News & Insights 11 November 2006

Always say no to strangers

Saturday 11 November, 8.15am (NYU Dorms, Manhattan, New York):
Ooh… arghuihr. Dull throbbing. Eels? Ate an eel. Why? Hmm. Some kind of potent Japanese alcohol. Half of me is on an air bed. The other half is on hard floor. Erm. New York! That’s it. Oh jeez, radio interview! Today! In New Jersey! Go Team Lightyears! Eghuisdpolk. Perhaps not yet. Wait for throbbing to subside. Then go.

Never eating eel again.

Saturday 11 November, 12.15pm (LYs US HQ, Riverton, New Jersey):
Thankfully, the 2-hour train journey from New York proved to be enough to gently coerce us back into a respectable state. Trains are very clean and quiet in the US, but the ticket inspectors are terrifying. One of ours actually had a gun. I mean, in England, fare-dodgers get a stern talking-to and a strongly-worded letter. Here it would seem they get shot in the face. But I imagine it gets the message across.

We’re now back at Jon’s apartment in Riverton, grabbing a bite to eat before our interview and live session on WXPN Radio. However, when I log into our e-mail account I find a message from the program director at the station apologising for having to cancel our interview, as their baseball game coverage has been moved and the entire day of scheduled music sessions has been called off. This is a bit of a blow. WXPN is the most popular public radio station in America – it has an audience of 5 million people and was the station that broke Keane in the US. They’ve been very supportive of The Lightyears this past year so it’s a real shame that our slot has been postponed. Seems word has spread to our American fans already – there are postings on the WXPN message board lambasting the station for cancelling our session. Power to the people! Sadly, though, in the States, sport always wins through. Seems we’ll have to wait until our next US tour…

Saturday 11 November, 8.30pm (Milkboy, Ardmore, Pennsylvania):
Our disappointment at missing out on the radio interview has been eclipsed somewhat by the near sell-out crowd at Milkboy tonight for the climactic show of our tour. Plus the venue promoters heard our soundcheck and asked us to come back and play again tomorrow night, which is cool. Milkboy’s a great place – it’s a coffee house so the audience are all completely sober, if somewhat wired on espressos. And they do the greatest Peanut Butter Milkshakes in the northern hemisphere.

As a special treat tonight we are being joined onstage by “live artist” Luc Sonnet, who uses state-of-the-art computer technology to “paint” images whilst the band play – images which are projected onto a screen behind the musicians during the gig. He is debuting this pioneering technique for James Blunt next week and, having heard about our American Tour, called us earlier to ask if he could test-run it on us. If I’m honest, it’s slightly weird, but kinda cool nevertheless. I fall into conversation with Luc after the show and eventually come to the conclusion that this dude is either a) the most well-connected person I have ever met or b) a massive nut-job. I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s the former, which leads to a long discussion in which he promises to secure us support slots for Elton John, Coldplay, Keane and Ben Folds Five. I express my gratitude for his offer of help. Next he invites us to go and live with him in his 17th century chateau in the South Of France. So I make my excuses and beat a hasty retreat.

I should have listened to my Mum – always say no to strangers.

Sunday 12 November, 7.15pm (Milkboy, Ardmore, Pennsylvania):
We’re back at Milkboy for our unscheduled Sunday night headline show. Many of our fans from last night have come again, and there are also a bunch of new faces in the audience. We open the set with Fine, and all is progressing as it should until I notice that the lights on my sound module have started flashing sporadically. The tiny LED display is going mental, and the module keeps changing between voices without any apparent cause. I’m pressing the buttons but to absolutely no avail. It seems to be in the middle of some kind of seizure. I’m trying to keep things going but it keeps trying to change my voice from “Grand Piano 1” to “Baroque Trumpet”, which to be honest is not really sitting in well with the rest of the band. I have absolutely no idea why this is happening. Tony looks at me from across the stage and mouths “Are you OK?”. He later tells me that the expression on my face was roughly what he would expect if I’d just been told that my entire family had been crushed to death in a freak meteorite shower. The song ends. We’re about to launch into the next number when George turns to me and communicates that he has broken a string. Fantastic. We’re now down to one instrument.

Through a combination of luck and perseverance, I manage to solve my problem – which turns out to be due to a stuck button on the keyboard. Tony, meanwhile, has been keeping the show going by virtue of some quite ingenious banter on the subject of American Football (a sport about which he knows absolutely nothing). When he’s finished, we bust out an improvised 2-piece rendition of You Are Wrong whilst George fixes his guitar with a fork. Two minutes later, George appears miraculously onstage and joins us for the final chorus, and once again we are a complete band. The rest of the gig goes smoothly and the sun eventually sets on our 2006 American Tour.

Monday 13 November, 6pm (Detroit Airport, Michigan, USA):
We are sitting in Taco Bell at Detroit Metro Airport, sharing a Dr Pepper through three straws. Taco Bell, if you’ve never had the pleasure, is wonderful. Tony’s practically in a state of nirvana – a hot, delicious 3-bean wrap for under 75p… seriously? We are all knackered. Detroit has a mile-long mall but I think it’ll have to wait for another day. Royal Britannia here we come.

Tuesday 14 November, 9.15am (Gatwick Airport, London, England):
Jetlagged, tired, and still – to be frank – a bit drunk from the flight, we emerge blinking onto British soil. Everyone’s there on the runway to greet us – tabloid journalists, the Queen, Les Dennis. They’ll have to wait for their exclusive though. I’m heading home to eat digestive biscuits and watch Fawlty Towers.

It’s good to be home.

Chris Lightyear

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