Sunday, 23 January 2011

Tour Report

Whew, what a week! I've been chilling out with my friend Michelle for the weekend after spending the earlier part of the week on yet another teeny-tiny tour of gigs around the North East and in London.

This time last week I was sitting round a low table on the fifth floor of Norham House in Newcastle, sharing some fantastic vegetarian soup with a group of people from Apples & Snakes North East and people from the local theatre community after the performance section of the inaugural Newcastle scratch club. At one in the morning some of us were still there, drinking wine and hanging out at the back of the building, looking onto the husk of the old Odeon cinema and discussing future plans. Scratch club was a good gig for me both professionally and personally, and I'll be going to the next one, and the next, and the next. I really think it'll help me develop my performance and take things to the next level. And there was great stuff at the gig from Amina Marix Evans, Jennie Pascoe, Poetry Jack and a whole load of other cool people.

Monday saw me visit the Lamplight Open Mic in Stanley. An excellent set from me at this gig was only marred by the fact that I had to leave before seeing the second half in order to get home to Washington at a decent time by bus. But what I did see included brilliant work by Jules Clare, Steve Urwin, Mark Speeding, Jaene Davies and many others. Another good gig.

If it was Tuesday it must have been Middlesbrough for a quick open mike spot at the Electric Kool-Aid Cabaret of the Spoken Word in Blu Basement. This was more of an opportunity to check out the venue and the gig, and it was impressive, to say the least. It was also good to catch a performance by WN Herbert, Andy Croft and Paul Summers, the last gig of their Three Men on the Metro tour, and Paul's last gig before he leaves for Australia. They were all great and you really should get their book.

I didn't sleep very much on Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday I needed to be up and about early for a train ride to London, where I planned to read at Jawdance, an Apples & Snakes open mike night at Rich Mix, a fantastic arts venue in Bethnal Green. This was one of the biggest stages I've ever been on and I was kind of intimidated by the size of the crowd and the slickness of the gig, which had a long list of guest spots, poetry films and even resident artists drawing everyone who performed in addition to the open mike stuff. However, the compere for the evening made a monumentally shit joke near the start of the night which relied on a whiff of dog-whistle transphobia for its punchline and I surfed through my performance on a wave of mutilation thereafter. It must have worked, I guess, because reaction to my short set was uniformly positive. Amazing how popular getting on stage, snarling and staring at the crowd like some kind of make-up-wearing old testament prophet will make you. Fortunately the night was saved by a great performance from the magnificent Anna Chen, who I urge you all to check out. She's great.

And to be honest the night needed saving, because I was going back to literally one of the worst hotels in London. The County Hotel, Bloomsbury. Look it up. Let's just say I figured it probably wasn't the hotel for me when I noticed reception was being manned by a German skinhead. Put it this way: when I got back to the hotel, Highlander was on and when I was watching the scenes in that horrific fucking bad-days-of-New-York flophouse that the Kurgan stays in I was thinking 'actually, that's not that bad. And to make matters worse, London under Boris Johnson seems to have became some kind of Mormon township where even hotel bars close at eleven pm and off-licences close even earlier. I had to go back to a room in the shittiest hotel in the world, and I didn't even have booze to make things better. If I hadn't had a decent chat with Helen G from Bird of Paradox at the gig, and seen Anna's set, I would have had one of the shittiest nights of my life despite the gig.

Fortunately morning came soon enough and I shambled, on maybe three hours' sleep, to King's Cross to get a train back to Newcastle - a city where it is a lot easier to get drinks after midnight than our nation's capital. Overall it was a good tour, and there are more gigs lined up - the rescheduled launch of At Grand Central Station We Sat Down and Wept, on February 8th at Centurion, a spot at the Black Light Engine Room in Middlesbrough on Feb 25th, more Scratch Club fun...there's lots coming up. More soon.

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