Day 1: Fibbers, York, 9th November, supporting DJ Format & Abdominal –
I don’t think I’ve ever pushed as hard as I have for this tour. Day in day out for about three months, I’ve followed a plan and every momentary shrewd thought that branches out of the plan when the caffeine has hit my nervous system in the admin hours. I’ve also had to compose, write, record, mix, master, practise and organise duplication of the EP that the tour is promoting. You have to really love this craft to pursue it.
I’ve never played in York before. I haven’t played anywhere north of Aberystwyth for ten years. Tim, the promoter at Fibbers was brave and generous to give me a shot. Nobody knows who I am up here. Almost nobody. More on that in a few dates time. In the morning, Vox Cornelius (Johno), also supporting on the night, called to tell me he’d happily put me up for the night which meant I wouldn’t have to drive home at midnight! It’s an eight hour round trip. Legend.
I arrived near the venue to have Johno again help me with where to park. He couldn’t have helped me more really. Again, already feeling touched by people’s support in my endeavours. Arrived to the venue to find that Fibbers is bigger than I expected. I had been bristling with excitement all the previous night and the morning to think how cool it is to be able to get a slot in a city I’ve never been to, supporting a British hip hop legend. Now I’d got a big venue to play to aswell! Headliners were late to soundcheck which is pretty much the standard for any hip hop act ever anywhere (not me though…) but soundguy Joel managed to fit in enough of a soundcheck for me and Johno before they arrived for me to feel ready and set.
It came to my start time of 7:30. There was nobody in the venue but the staff – not to say I wasn’t expecting this. But I politely informed Joel that my set was only twenty five minutes and could we start five minutes later. He agreed unquestioningly. The stage manager did not. So I played Charge to the barstaff and moved swiftly on. By the end of the set, the feedback from the monitors was beginning to irritate and interfere with the loops but, proudly, I didn’t let this show. DJ Format applauded me from the wings. He was really impressed by what I do. This, and johno’s assistance and the sale of a few cds to people clearly interested in what I do, made the trip worthwhile. I decided to drive home anyway, having schmoozed and enjoyed Format’s set, as it was only half ten. Regretting that a bit now. Got home at 3am. Shattered. I’m back in York in two Thursdays time and I have a feeling that one is going to be waaaay busier. We’re off…
Day 2: Winchester Gate, Salisbury, 10th November –
This is a welcome remedy to the anticlimax that was yesterday. Don’t get me wrong. It was exciting and some great things came out of it. But I’ve no doubts about attendance or interest at this one.
Traffic was total from Bristol to the venue but somehow still arrived in two hours as Google had suggested. Perhaps there is some kind of quantum time field one passes through between the counties in the south west. Today was so much less stressful than yesterday. My host, Robb Blake was another utter gent. He also did attentive, patient and friendly sound for me. The new tunes from Junction 29 went down exceptionally well. Neat Rice Soup works brilliantly for crowd participation. I’ve been wanting something which works like that for ages – nothing that makes a crowd feel awkward or squirmy but just enough involvement to feel they’re an important part of the song. Can’t wait til those reading this get to take part in it as well! This is going to be a short entry because I’ve just got home, it’s 2am and I’m up at 8am to teach violin for 5 hours before heading off to Weymouth! In short – Jasper deserves a huge round of virtual applause and a hug for putting me in touch with Robb. Also, it turns out that the journey time (without traffic) from Salisbury to Bristol is exactly long enough to listen to the whole of Supa Dupa Fly by Missy Elliott. POST-TOUR ADDITION: I made a note before going to sleep on the day of writing this entry to discuss Jasper describing me as the “most self-effacing person” he knows. I very much take that as a compliment because, in so much as I can have control over my performing persona (it takes its own initiative at times), I refuse to play the games. By this, I mean: I’ll never feel right flicking a switch and turning into my own marketing executive on or off-stage, harassing people with a pitch to buy my product. I feel lucky to be able to do what I do and make a little bit of money from it but it’s always going to be the soft sell coming directly from me. So if I come across as self-effacing, it’s a part of me taking the piss out of the part of me that’s saying “come on, Mike Dennis, give us your product!” Make sense?
Cheers to Jasper for these shots…
Day 3: Belvedere Inn, Weymouth, 11th November –
It’s just hit me that it’s Remembrance Day. There’s something probably not worth mentioning on stage, unless you’re particularly informed about it. I’m simultaneously shattered and in the familiar tour mode where I manage to stay operational despite said tiredness. Will has come with me today which I’m very grateful for. He slept almost all of the way down however. Bad Will. The Belvedere was brilliant fun last time – see my May entry. This time round seems so far a more low key affair but the fb event has had a lot of attention. I’m in high hopes. Currently pre-soundcheck, a bit shell-shocked by the enormity of today’s efforts. But I squeezed in half an hour to make a healthy stir fry to take with me in a er… Thermos flask. It worked, yes. It was a fantastic crowd again. Appreciative, warm, attentive, eccentric, drunk… Everything I’ve come to expect from the Belvedere. It’s already a contender for best venue of the tour again and I’m only a quarter of the way through. Vicki, like Robb yesterday, is an exemplary promoter of new music. I owe them both a lot. The drive home was very, very hairy. So misty I ran two give way junctions without realising they were there. Sketchy. Shattered. Rock on.
Day 4: Fiddler’s Elbow, Camden, 12th November –
N.B. this entry was written using a speech-to-text program while I was driving home and I intended to translate it to make full sense whilst editing this journal but I think it’s more of a fun read without doing so. However, I should point out that I met “Leon” from Too Many T’s, not Yvette Lyons.
“The last gig I played in London was not a very good night today was very different just like last time my cousin Chris came a person in the world I hope he reads this the Fiddler’s Elbow is a fantastic venue it is vibrant the layout is fantastic thaifriendly the soundman is skilled pie is great the atmosphere is lovely it wasn’t a very lucrative gig for me today but it was an enormous amount of fun. I had a really good feeling about today partially because of the relief that it was the last of the four in a row that I knew would prove strenuous so I started the journey with a spring in my step and thanks to a lovely cup of tea on the route in much the same mood checking the punctuation in it when I I think today is the highlight so far and it couldn’t have come on a better day because I now have a day off to check through how things are going to say thank you clean my car. I didn’t manage to bring many people to the venue but it was there was a healthy amount of people there and they were all blown away see picture this big this was written by the manager of the pub brackets proud close brackets I played really well yvette Lyons from too many T’s we had dinner in a Somalian restaurant across the road after my gig and it was the best meal I’ve had for ages and say enough good about this gig venue was from tastic I can’t wait to go back get home” – well done, digital age.
Off-day 3 of 3, Bristol, 15th November – Rosie works out my daily schedule and it’s fairly accurately as follows: wee, gallon of tea, a moan, think about doing something else, have a fag, breakfast at lunch time, spend four hours on social media then complain I’ve got no time to do anything else.
We also work out my autobiography title: MIKE DENNIS – SHOULD’VE ASKED FOR MORE
Day 5: Old Abbey Inn, Manchester, 16th November –
The build up to this one started fantastically, went shit and may just level out in the next few hours. I shall update. It came to be via somebody who saw me at a festival in August, recommended a pub landlady friend, all was great for the booking (but no guaranteed fee), then the organiser seemed to go strangely cold on me. I really don’t know why but it had something to do with her being unable to find a support so, I think, she perhaps assumed that there’d be absolutely no crowd. A support was booked in the end. She wasn’t that keen on being there, I overheard her mention when she arrived, unfortunately. My cousin Jo managed to get about twelve of her friends to come which is such an incredible effort and I’m so grateful. There were about twenty there in a tiny pub so it looked full from where I was. But this was not a brilliant gig for me. The organisation was quite slack and I felt a bit like I was a nuisance to be setting up to give a good show after I’d driven for four hours to get there. Despite the fact that it’s a totally new city for me to play in, I believe I am past playing shows this small. And I hate that sounding like I’m not grateful to the organisers and the people who made the journey there. But I had to do my own sound, the equipment that was there was in disrepair and delivered to me very curtly. There was also a band rehearsing above the stage in the pub that were almost as loud as me. If I’d had that slot in a pub in Bristol, I’m fairly sure I would’ve walked out. What is important is that the crowd liked it. My new tunes went down well. As I said at the top of this diary: you have to really love this craft to pursue it, particularly given gigs like this one.
Day 6: The Llanerch Inn, Llandrindod Wells, 18th November –
Honestly, just look at this poster and tell me your heart doesn’t melt.
Favourite one so far. God, I love being able to claim I’m mostly Welsh. It’s a land full of friendly, genuine people. This one came about through Jasmine who I think stumbled upon my Ted talk. She worked at the pub at the time and emailed to book me. This was actually the first gig to be booked for the tour. She then left the pub and thus became the middle-woman in the organisation of the gig. This made me slightly wary on the day but she was very communicative about it. It was by sheer luck thanks to Rich who organises Radnor Fringe Festival that I found out the pub didn’t actually have a PA! He was an absolute gem thus providing his PA for me completely free. Total legend. For this one, I had Double KD supporting me. Lovely people with a great stage chemistry from the school of buying instrumentals to work your magic over. I’m glad that kind of trade exists within music when I see people doing it effectively. The crowd were tight with applause for the support set so I had to play up to that at the beginning of mine. They soon warmed. It was a brilliant gig. Had the suggestion, on somebody latching on to my words “I want to be a musician, a gamer and still have a sweet girl”, to sign up to Twitch TV and use gaming to promote my music. But whichever way I look at it, that’s still time off practising or working on music. I stayed free of charge in a room above the pub afterwards so got pretty blind drunk with Jasmine, Stu and Callum. Then drove the two hours home on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon through the idyllic mid Wales countryside. It doesn’t really get much better than a gig like that.
I also stopped for a little walk at “Water-break-its-neck” before leaving the motherland…
Day 7: Gwdihw, Cardiff, 22nd November –
Where do I start with this gig? It really does get too much sometimes. When you’ve poured your heart, soul and time into making something like this tour happen, for people to respond by doing the simple yet sometimes very taxing thing of leaving their house to walk through horrible weather to come and see you play feels truly special. I’m humbled by the support from so many people tonight. It sold incredibly well for a midweek gig, I’m told. I’m indebted to Kiarash, Lloyd, Captain Mike, Harish, Jenny, Anne and Paul, Sally, Francesca, Rod and everybody else in the crowd tonight. It was such a great gig. And the one in the city for which the EP was written.
I struggled in the between time after soundcheck and before gig time, to summon the enthusiasm needed for what was such an exciting amount of online interest. But I was quietly confident knowing I’d planned some treats and planned the setlist meticulously. The soundman was actually held up for soundcheck but I really didn’t mind about setting up myself once I was told where everything was. Genuinely wish I could do that at all my gigs. So the sound was great…! The room was very hot and steamy. My violin struggles in this atmosphere but I think I managed to play pretty well. Started with the whole of the ep minus Bluff. Again, Neat Rice Soup went down brilliantly, as did I Want Everything. Then a pisstake, gabba update of Men with Guns gave everyone a laugh. Then the real version with the South Park intro and a spruced up loop to drum over. Past that point, Nightmare and Stuff are always bangers. I was sweating buckets. The crowd were great, responsive and attentive. Again, you really can’t ask for much more from a gig. Except – this one was extra special because it was at HOME.
Day 8 – The Crescent Community Venue, York, 24th November –
This is going to be a mammoth task of a 24 hours. But I’ve got a great feeling about the gig. I have to drive back straight after the gig to teach violin tomorrow morning which is not going to be a great deal of fun. But the roads will at least be clear. And I’ve got tomorrow night off. I can do it. Writing this after getting gratis bangers and mash (the night is called Mashed – Thematic!) which was the perfect amount for me to not be stuffed whilst playing. Mr Cat (website maker and YouTube revamper) is en route and we’re gonna meet for the first time.
Mr Cat, Genius John and I..
The venue is buzzing and warm and there’s an 18 piece hip hop band (Abstract Orchestra) playing in the other room before I start. I’m now writing on the other side of having played this gig and my God am I exhausted. I made it on time for my lessons but only managed maybe three hours sleep so I’m hanging.
Lots of thoughts and feelings about this gig. The venue was so much more warm and welcoming than Fibbers. My hosts commented on how that’s a common opinion. They were both really lovely, Jess and Tom, and I was easily as humbled as they claimed they were honoured to have me up there. No quibbles with an agreed fee, totally welcoming and accommodating. Great bunch of good-spirited friends. I thoroughly enjoyed the support acts, Bingers, Genius John and Vox Cornelius, and my face was aching from smiling before I went on stage. Way before..
Which kind of links to the slightly less than ideal aspect of this gig. I was so relaxed when I went on stage and it was so cosy and informal that I don’t think I quite rose to the occasion enough. I played adequately and the crowd enjoyed it but I was a little distracted by not being able to play loud enough for my liking – I played in the bar and there was a gig going on in the other room that took presidence – and was just so chilled from having met so many warm, amiable people that it felt like a rehearsal to the rest of my company of travellers while we sat around a roaring fire and got royally pissed (there was no roaring fire).
The folk at The Crescent were all attentive, friendly, accommodating and lovely. Meeting Mr Cat was an interesting experience. It’s nice to understand where he’s coming from now and to put a voice and some nuances to a name! Performed my dedication to him which felt good. He’s given me so much of his time and skills for free. He is a blessing.
If I were to rate this gig on a purely atmosphere and experience basis, it would get 11/10. When I factor in my performance and my anxiety due to the phenomenal task ahead of me, it would probably get a 7/10. Onwards and upwards.
Day 9: The Islington, Pentonville Road, London, 26th November –
My only photo taken at The Islington, unfortunately…
I’m really proud of myself for today. Woke up at 8am after my alarm had been going off for at least five minutes without me hearing it, wanting seriously to cry because I wanted to stay in bed so badly. I almost did. I’d had a good eight hours from midnight but there’s a real deficit there from Friday. But I got up. I threw myself in the car. I drove to my cousin Kieron and Chris’s by 2pm and sat down to eat a beautifully cooked chicken pie with them and my second cousins Great and Sicily. I listened to Greta play one of her grade 7 clarinet pieces. She’s fantastic. By this point I’d spent hours trying to get in touch with the venue to ask why I was asked to come to soundcheck at 3:30 when I was first on, at 6:15pm. I had no luck getting through by any method. It was clearly a general reply email that hadn’t been tailored to that event. I plumped for arriving at 5ish and would accept a line check. Kieron kindly drove us all there. I arrived, at first, at the WRONG The Islington which is, conveniently very, very near the correct venue. I ran to the correct venue. The soundman didn’t have me on his list. I went to the door. The guy there had “rapping violinist” written on his door sheet. I explained that that wasn’t my name. I went back to the soundman. He said I was on at 6:40. Wonderful communication from the venue! This aside, I grabbed a pint, did a quick line check, scribbled a set list and was on within minutes. The room was full, half friends, half strangers. Excellent gig. Changed the set list quite dramatically to suit the time and setting. It worked. Then Chris, Liam, gareth, John, Josh and Hannah and I went for a curry and sank a few beers. It was a lovely night.
Day 10: The Bread & Roses, Plymouth, 27th November –
Another gruelling effort, bisected by another tremendous gig. Drove back from London with housemate Will who was coincidentally in Walthamstow for the weekend (and can sleep anywhere through anything!) at 11am. Got back to Bristol at half 2 expecting to have half an hour to nap. Mike from Acoumetal was already at my house the second we pulled up! Him and Drew joined me back in the car at half 3 for the drive to Plymouth. Arrived just before 6pm. Set up. Unloaded mixing desk hired from the man, the legend, Pete from Oasis Sound & Lighting. Confirmed borrowing and moving the house speakers was indeed ok from Bread & Roses owner, Justin. Set up, checked, checked Acoumetal and… Ta daaaa! One whole hour to eat and chill! Surprise, surprise, it went in a flash. Ate some alarmingly sickening food at The Caffeine Club (second time now – there won’t be a third) and went back to watch Acoumetal play a seriously tight set. Those guys need bigger gigs. They are a joy to witness on stage. Then, feeling very fragile and sick from dinner, I started with I Want Everything to ease people in slowly to the rapping. This set went down probably best out of any of the gigs so far with two encores and a request for a third. Loved the performance. The day was a little overshadowed by my exhaustion but it goes down as a good gig, for sure. Two hours back to Bristol having a great laugh with Mike. Then a comical tragedy in the form of: I lay on my bed, blissed out, so relieved to have finished all the driving for the tour then had a message from Acoumetal Mike saying “Drew has literally dropped his van key down a drain. If we chuck you some money can you take us to Cardiff?” They’re supremely lovely guys and they both had to work at 6am. It was 1:30am and they’d just missed the last megabus. I had to take them. It was the last thing I wanted to do!!! So I arrived back in bed at 3:45am. What a bloody full-on day. I’ll be back at the Bread & Roses in February.
Had to leave Gnipper at home again to fit everyone in the car…
Day 11: Grain Barge, Bristol, 30th December –
This one feels very much like the last date on the tour with Brighton on Saturday being the first one I’m joining the Moulettes on. Shared priorities so it doesn’t feel wholly like a Mike Dennis gig (Malkovich, Malkovich..). Yes, I’m jumping straight on a tour as a tech after my tour finishes! There’s actually an overlap so the tour isn’t even finishing before I’m on theirs.
Roger (long term video collaborator) and I had planned to film an official live video to I Want Everything in the Grain Barg before the gig. He came down for midday. We set up and got a few great takes (on 5 different cameras) by about 4:30.
Then it was a case of pack up, soundcheck for the gig and eat before doors at 8pm. That sounds simple enough but as usual when I do this gig, it was down to the wire and we opened ten minutes late. Two of my collaborators dropped out and one of them didn’t come along (Zadio) because I had to flake on our practise the night before to retain my sanity. Just Henry played an insanely entertaining set that had most of the more than decent crowd in hysterics. He started quite slow but by the end the whole room was feeling it. Then I went on and started with Junction 19 moving into junction 29 which is fiendishly difficult but, conveniently, a difficulty that I can convey to a crowd for entertainment. Rest of the new EP went down really well but My Digital Girlfriend feels like filler. It just isn’t interesting enough in its current live guise. Soom T came along. I’m touched by that. She’s so funny. Worked out that there must have been 50 through the door if the cash I came home with speaks the truth. People have tended to be generous when they’re buying cds though so it could have been less people. Felt full though and a very enthusiastic and attentive crowd again. Such an amazing response to Neat Rice Soup! They kept going saying “… Nice!” almost into the second verse – ha! Depressing Gown with Rob was brilliant. Best version for ages. Smiling thinking about it now . Met Sammie from Bristol 24/7 which was fortuitous because Jalon put us in touch a while ago and she hadn’t yet replied to my cold messaging but it turned out that she had been meaning to check me out for a while!
I’m notching this one up as a great success. All but the first date and potentially Manchester have been great successes and even those had their high points. To any of the Bristol crowd reading this, thank you very much for popping down and it pleases me to have been very much worth my £3 entry fee!
Day 12: One Church, Brighton, supporting Moulettes as part of a Sotones Artists Winter Festival, 2nd December –
This is pretty funny…
Well, the last gig of my November 2017 Junction 29 tour – potentially the last time I write an album around a road theme – was a little bit of an anticlimax but still very enjoyable. I’d woken up at 5am, having slept for probably four hours at the most, to get a train back to Brighton at 5:49am. I’d come back from Newbury, where the Moulettes had their first date, to go and see Rosie in the Southville pantomime which was very entertaining. Did prove to be another epic twenty four hours of travelling though. I made it to Brighton at the expected time to join Moulettes and the tech team at One Church. It was a charming venue to finish the tour but really this felt like more the first date of their tour than the last of mine as I’m now joining them on the road to do their front-of-house sound for seven dates in a row! In truth, it was more the last date of my tour and the SECOND of theirs. My slot was 3:25pm as it was part of a day-long winter festival showcasing artists on and affiliated with their Sotones Records label. So it wasn’t busy. But it wasn’t dead. It wasn’t badly received. But it also wasn’t yet dark. I set my own sound and cockily informed Jim it probably wouldn’t need much playing around with. I started playing Charge…. It could’ve done with a bit of playing around with! Certainly no fault of Jim’s. But the sound was great by the end and it was with a tremendous sigh of relief that I finished my tour playing Get Off Your Phone and Drive and it turned out, in dribs and drabs throughout the rest of the day, that quite a few people were actually very impressed and enjoyed what I do. I think the crowd being mainly musicians meant that we’re all a bit too cool to compliment each other at the expected times! I then somehow stayed awake to mix the Moulettes for their set at 9:15 and got off sharpish afterwards thanks to former and original Moul, Ruth, to attempt a well-deserved eight hour rest but my bizarrely disjointed body clock decided to keep me awake for a good hour or two. I’m now writing this in the van on the way to the Moulettes third date with them in Liverpool. It’s nice to know I’m now only doing ONE tour role for a few days. Then some much-needed Christmas R and R.
I’d like to say an enormous thank you to all of the promoters who took a chance on me and to all of my friends who shared my videos and statuses and took time out to let people know about what I do. See you all very soon!
81 x CD copies of Junction 29 EP sold
46 x CD copies of Junction 19 EP sold (well done to those who, clearly, could distinguish between the two covers despite being drunk!)
2,895 miles travelled.
4 x gigs successfully returned from before taking my trusty steed for a service
1 x small polythene bag with a business card and every single detail I could wish to know about somebody deposited on stage
4 x cans of responsibly-sourced Tuna Chunks eaten in approximately…
12 x tuna salad tortilla wraps consumed
countless friends made
9 counties visited
2 months rent paid