GEORGE THE TRAVELLING GHOST / IN THE WARM ROOM

Our apologies to the Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove, but we seem to have taken their resident ghost George with us on tour...

Last Friday, we played at the Playhouse in Norwich. I drove up there with sound engineer Ben and guitarist Liam. We had a long drive, so we left first thing in the morning. Most of our shows are down the M6, and we're quite aware of the usual traffic and the ongoing road works. Ben calls it 'the 50 mile an hour misery zone'. It took us five and a half hours to get to the venue.

Jerney’s dep Arianne had arrived just before we had. The rest of the band had left slightly later and were still on their way. So it was up to the four of us to unload the van and carry all our gear and props along a tiny pathway to the back of the venue, since there was no way of driving the van to the back of the theatre.

We always have a sound check in the afternoon, so in theory everything should work properly when we start the show. For some reason however, this isn’t always the case. We started the show, and as soon as I started singing, my monitor sound started dropping out. Quick explanation for those of you who have never been in a band: on stage, we don’t hear what the audience hears. During a show, we wear in ear headphones. Every band member hears whatever mix they need to hear to help them play as well as they can. For instance: I need to hear the backing vocalist a lot louder than the audience does, because I have to mix my voice with the other vocals. Now during this performance, I the mix in my ears kept dropping in and out, which was so distracting I decided I couldn’t work with it. First I took one ear piece out, and then the next (in the second song of the show). Which meant I had to rely on the sound coming back from the room. Always a bit tricky, not only because the mix is different, but also because the speakers are facing the audience and not the stage. So it depends on the acoustics in the room what we can hear on the stage. What I got back from the sound on the stage that night was not much of my own vocals. I tried the third song without earpieces, but decided I had to put one back in in order to hear myself.

Since I couldn’t think of an easy to fix solution, I told Ben during the break I would manage for the second half of the show. By that time I had grown accustomed to the sound, and at least I could work with it. As far as I could tell it could have been interference from something, or a broken plug or wire.

We continued the show. All went quite well, until I was changing consumes backstage for “Running up that hill” and heard the rain and thunder sounds for “Cloudbusting”. Slightly panicked, I looked to the stage, and luckily, keyboard player Louis had not let the mistake fool him and just started with the first noted of “Running up that hill”. After “Running up that hill”, I was happy to hear the rain and thunder again (you never know if samples got mixed up somehow), and I could easily change costumes and start “Cloudbusting” (except I dropped my yo yo in the wings and couldn’t get it ready in time). Then after “Cloudbusting”, there was rain and thunder again. It was starting to get a bit boring, but I need it there to get changed for the next song. Two songs went by properly. And in “Wuthering Heights”, the chimes at the beginning weren’t ringing; instead, there was rain and thunder again!

Our apologies to the audience for the weird mistakes (though we blame George the Ghost)! So if you tell people about our show, you can say you were there that one time there was rain and thunder in all the right AND in the wrong places…

We stayed in a nearby hotel. As lovely as it is to hang out and have a drink after a show, our show is just too physically demanding for me to go out if I have a show the next day. We usually have quite a long drive after a show, so my adrenaline level has some time to drop. It took me a couple of hours before I could sleep, and I needed to be awake in time for breakfast and a radio interview.

After a five hour sleep and some breakfast and coffee, I had the interview with BBC radio 3 Counties. It was pre-recorded and would be aired that afternoon. The interview was almost ten minutes, so I suspected they would cut out a lot of what I had said. When the interview was finished, the band were already outside waiting for our drive to Radlett.

When we arrived in Radlett, I stayed in the van to listen to my own radio interview. I hardly ever hear these things myself, and now that I had the opportunity I thought I should listen. I was surprised how much they had left in. I could hear some cuts, but it was mostly the questions that had been cut out. There wasn’t anything I could remember having said that wasn’t being aired, except the part where I said I was still in Norwich at the time of the interview.

Unlike the day before, we had plenty of time to set up. And unlike the day before, there was a take-out place just over the road. The main down side was the weather: it went from drizzling to pouring down. The stage door was open all afternoon, and at some point I noticed a giant puddle backstage. I asked one of the guys from the venue for a mop. He mopped the floor and said the rest would dry up soon, since it was quite a warm room. In hindsight, that should have been a warning sign.

Of course I do sweat in every show, but I rarely ever feel like I’m bathing in sweat. Sometimes I blow dry my hair in the break, but not always. This time though, sweat was running down my face even before my first costume change.

I have never really introduced our dep backing vocalist Arianne on this page, but she used to be my backing vocalist in the first Kate Bush tribute band I had back in Holland years ago. She was with us when we played at the Belfast Taste and Music Fest in 2010 (which would eventually lead to me living in Liverpool and touring with Dreaming of Kate). We both had some costume changes in that show, and one of them was during an extended intro of ”James and the Cold Gun”. It was near the end of the performance, the lights on the stage were warm, the weather was humid and we were both so sweaty it took us ages to get into our tight trousers, tops and boots. Our guitarist at the time had to improvise several solos over the intro, sometimes looking over his shoulder to see what the hell was going on.

This show was a bit similar to that situation. With every costume change I struggled more to be on time. I had sweat in my eye on several occasions on stage and saw some flying around too (maybe it was a good thing the audience was quite far away from the stage). Some of the changes in the second half are really quick, and I nearly missed the beginning of “Running up that hill”.  At the end of “Love and Anger” I accidentally walked to the side of the stage too soon, but I decided to not correct it and walk off, as I might need the extra time to get out of the leotard and into the white dress. Don’t ask how, but I made it! This was definitely the warmest show we’ve done. I think I’ll refer to this one as the one “In the warm room”.

I love how every show is different. It keeps us sharp when tiny things go wrong. Like this weekend in Norwich, when Arianne forgot to take away the green chair after “Violin” (I decided to use it and stand on it at the end of “Breathing”), or yesterday in Radlett, when she failed to get me into the straitjacket (instead of playing being defeated I played having tricked the teacher and escaping from the straitjacket). We are constantly trying to tweak the show and keeping it interesting, and sometimes these little mistakes help us make it better. I cherish all these moments and try and make the best of every mistake. Even George the Ghost keeps us sharp!


 

1 comment

  • Big Bad John

    Big Bad John Hebden Bridge

    Hi, I was the guy in the red t-shirt at the Norwich show... dancing on my own!. I could tell there were some technical hitches with the earpiece and for those of us in the front row, the vocals didn't seem loud enough for the first few songs but that seemed to sort itself out somehow and we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Nice to meet you and the band afterwards. See you next time. John

    Hi, I was the guy in the red t-shirt at the Norwich show... dancing on my own!. I could tell there were some technical hitches with the earpiece and for those of us in the front row, the vocals didn't seem loud enough for the first few songs but that seemed to sort itself out somehow and we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Nice to meet you and the band afterwards. See you next time. John

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