Monday, August 17, 2009

Short story is: we played a good show!

But that's not the interesting part. You know you want to hear the long version...

I went to work on Friday morning so that the other girl could have a bit of a sleep in before her double shift. Andy and Ross went to pick up the van so we could be in Dover by midday - unfortunately we were running late, so we ended up on the 3.30 ferry to Calais instead of the one at two o'clock. Still, we figured we'd make the festival on time - St. Malo is about five and a half hours' drive from Calais, and we didn't have to load in until midnight. At worst, we would have missed some amazing bands...

About an hour and a half out of Calais, there was a thumpy flappy noise and Ross pulled over on the side of the motorway (I think it was the A28, if you're interested!). Sure enough, underneath the car he found the shredded remains of the fanbelt. We cursed a bit, then made a few phone calls:

1. the AA number that came with the van - the lovely folks told us that it was too dangerous for them to come out onto the motorway, so we should call the police and get them to tow us somewhere.

2. the police - who informed us that in order to know where we were, we needed to call from a roadside emergency phone. Ross hiked a mile or two down the motorway, and when he reached the phone they told him to get back to his car, quickly! It's DANGEROUS on the motorway! I guess when you break down you should do it right next to one of those phones, otherwise you probably shouldn't bother.

3. the car hire company. Keep in mind that these people specialise in hiring vans out to touring bands, i.e. people who are kind of in a hurry to get where they're going. They didn't answer the phone. Not the office phone, not the emergency mobile, not the backup emergency mobile.
Points for customer service: zero.

4. festival booker and all round nice helpful guy, Pierre. He offered to call the police for us to find out what was going on, where we were getting towed, etc. He also said he'd do his best to figure out how we would cover the 400 kilometres between us and the festival.

Eventually the tow truck came, driven by a man who spoke no English at all. We struggled to understand each other for a stupidly long time, then Andy finally got the bright idea to call Pierre and get him to translate and explain the plan.

1. Tow truck takes us to their garage - nearly an hour back the way we had come.
2. We hang out at a restaurant nearby, where we wait frustratedly for a runner from the festival to come and pick us up.
3. Runner somehow manages to bend time and space so that he can cover nearly 800 kilometres in six and a half hours, delivering us to the stage just before we're supposed to play.

Amazingly, the plan went exactly as... well, planned. We arrived at the festival to a round of applause from the stage crew, who then loaded all our gear onstage and helped us set up. We took ten minutes to make sure our instruments made the right noises, then played what was, given the circumstances, a pretty awesome set.

The whole experience was really bizarre. I'm used to spending most of the time before a show preparing for it - tuning, waiting, writing a set list, promising each other that we're going to freak some people out. Instead, we went from asleep in a van to onstage in front of 5000 people in fifteen minutes flat.
We started out a little bit shaky (no soundcheck = you end up with Andy's keyboard blaring at you from your foldback = ouch, my face), but it was pretty awesome towards the end. After the show we were driven back to our hotel, which turned out to be an old monastery. Felt kind of haunted, but slept regardless.

The next day we wanted to a) find a way home, and b) convince either the car hire company or the insurance company to help us out a little. Unfortunately, we failed at both - there was a public holiday in France on Saturday, so there was no way to hire a new van. And dealing with bureaucracy just sucks; Andy was on the phone for hours but the issues just seemed to go on and on.

The bright side is that if you're going to be stranded somewhere, La Route du Rock festival is an alright place to be. Pierre (previously mentioned nice guy) arranged for us to get free lunch and dinner at the festival, gave us a rider and let us watch the bands, in between bouts of interviews, acoustic sets and lying in the sunshine. Even when it's bad, it's a pretty good life.

Pierre was also amazingly dedicated to trying to find a way to get us and our gear home (I guess if he hadn't, he would have been stuck with us, so it makes sense). He looked up every possible combination of taxi rides, runner trips, ferries and trains, and we finally ended up with a viable route home on Sunday. Took ages to get it all sorted, so we left the festival at three thirty and got to the hotel at four am.

Got up at five, dragged our sorry carcasses outside, where a runner waited to drive us to Caen (two hours). From Caen, we caught a passenger ferry to Portsmouth (six hours), then a couple of shuttle buses and a train to Waterloo station (two and a bit hours). We had a show booked for that night - eventually decided that we'd had enough of public transport, so we headed straight to the venue instead of detouring via Walthamstow.

Meanwhile, Pierre convinced another band to cram our instruments in their van, so we ended up getting most of it delivered to the venue right on time! Following the theme of the weekend, Joe's amp somehow ended up at someone else's house, so it arrived a little bit later than the rest of our stuff. It meant we missed soundcheck, but we laugh in the face of no soundcheck, remember?

We played a cracker of a show, which was awesome. After all the uncertainty and hassle of the previous couple of days, it was great to be able to just play some songs and have some people listen and enjoy it and say nice things. It's nice to be in control of your situation...
After the show, we got a taxi home and loaded the gear inside and slept the sleep of the awesomely exhausted.

So that's pretty much it, except for my sweet little epilogue:

I was rostered on for the seven til three shift today. Like an idiot, I forgot to change my phone back from French time, so instead of waking up at the awful hour of five, I accidentally woke up at the horrendous hour of four.

Tired to the point of stupidity, I didn't figure it out until I got to the train station. Even then, it took the big locked gates outside of the station to get my attention... Needless to say, I was not very awesome at work today.


northern musings said...

Oh poor poor Olga. I feel for you so much - so little sleep - but good that both gigs went so well, ah the life of a rock star So does this mean that you are going to be the next big thing a la francais? Still, am sure that this is a weekend that you will never ever forget and really you will only remember the good bits... you made it in time, you played - you got to stay and listen to bands and hey - unlike most people you have met really really nice French folk...

KH said...

Wow, quite an epic tale. Glad the shows were good!

Maja said...

It just goes to show, anything is possible! Character building stuff! Well done :)

olga said...

Yeah, character building! It was actually quite awesome once it was all over, and it does make a pretty interesting story.

And yeah, this rudeness of the French seems to be greatly exaggerated (probably by rude Englishmen)...