Thursday, August 19, 2010

Speedhorn's Stoopidest Shows..

During the ten years Raging Speedhorn existed, we played over six hundred shows. The first show, on November 7th. 1998, was in the back room at the Rockingham Arms Pub in Corby, which is about two hundred meters from my parent's house, and is where you can still find my dad most evenings, drinking a pint of Samuel Smith's Old Brewery, which is an utterly superb pint I might add. The final show was at a venue called Club Squad, in Yamaguchi, Japan, on November 30th. 2008.

I'd like to think that during that time we became a pretty good live band. We gave everything we had to every show we played, whether there were three people in the crowd or forty-five thousand. That is in fact the range of crowd size we played in the time we were a band. The show we played at the Red Lion in Gravesend on October 17th. 1999, to zero people, doesn't count. The show we played at the Red Lion on July 17th. 1999, to three people, does.

The size of the crowd watching, as far as I'm concerned, has often times had little to do with how I've felt about the show itself. I've had shit gigs in front of thousands of people and I've had great gigs in front of very few, and of course, vice versa applies.

Of the six hundred or so shows we played, most of them were what I would call good shows. Some of them were great, some were maybe even more than that. Those shows though, are usually not the ones you chat about with friends and touring acquaintances over a pint of Old Brewery. The shows that normally come up in conversation are the ones that are filed in the box labelled “Shite”. It's those shows that, as it happens, I have the fondest memories of today, since it's those that make me laugh when I think about them.

The majority of the “incidents” that happened during the Speedhorn years occurred away from the stage. The shows we played were often the glue that held the rest of the nonsense together. The only place where we could normally be relied upon to have our shit together was on the stage. The following is a list of exceptions to that rule...

No. 12 - Stockholm

So, first on the list is a show at Klubben, in Stockholm.

We were on our second European tour at the time, although the gap between the first Euro tour ending and the second tour starting was only something like five days, so it actually felt like one huge tour. The first tour was as support to Biohazard, which lasted seven weeks. The second tour was as support to Amen, which was a further four weeks. It was a long old haul.

I remember sitting on the tour bus, about two weeks from the end of the Biohazard tour, and our manager told us that we'd been offered the Amen tour and that we were going to be doing it. That's how it was for us then. We were young, and willing to play wherever, whenever, with whoever. Our manager Dave, who was also our good friend, was in our sole trust to take care of all that stuff. We didn't care. We just wanted to play and we were having a great time. And by this point, we were travelling in a night-liner with a bunch of friends as crew. Our music wasn't touched by anyone outside of the band, we made it exactly as we wanted it. What was there to fucking moan about? I remember feeling when Dave told us we were going straight back out on tour after the Biohazard dates, that although it was a huge stretch of shows, I was chuffed.

So now we that were travelling in a night-liner, playing bigger shows on a slightly bigger production, we decided we wanted to have some intro music to come on stage to. You know, make the show a bit more professional. Now, the few attempts we've made down the years at coming on stage to an intro, have invariably failed miserably. It just wasn't us. It's a fucking cheesy concept anyway. But for us, a band whose prime goal was to get up on stage, kick the shit out of everybody and leave, the intricacies of arriving on cue to intro music was always going to be a tough nut to crack. We just weren't that arty.

During the course of the Biohazard tour though, we'd been talking about finding some music to come on stage to. After days of discussion we'd decided we'd walk on stage to the David Allen Coe classic, Long Haired Redneck. So during the back end of the Biohazard tour, we'd get our sound guy, also a mate called Dave, (it's extraordinary how many men in the touring industry are called Dave...) to play the song over the P.A., which would then bellow out into the venue as we'd walk on stage.

It's was nothing complex really. The idea was that Dave would fade out the song at a certain point and we'd then blast in with the first song, The Hate Song. Hate Song was perfect since it starts with John screaming the line “I hate you all” and then the music kicks in. So the idea was to have this real dynamic to the start of the set. For some fucking reason though, we couldn't master it and it never quite worked. Half of the time, at least one of us would be drunk and we'd come on dancing to D.A.C, and then when the song fades out and John is about to scream into Hate Song, he's cut off by either someone tuning their guitar, or Gordon kicking his bass drum and shouting the immortal words, “I can't hear fuck all in my monitor!”, or it would be Frank giving it the old “one, two” in his microphone.

It's amazing to me now then, given the fact that we couldn't master this simple intro routine, that we actually attempted to take it up a notch for the Amen tour.

We decided for this tour that, not only would we come on to the intro song in complete silence, before John would scream us into Hate Song, we'd also do it in total darkness. The light's in the club would be out, David Allen Coe would come on, we'd walk out on to the stage in the dark to our instruments, the music would die out, John would the scream his first line and the stage lights would burst on as we blasted the first chords. Not that difficult you'd imagine? Sure, it would mean getting to our stage position's and having our instruments ready to go, but Long Haired Redneck is a good three minutes long. It shouldn't have been that difficult. And besides, Roddy, our long suffering guitar tech, had all the guitars tuned and ready to go, all we had to do was put them on and turn off the tuner pedal.

The early attempts at this new and improved intro fashioned the usual results. The intro song finishes, John is all ready to go...dunk, dunk, dunk... “I can't hear fuck all in my monitor!”.

The intro song finishes, John is all ready to go...”one two, one two, hello”. It was quite pathetic. And John was getting more annoyed with the whole thing, since it was he who was most keen on the whole intro thing anyway.

So we're sat in the dressing room at Klubben, a few minutes before stage time. We've decided we are now serious about this intro thing and we're determined to nail it tonight. No more fucking about. It's not that fucking hard, let's just fucking do it.

Doug, our tour manager, comes in and tells us to get our arses to the side of the stage, Dave is about to put Long Haired Redneck on.

The lights go out, “Country dj's all think I'm an outlaw”...We walk out on stage in the pitch black. My guitar is on, tuner pedal turned off, ready to go. I can see the dark shadow of Gordon, sat behind his kit in place. John and Frank, as usual, come on to the stage last, walk past me, pick up their microphones. Not a peep. It's all good. Fuck me! We might have actually cracked it.

Dave fades the music out.

And then...

There's this huge fucking crash! We stand there in the dark, in silence. I'm wondering what the fuck is going on..I look over at the amps and the drums, they all seem to be in place, still standing. And then I hear the faint sound of Frank groaning in apparent agony.

Both the stage lights and the club's house lights come on, unveiling a confused looking band. I look over to where Frank should be and realise immediately that he's not there. He's lying on the floor in a heap, down between the front of the stage and the crowd barrier, with a stage monitor on top of him.

Gordon looks at me for guidance. “Start the fucking song!” I yell at him, repeatedly. He looks at me confused, but then kicks into the second song in the set, Redweed, and we all get on with it, except Frank, who is still lying their in agony, the security guys lifting the monitor off of him. The house lights turn off again and we play through the song, the remaining five of us by now smirking at each other, trying our best not to laugh, although John is having the hardest time accomplishing that. Not only does he have to carry the song on his own, he has to scream the lyrics whilst suffocating the urge to howl out laughing.

To his credit, Frank gets back on stage for the start of the next song in the set, looking a bit bewildered, but nonetheless getting on with the job. The rest of the show goes smoothly, although I sense we collectively understand that the whole intro idea is fucking over.

Afterwards, we check out Frank's injuries. I swear to you, I have never seen bruising like it! He's black, blue, yellow and green all the way down one side, from his arse cheek to his shoulder blade. The fact that he got back up and played the show is actually pretty amazing.

The night of that show actually stirs fond memories in me for a couple of reasons, since later on that night I met my wife, Jenny, for the first time. Her band, Misdemeanor, were good friends with one of the guys from the Amen crew and they'd come down to the show to hang out.

Luckily, they'd been out drinking beer at some bar down the road whilst we were on stage...

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