22 July 2015

Camel Tour 2015 part 3

taking a bow at the Loreley Night of the Prog fest

From Utrecht to the spectacular scenery of the Rheinland for our performance at the Night of the Prog Festival in Loreley. Yet another day of high temperatures which had cooled only slightly by the time we took the stage at 11pm, following a brio-laden performance from the Neil Morse Band with the redoutable Mike Portnoy on drums. We walked on to a rapturous welcome from the several thousands of spectators and the several millions of bugs attracted by the stage lights on what continued to be a warm, balmy night. Band, audience and bugs all had a jolly good time. Great festival, lovely environment, excellent organisatiion. 

waiting to go on in Loreley

Another long overnight drive ensued through Germany to Poznan for the first of two Polish gigs, arriving in time for half a day off and a some welcome recuperation at an agreeable Hotel Poshki.
Andy, Ton, Denis and myself took a Saturday evening stroll around the charming old town centre and enjoyed an excellent slap-up dinner at the highly recommended Ratuszova restaurant on the Stary Rynek, during which we failed to see the famous Poznan goats emerge from their lair in the clock tower of the Town Hall upon the stroke of the hour. 

a balmy evening in Poznan Old Town

 Sunday saw us playing at the IMTP2 hall – a cavernous exhibition hall with high undraped windows which ensured that a good deal of the set was performed in evening light and Paddy our lighting chap was unable to use any projections. Special mention must be given to a pretty spectacular tropical-style storm that suddenly erupted during our afternoon soundcheck turning the surrounding walkways into fast-moving rivers and sending umbrellas, outdoor furniture and other unsecured items careening through the air. All soon returned to normal and a large and lovely crowd came out on a sunny evening to spur us on through another fun gig. And I'll make another special mention for the excellent new pre-amp that my friends at Taurus Amplification – the Polish company making world-class bass and guitar amps - had delivered to me at the soundcheck which has greatly enhanced the sound of my fretless bass.

the cavernous space of the Poznan place

A marathon hand-shaking, autograph-signing and please-can-i-make-a-photo session followed the show before another overnighter to Krakow, where we were pleased to enjoy the shiny and ample backstage facilities of the impressive new concert hall of the ICE Congress Centre. The hall itself is very attractively designed with lots of wood. Not sure exactly how many seats they have there but by stage time every one of them was occupied right up to the gods. What a lovely audience they were too. 

Krakow concert hall at soundcheck
later that same evening
Our visuals were especially good tonight thanks to some excellent hi-tech projectors and I was pleased to finally get incorporated some stunning images of the moon taken by my friend John Lawrence. Apart from being a celebrated Welsh singer/songwriter and bandleader (Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Infinity Chimps), he's also an amateur astronomer and space photographer who manages to take some extraordinary photos of the universe from his mountain fastness in Snowdonia. Many thanks to him for giving us the moon.

checking the new moon at soundcheck

Both Polish concerts were very nicely organised by Piotr Kosinski and stage managed by our old friend Stefan Perskiewicz, who remains unforgettable for his distinctive hearty laugh and unshakeable bonhomie. 

blogging from my bunk while trundling across Europe
At time of writing we are still trundling our way across Germany and France on the road back to the UK for the final four gigs of the tour: Cambridge, Wolverhampton, Norwich and the grande finale at the Ramblin' Man Festival in Kent on Saturday.

More later...

16 July 2015

Camel tour 2015 part 2 - the story so far...

On stage at the Be Prog! My Friend festival, Barcelona
The story so far...

It was a great relief to finally get out of our charming but ultimately windowless box in the pleasant, albeit seldom glimpsed, surroundings of Real World Studios and head off to St Albans in the big red bus. It was a good first night methinks and a lot of nice people were out in force to help us enjoy it, setting a pattern for the next two days at Bath and York. All very enjoyable gigs with, though I say it myself, the band in pretty good form. 

sound check at Bath Forum

sound check at York Barbican

After York we set off into the night for the long journey to Barcelona, catching an early ferry at Dover and continuing on our merry way for the rest of the day and night, finally arriving at the site of the unusually named Be Prog! My Friend festival the next morning. Venue was at the Poble Espanya, an open-air museum, built in 1929, with 117 buildings showcasing Spain's typical regional architecture. A large stage was erected in the main square for the festival. 

setting up the stage in Barcelona

It was hot and getting hotter so we were glad to be whisked away to sample the hospitality of the Hotel el Posh and enjoy a welcome night in a stationary bed.
Next day, Denis and I broke free and negotiated the Barcelona Metro down to Barceloneta, Barcelona's beach area. It was Saturday. It was extremely hot. At a likely looking Tapaseria we found an agreeable table in the shade and an enjoyable lunch ensued. Suitably fortified, we headed back to the festival site where, I have to say, we all were rapidly getting the feeling we had got off the bus at the wrong stop, as it were. We do like to think we can, in our role as travelling minstrels, bring some light and positive energy to the people who come to see us, but every other band seemed to be mining the same seam of dark energy, snarling and growling, bent on pillage and destruction (or at least the pretence of it) and playing at maximum volume from start to finish - oh yes and the smoke-spewing guitars and the strobe lights, the strobe lights... 
We felt rather parochial by comparison and were a little trepidatious about facing the audience. I even left my trainers on for the gig in case we needed a quick getaway but our fears were laid to rest by a sizable and extremely friendly crowd who seemed rather pleased to see us, as we were them. It was actually rather a splendid gig and a good time was had by most (as far as I could see).

Be Prog! My Friend festival Barcelona

Be Prog! My Friend festival Barcelona

Be Prog! My Friend festival Barcelona

After the show it was hurry up and wait time, until 4 am in this case, and then off on another fabulous overnight drive, this time to Zurich, where we thoroughly enjoyed the intimate stage set up with the intimate proximity of the standing audience at the Kaufleuten, a charming wood-lined fancy function room. We were treated to some excellent hospitality and had a grand old rocknroll style sweaty gig.

inside the Kaufleuten, Zurich

Off to sleepy old Limbourg in Belgium to once again tread the creaking boards of the old Kursaal theatre. We were cheerfully greeted by the veteran promoter of the famous Spirit of 66 club, Francois Geron. He was as surprised as we were to find that the venue had printed up some posters for the show bearing our name and personnel but matching us with an old photograph of the band Argent. Hmmmm....
who is that band?
Nevermind, it was another most enjoyable gig for another wonderfully friendly audience. 
Then on the bus again for a drive to Holland. It's all go...

At time of writing we are about to take the stage of the fabulous Tivoli in Utrecht, a super concert hall with capacious backstage facilities including a washing machine and a tumble dryer. Much relief all round at getting our laundry done. It's a glamorous life on the road...

more later...