Day 1: Brighton – Komedia Studio Bar – Monday 1st May – Luke Bennett supporting
I was scared about this one, not least because it was the first date. Komedia’s manager – my friend and old housemate – asked if I wanted to cancel a few days before due to ticket sales. There is a heck of a lot to take on for a private hire as a soloist. Won’t be doing it again in a hurry!
But 16 of my dear, dear friends from Brighton came down and there were a couple of new faces, including a friend I went to nursery school with who I’ve not seen since we were 9 years old! A truly momentous occasion. Ben came with his wife, Caitlin. Very touched. Overwhelming experience. I’d say day 1 was a success and, being the only one I felt wary of, it’s great that it was the first date. Managed to catch up with some wonderful people. The set was a little ropey but, aided by soundman Sam’s dynamic lighting, I think it was quite powerful in the end. Great to get this show on the road.
Day 2: Cardiff – Gwdihw – Friday 5th May – Hann & Berenice supporting
I knew this one would be a barnstormer. It nearly sold out. So much support from so many lovely people. Perfect sound from a lady sound engineer, Elin, whose sex I was grateful to note upon arrival. Women have better hearing than men.
Late set tonight – 11pm in the end! Hann & Berenice killed the support slot. I’m beginning to think that, as much of this “living the dream” is travelling and haggling and endless socialising, it’s almost as if the purpose of it all is to enable one to pursue their chosen art in the off-time. But much more likely is that it all informs everything else in an organic compromise.
This gig was brilliant. Possible contender for the best of the tour, no doubt. “Things” (from the EP) is such a workout but, apparently, quite impressive. Check out the wavy bow motion on this panorama-snap from Amy D.
Day 3: Weymouth – The Belvedere Inn – Saturday 6th May – Edd Bleach supporting
Tired. Back feels ultra stiff. Taught my kids violin this morning, bless ’em. Lonely road this touring alone lark. I feel simultaneously very touched and a little guilty about all the people turning up last night whose attention for my set I could not match individually after the gig. Or before!
Venue looks great. Haven’t been in yet as taking a deserved chill break in a recommended Thai restaurant that I can neither afford nor feel comfortable in. I yearn for the day I can command fees to bring somebody else (a driver, ideally…) along with me on tour. I have a great feeling about tonight. Fuelled by Cider Kev has been very active with promotion and enormously encouraging with the whole process. Can Mike Dennis crack Weymouth? Only time will tell! About 632 miles travelled so far.
Turned out to be a phenomenal gig. Motormouth owner Tom, lovely crowd. Definitely going back. Edd Bleach was very heartwarming, both on and off-stage. Can’t believe I forgot to play Men With Guns!!
Day 4: Plymouth – The Bread & Roses – Monday 8th May – Acoumetal supporting
Bar staff are often keen on seeing what I do. I like this. It makes me pine, in some small respect, for getting back into doing some barwork. Or, at least, shouting them out during my set. Of course, not all barstaff are into me. But this wasn’t the case in the Bread & Roses. Mad love to Rosie and Dave!
Had to leave my poor cajon at home to fit a PA and Acoumetal in my car on the way back…
A fairly painless two-hour drive down, parked right outside the venue for free. What struck me about the pub at first was it was very green! I’d had it described to me by a group of friends who had seen me at Big Love 2016 as “the hipster bar” but that definition can be so broad now, I didn’t know what to expect. The gig was awesome. I played for 90 minutes which I think is the longest set I’ve ever done! Acoumetal opened for me and were as joyous, sardonic and charismatic as always. We travelled back together after they’d somehow successfully packed the PA and all of our gear into my little car. Tour life. I’m not even halfway through and it is kicking ass. I had an interruption from a drunk and enthused audience member on the subject of a title for one of my untitled tunes that I wish I’d responded to more wittily at the time but it only added to the strange beauty of a gig in a new city. Got to give a huge thank you to Sophie, Poppy and their friends for travelling down from North Devon to see me!
Day 5: Bristol – Grain Barge – Thursday 11th May – Heybus and Just Henry supporting
Now this is the one that I think I’ve most looked forward to.
In the morning, I tweeted as many people as I could find whose handles started with @Bris in a last-ditch attempt to bolster numbers. One of these was @Bristol247 who immediately got in touch about the possibility of having a chat today! I ended up meeting Anastasia for a brief interview and recording of “Junction 19”. That was done by 3pm. I then spent 5 solid hours setting up for doors at 8pm and made it, right down to the wire. A very mentally and physically intense day! Henry and Heybus’ sets were alternately warm, moving, hilarious and explosive. Mine went great, oddly ending with “Things”, having just asked people to buy the new EP (tough day…)
And then, poetically, it ended up being Henry, Heybus and myself back at mine, a short walk from the Grain Barge for the first and – the way I feel right now, hopefully the ONLY – rock and roll night of the tour that gradually ended by about 8am…yeah, one of “those” nights.
Day 6: Pontypool – The Dragonffli – Friday 12th May – Turna Phrase supporting
I have a good feeling about today. Bizarre, seeing as even moving my limbs at the moment feels like unbearable torture. Exaggeration. But that was pretty much the case a few hours ago. I’ve just got to the venue.
It’s an ace venue, The Dragonffli. Bought by Nick solely as a music venue that’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Attendance was low but this could well have been the weather’s doing. Sold CDs to two thirds of the crowd so I must be doing something right! Was great to play with Turna Phrase again. My stepdad came and filmed our sets. I was actually really glad of a chilled one after the madness of Bristol. Check the video of us playing Turna’s tune, “Canvas”, below:
Day 7: Dorset – Cursus Cider & Music Festival – Saturday 13th May
CAUTION: VIBES OVERLOAD…
Immediately after teaching violin to my three regular groups, I shot out of the studio to pick up my wingman, Will, and we set off to Dorset. Really lovely day weather-wise. Got there in plenty of time. Very eager security guard searched the car. Said hello to Kev on the gate. Utter legend.
Soundcheck was pretty disastrous. Ended up having to route everything on the pedal to one output as the other wouldn’t stop buzzing. Fairly sure it wasn’t my equipment (just about to check it now actually) but I was never going to blame the sound guys for it, knowing exactly what their job is like. So, after this cafuffle, I only got to play 5 songs but they went down a treat. Got to shout out Will which was apparently very embarrassing for him! People were coming up to him all day saying “Hi Will” afterwards. Anyway, finally at a place I intended to stay in afterwards on the tour, Will and I got suitably smashed and had a great laugh and, now, writing this on Monday evening, I am really suffering for it. Only three more dates now, officially. Then the Tedx videos should be up and then an interview with Tom Robinson. Very busy. All the time. Cursus was a really lovely festival and Kev’s band, The Skimmity Hitchers were my highlight. Curse you, Jasper…
Day 8: Deptford, London – The Bird’s Nest – Thursday 18th May – support pulled out…
This was a tough gig. As I was mixing the amazing Moulettes the day before in Brighton, I drove down to London on the Thursday afternoon to arrive in Camberwell (I think?? where my cousins live) for 4ish. A much-needed short chill and catch-up with cousins Liam and Kieron before I set about the gig.
Now, I’ve played The Bird’s Nest before with Junior Bill a year or so ago. That gig was a joy, once the Mike-mobile made it after an ignition coil failure on the motorway.
THIS time round, I had a really tough crowd after an inexplicably drawn-out soundcheck. I do wonder how it can be so challenging to set up two input channels and to expect them to be identical. But I also sympathise enormously with in-house techs. I’m in both an enviable and un-enviable position with my skills. Anyway, a 1.5 hour soundcheck followed by a gig that I used a, perhaps, unsuited setlist I found from a previous set to a crowd that consisted largely of “lads”, one of whom wore a T-shirt that said “SEX” on it in HUGE letters. And, thankfully, some family and friends. It wasn’t my easiest show. I want to do Cafe Oto next time out!
Day 9: Cardiff – The Moon – Saturday 20th May
My spiritual home. I’ve just been recording a podcast with Ed Townend (writing this on 22nd May) and it struck me that I never actually played a proper gig in my hometown until I was 30! And The Moon is indubitably my favourite place to do so. The crowd varies enormously in this place. There was a stag-do in when I arrived who I greatly wanted to avoid playing to after my experiences in London. I took them leaving at 9:45 as my cue to go on. Wise move.
It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever played, to a brilliant (small – maybe only 20 people – but brilliant) crowd with the perfect sound provided by Will, who’s done sound for me quite a few times before. Will also gave me a very important realisation about what I need sound-wise that I wasn’t aware of. I can’t say anything but positive things about this gig. Then I got out and found out Tom Robinson had played Stuff on 6Music in anticipation of my live interview next week! Dream.
Day 10: Cambridge – The Emperor – Sunday 21st May – The Whisky Six supporting
Another tough one. 7 hours travel in total. Friend Alex was promoting. It wasn’t very well-attended but it went down quite well with those who were there. When I say “quite” well, I mean it wasn’t received rapturously, which is what I’ve come to expect, but people obviously enjoyed themselves. I sold 8 CDs which is pretty good going. Fee negotiations post-gig when you’re exhausted from travelling, have pitched yourself fairly and openly agreed before the event are highly frustrating. I’m learning that it is definitely worthwhile to pitch realistically and consider gigs carefully before accepting them. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable gig and I’d play there again. Big shout to Daisy for her kind words. This would’ve been the last gig of the tour but that is now Friday in Bridport!
Day 11: Bridport – The Ropemakers – Friday 26th May – Edd Bleach supporting
B3126 crew. It’s been so nice having some days off driving. Took a wrong turn and went ten miles in the wrong direction on the way. Also very nearly ran out of petrol. I’ve just arrived and it’s ummm… A bit like a Harvester pub. I’ve been booked here as a function band effectively. I hope there are some people who enjoy some good, original music. There’s usually some. You never know what can come out of any gig. That’s something I knew before this tour. I still know it!
It was lovely to play both with Edd during his set and after him again but this gig was another toughie. Practically nobody paying any attention. But hey, it’s a gig! The people who did pay attention loved it.
I should probably have fibbed about this one and said it was a tumultuous climax to the tour – the head barman had to stand on the door to stop more people trying to come in because they were so over capacity, two people were rushed to hospital having passed out from sheer joy and Beyonce gave me a smacker on the lips after my opening number.
1,545 Miles travelled.
91 EPs sold
countless friends made
6 counties visited
9 service station sandwiches eaten
7 Costa Express coffees drunk
302 Heartstrings plucked – the rest merely wiggled
990 miles breakdown cover foolishly skimped
73 Facebook likes earned (’cause that’s what it’s all about really)
2 months rent paid
That last point indicates my overall feeling about this tour. I’ve lived the dream I’ve had for many years: to make my living from recording and performing the music I make. I feel like my career choices have been justified. I feel endlessly grateful to my friends and fans who’ve spread the word about my gigs, bought my new EP and supported me in any other way. I’m also very grateful to the soundmen/women, promoters and venue staff who’ve facilitated my sets all around Wales and the South of England. This tour has reinvigorated my belief in my raison d’etre and I’ll be blazing into putting together the sequel EP just as soon as I’ve had a little much-needed break from social media.