Monday 14th, 6.30pm
Aidan: “Domi wants to come tomorrow…transport might be a little tricky. I mean obviously she can get a coach up…”
Owen: “What? Don’t be silly…you can’t make your girlfriend take the National Express to one of your gigs…that’s ridiculous. I’ll take the coach. Might be lots of snow tomorrow, so lets not bother with trains. Could be a disaster.”
Aidan: “No, as in it’s fine, she said she doesn’t mind.”
Owen: “It’s not happening. I’m reading a good book at the moment anyhow, I’d actually quite like to head up separately. It’s not a problem.”
Tuesday 15th, 5.36pm
Domi’s mobile: “Hey owen…I’m feeling really bad that you’re on a coach and I’m in the car – if it’s any consolation it’s a tight squeeze in the back here! See you in a bit x x x x”
My mobile: “Don’t feel bad. Got tunes, book and water. even an apple. what more could I want? and I don’t have to put up with ben’s armpits or andy’s feet or thom’s ecological critique of service stations. I think I know who’s winning. apart from the traffic it’s all good! x”
Ben: “Is that you on the 007? Yeh we can see you. This traffic’s pretty grim, we’re going to try another route. Sure things will clear soon, let us know when you hit London!”
Owen: “We haven’t moved for a while now…any idea what’s going on?”
Ben: “Nah mate, just traffic. Anyhow, see you later.”
My mobile: “we still haven’t really moved. this could be a bit of a disaster. will let you know when things change.”
In nearly three hours we moved forward about 10 meters.
National Express’ irresistibly cheap fares seem to attract some of the more precarious members of our society; students, elderly Indian and Pakistani couples, Eastern European migrant workers, skint pensioners not to mention skint musicians. I started to wonder who was going to crack first. Thank God we had a working toilet. About an hour into the standstill, a middle-aged Chinese woman started shouting alarming updates down the phone. “WE STILL ON MOTORWAY! NO WE STILL ON MOTORWAY!” You could feel the tension levels rising. I’d eaten my apple and my iPod had run out of battery. It was getting harder to read. Things took a turn for the worse when the Liverpudlian pensioner sat directly in front of me decided it was time to phone everyone in her phone book to convey our transport woes: “hiya Colin…no we’re stuck. I don’t know where we are but we’re barely moving…we just moved 2 yards…still moving I think…no still on the motorway…oh dear we’ve stopped again…no wait, we’ve just moved another yard”. This went on for hours.
I knew Ben sounded slightly evasive on the phone before. According to BBC News, a truck carrying cars had managed to tip itself over. At least nine cars blocked four lanes of the A2 London-bound carriageway and two cars managed to land on the opposite carriageway. After 3 hours the motorway closed, and we were redirected through Gravesend.
But thanks to an understanding Theo Bard, esteemed organiser of the Woodburner sessions, and the compassionate generosity of The Old Tyre Swingers, the touring Californian bluegrass band who were supposed to headline, they kindly swapped with us allowing me more time to arrive. I got the coach from Canterbury bus station at 4.50pm. Nearly 5 hours later I finally got to the Russet, just in time for what was probably our best ever gig.
The Russet was packed, the lighting was perfect, the stage decor was magical and we were indulged with the complete attention of our audience. What’s more, on a few of the tunes Nick Walters treated both the band and the audience to some of his golden trumpet frequencies.
Despite an inauspicious opening, Tuesday night ended up a highpoint of the tour so far.
Next stop, Smugglers Sessions at Westgate-on-Sea!
Shotgun front seat.