Saturday, September 4, 2010

No. 8 - Hultsfred

It was the summer of 2003 and we were almost a year into touring our second album, We Will Be Dead Tomorrow.

A lot had changed in the couple of years since the release of the first record. I'd moved to Sweden, which had caused great concern amongst certain band members at the time. Frank and his girlfriend Claire, had conceived a son, which had also caused certain band members a great deal of concern at the time...

Above all that, a greater change, a far more pressing development, was in a very delicate process during this period in our lives. We were growing up as a band and as people and a direct result of that was a new-found curiosity about how exactly the band was being run by our management company. After growing suspicious that the guy running our management company was putting more of our money up his nose than into our bank account, we decided it was time to start taking our band more seriously.

I suspect the fact that we were somewhat forced to get our act together off the stage and start taking care of “business”, had a profound affect on our act on stage. The more serious we became off stage, the less serious we became on it. I think they call it escapism... At times our shows descended into the lowly depths of cabaret...

We were all frustrated. The second album's recording sessions took place in the epicentre of a dark, turbulent period for the band. We wanted to get rid of our manager, who we simply no longer trusted. Except it wasn't simple... The two people who had done more for our band than anyone else would ever have done, two people who were family to us, worked for that very company. It was complicated to say the least. We wanted away from the company, and we wanted to take our friends with us. But they couldn't leave, and we had to. And it broke our hearts. It actually broke the band beyond the point where it could ever be fully repaired. It took the best part of a year to piece together the recordings for the album, which took the wind out of our sails completely. The good ship Speedhorn almost sank..

So with all this going on behind the scenes, and with various members of the band spreading their wings and leaving the nest that was Corby, it maybe wasn't surprising that when we were actually gathered together again to get on with what we were supposed to be doing, namely playing our music live, we determined ourselves to enjoy it to the hilt.

And for us that meant one thing. Getting pissed.

We were playing a bunch of festivals during the summer of 2003, Hultsfred, Sweden, being the first of them. I'd officially moved to Stockholm (moved my records) the summer before, so I was travelling without the rest of the guys in the band to this festival. Since we were playing on the last day I had decided to travel down early with Jen and a gang of mates from Stockholm and hang out for the whole weekend. I'd even decided to get as far into the spirit as to camp out in the festival camp site. I hadn't been to a festival just to hang out for about five years, since Reading '98. I was sure it was going to be a great laugh. I regretted my decision as soon as I lay down in the tent to sleep that first night. The realisation hit me, like a punch in the chops, that camping in a tent at a music festival is actually fucking bollocks...

Despite the naïve choice of sleeping arrangements, we had a fun weekend hanging out with everyone, watching some bands and drinking beer in the sun. By the time the Saturday came round, the day we were playing, I was buzzing. I was really looking forward to this show. And more than that, I was really looking forward to seeing the boys. It had been a while since we'd last been together, and dare I say it, I was missing them.

The guys were flying into the show on a very early flight from London. They had to leave Corby at something like four in the morning to catch a flight at six-thirty. Then upon arrival in Sweden, they were being transported on a festival shuttle bus, which was going to take another couple of hours. I was certain that they were going to arrive in a stinking mood.

It was to my great surprise then, to see Frank jump out of the bus with a huge smile on his face upon arrival at the backstage area. He lumbered over to me and gave me a big bear hug. The rest of the guys followed behind him, all chirping like robins. Not to sound like a sceptic, but I was relieved, if not a little shocked by their cheerful disposition.

It was noon when they arrived and we were playing on the indoor stage at six in the evening. Perfect time of the day to play. The evening would just be rolling in, we'd play our set and then have the night ahead of us to party.

We hung out in the porta-cabin that was our dressing room, catching up on things. We'd seen each other as recently as a few weeks earlier, but for a group of guys used to living in each other's pockets, week in, week out, that felt like a long time. It was good to be with the boys again.

I was the first to leave Corby, though Gordon wasn't far behind me, moving to Cardiff with his girlfriend, Katy. It's only natural when you get the chance to travel the world, that your eyes get opened a little, and you realise there is so much out there, just waiting to be seen, and that you can't spend the rest of your life living in Corby. That was the conclusion that Gordon and I reached anyway. But as the cliché goes, you can take the boy out of Corby but you can't take Corby out of the boy, and when we converged, it was if nothing had really ever changed.

So we're there hanging out, looking forward to a summer of playing festivals, getting on with the real business of playing shows again, and everyone is in positive mood. So much so in fact, that we decide we'll crack open a beer. It's around twelve thirty pm.

I'm not quite sure how, but by the time the clock on the cabin wall reads three-thirty pm, we've drank the entire rider. That's two crates of beer, a bottle of red wine and a bottle of Jim Beam, between the six of us.. with a little help from my wife. Roddy (best mate/guitar tech), and Doug (best mate/tour manager) are with us and Roddy is pissed off that we've left him nothing for after the show. I still don't know how it happened, I guess we just got carried away. It's not until Roddy throws a strop and storms out of the cabin that I even realise how much we've drunk. Oops...

As fate would have it, the guy who is one of the main promoters for the festival, pops his head in through the door to shortly after, to say hello. He's a really nice guy. We'd first met him six months earlier. We played a short tour of Sweden, one of the shows being a club in Hultsfred, which the promoter guy booked. The show had gone really well and we'd hung out afterwards. He'd asked us there and then if we'd like to play the festival.

He chats for a while, then wishes us good luck for the show and leaves, looking slightly bemused by our boisterous spirit. What happens next is absolutely typical of our band, Raging Speedhorn.

One of the festival runners, a young, innocent looking chap, who's job it is to look after the after the bands whilst they are in the backstage area, pops his head into to the cabin to check we're ok. We tell him we're more than chuffed. He looks over at the table where the rider had once been and then says, “Oh shit, sorry, you guys haven't had your rider yet? I'll go get it for you guys!”

We look at each other in delirious astonishment. Either the guy is blind, incredibly kind or just plain naïve. Either way, he turns up with the rider again...

Fuck me. By the time we go on stage, two hours later, we're all fucking steam boats! I'm at least at a level where I can still fumble my way through a set, albeit unconvincingly, but Frank is off his fucking tits...

I've got my friends from Stockholm in the audience, most of whom have never seen a Speedhorn show before. I've got Jen and some of the girls from Misdemeanor hanging out side stage, as well as a bunch of people I know in the Swedish music press reviewing the gig. My friend, Jenny Walroth, who works for a record label, has told me that she's convinced a good friend of hers who works for a national newspaper, to watch the show and review it.

I remember looking over to Jen as we stumble on stage. And then at Doug and Roddy. I catch a glimpse of my friends Emil and Erik in the crowd. They all seem to be grinning. The wooden indoor stage, that looks like a giant bandstand, is packed out with a couple of thousand people, and the sun is shining brightly through the gaps above the sea of heads in front of us. When Frank walks on with a couple of bottles of red wine in his hand, and calls everyone in the crowd cunts, I know this is going to be an interesting show.

Before we even kick off, Frank notifies the crowd as to who we are and that we don't give a fuck. He tells them they can come up on stage and fight us, and if they want to, they can throw bottles of piss at us, although I'm not sure why. Before we even start, we're a shambles.

We get through the first few songs unscathed. I wouldn't exactly say we're tight, but we're doing ok. Then at some point during the fourth song I lose Frank in my monitor. He's totally disappeared. I shout over at the monitor guy telling him the score. The monitor guy doesn’t look impressed as he points a stern finger at Frank. I look over to see Frank, eyes closed, screaming as hard as he can. He's totally feeling it. It's just that he's screaming into his empty bottle of wine instead of his microphone. The daft cunt hasn't even noticed. John spots the problem, shakes his head at me and kicks Frank up the arse.

At least the crowd seem to be in to it. The atmosphere is really pretty electric, despite the nonsense being presented to them.

We plough on...

Another couple of songs go by before I notice Doug, side stage, having a bit of a row with our friend, the promoter. Unbeknownst to me, Frank has drank the remaining contents of the two bottles of wine he had on stage and dispersed of them by throwing them as hard as he can, directly into the crowd. I had wondered why random objects had started to land with venomous velocity on stage. It seems the crowd are giving as good as they're getting. Still, the mood hasn't darkened at all. The crowd, if anything, seem to be loving it. I hear Doug shouting to Tony between songs that we have to reign Frank in or get pulled off the stage, by order of the festival.

Frank doesn't seem to give the slightest piss. He hasn't got any bottles left but he's swinging his microphone around on stage like a helicopter propeller whilst John sings his parts.

We're between songs, tuning up and by now I'm desperately guzzling water. The stage is hot and it's taking it toll. If it wasn't for the fact I was sharing a stage with Regan I'd happily admit to being pretty drunk, but compared to him I'm as sober as a judge. We're getting towards the end of the set and I'm starting to think about the finish line. I'm about to start the penultimate song when Frank tells me to wait up. He's laughing his ass off as he announces to the crowd that this next song goes out to Tony's bump. Confused, I look over to see Jen and Doug, along with a few other people, pissing themselves laughing. And then I notice poor Tony...

He literally has the biggest lump I have ever seen, just off centre at the top if his forehead. It's the size of a fucking golf ball. It looks like something from a cartoon. It's bright red and I swear I can almost see it throbbing. Tony is doing his utmost best to laugh it off, but it looks like he's about to faint. At some point during the last song, Frank's mike has come down from a great height, at full speed, and smacked Tony in the head. I can't even imagine how sore that would be. To his credit he makes it through the last two songs, which is quite incredible really. It must piss him off though, to see Frank stumbling around the stage for the majority of those songs, laughing his head off whilst pointing out Tony's lump to various members of the band.

We finally stagger off stage. On the way back to the dressing room I pass the promoter having it out with Doug, screaming about how we're never playing Hultsfred again. Doug is doing his best to calm him down, the whole time trying to conceal the smirk on his face. I get back to the dressing room. Tony is bent over a sink, rabidly splashing water on his ridiculous looking bump.

My friend Jenny later tells me that her journalist friend has simply asked her after the show, just how she imagined he could write a review? He said that it was more like watching a gang of football hooligans on stage fighting, than a band playing a gig. She told him just to write that...

The performance has since gone down in history as a most infamous performance. It was voted by Close Up Magazine as one of the top three concerts of the year. Ridiculous really... My friends still bring it into conversation at parties when ever we get talking about gigs.

Although we laughed about it at the time, we soon realised that our behaviour wasn't totally acceptable that day. We apologised to the festival organisers. I never heard if they replied.

A couple of weeks later we played an amazing show at Roskilde in front of a similar sized crowd, although this time we were on at one pm. and Doug had banned us from drinking before the show. In the space of those two weeks, we played two of the best shows of our career, each for very differing reasons...


  1. This might turn out to be the best top list of all time. I've been laughing my way through the list so far and have been loving every bit of it. Keep up the good work!

  2. I saw the gig an I loved it! Thou I was afraid that Tony´s lump were going to explode and turn the gig into a splattermovie ;-)

  3. Brilliant! I loved reading this, especially the last gig.