Part 12 – all good things must come to an end

And so the tour is already becoming a distant memory albeit a fond memory. Over the last two and a half weeks we covered three countries in the UK and travelled a grand total of 3026 miles. We also consumed many bottles of whisky and now I feel like I’ve been driven over by a fleet of tanks. We rounded off the tour with a headline show at The Borderline last night which was great and we overcame our tiredness with yet more whisky. It got to the point where I had to drink a few glasses of whisky to feel normal again!

It feels strange that I was in Sheffield only yesterday, the day after the final date of the tour at the Edwardian theatre that is the Sheffield Lyceum. It really is a stunning venue and provided a fitting closure to what was a rather special tour. That morning we went out in search of bacon only to discover the pubs of Sheffield heaving with people, it was like the pubs had replaced old people’s homes, might as well call it The Departure Lounge.

I’ll be doing a tour round up in the next day or so with some nice photos so keep your eyes peeled.


Part 11 - the road is long

We've been travelling for over two and a half hours now on long winding roads through the beautiful welsh countryside. We've passed many towns and villages with names that have an inordinate amount of consonants. We all have mouths like carpets and snake pit stomachs today, which is nice!


Part 10 - the hills are alive

Im sat in the dressing room in Swansea, the doors open in 10 minutes and we haven't sound checked yet, neither has Richard Hawley's band. Apparently the PA, or maybe even two PAs broke down
and everyone is frantically waiting for the replacement to arrive. Oh, the drama! We arrived pretty late cos we did a little detour to climb up the Malvern hill, which apparently is the highest point in England. Luckily, there was a car park near the top so we only had a 20 minute walk to the very top, i'm not really built for long walls. The views at the top were pretty breathtaking. Anyway, better get on with the hopefully not long wait and theres lots of booze to be consumed.


Part 9 - can the one that looks like Jesus keep away from the pumps

We set off from Gateshead to Nottingham for a live radio session only to discover the guitars are on Richard Hawley's bus in Swansea, ooops! After a bit of a panic i phone a local guitar shop and manage to convince them to loan us two guitars, phew! I think the words 'we'll give you a cheeky plug on air' helped.


Past 8 - bye bye Scotland

After our fleeting stay in Scotland we find ourselves once again searching for a nice traditional pub serving nice hearty food, this time in Northumberlandshire. We try various little villages with bizarre names like Morpeth but no cigar, maybe Greene King have bought them all and turned them into flats. We eventually find a pub using a flashy iPhone app. and despite the early promise of log fires and a saliva inducing menu it doesnt quite live up to expectation and we end up going slightly delirious and by attacking each other with numbered wooden spoons. I guess the epic travelling and crippling tiredness, had something to do with that! My bones actually feel like bricks right now. Miles travelled so far: 2103. Oh yeah, that ludicrous dry ice machine caused the fire alarm to go off at the venue in Edinburgh last night. It also prompted a man in the audience at the Glasgow show to ask if they could switch the fog machine off as it was blowing straight at me and turning me into a cloud. They didnt switch it off but well done that man for trying!


Part 7 - Glasgow, haggis, neaps and tatties

We couldn't come to Scotland without having perhaps their most famous culinary delight: haggis. After much searching down this amazing street that had a pleasingly inordinate number of musical instrument shops and charity/ vintage shops, we found a nice pub that did haggis, and it was truly delicious! The Fruitmarket in Glasgow was ace, all the old endearing features were in tact and pretty coloured lights draped round the perimeter, photos of that will come soon. About to sound check now so must dash, doors in 10 mins! Oh dear. . . .


Part 6 - Nottingham & the M6

There's a lyric in Moscow State Circus by Eugene McGuinness that goes "I can name all the service stations on the M6 off by heart" and I'm beginning to feel like that. Having said that though, we've just stopped off at a lovely farm tea room in Yorkshire en route to Glasgow. The farm had a rather uncoventional selection of animals with cows, lamas, emus and a camel all sharing the same space in a field. Jessica almost had her fingers nibbled off after petting the animals, which would have been a bit of a disaster for playing guitar tonight but luckily the animals were friendly. I couldn't help but imagine one of those pigs sizzling away in the oven, shoot me!

The Albert Hall in Nottingham was an odd venue, conference centre by day and concert hall by night, the main room was beautiful with a huge pipe organ at the front. We were on stupidly early cos it was a Sunday which apparently means everyone turns into vampires if they stay out later that 10pm, so we ended up playing to a rather sparse room, but it was a good gig all the same.

We've just passed a road sign warning us about potential crossing tanks so I'm going to keep a look out for tanks now and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

Total distance travelled so far: 1816 miles


Part 5 - Shepherds Bush Empire + Bexhill

I'm never going to call it the O2 Empire, it has too much history to be reduced to the name of a massive corporation. I've been to a lot of great gigs at The Empire and surprisingly it seems a hell of a lot bigger standing in the crowd than on stage. The reason for this might be because you can't really see anything from the stage at all due to the preposterous amount of dry ice being pumped out. Bexhill was the most ridiculous example of this, I remember looking out from the stage and I literally couldn't see anyone at all, I could have lit a cigarette and no one would have noticed. That whole day was a bit of a haze 'cos I couldn't even see the sea due to the blanket of rain and fog covering Bexhill.

Lisa Marie Presley duetted with Richard Hawley at The Empire which made the after show pretty mad 'cos of her entourage surrounding her like a moat round a castle. We decided to stay out of the way and play space invaders whilst drinking bourbon.

must dash, off to see Robin Hood now, maybe I can get a quiver off him for my viola bow.


Part 4 - Ipswich + Birmingham

The day started off well when we arrived at The Regent in Ipswich to discover the usual sights of Richard Hawley's crew setting up a legion of shiny guitars nowhere to be seen. We were at the wrong venue. After a brief panic where we thought we might not just be in the wrong venue but the wrong city all together it turned out the show had been moved to the Corn Exchange, which was just round the corner. Phew!

The Corn Exchange is a lovely hall, not that you can tell from my typically bad photo below, and the sound was marvellous; Kaf and Jessica's voices really soared in that place.

Birmingham Town Hall, below, was built in 1784 and it's a rather wonderful and imposing building, it also promped the man Hawley to say "who'd have thought Birmingham could be so beautiful"

Tonight: Shepherd's Bush Empire!


Part 3 - Holmfirth, Manchester, York, Bristol

I'm back in London, albeit very briefly, and now have access to a proper computer which means I can type lots of nonsense about the tour.

Miles travelled so far: 764.5

Four dates in and I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience, everyone on tour is really friendly and Richard Hawley in particular has been very kind to us, even letting us share their dressing room on the first night due to a dressing room shortage.

Smoke Fairies' post Holmfirth, must have been a dismal performance!

Bridgewater Hall in Manchester (pictured below) was a rather swanky establishment, cleverly built by people who clearly know their acoustics 'cos the sound in that place is astonishing. It's usually frequented by massive orchestras, which was made apparent to us when we were told we'd have to pick up all our equipment at a ludicrously early hour the following morning due to the (something) Philharmonic loading in. Following a somewhat late night I woke up fully clothed (brogues, coat, suit and tie) remembering that the entire the band were staying in a one bed Travelodge room. Cosy!

Despite being incredibly picturesque, York was a stressful place to arrive at. It's like a miniature version of London with scores of people buzzing about and no bloody parking spaces, we ended up driving round for over an hour trying to find somewhere, which eventually we did at the cost of SEVEN pounds. Next to that car park was a shop selling TVs for almost the same price! The York Opera house (which we're all standing outside below) was an amazing venue though, it's a lovely old theatre and we played our best set yet.

The Bristol Hippodrome (below) was a marvellous establishment, our set was less than spectacular. Thanks to Rowena for letting us stay at their lovely house, come studio, come farm!

The rider situation is an interesting one, we get a crate of beers between the four of us each evening and at the York Opera House they gave us a bottle of Marker's Mark too which was great! The rider situation is interesting, or dull, because if you have a look at the Government's Guidelines it says that men shouldn't drink more than 4 units a day. By my calculations, given that there are only 3 of us drinking the rider due to the fact that one of us has to drive, that means we're drinking 8 cans each every night, which comes to 17.6 units which is 4 and a half times more than the recommended amount. Considering this rider is provided by the promotions company, that means they're effectively encouraging us to break the Government's Guidelines. Now, that's my kind of business!

Right, off to Ipswich...


Part 2: We Will Rock You

I'm sitting in a dressing room at the Bristol Hippodrome, sipping Stella and wearing three ties for no apparent reason other than for my own amusement, it feels like im wearing one massive tie. This venue hosted the no doubt ridiculous We Will Rock You musical, which is pretty crazy. The posters are still up and the evidence of Rock is still evident, there's two whole dressing rooms dedicated to wigs! Despite the fact we were a little 'tired and emotional' last night at the amazing York Opera House we played our best gig yet, but more on that and other exciting and less exciting things tomorrow once i have a proper computer in front of me.


Part 1: the tour begins!

Here we are then, Smoke Fairies are on the road for the first date of the tour. I am literally sat in a car right now on the M1, being disgustingly 21st century and mobile blogging. And yes, we're in a car not plush tour van cos they're way too expensive for the likes of us. There's not much to report on the motorway; a parade of speeding tin cans, War of the Worlds style pylons and huge road signs pointing to uninviting places like Milton Keynes. I wish i'd bought some booze with me. Soon we'll be arriving in Holmfirth, the picturesque town where they filmed the award winning classic series Last of the Summer Wine! Where's my beanie hat?