It is 9 a.m. and as far as I can tell I’m still in the hotel room I was in the night before. All good so far. From the noise I heard in the corridor I would say the band got to bed about 5 a.m. and had had a “good” night in Rotterdam.

The reason I am up at such an un-rock and roll time is due to the fact that the van is on a parking meter somewhere in the depths of Rotterdam and the meter runs out at 9.30. I’m not too sure exactly where the van is so have left myself half an hour to get there. The band are expecting me at the hotel at 10 so all I have to do is keep the van and myself out of a clamp until then!

I don't want to turn this column into a travel log, but you must go to Rotterdam in the fresh light of a new day with all the stress from the night before gone to fully appreciate it. I suddenly realise as I wander through it looking for the van just how beautiful and individual a city it is. There are trees everywhere and I can honestly say that the ten or so minutes walk to the van are amongst the most enjoyable I have had in many a year. It is made even better by the fact that everyone is so friendly, offering a “ Hello, how are you?” as I walk past them and leaving me wondering if I really look that obviously English!

I find the van, still in one piece with no ticket/clamp and take up camp on a bench overlooking the river (I’m really sorry, but I have no idea what it is called!). No traffic cop turns up so I go get the band at ten, grab some breakfast from the hotel (leaving the van with the hazards on in true white van driver style!) and then begin the journey to our next location of Brussels.

Now at this point as I sit behind the wheel of a P reg Mercedes splitter van with just under 300,000 miles on the clock and a bonnet that doesn’t release that is carrying us across Europe I begin to really hope that today is going to be a better day than yesterday! Luckily it is and apart from some psychotic drivers on the streets of Brussels we find the venue easily and are shocked that they have A/ reserved us a parking space and B/ how flipping large the place is. The venue in Rotterdam was 300 capacity. Tonight's hall can take 1500 and is the largest venue the band have played to date. Suffice to say there are a few nervous looks amongst us as we look out from the stage for the first time!

The venue is the Ancienne Belgique and tonight as well as us it is playing host to Silver Mount Zion. This to me rings a few bells, I have heard of them and am aware of the whole Constellation Record “empire”. The band on the other hand are one step away from soiling their pants. Mount Zion are the reason this group exists, so to be playing with them this early in their career and getting to share dressing rooms with them is a dream come true.

The rest of the day progresses pretty much the same as any tour day does. We soundcheck then eat some dinner and check in at the hotel (which is a lovely old building with a quaint old woman working behind the desk) then get to explore a bit of Brussels before the show. Showtime comes and goes. It goes okay. The band are a bit thrown by not being able to see the whole audience like they can in the toilet circuit back home! But once the show ends the fun begins. As this is such a large place a full rider is supplied. Now riders are purposely over the top as normally there are a lot of hangers on around bands. Today it is just us and the manager's assistant who has come to offer some support to me, a total of 7. Our rider consists of the following :

40 bottles of premium lager
2 bottles of red wine
2 bottles of white wine
1 bottle of vodka
1 bottle of whisky
Orange juice
A cola drink
A bowl of Fruit
40 packs of crisps
40 bottles of water
A big bag of chocolate.

Now I thought that even if we wanted to there could be no way we could consume that amount of food let alone the alcohol. With this in mind I have a couple of beers and then push the boat out and have a few shots, before I head to the hotel at about midnight escorting the only female member of the band to ensure she gets back safely. I then hit the sack after grabbing a shower and am hoping for a good night's sleep.

Now let me tell you a little about this band and drinking. They really suck at it. I mean really suck. So badly in fact that midway through our first tour I instigated a two beer rule to limit the amount of bickering, crying, fighting and just general disaster that they create. This rule slips, however, for this show as it is a joint celebration of playing Europe, supporting their favourite band and playing their largest show to date. I am not prepared, however, for the carnage that happens overnight.

I learned later that every drop of alcohol the band had been given ended up being drunk by the 4 remaining members of the group and the manager's assistant and they were then asked to leave the venue as everyone else had left. When the knock comes on my door at 4.30 a.m. I, however, do not know this. So the knock comes and my heart drops. Generally only bad things can have happened if someone is knocking at my door. I open the door and the guitarist/drummer in the band is there swaying gently in the breeze and obviously upset. He asks me if I know what has happened between him and the manager's assistant. I say no and tell him to go to bed, which to my amazement he does. I then return to mine and decide to deal with whatever has happened the next day.

Now the way I find out what happened the night before is quite boring so I won’t tell you that. I’ll just tell you what happened. Over the course of the four hours from my leaving until the band got back to the hotel the following happened: one of the guitarists whilst walking through Belgium has his bag snatched then whilst chasing after the guys who stole it gets punched in the face and knocked out and now has a phenomenal black eye. Luckily this is the same guy that had no passport so the thief’s got away with a haul of dirty pants and 3 drum sticks plus some small change in British currency. Worth the black eye ?

The main event however was the phenomenal falling out between the manager's assistant and a member of the band, which was apparently so bad that the security in the bar they were in felt that they to split the pair up. It also caused the management assistant to feel that she couldn’t travel back with us, making her own way back via train!

Reading back over the events that happened it doesn’t look that bad, but as an end to the two days I had had it just about finished the trip off!

Anyway we get back to the van and once I broke the icy silence by bollocking them all about how they needed to be a lot more professional and perhaps to just grow up a bit we head back to the UK. The trip goes smoothly apart from a monumental traffic jam (8 hours to get from Dover to Portsmouth) and we get home safely if a little fried.

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Commenting On: The European Invasion Part 2 - Tales from the Sound Desk

ie London, England

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