Tim Matthews fills us in on the second installment of Lau's tour. This time there's cake!
WEEK TWO: UK
Day 1 – Glasgow
We all arrive in Newcastle from our various directions: me fresh from a night bouncing across the North Sea, and Lau fresh from their BBC 2 radio session. We jump in the van and head off to Glasgow. This is the most like a home town gig on this tour as Martin and Aidan both live in Edinburgh. It’s also where we meet Siobhan Wilson who will be our tour support for the rest of the trip. She is travelling in a civilised manner by train but we’ll see her every night and cart her equipment around the country for her.
St Andrews in the square is a beautiful old church that has been well restored and is all white walls, dark wood and gold finishings. It’s very different to the black-box-theatres we’ve been in so far and as the concert and evening progresses the setting sun sends shafts of light across the room. It looks very bonny.
It’s a sold out show and at the end the audience spontaneously leap to their feet in a standing ovation. A nice welcome home.
Day 2 – Perth
It’s good to get a chance to play in this beautiful venue and we are well looked after by everybody despite the fact that at the same time there is also a fashion show in the foyer and a heavy metal gig in the smaller room. Plenty on in Perth. We stay in Scotland’s oldest hotel and it is a creaky affair with windy corridors and little steps up and down the various levels.
Day 3 – Liverpool
Now we’re touring! A good 5 hour drive down the A74 and M6 with a stop off at Westmoreland services which is an oasis of real actual food cooked by human beings and a very expensive farm shop. Note: don’t buy smoked fish when you are travelling in a confined space.
This venue is the Epstein theatre and is a beautifully restored old place up many flights of stairs right in the centre of busy Liverpool. We drive by the front door 3 times before finding it so deeply is it nestled amongst the shop fronts. We have a great friendly audience and Lau play well despite the vertiginous rake on the stage. Luckily none of our stuff is on wheels otherwise it’d all end up in the laps of the front row of the audience.
As we load out we realise that it is Saturday night in Liverpool and the sound of a city partying is like a football match crowd in full throat – a constant roar. Quite amazing. We run away to our Travelodge.
Day 4 – Manchester
Another old theatre, more stairs and more labyrinthine corridors. We all like Manchester and have a great time. Tonight we are joined by our occasional lighting engineer Ben who brings some extra equipment and makes the show look very classy.
Day 5 – it’s a day off!
We head across to York to stay with Martin’s folks. It’s officially a day off but the day is taken up with Lau rehearsing some new music and Tim fixing some broken stuff. In the afternoon we are joined by a reporter from the Guardian who wants to spend some time with the band for an article she is writing. It’s nice to have some other people to speak to and in the evening we all head across to Leeds to see a concert of the incredible Taraf de Haidouks. These guys are a Romani-Romanian group who play Gypsy music which ranges from beautiful and heart-breaking to insane, high-speed frenzy.
Day 6 – Leeds
Tonight we are in the Howard Assembly rooms in Leeds. This in one of those buildings that has an old theatre with a new bit of cool architecture built onto it. The room we are in is full of light-coloured wood and is acoustically designed to sound good. And it does. Ben is with us again and makes it look beautiful and occasionally epic.
Lau have a well-stocked merchandise table with all the usual CDs, records, T-shirts but on this tour they have branched out in a culinary direction and commissioned some special Lau hot sauce from a hot-sauce-making friend Jock (also fiddle player in the New Rope String Band). The Hot Sauce has been selling like Hot cakes and tonight we sell the last one. Sorry rest of the world…
Day 7 – Brighton
Another proper day of driving – 5 hours down the M1, M25 and M23 and we arrive in Brighton. The sun is shining, seagulls wheeling, people wander the esplanade eating ice creams and fish and chips. It is always summer in Brighton. We pile all our gear into a dark basement and spend the next 8 hours there in the dark, setting up, playing and sweating. It’s a great cosy atmosphere and Lau and the audience have a lot of fun in a packed intimate venue. We don’t go out partying though despite there being friends in town. Tomorrow is London and London is always a big day.
Over the course of this tour Lau fans and friends have turned up to assist in selling merch which is a great help to the band and hopefully fun for the merchies too. Tonight’s merchie is a good friend to the Lau and she turns up with a huge iced LAU-cake! It looks like we’re going to spend the rest of the tour eating it.
Day 8 – London
A London gig day is always a bit of a special day on tour. Partly because audiences tend to be bigger (which is always exciting), partly because London is the hub of media and music industry, and partly because we’re in the big smoke and everything takes more time and is more complicated. Tonight we are in Union Chapel, a beautiful church in Islington. We found out yesterday that it has sold out which is exciting because it holds 900 people. Tonight, also, we are joined by the Elysian Quartet who were involved in the recording of the album and will take part in a performance of the song ‘The Bell that Never Rang’ – the only time we will do this on this tour because the string quartet are an integral part of it.
So… we arrive at 12:00, set up and soundcheck Lau. The Elysians are already there rehearsing in the vestry and once they are also soundchecked we spend the rest of the afternoon in rehearsals. As well as remembering how to play the complex piece of music there are technical considerations involved with Martin taking the sound of the quartet and manipulating it in real time through his boxes with knobs and buttons.
Lampy Ben is here with us and the combination of the churchy interior and his lighting is spectacular.
The gig is a success and it’s quite a thing to stand at the back of the room at the end of the show of this size when people leap to their feet in applause.
Gig over we head across the road to a little bar for an afterparty. Lau’s manager is there, plus the agent, plus the promoter. All are very happy with the result. It’s a day off tomorrow so a few cocktails are drunk!
Day 9 – hungover travelling
Well it’s kind of a day off. Our next gig is in Truro which is a long way from London so we break the journey by travelling to Bristol. On Bank holiday Friday. The first 35 miles take 3 ½ hours. I’m glad I don’t live down here.
Day 10 – Truro
It’s a lovely day for a drive. And so think two million others. The road to Truro is well and truly blocked so we follow our noses and head cross-country. We’re rewarded by some proper rural scenery. It’s peculiar – as soon as you cross the border into Cornwall the countryside changes and looks, well, more Celtic. Like the south of Ireland. It’s very bonnie and it certainly beats looking at the rear of a line of caravans on the motorway. Truro is very pleasant and at midnight it becomes Siobhan’s birthday so Aidan buys some Champagne at the bar next to the venue.
Day 11 – Coventry
Last day of the tour! We are in a big, comfortable theatre which is part of Warwick University. On our way in to the stage we pass two blimps which it turns out are self-propelled, self-determining flying sound creating devices. Art. And Engineering.
It always feel like we should finish a tour with some kind of fanfare and big party but the reality is that at this point we’re already preparing for the next thing which is Lau-Land next weekend so we pack up all the stuff again, put it in the van and say our goodbyes to Siobhan. She has been a great tour support – always cheery, a fine performer and even helps carry our gear.
And we all head our separate ways…..