I am underneath the English Channel. On the Eurostar heading for Paris. I'm meeting my band and we've got a gig at La Fleche D'or tonight. After that it's dans le van and a week of shows in Vienna, Hamburg, Cologne and Berlin before finishing up at Field Day at Victoria Park in London.
Heading off to play a series of gigs is a little like coming out of hibernation - it's a different way of life. The van is the mothership and the gigs are like the bits in Star Trek when they beam down to a new planet for a bit - without us losing the bloke who you've never seen before. There's the fun of looking up some record shops and old friends who've moved to the places we're visiting - I used to spend time with Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre when I was living in LA, he's lived in Berlin for a few years and has offered to be out tour guide while we're there. It's safe to say we won't be going to anywhere recommended in any of the regular guidebooks - Anton credited Tammy, a mutual friend - one of the bartenders at Three of Clubs as an inspiration on one his albums, the same one he unthanked me on for not getting round to doing a vocal on a track. It was a song called Geezers and doesn't suffer from not having me on it. It's a brilliant song. Yeah. Looking forward to seeing Anton.
Field Day is the first of a summer of festivals. It's like taking the album (Oh No I Love You, available now - or even Oh No I Love You More, the album's freakier remixier sibling. Available May 26th on CD/ LP & digital) on holiday - rather than playing at 9pm, it could be anything from 1pm to 1am - to an audience who didn't start their night out a few hours previously but could be three days in. At a regular gig, it's all centred around my band and a couple of support bands. At a festival it's like a musical version of Chat Roulette. You don't know who's going to be around - I'm on before notorious grump Ginger Baker at Field Day so a bit nervous about doing something that might upset him (i.e. anything at all) - at Reading & Leeds, British Sea Power are on after me. I tweeted them to say they could set up their trees and badgers while I do the last couple of songs.
Oh yes. The Isle of Wight. There we've got our own venue Tim Peaks Intoxicated Tea Room - bands that I love, Tim Peaks coffee, cocktails in teapots and a garden with a picket fence. In true, "it's my party and I'll cry if I want to" style I'll be headlining one of the nights and playing in the afternoon on the other. Nick Heyward played at the first Tim Peaks we did and I've not seen him since, we also sent out a plea to Bob Geldof to swing by and sing a few songs, chuck in some DJing from Richard Norris and it'll be a wrench for anyone to leave to watch Bon Jovi on the main stage. I asked Brandon Flowers when I gave The Killers an award a couple of weeks ago so we'll have to wait and see if he shows.
A quick pitstop back home for a day and then it's off to the earth mother of all festivals, Glastonbury. I've got a gig, a DJ set and a book reading to keep me out of trouble and the chance to watch The Rolling Stones. Out front, as a fan, maybe in the same spot I watched New Order headline in 1987.
All of these gigs are solo shows - with a band but doing my solo songs. In July we've got two Charlatans gigs, one in a forest in Cheshire and one at Kendal Calling. We've been playing together for 23 years and I still get a thrill as we write the setlist (usually about an hour before we play). Kendal Calling is also home to the log cabin that transforms into a Tim Peaks for three days - last year Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame swung by for a gig. This year, who knows?
Latitude is back to the solo set up and a festival I've always liked the look of. The Kraftwerk live show in 3D is definitely on my to do list. Cat Power too.
We played at one of the most talked about Reading Festivals (1992. Talked about because of Nirvana rather than us but everyone who went seems to remember it) - that was before the festival grew another head and became the behemoth it is today with another site in Leeds.
That's the good thing about festivals, they all have their different characters. I think of Reading and Leeds as a boisterous young kid, fresh out of school whereas Latitude is more of a booky type, a fan of bands featuring multiple beards.
The last festival is one that was a highlight of last year. Festival Number 6 seemed to sweep the board at the Festival Awards (when did festivals start getting awards?). That'll be it for festivals for another year. Then it's back to the real world, like when spacemen come back after a jaunt around the moon. Normal rules like gravity often don't apply. Then it's back down to earth with a reassuring bump...
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