happy new year


2009 has brought with it a strange calm. The boys are all home, eating a lot, watching movies, doing the kind of thing that people do when they’re home.

happy new year one and all.

2009 has brought with it a strange calm. The boys are all home, eating a lot, watching movies, doing the kind of thing that people do when they’re home.

We finished late last year, a few days before Christmas, but I’ll come back to our December jaunt shortly.

Until a few days ago, the biffy calendar was literally blank, save for a show in June at the Rock Ness festival in Scotland, and a trip to London later this week, for the band to host an absent Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio show.  Over the past few days, a couple of things have appeared, lightly pencilled in March, involving countries far from home, which all looks quite exciting

I imagine the question of recording sits prominently in your minds – The band demoed some songs late last year, and will no doubt be back in a chilly Ayrshire practice studio soon, doing a second set. I think its fair to say that they’ll be in the warmer confines of another type of studio, one far away from Ayrshire, sooner rather than later… Quite possibly before the leaves have fully turned green (though I’m not sure anyone can definitively say when that is…)

So December 2008… what a laugh that was! We went to Finland, where Ben tried Reindeer soup, before coming home to begin a week of rehearsals (great fun – we took over the Berkeley2 studios in Glasgow – our fucking equipment was EVERYWHERE. Flightcases lined the corridors that week.)

Dunfermline brought with it a couple of technical faults, notably at a couple of points where it sounded like either someone fired a shotgun into a microphone, or the PA blew up… In fact, it was neither, and was, in fact, the sound the brand new, ultra sleek, supposedly superior digital mixing desk, completely (and to devastating effect, it should be noted) shitting the bed. Cue about 20 seconds of no audio through the PA, whilst the thing gathers its thoughts, and decides it might as well start up again. The Lumbering Prick. I’m all for progress, and digital mixing desks are truly impressive beasts. When they fucking work.

Other than that, the show was great, and we had that show lined up as our dress rehearsal, so we felt pretty set for the rest.

Ireland was, as always, a chilly and festive treat. The company was dynamite, and its always such fun to do what seems to be our annual christmas shows in Ireland.

The morning after the Dublin show, the band and I flew early to London, on one hand to avoid the brutal morning ferry, and subsequent 6 hour twisty bus journey, and secondly so Si could take a short detour to Rak studios in North London, to lend his vocals to the new Gallows album… killer.
The new day, our beautiful string section (Left to right – Morag (violin), Sarah (violin), then Helena (viola) and Susan (cello) ) rejoined us, as we hit the Brixton Academy in London.

Brixton is always a good vibe, and today was notable for Martin Scott having his jacket zipped up the entire day. I always think that can be the sign of a good production manager, when they insist on having a warm jacket zipped up indoors, in case they’re called away at a moments notice, for some urgent arctic artic situation.  Did I tell you about Martin before? Martin joins us as production manager, a role that sees him manage the production, as I manage the tour. Its a glorious bit of gray area, that defines these roles independently, but when it works, it works. And it worked.

We saw the full extent of the lighting rig today, notably the "i-tiles" as the Lampies referred to them (Lampie = operator and engineer of lights. A person, incidentally, not a bit of equipment, as you might mistake from the written interpretation)  which were the large white panels at the mid-point of the stage, in front of the VersaTubes, which were the tubes across the back. I enjoyed the VersaTubes immensely, by the by.

The next night in Birmingham, we had a great show, until the end, when Simon scaled the balcony. Usually when he goes AWOL, I’ll go after him, in case anything goes awry, though unfortunately tonight this was initially scuppered by my having to run up the stairs on the opposite side of the balcony, and then run around the perimeter. By the time I got to him, he was in the process of being marched outside by 4 high-vis security ‘gentlemen’ seemingly unaware of who the topless bearded scottish man shouting at them was.  Si had landed on the balcony, realised that he was a bit trapped, and after the fourth door he tried didn’t lead backstage, he gave one a bit of a kick, at which point unknowing security got hold of him. Cue me rocking up 15 seconds late, a lot of shouting, and my belief that all anyone (and particularly an unruly child) needs, is a stern word from a bearded scottish man, and the issue was (somewhat) resolved.  The rest is all fairly tedious, but made for a bit of excitement after the show. An impromptu aftershow broke out in the smallest dressing room in the world, which was also exciting. Full complements of Frightened Rabbit and People in Planes.

Speaking of which, amazing bands, and a pleasure to have on tour. Fucking amazing bands. Frightened Rabbit’s album was my album of last year, and will probably be my album of this year.

We ended the tour in Glasgow, which was a bit of a looming object on the horizon… the SECC. The Arena. In the end, it was all very fun, and the vibes were great all day. None of the tension you might expect at such a show, none of the panic, just a very calm and pleasant day. The show went really well… It was peculiar, in that everything came off without a hitch, and the band played a really great show… Usually when that happens, its in Leicester, and nobody notices. In any case, we had a bit of an aftershow party, and all was merry. Everyone went home and had lovely christmas.

I know.

Where’s the drama? Where’s the hardcore decadence? Where’s the "Neil! Where’s My Fucking Soup!?"

None of it. It was chilled, it was really pleasant, and a total winner all around. 

For my part, I loved seeing the band play killer shows, and a killer setlist each night. Whilst the only complaint I heard was that perhaps The Ideal Height wasn’t fitted to lets say ‘larger’ venues, I still enjoy the fact that there’s a slight awkwardness that can be perceived in a pretty flawless set. Not many bands can carry that off with grace, but the Biff have always handled it comfortably. 

I’ll top this blog up with some more thoughts, as we go on… album 5 is looming, and around that, there’s a figure coming through the mist who we haven’t seen for a couple of years, and who looks ready to party. Can you taste Duke Pandemonium in your sweat yet?

On that fairly poetic note, I’ll let you go back to http://www.ryanaircampaign.org/ as its an equally good read as this.

tour manager neil.