Thursday 24th Feb – Belfast
After another tenuously late night and bone creakingly early morning – spent in the residence of one mr J Bledgerbunce who kindly hosted us after our Dundee show – we set off through the Scotch morn to catch our ferry in Cairnryan.
Playing somewhere completely new is always a boon. I’ve visited Ireland, but never performed there. We took photos of ourselves reflected in puddles as we waited in the ferry-port, taking advantage of our collective excitement to try and grab a serviceable promo snap or two.
The crossing was uneventful. I think Tom sold a kidney to buy a snack. Lee made techno. Tim and Jon took in the sea air, but it was too cold outside for me. I think I slept.
From Larne we motored on to Belfast and to the Speakeasy bar in the Queen’s University Student Union. The first copies of our new CD were waiting for us after our label had posted them ahead. Martin went on an urgent mission to find them which lasted exactly the same amount of time as load-in.
The mixing desk was like the bridge of the Enterprise. With a touch screen and motorised faders and a ‘save all settings’ function. Sound-check was hurried as per usual and sounded solid. I borrowed a lovely speaker cabinet from Ryan Rosa. There was no need for Jon to write down any of the settings. They were ‘saved’ in the desk.
The enormous room filled with punters. It was a free night in a Students Union bar – a melting pot of youth and intoxication. There was much revelry, so many smiles, the occasional pratfall – I couldn’t decide whether I was romanticising being abroad or whether it hadn’t seemed like this much fun when I was at Uni. Maybe it’s because I used to be at home watching Quantum Leap.
Like Statues and Friend? were both really good. The former warming up the crowd nicely, and the latter somehow melding traditional celtic violin music and straight out rock into its own new sub genre.
As with the rest of the tour we entered the stage in turn, each adding something ominous to a layered soundscape before embarking on our first track. At this point I realised nothing was coming from the monitors. I looked over the room to Jon at the desk but it was too dark and he was too far away. We were well into the second song before the monitors came to life – firing sound back at us like a ground assault. There was a hardcore of punters up at the barrier watching our show. They seemed to enjoy it. I had a lovely time.
Kasper Rosa played after us. They had a belter of a gig. The home crowd lapped it up. I briefly shared a chat with Rory from ASIWYFA, and Ian our driver and I watched the bouncers eject a man for drunken behaviour. He protested, but I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say.
After the gig Ryan took us to a house party. 75 people crammed into a flat the size of a post office. A small one. No music or ambient lighting. Just pure joyous celebration. I chatted to many new folk, learned a thing or two about Belfast, and found out from Jon that the megadesk had not actually saved any of the settings from sound-check, we were to find out in the coming days what this had truly meant.
We walked back to Ryan Rosa’s house at 5am and bedded down were we could. There seemed to be people performing an exorcism in the room designated for three of us so we all piled onto the living room and kitchen floor. Jon sloped off to sleep in the van. The last thing I remember before drifting into sleep was the sound of an outside pipe bursting and water gushing down into a yard – spattering like a hail storm onto the concrete only inches from my ears…
Friday 25th Feb – Dublin
We awoke late and left late, unsurprising since we’d collectively only had nineteen minutes in which to sleep. We drove to Dublin and combated the need to sleep with the excitement of our destination. Our first stop was Tower Records. We arrived at 12.55pm for our 1pm instore appearance. As we hurriedly set up on the stage area, by the magazines and dvd boxsets we surveyed the losses from our Belfast show. One speaker cable, one keyboard stand and one snare stand. Ouch.
One trip down the road to a music store later and we were ready to play. Although we had now waxed the entire float of Euros that I had brought and didn’t even have enough change for parking or a coffee. We performed a 20 minute set of instrumental rock to 15 people and the store clerk. It was awesome. Perhaps if we’d arrived when we said we would…
After painstakingly loading our three tonnes of equipment into the van we drove round the corner to the Workman’s Club and unloaded it all again. Jon the beardy soundman was lovely and helpful, although we almost got him mixed up with Jon our beardy soundman. Fortunately their accents told them apart.
The gig was fantastic. The first band Enemies were a nice contrast to Friend? from the day before. There two drumkit polyrhythmic shenanigans was just what the doctor ordered. Our set went well. Even Morrissey attended. Although true he did leave midway during the first song, at approximately the first incident of overdrive. Some would say that means that you’ve made it.
After the show there was dancing, chatting, feasting and the laboured moving and loading of heavy equipment. At some point Lee located a review of the Belfast gig online which was particularly descriptive regarding our problems with the sound. Alongside the ‘James Bond villain’ review from Industry in London this is my favourite ever Vessels review.
I had expected the beautiful city of Dublin to be the high point of this leg of the tour but Cork and its fantastic people stole the show.
We arrived in Cork with time enough to take in the town and enjoy the local cuisine. The Quay Co-op served up a monstrous vegan spread, warming me up to the place within minutes of arrival – (I can still taste my burgers, spiced to perfection) and the need to wait for the P.A to arrive gave us more time for a wander round the town. We had been touring for a week and I had become increasingly troubled by having only one clipboard for the merchstand. What had started out as a casual desire had quickly morphed into a raging obsession as town upon town and stationer upon stationer failed to turn out the goods. Even the Euro-shop in Cork, with its nine aisles of stationary couldn’t offer even the hilt of a clipboard. So imagine my joy when Jon and I found Guiney’s the departmentless department store and the pride of Cork – What do you need today folks? – A rubber arm, satin trousers for oversized folk, a rubix cube with 54 identical pink squares, a shoe horn in the shape of a 2CV – well Guineys has it – provided you’re willing to forage for it; and forage we did. Through the shelves, through the displays, and through the not inconsiderable mounds of stock simply strewn around the floors, until we found, for 79 cent, the only clipboard presently on sale anywhere in the British Isles or Ireland. SCORE.
Enough of that particular triumph – what of the gig. Well opening act Sideproject started things off nicely. Not that I could see them through the ever growing mass of folks that had started to arrive. It began to seem that we were in the employ of a pretty fierce promoter, putting no charge on the door but targeting the right sort of folks to fill this bar on a Saturday night. By the time we played the atmosphere was supercharged, and the crowd were amazing. Receptive, respectful, animated, noisy and energetic. We would have played an encore, but apparently in Cork they are too polite to ask, loudly and extendedly applauding you away from the stage but never daring to question your decision to have finished…
And with that, we packed down, loaded out, enjoyed a few beverages with some of our new friends and then piled back to our host Darragh’s house for some lovely chat and our final night’s rest before the ferry back to England, and the remainder of yet another Vessels jaunt…