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Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 18th July 2019 – Cattolica

Monday, July 22, 2019

Cattolica is a small community to the South of Rimini, along the coast, that started life as a resting place for pilgrims who travelled the Bologna-Ancona-Rome route, on their way to the sanctuary of Loreto or to St. Peter’s in Rome. It would have been an obvious spot for a rest, the beaches here are as beautiful as they are in Rimini, one can only imagine the beauty 7 or 8 hundred years ago. 

It certainly felt like a sleepy town and as it turned out, one of the strangest gigs of then tour so far. The venue “certainly ain’t Nimes”, as one member of our crew put it and the Supermarket next door added a certain ‘reality’ to the load-in and setup. With onlookers everywhere you looked, it was a curtailed sound check. The catering area had to be hastily thrown together in a gym building behind the stage, which meant a short walk across a public area. I was accosted as soon as I left, apres-soup, to go to sound check but found the people very sweet and respectful. Of course everybody wants a selfie these days, I can see why, but it can take a while.

The roof of the stage was, well, a roof, but that was about it. Of course it rained and because the roof was so high, it was partially inadequate as the rain came in from the side, onto my keyboard rig. Thankfully, the rain remained light and the nearby storms stayed away. We have been extremely fortunate with storm avoidance on this trip.

The backstage area was extremely cramped, for a production of the size of ours and squashed into the space beneath the stage at the Arena della Regina, a purpose built venue in the heart of the town. Thanks to the rain, which soon passed, the evening temperature was perfect and before the show started, most of  the band came upstairs from the dungeon to get some air. The show was held for 10 minutes, we couldn’t hold any longer, we had a plane to catch to Rome. There were inevitably still plenty of people coming in. This is where the problems started. We took to the stage and the commotion in front of us was all too apparent.

A lot of people who came late, couldn’t get to their seats due to so many standing in the aisles. Seats that had already been taken by opportunists, thinking they were free. The rain had washed the seat numbers away and the ushers who were there before the show were nowhere to be seen and security seemed inexperienced. There were clearly a lot of very confused frustrated people making a huge fuss in front of us, and at one point it looked like it might all ‘kick off’.. Saint Pete Mackay, our tour manager was out there doing his level best to sort out the mess and it took him about 4 songs before calm was restored. Poor organisation was clearly to blame. Then to make matters worse, towards the end of the show, security failed to allow people to come to the front of the stage. The suppression was evident. It wasn’t until during the very last encore that the crowd had had enough and sheepishly surged. It was only then we saw their beautiful smiling faces, full of joy, parents with their entire families, small kids, released from their shackles, allowed to bask in the last 16 bars of the set, before we disappeared, reluctantly into the night leaving the roaring cauldron behind us. It was in the cars and vans we learned about the full facts. During the show it just looked from the stage like a few pissed off fans. There was more to it of course. At least it didn’t rain.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 17th July 2019 – Turin

Monday, July 22, 2019

Beautiful venues seem to be everywhere in Italy and today’s Stupingi Park is no exception. Situated to the South West of Turin, it is a historic hunting lodge, quite the largest I’ve ever seen, not that I’m over familiar with hunting lodges. Each year, it hosts the Sonic Park festival, a feast of music and…beer, and more music.

Easing through the light afternoon Rimini traffic for our last hub-run from here, we arrived at the San Marino / Rimini airport where we passed through security, Mark smiling for the obligatory photos with the local police and security.

Light lunch was served by Daniella on board the White Asparagus and pretty soon we arrived in Turin and were driven by Alex’s team to the Stupendous Stupingi. The rural setting, a pleasant change from the huge run of arenas we’ve completed over the past few months. Dressing rooms were situated a long way from the stage so vehicular transport was required the get us there for sound check and show.

Low and behold. The scheduled time for opening the doors was moved an hour earlier than advertised by the local police, for some strange reason, can’t imagine why, and as a consequence, we thought a support act would be needed since the early comers would be standing for a very long time. What was originally a seated show turned out to be the opposite. Unable to get Veronica Fusaro here in time, (she supported us in Nimes) Mark asked Mike and John to open with a traditional folk set. John said that it was the first time in 12 years that Mark has asked this and that if the show goes well, they can do it again in another 12 tears.

Obtusely, the police escort TO the stage was insisted upon. I don’t ever recall doing that before. There must have been a reason that only the local police knew about. We followed them on the public roads around the perimeter of the park and Pete noticed that on the Sat-Nav, the venue appeared strangely familiar. We got to the rear of the stage and waited another 10 minutes as people were still pouring in to the venue. At 9:10pm, we’d had enough and we went on to rapturous applause. I noticed there was still a steady stream of latecomers well into the third song. As always, the set flew by and we were soon back in the cars, following the Carabinieri who were insistent on guiding us to the autostrada, where we parted company, waved goodbye, thanking them loudly and headed to the waiting jet and Daniella’s late night treats from a local restaurant, in her home town. Needless to say it was Stupingi.

 

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 15th July 2019 – Nîmes

Monday, July 22, 2019

 

Around the time the Romans built this venue, Gladiatorial battles took place on a regular basis and the thought of 24,000 people in this arena, freshly built, witnessing such spectacles is awe-inspiring. Our little show seems tiny by comparison, certainly a little less gruesome, yet still as exciting in its own way. The 10,000 French fans that made up tonight’s audience were everything a band could wish for.

Rimini is our home hub for these few days and the Grand Hotel, once held in awe by the young Federico Fellini who used to look through its gates dreaming of a life of luxury like the hotel’s guests. Built in 1908, its classic style enhanced with Venetian and French antiques of the 18th century, and the original parquet floor and Venetian chandeliers have been restored. The best thing about the hotel for me it its location. Right by the beach. The Italians know how to do ‘beach’ and unfortunately, they also know how to charge for it. The going rate for a Grand hotel umbrella rental being 85 Euros. The staff here are lovely but some of the rooms are seriously tired, the whole place could benefit from some serious investment for a refurbishment but I can see why there would be reluctance, as the place is clearly popular with its guests. I overheard that some of our chaps are finding the coffee hard to drink. Personally, I love it when there’s no need to ask for a Double Espresso. It’s Rocket fuel.

Everywhere in Europe is hot now and shorts and t-shirts are essential day wear. We jetted, bare legged, our way to Nimes in the usual fashion (van, jet, van) and when we landed, we were informed we would need an escort the get us to the venue in the heart of Nîmes, as the police had closed a road. This appeared in the form of one of the promoters on an e-bike. A strange convoy indeed. At the venue, John Illsley and his family dropped by. John had played a couple of nights ago at the Guitar en Scène show, the night before us, supporting Joan Baez.

Night-time temperatures weren’t going to recede much so we were grateful for the breeze. The Mistral (sometimes the Tramontane) is a Northerly wind which has been known to blow for 7 days straight, sending local farmers a little doolally.  The continuous howling noise of the tramontane is said to have a disturbing effect upon the psyche. In his poem “Gastibelza”, Victor Hugo has the main character say, “Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne me rendra fou…” (“The wind coming over the mountain will drive me mad…”) The crew removed the sun protection from the gear that needed it and we sound checked and swiftly vacated the stage for our support act for tonight, Swiss-born Veronica Fusaro, whose set I really enjoyed.

Assaad Debs has been our promoter here in France ever since the band first came, in the 70’s. With tonight being possibly the last show, it was a nice opportunity to take a picture of us together, myself, John, Mark and Assaad. Au revoir Arènes de Nîmes. Yet another incredible evening even if the hot, dry wind did not relent, meaning Tellson James, our lighting man, kept pumping smoke onto the stage which was immediately blown away. Apart from coughing our way through the set, we had an absolute ball and were sad to leave so quickly in a convoy escorted, literally to the steps of the plane by the local Gendarmerie. They certainly enjoy a bit of action, maybe they use this as training for when real dignitaries come to town. We were delivered to the plane earlier than planned and soon discovered there was no local air traffic controller in the tower. ‘Out to dinner’. As Danny said, France is the only country where restaurants close for lunch. We had to wait for over an hour on the tarmac before we could close the doors and request that our 1:30am slot be pushed forward. FAA regulations dictate that any slot requests must only be made by aircraft ‘ready to depart’. We were soon on our way and back in Rimini at the Grand just after 2am. A soirée held in Danny’s room became a music lesson as we delved into an old Billy Cobham album, which started to turn our tired, affected brains inside out.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 14th July 2019 – Saint Julien en Genevois

Monday, July 22, 2019

Saint Julien en Genevois is a small town on the border to Switzerland that plays host to the Guitare En Scene festival each year. It’s one of the few occasions we can potentially visit 4 countries in one day as we fly into Geneva. Today however, it was  simply a hub flight from our base in Rimini, Italy. As I type this I wonder how any hotel can possibly operate with internet speeds below 10mbps. It’s 4G for me as my phone becomes my Rimini hotspot. It’s hard to imagine life before these remarkable devices existed. Similar to smoking, Mark and I reminisced about how we used to smoke everywhere we went, Dunhill Blues. Quite horrific, when we think back now.

Cruising at 30,000 ft above Northern Italy, we marvelled at the plates of Antipasti that Daniella laid before us. Italian food. Say no more. Geneva appeared on the horizon and we descended and touched down just after 3pm. A very short drive across the border and we were backstage at the small festival and as with some of these shows we’ve been revisiting, it felt like we were here yesterday. Last time we were supported by Sonny Landreth and tonight it was none other than Albert Lee.

Èvents today seemed to be dominated by sport as Wimbledon hosted its men’s final, Silverstone hosted the British Grand Prix and England were about to end their 14-year wait for glory in the Cricket World Cup. An intense match as always when England are playing, it went right to the wire, twice. The match finally being decided by what is called a ‘Super Over’, something I’ve never seen and neither had any of the crew who seemed to all be huddled in a small room watching, cheering and groaning in unison as the match entered its closing stages. I hadn’t followed any of the cricket until this point. What a time to join the party! 2 runs were needed from the final ball, and when delivered, a hit, a sprint, a dive, England ‘running out’ the desperate batsman in black, lying on the ground, his willow coming up just short of the line. It was a brilliant piece of fielding that ensured a well deserved victory and a loud cheer from all in the crew who then scurried back to work as Albert Lee finished his set and the stage needed to be reset for us.

Neatly segueing from sporting occasion to show, our backstage hang was nearly over. Oh yes, Dave, in catering, made the best Fish and Chips we’d ever tasted. That came from nowhere! We made our final preparations, tactical coffee for me, pre-show rituals that I won’t go into, and we wandered across the road to the big white tent which was bursting it seems, at the seams, with 6,000 anticipant French fans.

Entering the cauldron from behind the stage, a couple of white lights that represented house lights were extinguished and we walked on to rapturous applause and cheering. whether or not it was Albert’s warm up, this was one excited crowd. They were simply amazing. When we came on for the encores, everyone held up cards which simply said ‘Thank You Mark’. What a wonderful gesture. This was probably the most ‘in touch’ with an audience we’ve felt all tour. At one point during Mark’s band intro’s, a group at the front waved to gain Mark’s attention as someone had fainted. We called for some security but whoever it was, was carried out swiftly. I hope all was ok there. The show continued and even though we were without our beloved Sound system, the local PA, lights and crew were fabulous and we left the venue all too soon feeling that we’d been a part of a special night. Thai food, drinks and laughs on the jet back to the tiny airport at Rimini which had been opened specially for our arrival. I’m not sure quite how that works but… I’m grateful, for that and everything else on this amazing tour.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.