SUMMER 2012 – SPAIN TO PORTUGAL
Yes, we flew to Spain. Yes, there was a bunch of comedic travel stuff I could write about. I could describe the sight of our punk rock entourage shuffling through airports at “Early O’Clock” or the ridiculous questions that our tour manager has to suffer when a bunch of musicians are bored, in an airport, with nothing to do but annoy each other. I could go on about all kinds of things – but today, it was ALL about getting to the hotel in Bilbao and taking delivery of the four Triumph motorcycles that were being delivered for us, courtesy of the wonderful people at Triumph Europe. Somehow, through a hustle that can only be described as of gargantuan proportions, I have persuaded them to loan us four brand new bikes and let Billy, McG, Rangi and myself ride through Spain. Now let me ask you this….. some tattooed, spikey-haired English guy calls you up and says “alright mate, so listen, how about giving us some of your nice, shiny, expensive vehicles and letting me and my rocker mates tear it up through the Spanish countryside?”…. would YOU say yes? I don’t think so! But they did. And sure enough, after a day of planes, trains and automobiles, we stand outside the hotel in Bilbao, watching four beautiful Triumph bikes get unloaded from a vehicle and parked side by side. The bird from Triumph walks over to me and drops four sets of keys into my hand – “there you go, enjoy, and we’ll see you in Madrid’. Fucking HELL!! Despite being knackered from the travelling, we immediately jump on the bikes and ride out to see the sun set over the Spanish coast. Jeremy doesn’t have a bike license, so I take him on the back of my Tiger. Three hours later, we return, starving hungry and very happy. A quick bite to eat in the hotel restaurant and it’s time for bed. I fall asleep dreaming of motorcycles and rock n roll.
I wake up three hours later with an excruciating pain in my stomach and the feeling that my insides are about to make a dramatic appearance through every orifice I have. And I’m not wrong. Last night’s fish decides it actually wasn’t dead and swims back out violently in every direction. I’m cold, but sweating profusely, I’m dizzy, nauseous, and trying desperately to direct the outgoing mixtures into appropriate recepticles. Which is hard when it’s all happening simultaneously! Yeah, I know food poisoning when I see it. And I got it bad. The next 14 hours are spent in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, and throwing up etc every time I open my eyes. Tonight’s hot sweaty club show in Bilbao should be a wonderful experience. Eventually I manage to shower and get dressed and crawl onto the bus, which takes us to the venue. Feeling like the proverbial ‘death warmed up’ I get ready and gingerly feel my way onto the stage when it’s time to play. Adrenaline takes me so far, but finally, during LA Woman, it all gets a little too much and in a perfectly choreographed movement, I wait until the breakdown section and make my move. Guitar off, throw it to Jimbo, run down the stairs, find a trash can, throw up violently (how can there be even MORE inside me after all I’ve chucked up already), race back into the venue, grab the guitar and walk back onto the stage just in time to hit the build up. I couldn’t have orchestrated a more perfect way to throw up during a show if I’d tried! Proud of my achievement, I feel a bit better and finish the show. A few pills later (dunno what they were, as they were all in Spanish, but I presume it said ‘anti-shit pills’ on the packet) and I fall asleep the moment I hit the hotel bed.
Next morning – I open my eyes tentatively and move gently from side to side. No sloshing around inside me. A good sign. I ease my way out of bed and immediately think…’coffee’ – another good sign. 20 minutes later (and three cups of coffee) I’m feeling decidedly human and it’s pretty obvious that the fish has made it’s way through me entirely. Thank God! It’s ride day today and I feel great. The rest of the band drove to Madrid overnight in the bus. I meet Billy, McG and Rangi upstairs for a quick bite and then we saddle up and move ‘em out – headed off into the Great Unknown …. (well, I know it’s the A5 through Spain, but to US it’s the great unknown!!). Headed out of Bilbao, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous, with crystal blue skies and rolling hills either side of us that turn gradually into mountains and forests. The bikes that Triumph have lent us are perfect (a Bonneville for Idol, two Tigers for me and Rangi, and an American for McG) and we’re pulling decent speeds before we know it. Riding with these guys is fun, and we all share a sense of freedom after being cooped up in busses, planes and vans for a month.
Gradually the terrain becomes more arid and dry, and the temperatures soar past 100 degrees – it’s getting hot out here – and the pace picks up. At one point, I decide to….um…. just see what ‘she’ can do, and tuck in behind the fairing along a dead straight piece of smooth, black asphalt. After a few minutes (and more than a few mph!!) I sit up and slow down, and I look to my left – BFI is RIGHT THERE, tucked in on his Bonnie, also ‘testing his machine’!!! No pretender to the throne here, ladies and gentlemen…. I know what I was doing on that stretch of road, and Billy was tucked in right behind me all the way!! But gradually the heat starts to take its toll, and we start to drift off inside our helmets – kinda like a vertigo-type feeling – we’re getting exhausted. So a little more Gatorade and another fuel stop and we finally roll into Madrid. And here’s where our plan starts to go a little left-of-center! First of all, we figured the easiest way to find the hotel without GPS would be to pay a taxi and follow him. Which we did. Bad move! Rush hour traffic and tiny streets jammed with cars in oppressive heat made the next 30 minutes extremely uncomfortable. Eventually the taxi pulls over, so we park, pay the guy, and after he drives off, we realize we are NOT outside our hotel at all!! Its about 20 blocks away at the other end of a ‘walking’ (pedestrians only) street. So some bright spark (who shall remain nameless!!) suggests we ride slowly up the walking street… which works perfectly until right at the end, two cops step out in front of us and proceed to ask us in utter amazement why we’re riding motorcycles up a paved walkway!! “You do not SEE the pedestrians???” one of the cops asks us, and considering there are thousands of them everywhere, we can’t really say no!!! After a little talking and some understanding from the cops (THANK YOU Officers!!), we are allowed to push our bikes back to the street, and ride on to our hotel. “I never want to see you again” the other cop says as we push the motorcycles away. Welcome to Madrid!
Once we are safely checked in and unpacked, I decide to go and see The Cult, who are playing tonight at the same venue we are playing tomorrow. A swift flurry of emails with riffmeister Billy Duffy and we are all set for the gig. I grab Jeremy and Derek in the lobby, and we jump a cab over to the Riviera (a nicely laid out indoor venue that’s extremely hot and sweaty and full by the time we get there). A round of hugs and hello’s follow our entrance and the guys are hospitable to the max – and I chow down on Duffy’s rider (the first food I’ve eaten since my case of Montezuma’s Revenge!) while we talk tours, busses, gigs and such. I have to say that I love this band. It was an honor to be involved back then, and it’s an honor to count the guys as my friends. Ian and Billy have written some HUGE rock/indie/alt anthems and as they open with L’il Devil, the place goes crazy and a huge grin spreads across my face. There’s nothing like a seminal rock band in a packed venue, playing songs you know and love. We stay WAY beyond my usual three song maximum (yeah I know – jaded old fuck, Morrison!!) and the band kick some serious ass. Firewoman and Nirvana are amazing (Nirvana has always been my favorite Cult song, both to play and to listen to) and we duck out as they finish Rise, jumping a taxi back to the hotel. Thank you to all the Cult peeps for the love and the rock. We had a great time.
Madrid is an absolutely gorgeous city and despite the threat of riots (a term SO grossly overused by the media…. 90% of the time, what they mean is, a bunch of people exercising their right to complain about shit and walking around the streets) under the banner of ‘Occupy Madrid’ I walk around and enjoy the architecture, the Spanish culture and vibe, and grab a lovely lunch in a tiny square off the beaten path. With time appropriately killed, we hop on the bus and return to last night’s scene of the crime – The Riviera. Empty, it looks sparse and unwelcoming, but by the time we hit the stage, the place is packed again. These people love rock n roll and we love them. Spanish football chants fill the air in-between songs and it’s a hot, sweaty and exciting vibe onstage. Billy works the crowd like a champ (throwing in a piece of Hot In The City without warning – but we all cotton on quickly and play it with him) and they respond with their fists in the air…. Every last one of them! It’s another special show, and the scene outside the venue when we attempt to make it to the bus is actually a little scary – one by one we gently make our way through a sea of people wanting things signed (we do the best we can) and onto the bus. There’s people at this show who have travelled far and wide (from Ireland, Italy, France and the UK) and it’s amazing to see Billy do photos with them and sign as much as he can before we simply have to leave. My finger’s healing nicely, my new tattoo’s are looking good, and the last remnants of food poisoning have left me – I feel tired, but grateful and happy, and ready for the last couple of shows.
The first show in Portugal is in Porto, a beautiful city, with the gig (actually a festival) right by the water. They like to start things late here, so we have a few hours hanging out before our onstage time of 11.30pm. Next door to our dressing room is fresh espresso, being made Portugese style (ie fucking strong!) and about an hour into being at the venue, Jeremy appears to be decidedly hyper – LOTS of banging his sticks on things and talking WAY too fast for comfort. “Jeremy, have you had one of those coffees from next door?” I ask him…… “no dude, I’ve had seven and they’re really good, I mean really really good, and I was thinking about the bridge in this one song and I think it would be really really cool if….” – Oh Christ!! Someone cut this guy off before the whole set is played at 190bpm!!! The sun sets beautifully across the water, the venue gets packed, and luckily, Jeremy comes down off his caffeinated high – we play a great set tonight. A little snippet of Hot In The City gets inserted without warning again (but it goes down a treat) and by the time we hit White Wedding and Mony Mony, the place is roaring. Thank you, Portugal, for rocking with us.
Today makes me feel way beyond grateful for my life, my friends, my work colleagues and the things I get to do, see, experience etc. After a long overnight drive, we arrive at our beachfront hotel in Faro, Portugal and check in. And from the moment I open the door to my room, I’m blown away. The room itself is fantastic – a huge oversize bed, open plan bathroom, a nice relaxing living room….and then I open the curtains to reveal my balcony and my view. It’s stunning. Crystal clear blue ocean stretches out right in front of me, with golden sands and people enjoying the Algarve summer. There are few things that I enjoy more than a balcony with an ocean view. What a way to end this tour. And to make things even better, as we don’t play until midnight, we are in this place all day. No early checkouts, no dinner in some dodgy café around the corner from the gig – this is a full-on beach time, afternoon nap, coffee on the balcony, dinner al-fresco kind of day. Everyone lays out after throwing their stuff in the rooms, and it’s kinda comical to see the Billy Idol band strewn about this wonderful holiday resort, being full-on tourists. Jeremy and I wander back from the beach and run into Steve and Josie in a small beachside café. Then we decide to hit the pool and run into BFI, McG and Rangi. Finally we settle on a spot that’s good sunbathing, but with some poolside service as well. We re-arrange the furniture to suit us, take our tee shirts off, and lay stretched out right by the hotel bar. We’re probably making the place look untidy, but after being on the road for over a month, neither of us care. This is the last day, we’re in a great beachfront hotel, and we are GOING to sunbathe/drink coffee/smoke!!
After much tanning, consuming and general frolicking (that really doesn’t sound very rock and roll, now does it?!?!) we find ourselves backstage at the final gig of this summer run. It’s a biker festival and there are tens of thousands of motorcycles everywhere. Somehow this seems a fitting sunset to our European tour and everyone is simultaneously sad to play the last gig, and excited to sleep in their own bed. A couple of people are staying out in Europe for another week or so, but for me, I’ll be back on a plane to LA LA Land after this show. Very bittersweet for me – I swear I would be fine doing this shit for 11 months of the year! But as it is, I get ready for this last show and decide to drink in every moment, every note, every chord like it’s my last. Too many times we live in the past or the future and completely miss the fabulous present that’s occurring right under our noses. So with that thought, I walk onto the stage, roll on my opening chord, and feel great. And that’s that really. No point in describing another gig. Suffice to say that the 30,000 people in Faro that took part in our final European show made a shit load of noise, made us feel welcome, made the whole night one to remember. And even though Billy thanked everyone from the stage, I wanna do the same thing here – because without all these guys, we would be literally without a show. Matt and Joel…. Thank you for making us sound so great. Steve, Dave, Robert, Jimbo, Lloyd – every night, everything in tune, every cable tucked neatly away, a perfect stage for us – you guys are awesome. Martin – “how many spots we got tonight??” – thank you for lighting the whole thing and making it look fantastic. Karel – how the fuck do you put up with us all every day?? Thanks for literally keeping it all rolling night after night. Charles – well first of all, thank you for keeping Colson heavy as fuck! And a huge thank you for documenting the whole thing and making each and every shot look so amazing. Mitzi and Rangi – the Boss rocked the house every night thanks to you both. And Rex….. quite simply….”I don’t CARE!!!”…. thanks mate, we’re an handful I know! Would not be the same without you. Finally, to all you lot that read this diary every week – thank you from me, for allowing me to waffle on, pontificate, peruse and generally put my inner thoughts out there – means the world to me. OK, the tears are shed, the curtain has fallen, the fat bird is screeching her lungs out…. Till next time, kids!!