Sometimes, Spinal Tap can seem like the most disturbingly real on-the-road documentary ever filmed.
A typical DRESSED TO KILL gig weekend is not a walk in the park – 2 shows on successive nights with all the setting up and breaking down of equipment that entails, coupled with the 2 hours it takes the 4 of us to get make-up and costumes on to perform (and the half hour it takes to disrobe and get back into your civvies), not to mention the driving from one end of the country to the other overnight with just one crew member assisting us…who doesn’t drive.
So, as you can imagine, time is a precious commodity to us when we arrive at a venue for a show – enter Bradford Gasworks the other Friday night.
The Gasworks have moved venue twice during my time in DTK – the first place was a proper spit-and-sawdust place where your feet stick to every surface; the second a huge improvement with a great PA and even better crowd, but money issues meant that they had to move out and find a 3rd home. We’d been told how these new premises were better still than the last place, with a purpose-built stage and lighting and a guaranteed audience of 300+ punters. You can only take a promoter/owner at face value when he tells you these things.
So, imagine our collective bemusement when, upon our arrival at 5pm sharp outside the venue, we were told not to load our gear in just yet as ‘we’re just waiting for the stage, lads’. Waiting for the STAGE????? This we had to see – and so we walked in en masse to see a vast expanse in the middle of the floor where a stage should be – although it seemed that once any stage was erected, there wouldn’t be much room for the audience in front of it.
‘Ah well’ said the duty manager, ‘That’s because we’re still building the new live room downstairs - go and take a look if you like’. And we did…and it was smaller than the stage-less room we’d just witnessed. And a proper health and safety hazard by the looks of it. This did not bode well.
Brief entertainment came in the form of a shirtless local being chucked out for being 1 over the 8 (or perhaps 80) and, just before 6pm, an hour after we were supposed to be setting up, a van arrived containing one stage.
Trouble was, this metal stage appeared to be the brainchild of a retired Meccano executive, with more pieces than your average scaffold set for a house extention, and we watched as it took ¾ of an hour to get all the pieces off the van and into the venue. The promoter was laughing and joking with us saying we’d have to go on ‘a little later than planned’ as one man (yes that’s ONE man) set about constructing what resembled the Forth Road Bridge. This definitely did not bode well.
By the time we left the venue at approximately 9pm, the stage wasn’t much more than halfway built. Considering we were supposed to be onstage at 10pm this was a slightly thorny issue, and the promoter seemed oblivious to the fact that there would be time involved in us getting our gear onto the stage and setting it up once his metallic masterpiece was finally finished. The solitary worker had a proper sweat on and he tightened bolts here and screwed in nuts there, but amazingly refused to let anyone help him and speed the process up. I knew it wasn’t boding well. I almost checked in our dressing room to see if we needed bigger bread for our sandwiches and I’m pretty sure I didn’t see a sign that said ‘Puppet Show and DRESSED TO KILL’ but before long we’d all had enough and knew the evening was a dead loss.
Following a tense exchange with the promoter, asking him why it had taken him until the afternoon of our show to realise he needed a stage to stick us on, we got back into our chuckletruck and drove away – we got a text an hour later from a friend who’d arrived at the venue to find the stage was STILL not finished and, even more unbelievably, there were punters there cursing us for not playing rather than questioning the promoter for his cack-handed handling of the day.
As we heading for the nearest budget hotel, I remembered Alan Partridge once saying ‘That was a negative and right now I need 2 positives…’ Thankfully the gig the following night in Stourbridge more than made up for Bradford - we always enjoy playing the River Rooms (or Rock Café 2000 as it was once known) and our latest appearance there didn’t disappoint, for us or for the sell-out crowd. Well, at least we know there was a stage there ready for our arrival.
Our friend Woody had done some fine work preparing some video footage that we could show as part of our intro tape and during the show (flashing logos, album artwork etc) that looked so impressive to couple with our stage show and effects. And as usual with a Stourbridge show, there were some junior KISS fans in attendance, some as young as 6 or 7, brought along by their mums & dads as some kind of rite of passage – they loved it too. Nice to know there’s a new generation on whom the magic of KISS as a live act is not lost. One funny moment when Danny’s ‘smoking’ Les Paul refused to ignite during his solo, waiting instead to engulf the stage in smoke after he’d wandered off to let me start my drum solo. It was a bonus though – it normally doesn’t ignite at all.
And then, it was straight back into 5 days straight of football work, whether it be for talkSPORT or for UEFA.com doing presenting, reporting and commentating. I watched Villa throw away the points to a Kenwynne Jones-inspired Stoke; saw Champions League newcomers Bursaspor utterly outclassed by a new-look Valencia; marvelled at Thomas Muller’s wonder strike for Bayern Munich that helped to sink Roma; and flapped just a little as Juve’s 3-3 draw with Lech Poznan was followed swiftly by a switch to commentate on Napoli/Utrecht in the Europa League…a 5-minute turnaround between commentaries always involves a flurry of paperwork, feverish noting of formations with a Sharpie pen and a quick prayer to no-one in particular that your player identification skills don’t let you down. But then, you can’t fail to remember names like Ricky Van Wolfswinkel in the Utrecht attack can you? Still, job done.
I’ll get to go to St Andrews for the first time in the season proper on Tuesday for the League Cup tie against MK Dons, for whom Alvin Martin’s son David plays in goal. Alvin will give me pelters if he shuts us out. Time to stick Zigic in from the start and give him some experience of the English game. Nice to see the total non-story about Alex McLeish’s supposed contract issues resolved in the week without fuss, whilst Sammy Yu has left Blues to go back to the Far East – a case of ‘Goodbye Sammy, we hardly knew yu?’
I think I’ll stop there.