The day starts with an accursed alarm call, a gallon of coffee and a very early check-in for the two flights to Costa Rica, the first via El Salvador where we will be playing tomorrow, the rising sun chasing us down the runway as we point ourselves towards our heavenly goal.
Delirious from the outset, the flight makes little sense as we are so tired that everything passes like a blur, one minute I'm captivated by the loud on board announcements, the next I'm waking up on the passenger's next to me's shoulder, muttering like a baby.
Two speedy flights later, cocktail sticks forced under the eyelids, we arrive in Costa Rica and for the rest of the day I'm confused about anything to do with time, as we have lunch at eleven, go to sleep for several hours in the afternoon and then undertake a signing to a bunch of rabid fans at a mall whilst mentally still comatosed. Not that I've ever been on hard drugs, but should I have I would imagine that the day would possibly pass a little like this, in a Christmas delirium.
"A Quizzical Mind/Nana Miscourri"
We are so tired that everything takes on a wonderful nausea, including getting to the venue and discovering that all is not as it seems. Yes, there are hundreds of fans already outside its doors, and yes, this country is beautiful to the extreme and the venue is huge inside, yet there are some very initial problems. Like a circus that holds a weird, mesmeric fascination but fails to deliver the clowns, it is to some embarrassment that we discover that, despite the Crewdle of Filth being here for some hours now and persevering beyond the pale, the on stage monitoring system is a complete and utter joke.
I have played pub gigs that have had more powerful speakers, rendering our sound check into a three hour farce with everyone trying to combat the terrible sound that emanates from the amateurish speakers. When Luna (my daughter) was a child, she had a microphone that was made by a cheap electronics company that sounded way better than tonight's monitor system, that spits and fizzles its way through our sound check, with no discernible plus points other than it sounds utterly butterly shite.
What makes things worse is that there is a venue full of expectant fans who are perturbed about the length of the sound check, which doesn't really go anywhere, despite us drafting more speakers in from the next door Salsa Club to beef up the sound. I am sure that most people just think that a band arrives at a venue and immediately begins plugging in and playing, totally ignorant to the fact that there are hundreds of meticulous little signals that constitute a show and make the band and crowd actually hear what the fuck they are doing. It becomes so perilously close to the opening of doors that the cancelling of the show becomes a profound inevitability, seeing as the sound really is so bad that it seems like an absolute disaster looms on the horizon.
Well, thank fuck for the Crewdle, who work beyond the pale to bring the gig kicking and screaming into life. Where once we were fretting over what the hell anyone was actually hearing, to a sound that was actually reminiscent of a band ready and willing to deliver their utmost to make the show the best Costa Rica have witnessed, was a miracle in itself, seeing as we had all resigned ourselves to a fate worse than death. A shit gig.
Still, we returned to the hotel heavy-hearted, with no-one really bothering to eat as time was furiously ticking away and in the midst of it all I somehow managed to rip the zipping out of my boots, resulting in a hotel hearing the worst deleted expletives one could muster on one foot!
I wasn't personally holding out for much of a show because of the mechanical problems that left even the battle-hardened Crewdle of Filth scratching their proverbial nuts, but... Wow! How wrong we all were. Expecting the worst, we thought 'fuck it!' and went on stage awaiting the inevitable disaster only to find that by some miracle that the gear had righted itself with the addition of some extra speakers from the club next door and a room full of maniacs.
What ensued was, up to now, the best show of the tour. We were turbulent and so were the crowd, who were the best I've been witness to in a long while. Mental!!! We had planned to drop some songs due to the sound issues, but, fuck me! We didn't need to bother, as the place was torn up by our set and the energy emanating from the moshpits.
We don't hang around for too long afterwards, just enough to pack down the gear and collect our breath, sign a few items and have our photos taken with various excitable girlies, and it was back to the hotel we went, filled with a wonderful sense of achievement and sweat-soaked stage clothes, pleased as punch with ourselves.
Lobby call is a ball-busting 3 o'clock in the morning as we have two flights to contend with, so it is with swift decisive motivation that I shower, pack, come-down with some spooky orchestral music and then climb into bed with half a sleeping pill and two alarms set to stun.
"San Salvador Hotel Crowd"
Next day my first thoughts on El Salvador is that it reminds me a lot of India in its temperament and geographic outlook.
Having arrived at the hotel feeling slightly worse for wear having negotiated two flights and all that rushing through airport terminals entails, we plan a time to be ready for departure to the gig, then crash out big style. I'm not one for sleeping during the day at all, and as it's a Sunday, at exactly 10.30 on the dot, church bells start peeling like the sun-kissed skin on my arms. At least I haven't succumbed to the biting Mosquitos like young Daniel Firth whose feet look like something from a horror movie, yet I still find it hard drifting off for the four hours we have allowed ourselves to right our jet-lagged brains.
On arrival at the show, we are greeted with a venue that is half open to the elements, with a palm tree growing right next to the stage, and a cooling breeze that comes with the onset of late afternoon. Backstage is sweet with mosquito-repelling incense and cheesy nibbles, whirling fans and strong coffee, and the last gasps of the afternoon passes very pleasantly indeed. Sound check is great and it is with jovial banter that we return to the hotel to feed and to get ready for the night to come. This really feels more like a holiday!
"No Cross Words!"
The show itself isn't as great as we would've hoped as the 800 strong audience seems a little subdued despite us playing vehemently, but we realise that the crowd are just watching intensely, as afterwards we sign for most of their number. 'Funeral In Carpathia' starts with the barrier that separates the premier ticket holders from those slightly further back coming crashing down by way of a huge mosh pit, but then everything subdues, possibly due to the hefty security presence, partly due to the aforementioned mesmeric sway of my hips up there on the stage (!).
"Young Daniel's Filthy Crossword"
The show coming to a frenetic close, we hook up with the support bands and the promoter's chums and undertake the lengthy queue of signing, then are whisked off to the hotel and a late night spent with a crate of beer by the swimming pool. I have no trunks with me, so I just opt for my novelty underwear, and after the intense heat of the day, the pool is bloody freezing, so after a few dips, Asti, Martin, wee Daniel, Lindsay and myself end up chatting to around three in the morning before a slightly inebriated Asti and Martin decide to head off to the next door casino.
"Two Trolls (Lindsay and Martin)"
We don't muster in the lobby until midday and after a hearty breakfast, and today is the first of our all-day travel stints, with a further two flights towards our Colombian destination to look forward to. Still, it's a very scenic retracing of our steps to the airport, a few bars hit along the flight path , and by the time we eventually arrive in Medellin by way of the capital Bogota, a few more late night sociable drinks are in order in the very modern foyer of the Ibis hotel before bed.
Colombia is gorgeous and the temperature is just right, as this city, nestled as it is between lush mountains and hills, is known as the City of Eternal Spring. The venue is vast, and there is more like a festival atmosphere about it really and there is plenty of time to be shown about by the promoter, whose whole family seems to be involved in the running of the day. The only problem being that the cavernous room with its drafted-in staging is very sharp-sounding due to the size and all the glass work in what is tantamount to an exhibition centre. This causes innumerable problems later on when we hit the stage, especially for me, as I have to literally change my singing style to get around
the shrill razor-like quality of the sound bouncing about the place. Still, there's plenty to contend with until that happens...
After a lengthy sound check we undertake a really chaotic signing and TV session in the bowels of the venue before being whisked off to the top of a mountain to overlook the stretched-out twinkling city and eat steak in an authentic hacienda-style restaurant. I almost forget that I have a dodgy tummy and a bit of altitude sickness that has come on late in the afternoon, but nothing I can't deal with and the hefty dinner soon blots out the nausea. Plus the view is simply breathtaking.
The hotel awaits for a few hours once more for us to prepare for the show and it is a little before a quarter past nine that we return to the venue for a show time that isn't as forthcoming as we'd hoped, due to the fact that someone has mislaid my in-ear monitor system (which is thankfully discovered twenty minutes later hidden under the stage). This is very lucky on my behalf, as without it I'm fucked, as it accounts for my ability to pitch my high notes and carries the reverb missing from the monitors. Plus the system is custom made for my ears, so
finding another for the rest of the tour would be impossible to say the least.
The show is hard work because of the sound, but there are so many people here who are absolutely into the show that one can forgive the shortcomings and we play a blistering, if not deafening set. The crowd, as previously mentioned, are thoroughly raucous and it's to rapturous applause that we leave the stage to mingle with the promoter and his family, members of the famous Columbian band 'Masacre' amid many many others lurking about around the makeshift dressing room area.
The day finally ends with us getting back to the hotel as quickly as possible, in order that we might get at least two or three hours sleep before yet another early lobby call. No rest for the wicked as they say, and there certainly isn't for young Daniel, Asti and Martin, who forsake their beds in favour of staying up supping beers. Still, it's another lengthy travel day that lies ahead and I am way too tired to join them, managing to get my packing routine down to around twenty minutes of CNN and enjoying a long hot shower before a pitiful amount of much-needed sleep claims me.
"This Boy is on Fire"
Another long tiresome travel day and one that starts with the most bleary-eyed bunch of reprobates I've ever been witness to. We almost don't make the second flight to Argentina (cue the track, 'Don't Fly To Me, Argentina'!) as there has been a slight mix-up with the payment of the tickets and it is with literally minutes to spare that the promoter is on the phone to rectify this mistake. Still, the wait is punctuated by snack stops and impromptu signing sessions with cabin crew and fans that just so happen to be wandering about the airports.
Everyone is absolutely knackered as the flight bears witness to, seemingly dead bodies scattered about the plane in various awkward-looking sleeping positions, with James snoring like a trooper at the back of the vessel like a vast hairy blonde troll (sorry Jimmler!) and Lindsay sprawled out across the row behind me.
This is only a six hour flight this time but it seems much longer. Still, we have two more that are far longer still ahead of us, so I can't complain as this is more like training, having thoroughly exhausted the movie selection two flights ago.
The sun fiercely descends as we approach Buenos Aires in a blaze of glory, leaving a vivid red welt across the horizon that seems like heaven's on fire, before we bank and descend into encroaching night and the trinkets and baubles of the city below.
So ironic really seeing that today was Margaret Thatcher's funeral (the 'Iron Lady' British Prime Minister that oversaw the Falklands conflict back in the eighties, which still enshadows the relationship between the UK and Argentina to this very day).
Best I not mention the war then!!!
The day is rounded off with the promoter taking us to his parent's steak house where we devour a massive meal before being taken to the hotel and the promise of a full night's sleep.
"San Salvador Venue"