hamilton rugby club

“We’ll always have Cape Town, boys…”

1 July 2009

South Africa's hottest supermodel stagediving to the LYsSATURDAY 7 MARCH, 9.30am (Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa):
It’s the morning of the gig. The moment this whole week has been building up to. Last night we spent a few nerve-wracking hours getting to know the rugby players who will constitute a large proportion of our audience tonight and, whilst we escaped without any broken bones, we all remain a little nervous about whether or not we’ll win them over at the gig.

On the way to breakfast in the hotel I spot several copies of the Cape Argus, one of the city’s foremost broadsheets, resting on a side-table. Our interview ought to be published today. As I rifle through the pages, I discover that indeed it has been. I read the article over a breakfast of roasted duck pancakes with hoisin sauce, sushi, avocado salad, quail’s eggs, freshly-brewed black coffee and a few slices of exquisitely rare prime beef-steak (click here to find out where the Table Bay breakfast placed in my International Five Star Hotel Breakfast Richter Scale). The article’s great – the journalist has really done his homework and has some nice comments to make about the band and our recent track “Johannesburg”. Click here to read it.

After a few hours spent relaxing by the pool, we jump in our wicked tour-bus and head for Hamilton Rugby Club. It’s a scorcher of a day and, when we arrive, it becomes very evident that those not involved in the tournament have been hitting the drink pretty hard since early in the day. Saying that, the players themselves (aside from those taking it very seriously) have clearly been doing much the same thing and so the stage is set for an epic night in the beer tent.

We kick off around 8pm. Our plan is to mix up some of our original tunes with a bunch of crowd-pleasing covers, saving “Johannesburg” until the beginning of the second set. We start at a fairly chilled pace but, within about 20 minutes, the tent is full to bursting and the people are demonstrably ready to let loose. As we begin chucking in upbeat songs of our own such as “Emily”, and pot-boiling covers like “Bohemian Like You” and “A Little Respect”, the atmosphere is really starting to cook.

Our nerves fade away as the crowd surges towards the stage and the energy we’re giving out is matched easily by the energy coming back off the audience. It’s smiles all round. I can tell that we’re winning them over. After a short break we return with Set Two, which is where we properly seal the deal. We kick off with “Johannesburg”, explaining the story behind the song and, I’m happy to say, inspiring a mass sing-along from people who have never heard the tune before. As Alex James writes in his autobiography “Bit Of A Blur”, you know you’ve got a good song on your hands when the crowd are singing along by the end of the first chorus. And they were.

As the evening draws on and we get louder, the people get rowdier and the sun drops lower, I’m riding on a wave of adrenaline. People are hugging and kissing and dancing with each other. The police are hovering outside. Fully-naked men are throwing themselves across beer-flooded picnic tables. It’s magnificent, rip-roaring rock ‘n’ roll chaos.

Suddenly, I realise what I have to do next.

My first ever stage-dive.

The circumstances are primed. Two thousand party animals are writhing as one in front of me. I’ve drunk just the right amount of beer to blunt the hard edge of caution whilst remaining capable enough to avoid grievous injury. I am poised. I am ready to fly.

Then, out of the blue, I am beaten to it. By an FHM supermodel.

And not everybody can say that.

Roxy Louw, South Africa’s foremost supermodel and a regular in lad-mag FHM, has mounted the stage during my period of prevarication and launched herself spectacularly into the crowd. I watch her surf about on the turbulent sea of excited hands, amused by the huge mob of pissed-up blokes virtually goggle-eyed at the opportunity to legitimately grope one of the world’s hottest women.

Whilst in some ways I can’t help but feel like a bit of a disappointment after the delivery of a supermodel, I resolve nevertheless to join the throng. After a run-up that would make Evel Knievel jealous, I bounce in a high, smooth arc from the stage onto the moving platform of heads and hands. What a glorious moment. Everybody is singing around me. I have come home. This, as they say, is it.

It’s a hot and sweaty night that sees many more stage-dives and a slew of encores. The organisers manage to keep the police at bay (just) and ask us to come back and play again tomorrow night. Sporting legend Bobby Skinstad calls us “the best band in the world”. He’s never seen Toploader play live, of course, but we’ll forgive him that.

“The real stars of Day One are The Lightyears, who blow the marquee apart with a roaring display that sees four encores and has the police sent to check noise levels dancing in the crowd…”
RUGBY 365.COM (read full article here)

SUNDAY 8 MARCH, 10am (My hotel room, Cape Town):
When I wake up, I have the fear. That distant, indefinable fear you sometimes get the morning after the night before, when the heady cloud of a hangover keeps you from pinpointing exactly what it is you did last night that you’re about to begin regretting.

At breakfast, I’m halfway through my smoked salmon, toasted muffins, hollandaise sauce, tuna steak and home-made guacamole when it slowly but surely dawns on me. After we left the stage yesterday following our fourth encore, I was approached by a promoter interested in booking us for a show in Johannesburg later in the year. I gave him my business card but he didn’t have one himself so he wrote his landline and mobile phone numbers down on the nearest available piece of paper – which happened to be a flyer for a local strip-joint. I didn’t think a great deal of it at the time, popping it down on the desk in my hotel room before crashing into a deep and happy sleep.

Something important, however, has just occurred to me.


The time I’ve spent in this hotel thus far has confirmed to me that the housekeeping staff are ruthlessly efficient when it comes to clearing up after messy British rock bands. Anything that appears to be rubbish is likely to be binned pretty sharpish. And there’s a good chance that the crumpled flyer in question, decorated with its illegible scribblings and tacky, pornographic imagery, would be immediately deemed as fit only for the bin. And this could lose us a potential gig in Johannesburg. I have to do something.

Making my excuses I dash out of the breakfast room and pelt across the lobby to the lift. I don’t know if you’ve ever spotted this but lifts rarely respond quickly enough when you’re in a hurry. When I finally make it back to my room, it immediately becomes clear that I’m too late. The beds are expertly made and the room is spotless. They’ve been. And they’ve taken the flyer.

The odds are stacked against me but I’m hoping against hope that I’ll be able to trace the flyer by working out which member of staff cleared out my room. It’s a long shot but I’m left with little choice. The concierge ought to be my best bet, I figure, so I head back down to the lobby, take a seat at the front desk and ring the bell. Presently the concierge appears wearing a neat uniform and a funny little hat.

“Can I help sir?” he asks, sitting down opposite me.

“Ah, yes, that would be great thanks. You see, the thing is, I left a really rather important piece of paper in my room this morning and I think the housekeepers have thrown it away.”

“Oh,” he replies, his expression dropping.

“… Yes, I know. Bit of a stretch, I realise that, but I was wondering if the housekeeping department would be able to keep an eye out for it in case it turns up?”

Duty-bound to humour my doomed mission, the concierge produces a small notepad from his top pocket and clicks the end of a shiny silver pen.

“Could you describe it for me?”

At no point in this little crusade had it occurred to me that, in order for the hotel staff to “keep an eye out” for my lost flyer, they’d need to know what it looked like. And what it looked like was, to be brutally honest, an oiled-up pole-dancer with her baps out.

“OK, erm, so…. this is what it looks like…” I stammer, stalling for time, searching for a polite way of describing a photo of a nude sex-worker. “So, it’s black, and sort of gold round the edges. Rectangular, probably a little crumpled. There are some important phone numbers written on it. It’s maybe eight inches long, three wide….? And, erm… I guess that’s about it.”

A short pause.

“And there’s a fully naked chick on the front.”

The concierge raises his eyebrow. “And you say this leaflet has very important phone numbers on it?”

“It does,” I reply.

He allows himself a wry smile. “Yes, I wouldn’t want to lose phone numbers of that nature either”.

Oh god. They think I’m a pimp. But it’s too late to back-pedal now. “No,” I offer with a nervous laugh, “I guess not.”

Note to self: mistakenly introducing oneself as a pimp to the concierge at a five-star hotel – even if it is Snoop Dog’s hotel – may reasonably be considered an unwise move.

SUNDAY 8 MARCH, 6.30pm (Hamilton Rugby Club, Cape Town):
Today we swagger into the Cape Town Tens exhuding an easy confidence, satisfied that last night’s high-octane performance has permanently ingratiated us with the locals. As we stroll through the front gates of the club, suited and booted and carrying guitar cases, the MC momentarily ceases in his commentary of the current rugby match to announce “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Lightyears have arrived!”. To my childish delight this prompts spontaneous applause from all round the ground. This is definitely the closest we have ever come to “Elvis has left the building”…

Today’s gig starts with the laid-back swing of a Sunday evening, but before long it has erupted into a party to rival last night’s performance. There’s more stage-diving, plenty of sing-alongs, police hovering outside and a lot of sweating. Afterwards we hit the clubs for our final taste of the Cape Town lifestyle, and are able to beat the queues at Cafe Caprice, the city’s trendiest night-spot, on account of arriving with Bob, who is pretty much regarded here as the country’s answer to David Beckham.

Standing outside the club several hour’s later, watching the waves lap at the beach and feeling the warm night air on our faces, we reflect on the tour.

“We’ll always have Cape Town, boys,” muses John, prophetic as ever.

Bob’s brother Dan, A.K.A. The Commander (and something of a legend about the town), throws his arms round us and nods his head in agreement.

“It can only get better boys,” he says, “it can only get better. Which, when you think about it, is actually quite scary.”

Which, I reflect, is exactly how I like it.

Chris Lightyear

We are staying in JACK BAUER’S hotel…

9 March 2009

Johnny Lightyear chilling on the beachTUESDAY 3 MARCH, 3pm (Brass Bell Restaurant, False Bay, South Africa):
I am dressed in shades, boardies and flip-flops. I am starting to look quite tanned, having spent a decent amount of time on the beach over the past few days. I am exhuding an easy, care-free demeanour on account of the sunny weather and the leisurely pace of the Cape Town lifestyle. I am drinking a crisp gin and bitter lemon. The afternoon waves of the Indian Ocean lap hungrily at the walls of the famous Brass Bell restaurant in False Bay, where we’re enjoying a few cocktails and a plate of delicious fried calimari.

Bearing all this in mind, I find it very hard to reconcile the fact that, glancing across the road to a world news poster nailed to a lamp-post, I can read the words “SNOW SHUTS LONDON”.

That’s right – were we at home right now, we’d be building snowmen and perhaps even doing some sly a-wassailing. Yesterday London experienced its most severe snow storms in 18 years. The whole of the capital ground to a halt, which in theory ought not to have affected us all the way out here in South Africa, but as it happened we were waiting for Tony to leave Heathrow and come out to join us in Cape Town. The airport cancelled a staggering 800 flights. Only six actually left the runway and Tony, the jammy rascal, was on the sixth. Which was just as well, as tomorrow night we’re headlining at the Speedway 105 Cafe and we’d been rather relying on Tony’s presence to complete the line-up!

It’s been a wonderful few days. Aside from a few casual, sun-kissed meetings and the odd telephone interview, the business end of the tour hasn’t really started yet. We’ve made the most of our long weekend of freedom with afternoons on the beach and evenings on the town. Yesterday we took a day trip out to Hermanus, a beautiful coastal resort about an hour outside Cape Town, where we walked along the cliffside and Andy cooked us a traditional South African braai, complete with fresh steak, calimari and a dollop of local hospitality.

Yesterday evening I was interviewed by a journalist from The Argus, one of Cape Town’s foremost daily papers (click here to read the article). I conducted the interview strolling along the sand, listening to the ocean and watching the sunset. If only, I thought, I could conduct all my interviews from the beach. What a life that would be…

WEDNESDAY 4 MARCH, 9pm (Speedway 105 Cafe, Cape Town)
Tonight we are playing our first fully-fledged show in South Africa – a headline slot at the Speedway bikers’ bar – and I’m delighted to report that there’s a full house in. What a genuine pleasure it is to visit a new territory, set up camp in a new venue, and watch as the place fills with an audience of complete strangers. I’m excited about performing again and it’s great to have Tony back on the team.

The Scandinavian motorbike club from Saturday night have returned, which I find extremely flattering, since by their own admission they don’t normally listen to anything except Motorhead and AC/DC. Could be an interesting audience. Will we win them over? 

Well, yes, as it turns out. Although for a while it’s looking dicey. We decide to split the evening into two sets, starting with 45 minutes of Lightyears originals and ending with a set of dance numbers. We chuck in “Beat Alive”, “She’s The One”, “Fine”, “Sleepless” and “Emily” too. The crowd respond really well to our songs and the first official airing of “Johannesburg” proves a hit as well. During the break I’m standing at the bar waiting for a beer when the bikers’ ringleader taps me on the shoulder.

“Do you play heavy metal?”

Jings. Should I lie? Mainly we’d been planning Jerry Lee Lewis, Van Morrison and The Monkees for set two. Is there any way in which “I’m A Believer” could be considered metal? Probably not.

“Erm, d’ya know, I’m afraid to say we don’t. It’s not really our ‘thing’.”

“Come on,” he replies, throwing back his big scary Norwegian biker’s head. “Led Zeppelin! You must do some Led Zeppelin! It is the classic of all times.”

I heartily agree with him that, yes, it is the classic of all times – but sadly it’s just not in our repertoire. He’s pretty persistent though and so, by the end of our conversation, I’ve agreed to ‘see what I can do’. I have no idea what I mean by this.

Racking my brains, I remember that last year, when we were on the bill at the launch of State music magazine in Dublin, I played a set of ‘Easy Listening Heavy Metal’ on the grand piano, comprising a whole host of rock classics performed in a lounge style. And one of them was “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin. Was this a good idea? Would the bikers appreciate the irony?

Dash it all, I thought. I have no choice. This is the only thing we do that even vaguely resembles Led Zeppelin. It will have to suffice.

And so it is that, twenty minutes later, to break up the set, I make an announcement. 

“The extremely fine ladies and gentlemen in the corner there have requested some Led Zeppelin, and we’ve never been a band to let people down. So here’s ‘Black Dog’ – Track One, Side One from the classic album Led Zeppelin IV……”

I’m glad to say that the ensuing performance – although perhaps not quite what they were expecting – prompts enthusiastic applause from the petrolheads and I come to the conclusion that we’ve got away with it. This is later confirmed when we encore with “New York, New York” and it brings the house down. Andy’s brother, Dan, confesses to me after the gig that the sight of twenty leather-clad bikers singing their hearts out to Frank Sinatra brought a tear of joy to his eye and was something he would never, ever forget. 

Pina Coladas in the hotel poolTHURSDAY 5 MARCH, 1.30pm (The Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town):
Today we check into the hotel where we’ll be staying for the remainder of the tour. I’ve been looking forward to this moment. By reputation, the Table Bay is the finest hotel in Cape Town and, in fact, one of the top hotels in the country. It’s a glorious day and the sun is beating down as we arrive outside the front entrance and unload our luggage and instruments. Spotting our guitars, the concierge immediately saunters over.

“Hello sir, how are you today?”

“I’m extremely well thank you,” I reply, absolutely meaning it.

“You’re musicans, right?” he points out, astutely.

I nod in agreement and this prompts a barrage of stories about previous musical residents of the Table Bay. “We’ve had all kinds of bands checking into the hotel over the years,” he explains.

“Who was the last musician to stay here then?” I ask, testing the water.

“Snoop Dogg,” he begins, casually. “We’ve had Kanye West too. And Maroon 5 were here last month. Plus we’ve also had Counting Crows, Robbie Williams and Michael Jackson. The Table Bay is the only place Michael will stay when he’s in Cape Town. I’ve met him personally.”

He can see I’m impressed. But he’s not done yet.

“Oh, and Keifer Sutherland. Keifer Sutherland often stays here. Nice fella.”

We are staying in JACK BAUER’S hotel. 

Rock and roll.

THURSDAY 5 MARCH, 7.30pm (The Toad In The Village, Noordhoek, Cape Town):
We are at The Toad In The Village, a bar/restaurant in the rather quaint Noordhoek, owned by legendary former Springbok captain, Bob Skinstad. We’ve been invited along to the launch party for the ‘Noordhoek Vikings’, one of the teams taking part in the Cape Town Tens Rugby Tournament this weekend. This will be our first proper experience of hanging out with large gangs of rugby players.

We turn up early and take our designated seats at a long, wooden dining table by at the far end of the room. The other half of the table is empty. It transpires that we are to be joined shortly by six or seven professional rugby players from the ‘Sports Illustrated Legends’ team, a side headed up by Bob himself, along with Robbie Fleck, another former South African international who is also involved in organising the tournament. The guys are coming along tonight to meet the rest of their team-mates and sink a few* lagers.

We’ve been there for about 15 minutes when a group of enormous blokes appear through the main entrance and head towards our table. As they arrive, I stand up to introduce myself to the guy at the front. The blood drains from his face. 

“Who are….. what is…. erm…?”. He seems shaken. “What position do you play?”

Odd greeting, I think. My next thought concerns how powerful, almost debilitating, his handshake is. He still looks a bit freaked out. Then the penny drops. Blimey. They think we’re on their team

“Oh gosh, gosh no. Hah! No. I’m not a rugby player. Golly. No. Imagine that! You’d probably snap me in half. I mean, look at you, you have arms like anacondas.”

Actually, I didn’t say that last bit. But I did think it. Danny later tells me that he was transfixed for the entire evening by the sight of me sitting next to a bloke whose biceps were WIDER THAN MY HEAD. I could have climbed inside his arms and made them my home. “You look so tiny,” Danny kept saying. Yeah, whatever mate. I could play rugby. I just choose not to.

By the time I have finished shaking hands with all seven of them, the bones in my right hand have been ground to a fine powder. I may never play piano again.

FRIDAY 6 MARCH (Hamilton Rugby Club, Cape Town):
Earlier this evening we sat down to a truly delicious dinner on the harbourside near the hotel. Tanned, rested and fully settled into laid-back Cape Town life, we sat round the table beaming at each other, soaking up the warm night air. John summed up the feeling most succinctly when he said: “I can’t ever remember being this happy”.

Despite being so chilled out we could almost have sat there until sunrise, we decide to head over to Hamilton Rugby Club (where the Cape Town Tens are kicking off with an evening of hardcore boozing) to show our faces and generally get a feel for the vibe of the tournament. The matches themselves don’t start until Saturday but, as the recreational side of the event is generally considered equally as important as the sport, we figure it would do us good to get a taster before things kick off for real tomorrow morning.

When we turn up we are greeted by a sobering sight – 600 huge rugby players, standing around, necking pints and challenging each other to violent drinking games. Once again we are suddenly made very aware of how much we stand out. Feeling like Year 7s who have just accidentally wandered into the Year 11 common room and are met for the first time by that bewilderingly unfamiliar cocktail of sweat, Lynx deodorant and Tizer, we head cautiously for the bar, trying our hardest not to make eye contact with anyone

We are mere seconds from our destination when the mission fails. We’ve been spotted. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of those wildlife programmes where leopards are filmed hunting gazelles, but this is pretty much a human equivalent. Looking back over my shoulder I see young Danny Morriss being picked off from the herd by a man off such terrifying visage that I can actually feel my sphincter tightening. He seems to be trying to engage Danny in conversation, although the sounds coming from his mouth are definitely not words and his only other method of communication is to squish Dan’s immaculately-engineered mohican with his enormous hand until it’s entirely flat on his head. I am genuinely torn between the two conflicting instincts in my gut – one is telling me to stick by my friend and wade in for rescue, the other is telling me to sod Danny and run away screaming like a tiny little girl.

For the first time, I am beginning to feel quite nervous about this weekend’s gigs. These people will be our audience. Will they accept us as their own or will they weed us out as the namby-pamby pretenders we are? And if they do accept us, will we have to drink our own urine through a plastic funnel as part of some kind of dreadful initiation ceremony? At the moment, they’re curious about us because we’re quite demonstrably outsiders – but maybe once we’ve been up onstage, we’ll have more authority.

“Do you think it’ll be better once they know who we are?” I ask George, praying for the answer ‘yes’.

“No mate,” replied George, “it’ll be worse. Because they’ll know who we are.”


Will we survive a weekend boozing with rugby players? Will Cape Town rock to the sweet sound of The Lightyears? Stay tuned for Part 3 of my South African tour diary, coming soon to www.TheLightyears.com.

* a “few” to me is approximately three. To a rugby man, it is somewhere in the region of twelve.

LYs to play to thousands in Cape Town

28 January 2009

A totally sweet beach in Cape TownWe’ve just got the finer details through about our upcoming gigs in Cape Town, South Africa – and it looks like we’ll be playing to a crowd of thousands!

We’re headlining at the after-parties for the Cape Town Tens Rugby Tournament and the organisers expect 2000+ people to turn up for the festivities.

The events are taking place at Hamilton RFC, South Africa’s oldest rugby club – situated, fittingly, in the shadow of Green Point Stadium, a brand new complex currently being built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Full details can be found at the Cape Town Tens website.

Oh, and the team at CT Tens are very kindly putting us up in the magnificent Table Bay Hotel, which I’m personally very excited about. Table Bay Hotel is, unsurprisingly, in Table Bay – overlooked by the world-famous Table Mountain. Marvellous.