News & Insights 18 April 2011

A Fortnight In The Mountains – A Musical Horror Story
by Chris Russell (published in State Magazine, November 2008)
Since the major record labels began tightening their belts, more and more bands have found themselves ‘going it alone’. Unsigned bands have re-branded themselves as ‘Independent Acts’ and can be seen attempting ambitious global touring that, once upon a time, would have been funded, organised and overseen by a team of trained industry professionals.
It was in this spirit, then, that my band embarked on its first ever international tour a couple of years ago with little more than a hunger for stardom and access to Google Maps. In place of a nightliner we had an ageing Vauxhall Omega, a car which we had bought off our guitarist’s dad and that didn’t so much say ‘rock and roll freewheelers’ as ‘Sunday afternoon at Furniture Village’. Into this vehicle we managed to squeeze an entire PA system, all our instruments and four grown men. This, believe me, was a miracle of spatial engineering.
After 14 hours driving down through France, we eventually arrived at our chalet at around 2.30am. We were met there by The Booking Agent, a man who would never look you directly in the eye, probably for a very good reason. It was as if he’d shot your grandmother in her sleep and didn’t want you to find out.
We enquired after the unmade beds which, apart from looking distinctly uncomfortable, were entirely devoid of sheets.
‘Didn’t you get the memo about bedding?’ The Agent replied.
Memo? Bedding?
And it was with that that we found ourselves, on our first night of our inaugural European tour, struggling to achieve slumber underneath makeshift quilts fashioned from napkins and flannels. Which very much set the tone for the coming week.
We were touring the clubs and bars of high-society ski resort Meribel, sometimes playing for up to four hours a day. This was our Hamburg. Our initiation into the daily grind of a touring band. Only instead of the Top Ten Club and the red-light district, we had ‘Cross-Dresser Night’ at Le Pub. After about a week, the hefty gigging schedule began to take its toll on our drummer and he developed a stomach bug of epic proportions. He was up all night, literally sluicing from both ends. I can say this with confidence because the meagre width of the bathroom walls, coupled with the bizarre acoustics of our poorly-constructed chalet, meant I heard the whole thing as if it was happening right next to my head. And, believe me, when somebody is projectile-vomiting next to your head for six straight hours, it’s really quite tricky to get any decent shut-eye.
The next morning he stumbled into the living room looking like the abandoned love-child of Quasimodo and Pete Doherty. Sadly, however, there was no opportunity for respite as we were scheduled to scale the mountains once more in search of Le Rond Point, the next venue on the tour. The weather up until this point had been clement, since April usually brings very little snowfall in the Alps. As a result we were woefully unprepared for what was about to hit. Namely, an enormous blizzard.
Driving at 3mph along winding mountain roads through a violent snowstorm in a heavily-loaded car with virtually zero visibility is, take it from me, pretty bloody scary. Part of me wondered whether this was the moment in which I was going to die. This was it. Had I achieved everything I desired in life? Had the band made its mark on popular culture? Would we be remembered as a modern-day Lynyrd Skynyrd, plucked from life in a cruel motoring accident at the height of our potential?
Needless to say, we didn’t meet our demise on the mountain-side that day. But we came pretty close. And so now, if any prospective tour manager asks us to bring our own bedding or drops the phrase “Cross-Dresser Night” into conversation, we know to run a mile.

A Fortnight In The Mountains – A Musical Horror Story
by Chris Russell (published in State Magazine, November 2008)

Since the major record labels began tightening their belts, more and more bands have found themselves ‘going it alone’. Unsigned bands have re-branded themselves as ‘Independent Acts’ and can be seen attempting ambitious global touring that, once upon a time, would have been funded, organised and overseen by a team of trained industry professionals.

It was in this spirit, then, that my band embarked on its first ever international tour a couple of years ago with little more than a hunger for stardom and access to Google Maps. In place of a nightliner we had an ageing Vauxhall Omega, a car which we had bought off our guitarist’s dad and that didn’t so much say ‘rock and roll freewheelers’ as ‘Sunday afternoon at Furniture Village’. Into this vehicle we managed to squeeze an entire PA system, all our instruments and four grown men. This, believe me, was a miracle of spatial engineering.

After 14 hours driving down through France, we eventually arrived at our chalet at around 2.30am. We were met there by The Booking Agent, a man who would never look you directly in the eye, probably for a very good reason. It was as if he’d shot your grandmother in her sleep and didn’t want you to find out.

We enquired after the unmade beds which, apart from looking distinctly uncomfortable, were entirely devoid of sheets.

‘Didn’t you get the memo about bedding?’ The Agent replied.

Memo? Bedding?

And it was with that that we found ourselves, on our first night of our inaugural European tour, struggling to achieve slumber underneath makeshift quilts fashioned from napkins and flannels. Which very much set the tone for the coming week.

We were touring the clubs and bars of high-society ski resort Meribel, sometimes playing for up to four hours a day. This was our Hamburg. Our initiation into the daily grind of a touring band. Only instead of the Top Ten Club and the red-light district, we had ‘Cross-Dresser Night’ at Le Pub. After about a week, the hefty gigging schedule began to take its toll on our drummer and he developed a stomach bug of epic proportions. He was up all night, literally sluicing from both ends. I can say this with confidence because the meagre width of the bathroom walls, coupled with the bizarre acoustics of our poorly-constructed chalet, meant I heard the whole thing as if it was happening right next to my head. And, believe me, when somebody is projectile-vomiting next to your head for six straight hours, it’s really quite tricky to get any decent shut-eye.

The next morning he stumbled into the living room looking like the abandoned love-child of Quasimodo and Pete Doherty. Sadly, however, there was no opportunity for respite as we were scheduled to scale the mountains once more in search of Le Rond Point, the next venue on the tour. The weather up until this point had been clement, since April usually brings very little snowfall in the Alps. As a result we were woefully unprepared for what was about to hit. Namely, an enormous blizzard.

Driving at 3mph along winding mountain roads through a violent snowstorm in a heavily-loaded car with virtually zero visibility is, take it from me, pretty bloody scary. Part of me wondered whether this was the moment in which I was going to die. This was it. Had I achieved everything I desired in life? Had the band made its mark on popular culture? Would we be remembered as a modern-day Lynyrd Skynyrd, plucked from life in a cruel motoring accident at the height of our potential?

Needless to say, we didn’t meet our demise on the mountain-side that day. But we came pretty close. And so now, if any prospective tour manager asks us to bring our own bedding or drops the phrase ‘Cross-Dresser Night’ into conversation, we know to run a mile.

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