Darlings, we are ecstatic to announce that we are hitting the road with our buddy Frank in November, with additional support from the magnificent Esmé Patterson. Dates are selling out VERY quickly, so get 'em while they're hot.
Thanks to the hundreds of beautiful, kind and probably very sexy people that donated to our Indiegogo campaign, we have hit the studio and cooked up a brand new album. It is the biggest, best and most marvellous thing that we have ever done, and we can't wait for you to hear it. Producer/Keyboard Maestro Joe is now mixing it up in his massive sparkly pop cauldron, and we will be hurling it at you as soon as we can. EXCITEMENT!!!
Here is a photo of two dogs dancing. They LOVE the songs.
And so the timid sun dawned on my last day of the tour. Last? Yes. Whilst we had a further two shows in Wrexham and Bury lined up in the tour diary, I had to bow out as life is rarely as obedient of our plans as we would like. I’m sure I shall go into detail at a later date once our hearts have stopped hammering like fucking road drills, but suffice to say a member of my immediate family was taken very very ill on a Greek island and I had to down tools and fly out the next day. Hello from Greece. I am staggeringly, overwhelmingly relieved to say that everything is fine, they are getting better by the day and we shall be coming home next week. But this mad rush to the airport means that Louis will finish the tour solo, perhaps with the odd special guest in my place. The hosts who had been expecting the two of us have been singularly lovely and understanding of the situation, and to them I am truly grateful. We shall return and blast your heads off with rock as soon as we possibly can.
And now that things are looking up over here I feel sufficiently calm enough to report on the truly wonderful day out we had in Warrington.
We knew this one was going to be a biggie, as our host Jane had been sending delighted emails informing us of plans and predicted guestlists. And boy, was she right. Jane, John, their son Paul and the rest of their delightful extended family had erected their own mini-festival in their huge back garden. Louis and I pulled up and wandered into a potted Glasto, a bonsai Bestival, a Diet Download. There was a garden stage, helpfully demarcated with crowd barriers, a food stand serving up externally-catered wonders, a bar, masses of lawn chairs and a giant hammock. Not to mention the huge amount of home-made posters featuring the two of us. They had even made their own Louis Barabbas/Felix Hagan festival wristbands.
One could be forgiven for getting a little bit smug about things like this.
We were treated to a guided tour of the various memorabilia they as a family had accrued over a lifetime of music fandom. Signed posters, setlists and photos sat on the walls amongst even more prestigious items. Guitars signed by everyone from Newton Faulkner to our old pal Beans on Toast (the man who sewed the seeds of our career by booking us at the Monarch and inviting Frank Turner) grinned encouragingly down at us, and we added our own signatures, messages and drawings to their collection with tremendous pleasure.
We were very early, and we used the time in the best possible way by having a lovely long chat in the garden with our new friends. Jane and John were, like several others on this tour, amongst the audience at our Kendal Calling show last year. We’d had an enormous crowd thanks to the twin blessings of A) pissing rain outside the tent, and B) a command issued to the crowd by Frank during his headline set the day before. So we reminisced fondly about our various encounters then and since.
Soon the guests began arriving, and as predicted the crowd was our biggest of the tour by some considerable margin. So far on the tour we’d been able to get away with no amplification whatsoever, as our crowds have been usually crammed into various front rooms. However this time we knew we had to bring the thunder, and our neglected PA system was dragged from its slumber in the boot and put to work entertaining the fifty-ish strong mass. Once again the audience spanned the generations, and our conversations ranged from favourite obscure 80’s glam punk bands to the crushing woes of UCAS forms and favourite student drinking dens.
Food was served up eventually. What can only be described as a giant cauldron of Hot Pot was manoeuvred into play by hundreds of local workmen. We got stuck in, and I ate so damn much of the lovely stuff that I had to go and lie in the massive hammock for a while afterwards to curse my stupid greedy mouth and work up the courage to perform.
The boy who ate too many potatoes.
We returned to our previous form for this one, and Louis took the stage first in front of the sea of delighted faces. He went unplugged, the better to use every inch of the garden as he leapt, ran and barked his way through his ever-wonderful set. I now haven’t heard him play for two days, and I miss it so much. We simply must do more.
They say his vision is based on movement. They were lucky to escape with their lives
After a brief break I strode to the microphone and cracked into my set. As the setting was so grand and the amps up so loud I opted for a set of mainly rock stuff, eschewing the really quiet ones that had whispered through houses further down the country. The slight problem was that our beloved hosts had elected to coat their garden in grass, which makes me sneeze like a big nerd all summer, but luckily despite the odd ostentatious ATCHOO!! my body kept itself mostly in order. The crowd sang, laughed and threw themselves into it when I divided them into singing teams and played them off against one another in different registers, styles and species. And when the finale came they waltzed, hugged and danced about with beautiful abandon under the cloud-strewn sky.
The big finale. Man stands on chair.
When the last note fell and Louis and I took our final bows together I felt the cumulative, supportive warmth of the last two weeks coursing through me. To do band gigs to large crowds of strangers in loud rock rooms is one of the best feelings in the world, and the white hot adrenaline and euphoria of the performance is nature’s best addiction. But doing these sorts of gigs is less of a passionate shot to the arm and more of a beautiful, heartfelt hug that warms the soul and lingers for days.
We stayed for a long time, laughing and embracing our new friends, leading a group in a singalong of our duet My Little Lusitania and floating on a cloud of goodwill. And as we loaded up the tour wagon for the final time on this trip, we felt the new connections we have made, the countless hugs, laughs and stories we have shared warming us and speeding us on our way.
I shall be writing a retrospective on the whole tour in a few days once I’m safely home in England once more, but until then I just want to thank our beautiful army of hosts up and down the country, and to our final hosts Jane and John for the huge effort they put into creating such a perfect evening for us to share.
After a long and leisurely day of drawing cartoons for a book that a friend of mine is working on (don’t be fooled. I’m shit at drawing and am baffled as to why I was asked. However my Emu was convincing) I picked up Louis and off we went to Preston. These northern gigs have all taken place within relatively safe distance of our two Manchester dwellings, so we’ve been able to enjoy the visceral thrill of being on tour while at home. Which basically means lounging about all day whilst telling the world we’re “at work”.
We arrived in a leafy suburb (why are suburbs always “leafy”? It’s the only adjective they’re allowed, I suppose) and pulled up outside a massive house. This was the home of Caroline and Mike, the two most die-hard Bedlam Six fans I’ve ever met. Their house was festooned with copies in every medium of everything Louis has ever sung into a microphone. It was clear that while I was most welcome indeed, it was Louis who was pulling them in that night, so we tacitly agreed that this must be the gig where our roles were reversed, and I should warm them up for him.
However before all that there was the matter of the food. We have been continually delighted by the culinary wonders we have been presented on this tour, and any thoughts I had of shedding my holiday curves were lost somewhere between Brighton’s massive pasta marathon and Surrey’s meringue bonanza. And these folks were going for broke. We had a vast tray of different exotic Spanish sausage, freshly retrieved from the continent by their gourmand friend who happily toured me around his meaty presentation. I just read that sentence back. Yep. I’m leaving it in.
Three homemade curries! All the diet coke I could cram into my glum sober mouth! It was ace. We sat about outside, chatting with the younger contingent of the event, Mike and Caroline’s kids and their friends. All of these folk seem to gravitate around the Ferret in Preston, which Louis tells me is an awesome place to play. Looks like I’ll be back in Preston before I know it.
Performance time rolled around, and our hosts had gone to town on the performance space, hefting sofas and chairs into a makeshift auditorium for the large crowd. I tuned up and cracked into it.
I opted for a shorter set than usual, as I was well aware that these folks were clamouring for Barabbas. How very biblical. But I wanted to get them riled up for him, so I grabbed a few of the rowdier element from the crowd and press-ganged them into a percussion section to accompany one of my less-successful guitar solos. Luckily they took to their instruments/objects with such gusto that my seal-flippered attempts at rock triumph were drowned out by a chorus of thuds.
Fingers forgetting they have a music degree
I finished with Kiss The Misfits, a new song which (I CAN EXCLUSIVELY REVEAL…) will be coming out on the latest Xtra Mile Compilation (Details HERE. It's the title track of our upcoming new EP and HOWFUCKINGCOOLISTHAT). They hurled themselves into the end crowd vocal with tremendous enthusiasm, and I left the stage feeling very supported by this lovely bunch of new friends.
Continuing my series of Patrick Swayze tributes, here is the finale from Ghost
Louis hit the stage with grandeur. It was lovely to see him work a crowd who were clearly so familiar with his stuff. Their love for him was tangible, and they sang all the big bits in songs like “Mother” without the slightest hesitation. They even bombarded him with requests that precipitated some serious lyric revision on his part, so far back in the back catalogue they were. It was a bloody pleasure to watch. He daringly finished with one of the songs from his musical rather than an old favourite, and it paid off in spades as the whole crowd rose up and wailed the repeated chorus over and over, their grins widening with every bar. It was great.
Drinks, chats, hugs and warm goodbyes later, we loaded up and set off once more for home. Preston is ace.
Salford! Home of gang violence, scallies, wastrels and scroungers. This is what we are told by the all-powerful hysterical hive-mind of our time. The same intangible, didactic opinion machine that has also concluded that poor people are stupid and lazy, artists are vapid and ineffectual, and that Costa Coffees and executive flats are more vital to society than community centres and music venues. So fuck that, obviously.
Salford for me is the home of grassroots culture in Manchester, borne aloft on the three pillars – The Lowry, The Eagle and The Star. And the furtive engineers of this cultural scene, the sparks that fly along the once-dead synapses of society, are folks like Kieren and Ella. They are responsible for (amongst many things) Evidently, the stand-up poetry event that occurs once a month at the Eagle Inn. Check out the details HERE.
These two are long-term fans of the band, coming to us like an awful lot of our beloved friends through our association with the big dog Frank Turner. You can see them dancing along with Larry the Parrot in our LIVE VIDEOS, which we shot in the cherished Eagle Inn. They have also, along with fellow Salford wunderkind and renaissance man Jack Dixon, played host to a solo show of mine at the Star Inn, which was the flame that ignited the idea of this tour. Until then I had generally shied away from solo shows. I didn’t like the idea of performing without the comfort blanket of a loud-as-hell rock band, and I felt forced to play all the strange quiet songs from my back catalogue whilst sitting down and not dancing. But the warmth and general “fuck this, let’s dance!” attitude that hummed in the air of the Star Inn that night made me realise the possibilities of what one could do once you let go of the boundaries of normal civilised society and treated the solo gigs like rock shows. So it was with tremendous glee that we accepted their offer of a stop on the house tour.
They are also old friends of Louis, so it was a joyous reunion all round when we pitched up at their door.
We set about barbecuing a herd’s worth of beef, plus assorted vegetarian oddments for my herbivore touring partner and his darling other half Bryony, who had come prepared with marinated halloumi (the world’s greatest food) and a wonderland of vegetable treats.
Pretty soon the guests started arriving. And didn’t stop arriving for a long time. It was the biggest crowd we’ve had by some distance. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Like Kingston-on-Thames in the south, Salford is filled with the kind of people who won’t stand for dullness. Where other people might see a long empty afternoon, they see an impromptu poetry slam, a jam night or an acoustic house concert from two itinerant frontmen waiting to happen. They are the fun creators. The sorcerers of mirth.
This point was driven home when Kieren revealed to me that seemingly half the people there were musicians or performance poets. Obviously this couldn’t go unaddressed, so we quickly rustled up some extra performers from the eager crowd and got cracking in the garden.
Kieren MC’d with practiced skill, delivering some of his own fantastically urgent and funny poetry with elegance and wit. As if his good-guy credentials needed any more bolstering he revealed that he stood as a candidate for our chums the Greens at the last election (I mean chums literally. Their deputy leader likes us on Facebook. Great bunch of folks). And his poetry exhibited the impassioned and articulate heart of a man who believes in his community and will lead the charge for its vindication from the sniffing hordes of snobbery.
Kieren King. Not your typical politician, sadly.
Next up was Rod Tame, an acclaimed poet whose tales of life as a gay man caught between the twin pillars of joyful abandon and looking too straight were glorious, funny and touching to behold, and by the time Louis took to the stage the audience were attentive and up for anything. We had elected to begin the evening out in the garden, and Louis made full use of the space, leaping and capering like a hobo jester in Oberon’s court. We were delivered a set of entirely new songs, with the odd old favourite thrown in by request.
Barabbas Decimus Meridius. Sparking a revolution.
Quick break, and then we moved indoors for the second half of the evening. Another poem from Kieren and then we were introduced to the aforementioned Jack Dixon, who delivered some charming verses exploring various romantic misadventures and drunken misdemeanours. I am a complete novice in the world of poetry, my poetic output thus far outside of song lyrics being the odd nonsensical comedy rap song and the occasional never-ever-to-be-seen-by-anyone-ever love poem. But these guys with their astonishing skills have ignited a fire under my soul. I simply must have a go at this. It looks such fun. We shall wait and see.
Anyway, my turn. I knew this one was going to be a biggie, as pretty much everyone there was a previous attendee to one of my shows. I generally test how many people are familiar with my stuff by playing Go Back Home first, and seeing how many people join in on the “Doo-Doo-Doo-Dooby-Doo” bits. And this time it was EVERYONE. Ace.
My chirruping, dooby-doo beauties
We played, sang and laughed together, passed the hat round and then for the finale I led them all into the garden like a young bearded Lord Summerisle and we danced and sang Molly with one voice under the dying sun. It felt perfect.
We finished the night with cupcakes, board games and long, lovely chats, and we reluctantly drove away from this beautiful island of culture with joy in our hearts.
Thanks Kieren and Ella!
Next Stop: PRESTON Read Louis’ tour diary HERE Check out some of Kieren's poetry HERE And Rod Tame's poetry HERE And check out the lovely review of our Leeds show on Chimeo HERE
Yesterday was our day off, so in pursuit of a good time we drove out of Norwich and found the biggest fucking traffic jam that has ever occurred in the entirety of human endeavour. Luckily our new friends Abbie and George had filled us full of lovely breakfast, so spirits were high as we trawled through the various hilariously named backwaters of Norfolk, staring at the back of the same bastard lorry for three hours. Did you know that Stobart’s Haulage are offering swift logistics to Bruge? I do.
We used this time to raid each other’s minds for lyrical ideas. Louis instantaneously and brilliantly thought up some awesome words for this chorus of a new one of mine that has already had ninety heartbreakingly lame incarnations. The song’s about wanting to dance like Gene Kelly, and other such doomed youthful aspirations of mine. Louis was instrumental in finding the right balance between sweetness and rock. What a brain.
Several days later, having exhausted our emergency supply of cookies and begun the slow slide towards cannibalism, we pulled back into darling Manchester and went our separate ways, Louis to his tower to continue Lionel Bart-ing the balls off his musical, me to a giant bath and a long night of combing the tangles out of my beard. I’ve grown an enormous one for this acoustic tour. You’re not allowed to play folk otherwise. Them’s the rules.
The next day I drifted about in a dressing gown, dealing with emails, playing piano and attempting to shake off a week of hospitality pizza with calisthenics and fruit. I’d have a rippling six-pack if only people weren’t so bloody nice.
Eventually it was time to head to Leeds and our date with Louise. I picked up my freshly laundered travel companion and headed off.
I have only been to Leeds once before aged seventeen, when a fit of romantic foolishness took me hundreds of miles from my teenage home on the South Coast to a recording studio in the Uni, where I slaved over hot instruments for days in a bid to make someone fall in love with me. This all culminated in an ill-advised trip to a psy-trance rave, which ended two days later with me wide-eyed and covered in glitter on the train home, a washed out wasted little boy weeping chemical tears. It’s what inspired the song Dirty Little Urchin Child. I wonder if this time would be quite so momentous?
Leeds is lovely, but forbidding. It’s the kind of place that looks like it has been there forever, and the rest of the country just sort of grew around it. Things are built to last, and as we pulled through rows of heavy-stone houses I felt like a frivolous theatrical pipsqueak. The wayward son at a symposium of granite-hewn men. Luckily the welcome we received was warm and loving. Louise welcomed us into her lovely house with hugs and astonishing home-made curry. I also noticed something wonderful on the hall table. If the ultimate musical tribute is the lyric tattoo, then second place must surely go to lyrical crochet:
This is actually how I write all my lyrics
The guests all soon arrived, and we got straight down to business. We had a multigenerational crowd this time, with Louise’s parents in attendance. Her Dad was full of stories of seeing bands like the Sex Pistols and Motorhead in various salt of the earth pubs back in the seventies, so we braced ourselves for some high expectations.
Louis nailed it as always, and I strode up to the carpet and kicked off my set. I knew in advance that this gig would be different, as Louise is one of those blessed people who know that a house isn’t a home until it has a piano in it. It was a lovely thing as well, a real “let’s all get around it and sing roll out the barrel” upright. I’d brained up on some of my piano-based songs that rarely get an airing, and I bashed my way through things like Desperation Reeks, I Can’t Do Anything About It and My Little Lusitania, my fingers struggling to remember that this is basically what I do for a living. I was also able to add in the actual piano solos to the guitar songs, instead of having an odd schizophrenic argument with a fictional Joe Davison during those sections, as I have been doing in the other gigs. Luckily the piano survived, and we ended the night with a few rousing choruses of Molly. I eschewed the usual compulsory crowd-waltzing as I was bound to the piano, but the crowd were as obliging and delightful as ever.
An impromptu post-gig hot jazz boogie. Awesome.
Music done, we sat about and chatted warmly for ages before Louis and I headed off into the night with sweet farewells and hugs galore.
Thanks, Louise! Next stop: SALFORD
Felix Hagan & The Family (supporting Frank Turner)