Warning: This blog entry contains some salty language!
Finally the ‘real’ British summer of indecisive inclement weather, fighting with an austere sun is upon us. We’re just grateful to finally have some consistency after that horrid cold and wet stuff.
We would say our show schedule has peaked for the year at 3/4 per week but it’s about to get busier. Much busier.
Before we get onto that…
We only went to London and PLAYED THE BLOODY OLYMPICS yesterday! We had to keep it under wraps but totally lost it though the ubiquity of combined cross social media posting sometime around 3pm on August 6th, London 2012. Utterly unsubtle hints such as posting pictures of us driving ‘somewhere’ using the Olympic traffic lanes for example. A picture of the Olympic stadium when we arrived. A picture of a Thrill Collins dressed stage with anything that didn’t say McDonalds on it blanked out.
These pictures (accompanied by embarrassingly “piss-your-pants” excitable comments) are on our FB wall and Twitter feed, if you fancy taking a look. Despite these pictures saying almost exactly 1,000 words each, we thought it would be nice to cover our experience with a couple of hundred more here.
It all started when we were in London a few months ago getting filmed by some chaps at BBC3. We’re still unable to say anything about it until the program airs, but clandestine tomfoolery makes up at least 4% of the Thrill Collins marketing machine and we really can’t say anything yet anyway.
Whilst there, we were just doing some of our usual awesome skiffle shit in a corner and who should come over? Someone who books entertainment for the Olympics. They wanted us to play. We didn’t believe them. They gave us an email that was appended @london2012.com. We pissed our pants.
Fast forward to last month when we still had very little information about the event. Was it a cruel joke? Did London 2012 just send people around getting skiffle bands hopes up? Turns out no. A bollock load of info gets sent through at once saying “don’t tell anyone” and “please give us all the information you have on yourself”
After sending pictures of our faces and moulds of our colons we awaited final stage and tech info – as well as another all important item: the venue.
Now, as performers, when you get told you’ll be playing the Olympics (unless you’re an actually good band) you know it’s not going to be the main stadium. To our utter joy it was the International Press Centre where the world’s press lives for the duration of the Olympics. Hub of all things TV, Radio, Internet and whatever that new thing that goes direct to your brain is called, they had it all.
Fast forward to yesterday. We arrive at the Olympic village after what was almost certainly the quickest drive we’ve ever had through London. Seriously. It took just under two hours from Cheltenham to Kings Cross in rush hour. Traffic handled? Check.
Next was getting into the site. “WHERE IS YOUR VEHICLE PASS?!” bellows one steward as we smile in the most non-threatening, “we know we’re in an unmarked white van but we’re not terrorists” kind of way.
“We don’t have one – we’re going to pick it up” we uttered shyly as a unit.
“Oh, okay. Carry on through”…
Now, at this point it would be untrue to say that we weren’t all a bit shocked. London 2012. Centre of the world for the duration of the Olympics. Massive ‘terror’ target. And three boys (one from Milton Keynes) driving an unmarked white van through security didn’t get checked? We felt a little shame on behalf of our country. Not another botch job, surely…
How. Wrong. We. Were.
Two minutes after meeting our chaperone for the evening (Nick, easily a new hero for Thrill Collins’) we were in a makeshift shed surrounded by the good old British Army and the cutest sniffer dog ever. Apart from finding out the bonnet didn’t pop (worrying, but would rather find out now than on a Spanish motorway next week) we were clean and were then directed to our parking level and loading space.
No one bad would have got through that checkpoint. Ever.
Next, we had to go through to the main arena press village via the personal security checkpoint. You know airports? Imagine that staffed by an army of, well, the British Army with the most high tech shit you’ve ever seen. We could have sworn we saw Short Circuit in the corner somewhere.
No one bad would have got through that checkpoint. Ever.
From there it was a short walk to our stage – a beautiful wooden al fresco affair servicing the world’s media.
Green room, beers, one show and a McDonalds later we were off around the park. Nick the Hero had commandeered one of those wicked cart things that you use to either a) play golf b) travel round backstage at festivals if you’re lucky enough or c) see fat people using to get about.
We hooned it around the Olympic village at considerable (but safe) speed taking in the Hockey Arena, Velodrome, Stadium and a whole host of other flashy impressive things that we can’t remember the name of. Being a band (complete with instruments) on an open top buggy at what is effectively the centre of the world right now does attract looks. We would be liars if we said we didn’t feel like little rockstars with our flashy passes and instruments getting chauffeured around by Nick for pictures. We would also be liars if we said we didn’t take that opportunity to engage attractive ladies who were peering for a look to see if they recognised us as ‘anyone famous’. In fact, it was all a Fairy Tour of Wonderville.
Until we passed some of the Australian Olympic team…
Pete and Andrew were sat facing backwards and had been proffering most of the conversation when probed by the public and that was no different when Team Oz peered around to (presumably) see if they knew who we were.
Pete’s incredulously British “How come we’re in a buggy and you’re not?” was not taken for the “you should be one in too” platitude as was intended. Team Oz looked ANGRY that their position as Olympiads had been slighted by an unhealthy upstart in a golf cart.
Andrew – seeing the offence beginning to rise from down under – attempted to calm any potential hostility that might follow (a then slow-moving buggy) by shouting “punch him in the face!” by way of attrition. The only problem with this tactic was that it actually came off sounding like a threat to back up Pete’s insult. Shit.
Pete went for broke “Do well in the rowing did ya?”
Thankfully the buggy sped up through the crowd again just in time as Nick took us away from a potentially sticky situation. We never got to finish our disagreement and perhaps that’s a good thing. We’re not sure how fit Olympiads are, but we’re pretty sure just one of the girls could have beaten the fuck out of the three of us on her tod.
But let’s be honest. After they ran their mouths about beating Team GB, they probably had it coming to them.
Back safely within the confines of the International Press Centre, we made our way out of the Olympic village for the drive back to the Cotswolds. Having been booked for the Paralympics that night too, of course.
And that was our (first) London 2012 experience! Now we’re back in Cheltenham, awaiting another raft of shows before tour on what we’d like to talk about next…
The Bit In Between…
Yes. Now, this is something that will apply to all musicians, but is rarely spoken about. At least we’ve never seen anything written about it. Whether you are a teenage band starting out with weeks – sometimes months – between shows or you’re seasoned veterans who play more nights of a week than not – you’ll know what we’re talking about.
The time spent looking at the never ending motorway where complacency is the most dangerous (and prolific) killer for the regular driver is one of three things to a band:
1. The exciting bit of getting to a show/first date on a tour
2. The necessary bit of getting between shows
3. The exhausting, mind-numbing, endless return from a show/shows/tour
It’s enough to make you think “Hurry the fuck up with teleporting, science” no matter how dangerous it could be…
Unfortunately (3) signals the start of a phenomenon that any musician can identify with: time spent not travelling to or playing a show; the bit in between.
It’s different for everyone depending on the sort of band you are and how often you play. We won’t presume to be your band so we’ll just talk about our experience.
When you are passionate about something like music and performance, then it sort of becomes like a drug. This is a cliché for a reason. It’s not only because of the loosely applied addiction parallel, it’s because it begins to fill your brain in every spare minute. This is especially more acute when you are constantly busy with shows or out on a tour as the timescale allows you to be distracted by little else.
Take this week as our Thrill Collins example.
We’ve played at the bloody Olympics last night and we’re still calming down from it – as would any band. But already we’re looking forward. Not just to the Paralympics show, but because before then we’ll be off on European Tour #3 next Friday. Two weeks getting paid for travelling around the continent playing shows in places like Paris, Strasbourg, Chamonix, Barcelona, Malaga, Luxembourg (to name a few) for 14 nights on the trot is immensely exciting and something we are exceptionally grateful to be able to do. Perhaps the more cynical amongst you would believe that going out for a third time to Europe might have lost a little polish along the way; you’d be wrong.
It’s the anempathetic inevitability of time passing that is fully unforgiving with no thought to allow a second for nostalgia. Before we go out on tour we have a big club opening to perform at on Friday. This is followed by a private booking on Saturday and a charity show on Sunday. Then, the night before tour, we are off to play a wedding. We did this the night before tour last year (see Episode IV of “The Wrong Way Round” documentary on YouTube) and the van broke down.
As a side note, TC loves a wedding to be honest. Sometimes people come up to us after a show, almost fearful of asking if we would consider playing a wedding. For those of you who have not had the courage to approach us yet, let us reiterate: THRILL COLLINS BLOODY LOVE A WEDDING! We get to play quite a few each year and there’s nothing more complimentary (in our opinion) than being asked to play someone’s special day. If you see a band on a Friday night, you might not remember who they are by Monday. You will remember your wedding band forever.
This leads us nicely onto this bit, “The Bit In Between”
The bit where blogs get written. The bit where we catch up with emails and play computer games. When work is over, partners asleep and everything is done there is no hobby, folly or pursuit to occupy us. In any case, that ‘hobby’ would be to play music, which is something we are fortuitously doing with increasing regularity.
A mixture of excitement, anticipation, expectation and frustration fills these hours with no release available to you other than to get out on stage and do it all over again.
You can bang on about how much you “love” and “live” music all you want, but it’s this perennial obsession that really shows what kind of musician you are, or could be.
The bit in between is the bit that matters because it is only then that you realise that what you are actually waiting for is to stare, late at night, at that never ending motorway talking with your friends about how the next show you’ve just played was totally, utterly, fucking awesome.