The travellers return! Actually, we returned ages ago, but whatevs, we’re home Mamma, just like Gump. It could be said that in many ways, our journey mirrored that of Forrest’s almost exactly. And in many, many more ways of course, it did not. This journey was uniquely ours, The Gentlemen of The ‘Tache, and this is our story…
Summer chokes on it’s last breath, coughing up one last mild Thursday evening before surrendering to Autumn. The party of eight gather at the house of Lovett and pack, drink and swear allegiance to the ‘tache before loading up the horses and head out to meet the carriages. A quick stop off at the local market to stock up on essentials delays the group. Pressed for time, but with a greater pressing for Jaffa cakes and manager’s special red wine, the hungry horde descend upon an unsuspecting Tesco Express. Chaos reigns. And a little bit of confusion - hummus or salsa?Nightmare.
In the middle of night, in the middle of nowhere, the carriage appears. Looming large against a darkly decaying urban oil painting, the monster reveals itself… Beware, the sleeping beast. Mastered by the mysterious ‘Dave’, the beast is to be the rabbles home for the next week. Dave turns the key and the creature stirs. It wakes from deep slumber, tamed and saddled, and the highwaymen slip into darkness. Off in to the night they race, to where, who knows, to what, who can tell…
To Dorset, that’s where! For the first day of tour, that’s what! Up for it…?
End of The Road Festival is our first stop, and what a stop. EoTR fest is a thing of wonder; so chilled, such good people and such good music. Opening the second stage, Mumford play to a packed patch of grass and a great time is had by all, especially the peacocks, who seem to be well into it. Winston wonders why man has ruined peacocks for future generations by calling them peacocks, whilst displaying his own take ‘double-d chic’ - that’s double denim; jacket and short (really short) shorts. Hot in himm. Cider is guzzled, curious hat/scarf hybrids purchased and before we know it the day is done. Almost. The bar has already been set ridiculously high but nudges up a few notches when Dirty Projectors take to the stage and everyone settles in for a set that will still be talked about on the last day of tour. Dave then absolutely smashes the overnight drive to Scotland in the sleeper bus and we wake to find ourselves in…
Glasgow. First official gig of the tour. First gigs are always great and this proves no exception. Winston walking head first into the world of the DJ at the afterparty is not great. Whatever the opposite of great is is what this was. Songs are stopped mid-track, volume toyed with like tin soldiers and pitch control completely abandoned. Amazing. Grab the money and run. Glasgow’s also the rendez-vous point with the peerless King Charles, who is to be The Sons’ support for the next two weeks. Right, back to the bus and on to…
Nottingham. Bloody love it. A few of the group take a stroll in search of a spot of afternoon tea, which sees tour manager George man-up massively and take down a three-tiered behemoth: crust-less crailfish sandwiches? This tea just got really real. Ben later rustles up a delightful warm caesar salad for the inexplicably still hungry mob before the kind people of The Bodega Social Club cook up one almighty barbecue featuring quite possibly the best pork burger ever created, and accompanied by some winning apple sauce to fill every one’s bellies and ensure a riotous evening is enjoyed by one and all. Today was a good day, and a bloody great food day.
Manchester next, the Ruby Lounge. Aces, such a nice venue. Many mouths make light work of eating a fantastic cottage pie, made with an actual mountain of mince, as Lovett takes on kitchen duties again to great effect. The gig’s a winner and to celebrate, everyone steams over to a local-recommended club where Red Stripe is cheap and the music vintage. And loud. Very, very loud. This night definitely takes the award for most shapes thrown on the entire tour, with Winston unleashing some moves that can only be described as majestic. A quick, but highly competitive game of table football ends the night, and the beast calls us home from somewhere in the distance… HONK HONK.
For those who don’t know, Thekla in Bristol is a boat. And it’s awesome - all aboard an’ ting. Playing on a boat is fun, it’s a boat after all, no portholes though, bitter disappointment. Our time with the sleeper bus and her keeper Dave draws to a close, so to celebrate their herculean efforts in both driving us the length and breadth of the country, and for putting up with us, we stay up and celebrate with Chevy Chase and the last of the wine cellar’s brood. Thanks Bus! Thanks Dave!
Wednesday sees us nearly a week into tour and back in the splitter van and London, for a homecoming gig at Scala. So much good times, and so good to see the faces of family and friends, it’s a real boost and a great show. With a sense that the business end of… Business… Is over, the little splitter is loaded and stored before embarking on the mammoth drive to Aberdeen the following day.
‘The following day’. Wow, what a mammoth drive to Aberdeen. Seems a good a time as any to hit the DVDs. Which is exactly what we do. The Great Escape rouses the bus, whilst endless Family Guy and Peep Show keeps the bus laughing. Steve McQueen is the quintessential silver screen hero - so epic, truly the man to which all others should aspire. Mark and Jeremy not so much - “Let’s not quibble, I’m a man!”. Solid gold. Aberdeen provides us with the first of countless Travelodges that are to be our shelter for the next three weeks, whilst Cafe Drummond provides us with a lovely venue to peddle our wares. It’s also discovered that locals are called ‘Aberdonians’, a word that sounds so heavenly, it is repeated ad nauseum until it loses all aural beauty and becomes just another sound… It’s here too that we pick up Brendan Campbell, who supports at Cafe Drummond and joins the ranks of the ‘tache for the next couple of days.
A stunning drive up through beautiful Scotland leads us to Ullapool and the Loopallu Festival. There’s some deliberation over who in the travelling party realised ‘loopallu’ was Ullapool backwards, and who did not. No one claims it, despite several eye witness reports indicating that at least two of the eight were oblivious to the fact. The festival is a triumph and the setting breathtaking. Ben and Country join Brendan for his gig in a local tavern, and where the rest of us are joined by two shiny new faces in the shape of Rachel and Owen, who later entertain and charm in equal measure everyone in ear-shot with their company and musical talents - a virtual hug to both of you! The venue is packed to the rafters with revellers, handshakes, laughter and just a sniff of alcohol… Which might serve as explanation for Marcus’s late night exploration of the local loch’s crystal waters. Hand-in-hand with a local fisherman, he waded out chest-deep; the night’s darkness punctured with pure stars, illuminating the swimmer’s tender embrace as they dance amongst the water’s fracturing surface. Marcus returned to the safety of the local hotel and a hot bath. The other fella returned to a tent and a soggy sleeping-bag. We saw him the next day though and he was alive and well - carved from granite they are up there. It’s also here that Ben snaps up the now infamous tweed blazer: stunning Harris Tweed design, a fine drop of gear, something to be treasured and passed down through generations, the sort of sartorial piece that, were you ever to lose it…
With England somewhere ahead we stop off at the staggeringly beautiful Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach and take a delightful afternoon stroll, a few pictures and witness a chap abseil off a very high bridge by way of a very thin rope. All concurred maintenance. Not so, extreme fishing apparently. We watched on as the speck-like figure reached the water below and produced a small fishing rod. Don’t know if this guy is familiar with the concept of ‘supermarket’, but either way, that level of angling has to be respected. Hats off.
Next couple of gigs fly by as the Gentlemen of The ‘Tache hit their stride. Newcastle being notable for two radio sessions of distinct difference: one prior-arranged airwave engagement goes magnificently, the second, conducted adhoc and after several sodas at roughly 5:00am, goes less well. A much needed trip to the launderette however, goes fantastically, and we continue - fragrantly - on our merry way southwards, towards Leeds and the midway point of the tour. Half-time oranges and rubdowns all ‘round.
Leeds Cockpit is wall-to-wall and the gig received feverishly. A fever matched only by that which greets Ted’s freshly shorn locks. The taming of tussled curls into traditional short-back-and-sides, coupled with a now full and hearty moustache and wrapped in suitably combat-fatigued bomber jacket, T. Bear’s transformation into WWI hunk of the skies is complete. So dressed to impress and cutting a dash, it’s off to a local late-night establishment… Now, no-one can remember quite how it happens, but happen it does; amongst the cheap drinks, blinding lights and ‘bangers’, the Harris Tweed is lost. This is nothing short of an international disaster requiring UN-intervention, as a heartbroken Ben searches in vain for the prized garment. Untold misery. A misery compounded by the impish Pete Roe’s insistence on wearing a cheeky little tweed number he’d picked up earlier in the day for a fraction of the cost. Bloody Dad Gad. Several calls are made laterly but still no joy, and the blazer remains missing to this day.
Sheffield passes by in a blur of album signings and hugs and waves as farewells are bid to King Charles, his band and his incredible performances; true gents - and ladies - one and all. Warmest thanks go out to KC, Dave, Giovanna, Ruth, James and Ben for honouring us with your presence, both on and off the stage.
On then to Ireland and all her riches. Nothing written here can do justice to the wonderful times enjoyed in both Dublin and Belfast: from meeting up with old friends, to making new ones, from drinking Guiness in the very pub where The Dubliners drank and formed to sitting in Eddie Rocket’s drinking Oreo’s milkshakes. From playing two great gigs to two amazing crowds of people, to watching great new bands (hello The Agitator!) and great old ones (doubtful you’re reading this but, hello Steve Earle!). From getting the chance to hang out in two beautiful cities for the weekend, to hanging out in possibly the world’s worst casino for what felt like a weekend, we were blessed with it all and much, much more.
The early morning drive from Belfast to Dublin ferry port however, is one that will live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons. Navigating with an iPhone is just about every sort of ache going, but one we successfully live with, and much to everyone’s surprise, the returning ferry is in our sights with an hour to spare. Solid effort, massive thanks to those involved in raising the dead, you know who you are.
The Glee Club is our next port of call, and after a tense environment created by a There Will Be Blood screening en route, the first of two nights in Brum is a relaxed affair, with Wagamamma serving up her finest noodles and Pete Roe his finest tales of travel and woe. It’s also here that it’s agreed that this has been a startlingly strong tour, food-wise, and suggested that this was an achievement worthy of notation and due mention. No need to worry, collective Mums. And so to the second night; this is to be the first night we are joined by The Sons of Noel & Adrian (and later Shoreline), who are picking up where King Charles so ably left off and are to be support for the remainder of the tour. Safe hands. Birmingham can appear to the outsider a strange city, but one that wholeheartedly embraces The Sons, and in return is treated to some onstage banter between Messrs Mumford, Roe and Marshall, the likes of which has never been heard, hears no desire to be so again, and so won’t be repeated here. Bloody Dad Gad.
The now over-flowing-with-rider van snakes it’s way out of Birmingham and descends the ladder to Oxford and the Bullingdon for the next show, before making the trip to East Anglia. The Arts Centre in Norwich is lovely, housed as it is inside an old church, and is agreed by everyone to be one of the stand out gigs, with crowd and band in harmony, leaving all in high spirits in advance of the impending Live Lounge session the following day…
Saturday. BBC. Maida Vale. Jo Whiley. Live Lounge. Calvin Harris. Done.
Prior to our arrival, little is known about Tunbridge Wells - the vans collective head scratched firmly in lieu of any real knowledge about the place. What is known is that the Forum was once Europe’s largest public toilets - a fact no doubt raised by pretty much any band who step across it’s threshold, and most likely one those involved with the venue are overly tired of being reminded. So instead, let it be known that they can also cook a mean chilli. Fact.
Cambridge feels somewhat subdued, as the realisation that the tour is slowly coming to it’s inevitable end begins to sink in and take root. Trips to Fopp and HMV lift the mood, mind. The Junction plays the part of host splendidly and the crowd are gracious as everyone finally succumbs to the rigours of tour and cough-cum-colds… With the exception of one of our number, who shall remain nameless, who ends the night in Halls, with little-to-no idea how or indeed why, but with a very real feeling that he may have just met Steve Stiffler. Minus the charm. Chilling.
Ah, Brighton. Glorious Brighton. Perhaps the first day that feels like Autumn as we’re greeted with sheets of grey and rain upon arrival, but the poor weather fails to dampen our spirits (proving a greater success at dampening the shirts on our back) and The Sons ready themselves for a lively night at Komedia. Afterwards, phone interviews are conducted in the back of the van under a heavy mist of cheap scotch and the group is led by the hand towards Audio nightclub and a suspiciously expensive drinks ‘offer’. A few hastily thrown together tequila slammers are thrown down thirsty necks and suddenly everything’s a bit better. The long walk back to the Travelodge doesn’t seem so epic and is quickly undertaken. Quickly/slowly, same difference, right?
The morning after the night before and one or two gents feel unwell, right out of leftfield. No time for sympathy, but just enough time to make No. 46 in a series of 49 stops at local services, where the M&S namesake comes up trumps yet again. Another stirling turn behind the wheel means we’re in Bath with time to spare, where the smallest gig of the tour takes place at the perfectly-formed Moles. Super stuff. Head’s are later laid down in the venue’s own apartment, meaning there’s a lounge and a kitchen - like a real house, which doesn’t sound like much, but after a month spent in either a bus or hotel bedrooms is very surreal. Very Waltons. Definite Little House On The Prairie-vibes, wholesome, and also awesome.
Quick stop off in Southampton for something the kidz are calling a ‘gig’, and sadly more goodbyes too, this time to the superb Shoreline massive - thanks to Tom, Nick, Marcus, Will, Beatrice, Mike, Alistair, James and Jacob for imperious support - before the drive up to Northampton and the final night of T.O.U.R. Roadmender have squeezed a few extra faces in taking the crowd up to around 700 and making this the second biggest show of the whole tour. After an afternoon spent with Ms. NME and an early evening spent with Mr. J.D Wetherspoon, it’s time to put The Gentlemen of The ‘Tache to bed - but not before one last hurrah. And what a hurrah; between the incredible crowd, and the news that Sigh No More has gone in at No. 11, the night feels just a little bit special, and the perfect way to bring the proverbial curtain down on The Sons’ first ever headline tour.
So that was our story. It’s a little bit vague and a little bit muddled, but it’s better than Neighbours - “Is what it is-vibes”. If only there was some way of rustling up a side-order of visual stimuli for you to enjoy with this meaty, memory-maincourse…
There’s really nothing left to say except ‘thank you’, it was our very great pleasure and privilege to play for you, meet you and have you be a part of it all.
Now will someone please pass me a razor, this moustache is totally brassing out my cotch…