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It's been... well, quite a while actually... For this I apologise.
I suppose, I should quickly recap what's been happening in the year or so since we last spoke.
After the Only Revolutions tour made one final revolution last summer, taking us through the fields of the UK, via the fjords and valleys of Scandinavia, to the swimming pools and rooftops of Ibiza, and finally to some dusty sports-grounds in beautiful India, everyone went home and tried to remember how one works the remote control of their television, and the temperature gauge on an oven.
Christmas came, and then suddenly 2012 was upon us, and we tried not to think about the fact that some fairly influential south americans had basically called time on the whole merry ride we call existence.
Winter turned to Spring, and, as happens in Spring, the time came for a birth (of sorts). The band (and in a twist of fortune, myself) decamped to the South-Californian coastline, as the boys began work on bringing life to the monster that had previously only existed in their heads, and in the musical sketches you may know as 'Demos'. I shall refrain from talking too openly about this particular process, and the current state of play on the results of this process, for that is a story for another time, and indeed another tongue to tell.
June came, and we left our beautiful coastal house for a few weeks, to return home to the UK, where the people (that's you) were seemingly in need of a fix. Gasping for a hit. Desperate to be slapped upside the head by a slab of fat rock. You know where I'm going with this.
Festival season was upon us.
Funnily for leBiff, this summer, we only flirted with two weekends of festivals, instead of getting up to the knees in it, across the entire months of June, July and August, as has previously been the case.
Four Shows. no more. no less.
Well... Five shows, since we also added a 'warm-up' show in Swindon. But I'm sure the point remains the same. Although i've now lied to you within the first seven paragraphs, which does not bode well.
In any case, that basically brings us up to speed. I'm sure there's a tonne of anecdotes you'd probably appreciate, but I'll save them for later, when I can deploy them a few months down the line, in a blaze of nostalgic glory. I find those particularly helpful when nothing of much interest happens over a few weeks, yet i still need to update the diary. Now you know.
We have never been to Swindon before. Not professionally, not personally. We know people from around here, and we were told repeatedly in advance about the so-called Magic Roundabout. You may want to google it. They are very proud of it in Swindon, at least as far as we could tell. I was pleased to be able to affirm to everyone who asked me if we'd seen it, that not only had we seen it, but we had requested (read: insisted) our driver take us around each individual roundabout within the magic roundabout. We had the full magical experience over a magical 90 seconds.
The first Biffy headline show in almost a year. There have been a few changes in the band's personnel, though regular readers of this diatribe masquerading as a diary, may be pleased to know that most of your favourites remain. Simon is still here. James is still here. Ben is still here. They all say hello.
You will likely remember the gentleman who resides to the far right of the stage, just behind James. His role is currently fulfilled by two alternating gentlemen, as for a variety of personal reasons, we were unable to chain him to the stage. So we find ourselves with two right hand men, taking it weekend-about, to carve ribbons of both melody and abrasive mayhem through the Biffy sonic palette. Both may be familiar to fans of a band from Manchester, of whom we were all massive fans. Those of you who saw the band at Swindon, Donington or Rock Ness, it will have been business as usual. However, moving forward to the next weekend, we'll be asking you to show your respects to a new friend!
The show in Swindon was possibly one of the hottest shows I've ever been involved with. It was unspeakably warm. Most noticeably for poor Simon, who sweated through his white boiler suit, to within an inch of his life.
It is no exaggeration to say, that it was quite possibly the most wiped out I've ever seen him after a show. The only other one that springs to mind as being quite so perspiration-intensive was during the height of the Japanese summer, on an outdoor stage at around 4pm in Osaka, as the sun hit its highest point. But even then, I think Swindon may have just edged it, if only by the complete lack of oxygen available in the room.
So if you thought he was impressive that evening, it should probably be noted that it was an even more impressive display than you may have initially given credit for, considering his entire body was pleading with his brain to stop singing, put the guitar down, and take off that fucking boiler suit. Or perhaps his brain pleading with his body. You can decide which, depending on your perspective on the location of the heart and of the soul.
After Swindon, we made our way towards Donington for the Download Festival. The Home of Metal, so they say.
Perhaps surprisingly, I don't have a massive amount to report on that day. We had heard horror stories of the mud and rain, seemingly separating families and trapping small children for days at a time. We were fully prepared for any eventuality, and by fully prepared, I obviously mean that the afternoon before we had a panic, and sent someone out to pick up some shit, ill-fitting wellington boots.
I believe we cleaned out the shop, to the point that poor Churd (guitar tech, Simon's) ended up in a pair of post-Jubilee Union Jack wellies. rough times. I think someone may have also had an umbrella. Yes yes, we were fucking ALL OVER IT.
We arrived on site, trudged through the mud, realised the mud wasn't actually that bad, and immediately went to enjoy the delights of the festival catering.
As an aside, I'd absolutely love to post a detailed deconstruction of festival catering, across the world. The vast gulf between the countries, in terms of quality and scope, is frankly often more impressive than the staging of the festivals themselves.
That said, I won't detail said deconstructions, as it would probably land me in a world of trouble with certain parties.
Download was decent though. Can't beat a chickpea curry. Although they could do with a better beverage assortment. No army can march on cordial alone, as they say.
It was particularly special to see old friends at the festival though. Really lovely. I just wanted to mention that, as they know who they are.
The following day, we found ourselves in both the capital of, and gateway to the Highlands of Scotland; Inverness.
Well. Dorres, a few miles away from Inverness. We were on the banks of Loch Ness though. Bit of a winner.
The big news today in TM-World was the successful acquisition of a golf cart, to whip around the festival site on.
I was saddened on my way into the site, when I heard about the young man who had lost his life the night before, as well as those involved in a road accident on their way to the festival. I can't see that the loss of a life is ever anything other than devastating, particularly when they're so young, but it seemed particularly poignant by the fact that they were, all, on their way to a celebration of togetherness. Though I didn't know them, I thought of those people as we watched the fireworks that set off with the climax of the band's performance. A lesson to us all, to make the most of every moment, and more than anything, to look after and take care of each other. To take extra special care, in fact.
I mentioned the fireworks display... This was something that we were very excited about. Closing the final day of a festival is a big deal, there's a real responsibility that comes with it, as it can often define someone's predominant memory of their weekend. The boys took this very seriously, and had aimed to put on the best show they could, which meant we employed some fairly interesting pyrotechnics, as well as those fabulous fireworks.
We actually had an almost-sketchy moment with the pyro, the previous day at Download.... Whilst it wasn't as life or death as I'd dearly love (for the sake of readability) to make it out to be, I'm aware that by telling the following anecdote, a portrayal of massive irresponsibility could be landed on our FX guys, which would be both inaccurate and unfair, as they are both professionally sound, personally aware, and incredibly skilled at what they do.
So firstly, let me be clear that Simon was not in danger, as there are many protocols in place to avoid exactly the sort of incident that I'm about to suggest. That sort of game is very much a safety first situation, and as much as I sometimes wish it was otherwise, we don't get to use those effects unless the highest levels of safety are in place, both onstage technically, and in terms of the context of the event.
OK - disclaimer over. So, we had big flames at these festivals. Big blue flames to be exact. Whilst our talented pyro guys set and programme most of this stuff, there are certain elements that require the old human touch. I.e. pushing a big button in time with the music. Given our heroes' propensity for time signatures that would be described by some as odd, by others as batshit crazy, it often falls to me to push said big button at the correct time. Today, I had the joy of triggering the CO2 jets, as well as the aforementioned flames.
During the end of Bubbles, as the flames were firing, suddenly time slowed down as Simon began walking to the lip of the stage, and dropped to his knees.
DIRECTLY. IN FRONT. OF THE FLAME POTS.
Now, thankfully, as soon as he even moved towards the lip of the stage, two safety protocols were immediately executed, to block both the trigger to fire, as well as the supply of fuel to the pot. So even if i'd pushed the button, not only would it have not sent a signal, the signal wouldn't have been able to trigger anything as the fuel line was cut. Just want to make that clear.
However, I can't really describe the feeling without over-using an impressive amount of both superlative and profanity. In fact with that in mind, I won't go into further detail on that one, suffice to say that it wasn't something I'd ever like to feel again, and that the following evening at Rock Ness, everyone had their eyes WIDE FUCKING OPEN. (That was a wee swear for anyone disappointed by the deliberate avoidance of profanity, if you were wondering)
... There's actually another good story involving the flames, from Rock Ness, which I'd love to tell you. But perhaps another time.
So back to Inverness, and the golf cart.
Rock Ness, is perhaps the prettiest festival in the UK. It's amazing. Don't get me wrong, I think Glastonbury has a special vibe, T In the Park is like nothing else, and Bestival has a sort of magic that other festivals would struggle to replicate. In terms of sheer locational majesty, however, you'd be hard pressed to beat the view from the top of the hill down towards the main stage, in the mid morning as the sun comes up, or in the evening as it gets dark over the Loch, which stretches out behind the main stage for miles and miles. It's simply stunning, and one of those moments where you tend to feel incredibly smug at being Scottish.
Not to say it's Scotland for the Scottish of course. One of the first things I heard when I arrived onsite, was the story of Jonny, the band's fabulously talented sound engineer, and the one responsible for the mix heard by the audience, going for an early morning skinny into Loch Ness. What a legend. And he isn't even Scottish.
There's a joke in there somewhere, about two monsters sharing the loch for that morning. Can't quite put my finger on it.
It really is an amazing place, and genuinely worth a visit by anyone who has a soul for music. It has definitely nestled a special place in all of our hearts.
A special mention to the festival-goers of Rock Ness. It has been a little while since the band played in Scotland, and you afforded the band the sort of reception that would have been notably impressive at one of their own headline shows. The fact that most of you had been there for three days already, camping in the rain and drizzle, and still managed to show up looking resplendent in your ponchos, with smiles on your faces, and songs in your hearts... It just goes to show how important and amazing your support is for the guys, and how much what they do onstage can be a response to what you give back to them as an audience.
A very special night for all present, I think.
Which brings us right up to the present... We're off to the Isle of Wight this weekend, and then on to Luxembourg. After that, it's back to the little californian bubble, to continue creating the thing that I'm not going to talk about quite yet, but you'll no doubt hear about, possibly sooner rather than later, possibly later rather than sooner. The best advice I can give on this front is to keep watching the skies. Or the sea. Or possibly the crest of that hill outside of town. You know the one.
(BC Tour Manager)