Tour Diary: Newcastle - Sheffield - Sowerby Bridge - Newport 26th-29th September 2013:Reality spins on its axis in the Baltic to boys hanging off beams in Newport
Life can be dirty and muddled and reality doesn’t really figure. That was what I was thinking as I lay on a pile of pillows at the Baltic Art Gallery in Newcastle. You have to create your own reality because it is essentially what you make it. There’s the reality of rent and hunger but beyond that money is just figures in a bank account and obligation is a social construct if you take it to a purely philosophical level. (I have a lot of commitment and would not necessarily ditch those for the sake of perceived freedom).
I had played a fantastic show at the Cluny in Newcastle the night before, supporting my good friend Ross Wilson, aka Blue Rose Code. We had played to an attentive crowd and had spent the early morning hours eating pizza in the hotel we were staying at. Ross is a vegetarian so stuck to the four cheese and I the chicken. The Cluny is based close to the ring road in Lime Street and is just a perfect mix of diner/bar and venue. They do the best chilli con carne and we sat for some time relaxing into things. It’s a gig of two fronts as the two seating areas sit at right angles to each other and you have to face different audiences throughout.
I played a new song about a guy I met in a bar back home. He was young and had moved to the town on his own. He knew no-one, he was his own reality I suppose. He said that he was going to go out dancing on his own to practice his moves. There was something admirable in his way. All his friends smoked pot, he said, and he had no time for that. Why waste your life like that when you could be dancing.
Anyway, I digress. I spent the following day walking around the town and checking out the florists and coffee shops. I went to an archway cafe housed within an amusements arcade. The coffee tasted like ash but the waitress had a nice way about her and the food was cheap. At the Baltic I caught two exhibitions, the latter being by an artist called Phillippa Hatherty. She uses film and colourful stage sets to draw the audience into short films about her perceptions of life. I sat in a neon yellow Peugeot 406 and watched a film about a trip to France about how life and love can be a disappointing thing. We’re taught to wash our hands at a young age, she says, and we spend our lives washing our hands metaphorically about unpleasant things- war, failed love, misconceptions. I went with a companion and we came out altered somehow. We shuffled into the afternoon sunlight of Newcastle, calm and certain that life was not greater than us, simply our own creation.
So the moving on came and I headed to Sheffield getting snarled up in the God awful ring road. Sheffield drivers beeping me and getting pissed that I didn’t know where I was going. I never understand people’s short tempers in cities, surely that’s how it goes in big smokes. I played Shakespeare’s for WagonWheel Promotions – a great little promotion company. I’ve played Shakespeare’s a lot now. The man who runs the curry house next door used to live in Romford, “via Slough” he tells me when we visit this time round. He likes it here, it’s quiet and his grandchildren go to a good school.
I shared the bill with Neil McSweeney. We’ve played lots of shows together now and it is always good to see him. I use Neil’s house as my base and head into the city centre the next day. I eat lunch in the same place I used to take my mum and dad when they visited me when I used to live here. Sheffield has the best Waterstone’s in the country in my humble opinion. It’s one of refuges and I instantly feel at home there. I like to get lost on the road so it’s surprising to find yourself out there sometimes.
On to Sowerby Bridge. I rent a bed and breakfast. It’s a miller’s house built in 1828. It’s beautiful and the anaglyptic walls are intricate with fruit bowls and hanging leaves. There’s an old ginger tom who is looking for affection. It cries every time you enter the house. He is eighteen years old. I prep the show whilst sitting on the bed and looking out onto the sculptured gardens and valley.
It’s an early start for I need to get to Newport for the following afternoon. It’s Diverse Music’s 25th Anniversary. They are a cool record shop in Cardiff that work hard to bring music to people. I met Matt at the bar and he looks jaded...two nights of rock n roll is taking it out of him. This gig is a quieter affair and I make some new friends in the bill- Paper Aeroplanes, Stephen James Adams and Polly Paulisma. Everyone is so nice and friendly. It’s good to be in their company. Matt shows me pictures of the night before; boys hanging off beams and beer being spilt. I play, my acoustic cuts out.
I stay with Tim Manning of Blind River Scare, a singer songwriter who visits my home town regularly to play. It’s always good to see him and catch up on his news. He’s working on new songs with a bassist and pedal steel player. It sounds like he’s cooking up something good. We get treated to midnight chocolate cake but it’s all too brief and I’m on the road early morning heading for home.