Lo Siento Valencia, Gracias Gijón!

A blog post! Goodness me. I’ve long been planning to start blogging on here agin properly, but life keeps getting in the way. Well, there’s no time like the present, so here we go. I’m planning on posting here every week or two. Nothing special or earth-shattering, just some musings, some tour-diarising, that kind of thing. Enjoy, or don’t, as you fancy.

I write from a sterile hotel room in the outskirts of Madrid on the first day off of this tour. We started four days ago in Barcelona, and have traipsed through Valencia, Santander and Gijón in the meantime. This is our second European tour this year, and it’s the tougher of the two. Essentially, we hit the countries where we play to more than 1,000 people a show, on average, in one bout, in January; now we’re visiting places were crowds are more in the 200-500 range. This makes the technical and financial side of things more efficient, but it also means that this next few weeks will be testing for me and the Sleeping Souls.

In practice, what I’m talking about here is having no luxuries. We have a sleeper bus, it’s true, but we’re down to a minimal crew – Johnny and Cahir on the technical side of things, Tre tour-managing and Martine on merch. We’re using in-venue showers (usually pretty dire), we’re loading in and loading out ourselves, we’re running our own monitors, and so on; everyone has to muck in.

“My diamond slippers are chafing!” I hear you cry. And yes, this is all pretty first-world-problem stuff. Interestingly, it reminds me of tours we did back in 2008 or so in the UK, around “Love Ire & Song”. The difference, I suppose, is that we’ve gotten used to the luxuries of full crew and the extra comforts that bigger venues can afford. We’ve also gotten older and creakier. In a funny way, I’m enjoying the tour because of this. I think it’s reminding me how good I usually have it, and it’s giving me and the band a refresher course in being punk-rock touring machines.

There’s another angle to all this, which is what prompted the idea of a blog post. Playing big shows to rapturous sold-out crowds is wonderful, of course. But you get used to it. With every tour, you have to adjust a little to the setting – whether you’re headline or support, how big the shows are, that kind of thing. At the start of this run I was a little down about some of the shows – in Gijón, for example, we’d only sold about 50 tickets in advance. I’ve become accustomed to playing to larger crowds, and somewhere inside myself I was a little deflated about all this. At the show in Valencia, I was less connected that I like to be for a show, and I should apologise for that.

But, over time, that’s where this tour has been great, because the shows have reminded me to get the fuck over myself. When I was starting touring, in Million Dead, we used to idolise Black Flag, and Henry Rollins’ book “Get In The Van“, where they talked about giving everything you have even if there’s only one person in the audience. That person paid for a show, and goddammit, they deserve one. In Gijón last night (98 people in the room in total!) I was reminded of the wisdom of that approach. Forget the numbers, the facilities, the size of the room; it all comes down to you and an audience, and your job is to communicate, to connect, to create something collective. Last night we did.

So in general, this tour is ace, I’m learning, or relearning, and seeing new things, meeting new people, making the most of it. From here (Madrid) we go across to Italy, thence Slovenia, our first stops in Slovakia and Serbia (which my inner history nerd is having palpitations about), up through Budapest, Prague, Poland and into Scandinavia, by which time I hope to have blogged some more. See you down the front.

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