bright light ! articles
title: european tour diary - jan/feb 2009
written by: barry burns
published by: brightlight
date: february 2009

an edited version of barry's tour diary first appeared in impress magazine (australia).
thanks to barry for donating the unedited version to brightlight.

Tour Diary Jan/Feb 2009

29th january
itís just turned midnight and we leave glasgow on the tour bus for another gruelling european tour, fraught with danger and hard work. nothing is more hard work than this, another thankless tour diary (moaned barry, because some australian bastards made him write oneÖ.and no fee was mentioned). southampton is our ferry-crossing destination, a metropolis to rival the lost city of atlantis, and a fine place for band and crew to get to grips with what may be the best video game of all time, geometry wars on the xbox. itís hard to describe the joy of shooting ambling swastikas and vicious rhombuses but if youíve played this game then youíll know.

30th january
following a 6-hour ferry extravaganza we arrive in france, somewhere, and drive for another 5 hours to get to brest. i should mention that iím writing this on the 4th of february and because iím 33 years old i can no longer remember what the gig was like. i remember a nice lunch and i remember errors (our excellent touring support band) playing very well, but little else.

31st january
nantes, france. weíve been here before. the food is very nice in the dressing room area but the toilet smells, i imagine, similar to the result of pickling a mermanís testicles in cow vomit for a cruel length of time before finally throwing them into a pile of bat shit. coupled with the fact that there are no toilet seats in the venue makes for a sublime experience. the show was not so great but weíre just getting into the tour so iím not worried. does a merman have testicles? i meet some nice french folk outside, one of them seems like this may have been her first time drinking and i am not at all convinced by her that we should all go out drinking together and so to bed.

1st february
toulouse, france. weather is warming up a little bit. the venue is truly fantastic. herve, who owns, runs and cooks in the venue (the bikini) is a great host. the old bikini burned down because it was evidently too near a fireworks factory though he has done amazingly well with this new corbussier-esque purpose built building. the band and crew comment that it seems to be only in northern europe (here in france, germany, switzerland etc) and faraway japan that venues are run well by great crews. discuss. the show was amazing, in my top 5 ever i think. only soured by the fact that my old back is very painful and all my good painkillers were eaten on the long flight back from malaysia last week.

backstage catering in toulouse
[click for larger image]

2nd february
a day off in sunny post wwiii alicante, spain. itís not a nice part of town but we manage to find some decent food (i think i was part of the lucky food expedition pack as the others complained of dog-food meals). managed to get drunk on nice brandy.

3rd february
malaga, spain. i receive a full body massage from a woman who has brought her daughter along with her in order to teach her massage. this would have been ok if they hadnít whipped off my underpants. i only had a sore back, but i did feel better after being prodded for an hour. weíre playing in another very beautiful seated theatre venue. i think the older i get the more i appreciate these seated gigs. people tend to listen more attentively and therefore in silence. this often makes us play really well but sadly not for me tonight. i made some schoolboy errors for which my old piano teacher would have roundhouse kicked me.

4th february
murcia, spain. a virgin town for mogwai. we arrive to find the stage is decorated with scaffolding and a play is being performed. this amuses our tour manager simon. and i use the word ďamusesĒ quite wrongly. this being spain and therefore not northern europe will surely mean that the soundcheck and concert will most likely be subject to some delay. at yesterdayís concert our lighting designer said he could have rigged the lights for a massive outdoor festival himself in a faster time than it took the 4 dudes to do it in a tiny theatre. the dressing room is a ballet school and we take turns to pirouette in front of the mirror. time passes and soundcheck is late, imagine that. while we soundchecked, about 100 people were on the stage demonstrating expert stillness. one guy who was focussing lights decided to repeatedly bang into our bodies on stage. i guess the lights are important. the stage manager also sat down with our own tour manager and said that, in his opinion, we just wouldnít have a very good soundcheck. you gotta love the spanish. anyway, the show, in my opinion was extremely poorly played. sorry murcia. we did however receive a lovely huge leg of serrano jamon from the support band. martin went at it with a bread knife on a moving bus (not ideal).

stuart warms up, backstage in murcia
[click for larger image]

meat, bread knife, bus [click for larger image]

5th february
lisbon, portugal. back to gmt and somehow back to really well organised concert time too, i take back what i said about all southern european shows immediately. we play in a lovely 1970ís university campus theatre; everyone knows what theyíre supposed to be doing which is a treat. we meet some competition winners at soundcheck, hopefully dispelling any myths and legends they had about us as we fart, joke and burp our way through 3 badly played ditties. and errors, it turns out, are more mental than first thought. we hear a rendition of gregís (their guitarist) garageband version of flower of scotland (on digital trombone), which can only be described as Łberspastic. we play a good show to the best audience of the tour by a mile. the port was excellent.

6th february
madrid, spain. we arrive, one of the local crew puts our smoke machine on top of our other equipment upside down thus spilling oil all over it. the 5 arrows showing which direction to keep the unit oriented should have flummoxed no man, but this is spanish crew and they are not interested in flimsy concepts like sense. i did a stupid thing myself. i was asked to hold a box from the bus bay and i had a coffee in my hand but instead of putting the cup down, i held it in my teeth so that when i was handed the box my head jerked backwards spilling hot coffee down my nice clean shirt and onto some new errors t-shirts. the gear load out tonight is whatís called a ďdisco load outĒ where our crew have to battle against time, dancing punters, bad venue management and a steep cobblestone hill in order to get the stuff put safely away on the bus. did i mention that the promoter (livenation no less) have on our dressing room the word ďmogwayĒ? and that the dressing room is a roped off war-time corridor with no privacy whatsoever and that thereís a woman janitor singing at the top of her lungs while iím trying to write this? but wait, sheís just come in and taken some of our biscuits and then continued to speak to us in accomplished spanish even though itís quite clear by our blue skin, lack of eye contact and confused faces that we are not from madrid. nice to see they employ dangerous sociopaths backstage. nonetheless the gig turns out to be a good one and we have the luxury of a great crowd. itís also nice to play in a place where the people arenít 40 feet away from the stage. there are mutterings after the show of not making it to san sebastian tomorrow due to snow on the roads.

7th february
san sebastian, spain. we made it. my bunk leaks from the rain and itís just like chinese water torture. i suppose itís too much to ask to have a tour bus that repels water into the area where you sleep. the credit crunch hits hard. on leaving the bus i watch the force of a minor storm pummel the seawater against the shore before playing the how do you get into the venue game. this game is often made easier by following the umbilical power cable that the venue gives to the tour bus. i do this but the cable leads me to a locked door and a security woman silently offers to show me the way to the stage area. this easily takes 6 minutes and i am beginning to think that sheís having a laugh. itís a bit spinal tap. i arrive to see the 3rd broken dressing room coffee machine in a row, a flooded shower room (no curtain, no working drain) and then i remember iím still in spain albeit the basque country. the tour boredom has really kicked in. everyone sits around doing nothing, staring into middle distance.

boredom [click for larger image]

8th february
cannes, france. day off. started the day by going a walk down to the beach/marina and marvelling at how loads of money makes a place really odd. every dog is miniscule, every face is destroyed by plastic surgery, every boat is £6,000,000 and every d&g outfit is of course tasteless. after some food itís back to the hotel and then, sadly, to an irish pub to watch some boring football. people are getting very drunk and hungry. i would love to tell you a story about something really side-splittingly funny but i actually canít. maybe ask me in person. later other funny things happen which are unmentionable. i tell you this though; if thereís ever a mogwai book written then it will be full of lies and body swerving.

9th february
bologna, italy. on leaving cannes the bus breaks down very quickly. there is hammering at 6 in the morning and i thought someone was trying to break into the bus. on awakening we are in a truck stop and finally some italian mechanic comes to fix the bus, which takes hours. he does a great job as we travel a whole 30 miles before it breaks down again. we decide to hire vans in order to make it to the show, which turns out to be unexpectedly packed. chris brokaw joins the tour tonight. itís also simon from errorsí birthday and we have a very messy bus party which ends up with james from errors sleeping on the downstairs couch much to the chagrin of his other band members. i should mention that the pasta here is ridiculously tasty and pokes fun at any pasta iíve tasted outside of italy.

10th february
milan, italy. the grey old city of milan. itís time to buy underwear or find a laundry and i opt for the former finding myself bewildered in an italian supermarket that sells pants. i think i bought the right size so tonightís performance will be full of great confidence. we go out for dinner to a pizza place iíve been to before which seemed extremely good. the concert was sold out at 1650 people which is just short of the actual record sales in the whole of italy which makes you wonder, are italians cheeky monkeys? anyway, the food poisoning from aforementioned great restaurant is about to take over my life. spewing all night into a bin-bag on the bus is a lonely experience and this will soon worsen when the other end of my body decides to take action. not good. not one bit.

11th february
strasbourg, france, day i. thankfully for me we have our first and only full day and night in a hotel room so i retire to what i have crudely (under the corrupting influence of extreme loneliness) named ďthe shit caveĒ and i hermetically seal myself into the bathroom with bbc news24 on full blast. i am not enjoying life right now but at least i know that 2 satellites have crashed in orbit and we really wont know the full extent of the damage for many weeks, probably.

12th february
strasbourg, france, day ii. i am beginning to think of suicide but a few imodiums, no food and some sleep on a couch are helping matters. soundcheck is slightly delirious for obvious reasons and afterwards i am jealous of missing out on what has been awarded the best meal of the tour. the actual gig, though played quite badly by the five of us, seems to go down very well. it looks like more and more people may be coming to see us play live but they may not be buying the cdís. oh you little tinkers. itís back on the bus for some horror films and in some cases some alcohol poisoning.

13th february
orleans, france. been here before and i remember from the whole 3 flights of stairs we have to ascend before hitting the dressing rooms. not much will happen today, the tour has wound down and weíre glad to be coming to the end. it so happens that a few more of us have extremely dodgy tummies today and this will become worse later on. the concert is not great and there are 3 misfits in the crowd who will not stop jumping up and down, annoying everyone behind them. this is not an offspring concert, itís miserable, mostly slow music that merits a slight back-to-front head movement at best. anyway, we do our best and get on the sickly bus, which is sure to be full of infected flesh eating zombies by morning.

14th february
reims, france. bad news. one of errors has the bug very bad and we hear the sad news that they will not make the last show of the tour. what a shame, they were going down so well every night. these things happen though and we wish them a safe journey home. almost everyone is feeling sore in the guts region with a lot of toilet action today so the bus home tonight might be fun. we play a really good show to a nice, if reserved audience, drink some local champagne and get on the bus for hellride home. some of the band and crew wanted to fly back from stanstead airport in england to catch the celtic vs rangers football match but they donít make it forcing us to stop in some hellhole hamlet in england to see it on tv. this makes dom and i annoyed because we just wanted to get home. anyway, after what must have been a highly eventful 0-0 draw, the rest of the people get on the bus and we head north. of course, just after we drop the tour manager in manchester, her majestyís ministry of transport police in carlisle direct us into a weigh station. turns out that the tail light of the bus which had been broken since the start of the tour (two weeks ago) and subsequently ďfixedĒ today by the driver (using what looked like a plank of wood with some christmas lights nailed to it) will (incredibly) not be fit for our journey home, so we wait there for 2 hours to be police escorted to a breakdown place only to be told after another hour that it is unfixable. itís then up to two taxis to get the band and one crewmember back to scotland. while waiting for the taxi, the driver moans that he has to pay for the taxis out of his own money. boo hoo. you should have fixed it two weeks ago eh? he then moans that it wasnít his fault. i suppose it was the evil and vengeful spectre of saddam hussein who did it? idiot. anyway, after an hour and a bit we arrive home, tired, pissed off and ready to go to greece in 3 days time. the glamour, it never starts.