to Rome so I'm just meeting the Bunnymen and the Bunnymen's Bunnymen.
Eventually parked up, and made the laborious trip through yet another airport.
Collect boarding card > Get fondled by security > Avoid getting sprayed in the face by that crazy person with the fragrances in duty free > Wait in line for another coffee > Board aircraft.
My light doze is disturbed by Jeff, the cabin supervisor, who is advising me that should I want some refreshment they have wonderful offers on coffees, sandwiches and toasties for only the price of a small African nation. Or, if I'd like to really treat myself, or a member of the cabin crew, they have bottles of Champagne for only £29. I long for Jeff to open the cabin door and the pressure difference to burst my ear drums. It doesn't happen.
The wheels hit the tarmac with a harder than usual thud.
We 're met in the arrivals hall by our driver David; a tallish man with long dark hair and a long dark beard. I ponder if its length can reach round his whole head. I keep that question to myself.
As I quite frequently find in Italy, there are three uniforms that are worn, no matter what job you are doing, and you will usually conform to one or the other. Firstly, the ones with the designer white jeans, crisp shoes, a mobile phone attached permanently to the ear and a cigarette stuck lazily between their lips. These are the guys who turn out to be your local crew and are suppose to help you load your gear into the venue. Then you have the cold, sharp blue suit with polished brown shoes; the classic Italian businessman look that men from offices all over the world covet a little. Then lastly, the sweaty black jeans, black T-shirt with some erogenous gothic writing on it set above Beelzebub's pet goat. If David was meeting Megadeath he would have fitted in perfectly.
He leads our group towards his van. The white, high top Fiat has seen better days. It has faded orange curtains that hide the contents of the vehicle. The seats are at an uncomfortable 90 degree angle and as everyone piles in we also become acutely aware of how intimate these seats are. I think he must drive bands around the country in this thing. It actually has a mezzanine level where he keeps all his tools. If it were a little lower you could probably get a bed up there as well.
As we head into Rome, my view of the ancient city is blocked by the massive grey seat in front of me. We arrive at the hotel to be warmly greeted by the tour manager who hands me a room key and an apology regarding the size of the rooms. I'm reminded of that time when I got stuck in a cabin on a ferry because I had my bag over my shoulder, I had to reverse out the room and then reenter with my bag in from of me. I enter the barely lit room and was surprised to find that the room isn't as small as I had feared. I walk over to open the shutters from the windows only to find they are already open. Rome is dim today.
Next door to the hotel is a tiny pizzeria where I go with the stage manager and the keyboard player. The pizza is lovely in a very Roman way; thin crust, with some slightly salted salami. We spend the next hour chatting about relationships and philosophy. Once luncheon has concluded I return to my pit where I gather my things together ready for load in.
Circolo Degli Artisti is the venue playing host to part of the Ultra Suoni Festival of which we are headlining. The venue is only small, 700 cap, and has a Claire Brother’s PA system which is set down one end of the thin, yet long room with a pair of delayed speakers 2 thirds of the way back. At the very back of the room is a raised platform where the mixing console stands.
I've never actually been too impressed with classic Roman cooking. The last time I was in Rome I was taken to a restaurant in the Jewish Quarter by Warner Music. They were telling me how amazing this place was, so we sit down and I order the Roast Lamb, which apparently is a local delicacy. They ordered some mixed starters for everyone to share. These turn up shortly after, lovely bits of cheese different types of cured ham, and oddly enough, chicken nuggets.
Decorating my plate in lots of different colours and dug in. I take a bite out of this chicken nugget... The rather mushy texture seeping through my mouth gives me the impression that I haven't just bitten into chicken. Throwing up a little in my own mouth, I desperately try to swallow the contents without trying to give a look that would offend my hosts. I enquired to my Italian colleague, who is shovelling these things into his mouth, what this strange taste was; Lamb fries... that's the translation.
This time, dinner took the form of something far more bland and very uneventful, which like my friends Nana who can't eat anything foreign, I preferred. Swings and roundabouts...
We had back to the hotel for a bit of R&R before show time.
After a couple of hours we were back in the lobby ready for David. David has other ideas...
We jump into the van. Turns out David was there to pick up the band and only the band. We, the crew, were getting a lift a girl and she will be here in a matter of moments, he promised.
We get out the van and stand back in front of the hotel again. A crumpled old gypsy lady creeps up to us scratching for change but wondered off into the dark end of the street. From the opposite direction comes a rather voluptuous voodoo lady selling her wears. A rather interesting collapsable egg holder seemed to be her prised possession. Made of wood and eloquently decorated, the poor lady was mocked, not by me I hasten to add. I wonder how bad her curses really are. It was a very full 3 minutes wait for our lift.
A Fiat Punto revs up with an attractive Italian lady driving it. Testosterone fills the car and the vocal tones get more masculine as the conversation turns to masturbation and sex in a bid to seduce this poor woman. Luckily her English wasn't that good and the not-so-broad North English accents of my fellow travellers hid most of the conversation from her ears. Or maybe she was just being polite?
In what I have now come to consider stereotypical Italian fashion, the show was running late. As we arrived at the venue the first band of the evening we still on stage and it did appear that they had just started their set. The dressing room was directly behind the stage. The noise isolation was provided by a black curtain. The crashing and banging of the drums were shrilling, and our conversations were raised in volume before we eventually gave up trying to converse all together. They exited the stage at the point where we should have been commencing change over. The second support then came on and we had to endure 30 minutes of moaning over Fisher Price chords and a Casio drum machine. Finally we get on to the show.
The Roman crowd were excited about the prospect of seeing Echo and the Bunnymen. A Gentleman, heavily rounded with a patchy beard and greasy glasses was so enamoured by the entrance of the band, he clenched the pile of merchandise he had in his hands between his knees, and he clapped. He clapped the most enthusiastic clap you would ever have heard... And it kept going... Right through the first song. His eyes lit up like a sequinned jump suit with so much excitement he couldn't stop moving, his cheers, at the end of each song, oozing with excitement could be heard in 1983.
This did start to get on my nerves after a while. As the show progressed, his body would spasm and his sweaty hair kept falling over his equally sweaty brow. I thought he was having some sort of fit, but as the music stopped the spasms turned into furious applause. On closer inspection this spasm would be some form of dance. You know when you watch music television, but instead of listening to the music on the tele you are listening to something else and everything is just eerily out of time. Imagine that and combine it with some kind of spiritual, tribal ritual and that might be pretty close to what was happening next to me. His arms were waving around as if he were a cartoon character running from a fire spraying sweat far and near... This was the really annoying bit.
The band played well, and for my first show with them I thought I did a pretty good job. I just hope that the few alterations I made to the sound system earlier made sense in the packed out venue. It’s hard to tell sometimes when the position you’re in doesn’t change. It felt good though, so that’s half the battle. Then, as quickly as it started, 1 hour and 9 minutes later the show ended. The band really enjoyed the show, and from my point of view I did too. Of course I don't know all the songs in their set, just the bigger hits. It was good. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and met some pretty nice people.
We then packed down. I say we, I poured myself a glass of red wine and watched the guys pack away. Well, I don't know where the stuff goes... The venue turns into a club after the show, so the band decide to stay for a few beers. The consensus is that we'll stay for about half an hour, have a beer then head to the hotel. I'm already falling asleep at this point and thirst for my bed. My thirst is instead quenched by about four beers and a conversation with an Australian woman about how much she loved the band. Oh yeah, and could she have a set list?
We eventually head back to the hotel and I crawl into bed about 3am. With the hour difference that would have been a 24 hour day. Lobby call is at 9.30am ready to do the joyous flight back to Blighty...Echo and the Bunnymen