Let's get one thing straight: Every small unsigned, unsupported band is out for their big break and we're no exception. But whenever and however that break arises, with excitement and elation also comes a lot of hard work. That has certainly been true for us, getting confirmed as the support to Steel Panther. We haven't even headed out on tour yet and we've already hit the bottle (the aspirin bottle, that is). Make no mistake, this is going to be one fantastic rock n roll journey, but the headaches are coming thick and fast and there are bound to be more on the way.
As an unsigned band, when you have news, you tell the world, 'cos the more people that know, the more your profile is raised. But when we landed this tour, we were warned by our manager that we were to tell nobody until the bigger machine told us it was OK to do so. So basically, we get the biggest break of our career and we can't even talk about it? Have you ever tried to sit on something that you really wanted to scream from the rooftops? It's a nightmare! In my local, they're always ribbing me, asking me when I'm going to get a proper job. So you can imagine how hard it was not to say 'Screw you, because between the 5th and 15th of November I'll have played to over 25,000 people, while you're still here pulling pints!'
Now, down to business. We're used to playing on small stages in small venues. And we really are used to it, having done more than 300 gigs in two years (roughly speaking, that's a gig every 2-3 days. There aren't many unsigned acts that can say that. If they do, they're probably having you on). And in all this time, our rehearsal space is usually bigger than the stages we actually play on. But on this tour we're going to be playing massive venues like Hammersmith Apollo, so we need to be comfortable filling big stages. No problem, right? Just find a bigger rehearsal room. Easy if you're in a major city, not so easy if you're in Carlisle! We ended up hiring an old warehouse and after marking out the size of the biggest stage we'll be using, what did we learn? It's hard work filling all of that space. In two and a half years gigging, I don't think Jayde and Dann have ever been so far apart!
The scale of these venues has also brought t-shirt ordering to a whole new level! Merchandise is how we break even and pay for petrol to get from gig to gig. But normally we're ordering for venues that hold around 200 people. All of a sudden, we're having to think in terms of 3,500 people a night, on average, for nine nights. So, given that we normally sell 10 t-shirts to a crowd of 150, that's like 7% of the audience, multiplying that up to the new numbers, we're talking about shifting 30 shirts a night, plus whatever else we can push like badges, CDs and stickers. No wonder, by the time we unpacked it all from the delivery truck, our manager's kitchen looked like some sort of rock'n'roll bomb had gone off.
So, with all the admin sorted, you'd think we were ready to roll. But no, we weren't, as it dawned on us that we couldn't actually get all the gear, band and crew plus the merchandise into our van! Next job? Fit a tow bar and hire a trailer. Don't get me wrong, these are great problems to have, but if three weeks ago someone had said to me you'll be worrying about t-shirt sizes and tow bars, not stage times and set lists, I would never have believed it. When did music get so logistical? All I know is that this tour is the most exciting thing we've ever done, but it's also clear it's going to be one of the most testing, for a band like us, four musicians and one manager. Nonetheless, you can bet your last penny on the fact that we'll take on all of the problems the big tour machine can throw at us (and then some) and still come out fighting. After all, it's how we got the gig in the first place - who's Falling Red? They've done how many gigs? We're the band that just keeps on going!