Tour Diary - Day Seven 

Salford – Kieren & Ella’s House
 
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

Tour Diary - Day Six 

Leeds – Louise’s House
 
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

Tour Diary - Day Five 

Norwich - Abbie & George's House
 
Norwich! Home of an empty football stadium, a lot of hills and a pub full of wondrously-haircutted muscle boys, as we discovered on our impromptu tour of the place. There is also a takeaway called “Mr. Burger Mr. Pizza”. Nice to see those two have reconciled their differences and opened a shop together.
 
I’d spent the morning helping my brother shift popcorn machines around Fulham. He, amongst many entrepreneurial ventures, is the impresario behind Shepstone’s Popcorn, the machines in pubs that dispense delicious fresh hot popcorn goodness into the gleeful mouths of London. Go and eat it. It’s fucking ace.

Find this. Eat his delicious wares. 
 
Louis arrived and we shot off for the motorway and Norwich. I had no inclination at all of just how far away that place is. Thousands of miles! The country yawned open before us and we ploughed in.
 
Hours after hour of motorway later we pulled up at Abbie & George’s house.
 
We were met with hugs, gallons of squash and our old friend pizza. Abbie was full of fascinating tales of working at Harry Potter World (I obviously immediately began imagining what Felix Hagan World would look like, how much we would charge for admittance and whether we would ever see off those pesky Disney bastards). Did you know that Alan Rickman’s Snape wig was filled with purple and blue highlights to make it look blacker and greasier on film? And that he would remain in character all day until his costume was taken off?
NOW YOU DO!!!!!!
Did you know that Daniel Radcliffe has size six feet?
WHAAAATTTTT????
I was like an insane excitable child. Facts flew around, and it was all just bloody lovely, really.
 
Music! The whole merry band of us shot into the living room and got down to it. Louis started things off, and I was delighted to hear the shocked gasps and delighted laughter as this human firework went shooting off around the house. Yet more songs from the musical, and my Oliver Twist-raddled brain is squealing with anticipation of this thing taking shape and hitting the stage.

Louis Barabbas Presents: Advanced Cab Hailing

My turn. I was pretty damn nervous about this one. These folks have been fans for AGES, and were encyclopaedic on the lyrics to songs that I can barely remember sometimes. On this tour I have been playing loads of new stuff, including all the songs from our upcoming EP, and I suddenly was filled with huge anxiety that they wouldn’t like them… I’m edging more and more towards pop every time I write a song these days, and the top-hatted, showtuney days of the first album are edging into the distance. But the screaming need to entertain people is just as urgent as ever, so I was petrified the new stuff would be met with disappointment or worse… boredom.
Luckily I needn’t have worried. These people are beautiful and lovely, and they were full of delightful things to say about it all. Thank god.
 
Abbie graduated to top of the class when she requested a song from my old band that I haven’t played in years and years, which was a pleasure to dust off for the occasion. It’s called Cupid, and is a shameless bit of business from a thesaurus-chomping showoff. But the video was fun:


 
After that we sat up and chatted for ages, me spilling the grisly and salacious details behind a load of my lyrics (they asked me to do it, I promise. I’m not a monster), eating choc-ices and making friends. We sealed the deal by sitting down for Disney’s Hercules, putting the icing on an already psychopathically well-iced cake.
Not only did we have beds, but we had our own rooms! It’s like we were the fucking Beatles.
 
It was magic.
 
Thanks George and Abbie!


 
Next stop: LEEDS.
 
Read Louis’ musings on the tour HERE

Tour Diary - Day Four 

Twickenham – Max and Clair's House
 
Yesterday was the first of our two days off on this two-week jaunt around the country. And we kicked things off like fucking Mötley Crüe by doing laundry and eating leftover meringue. Katie kindly and perhaps unwisely left us to our own devices in her lovely house, and I whiled away the hours bashing my head against a new song that just won’t reveal itself (needs a meaty final line in the chorus, and all my brain had to offer was chaff) and chatting to my publishers about various upcoming collaborations. We generally shoveled coal into the engine of professional musicianship under the beautiful Surrey sunshine.

Move over, Nikki Sixx. The big boys have arrived.
 
Eventually it was time to leave, and we loaded up the tour wagon for the trip into the capital. We drove in far enough to get a tube, and Louis hopped out to go and have a solo London adventure while I parked up at my brother’s house in Fulham before racing to the south bank to meet my old mate Freddy Syborn. On the way I decided to amuse myself by taking surreptitious photos to add to my “People who look like members of The Family” collection, which I include here for your enjoyment.

Here we see a portly Tom Webber

And a crumpled Chris Hunsley

And a couple of Ellie and Tash Hair-alikes. 
Feel free to send in your own submissions.
 
Eventually I got to the South Bank and met Freddy. Fred is one of my oldest friends and is the ascendant sitcom writer who was responsible for my ten seconds of lute-smashing glory in ITV’s Cockroaches earlier this year. He is also the man behind my various collaborations with Jack Whitehall over the years. He is a beautiful man. We caught up over hot dogs then rushed to the BFI for a screening of Some Like It Hot, which I had never seen before. The BFI is a wonderful place. Every single person there looked like the Modern Parents in Viz, all polo necks and well-stroked goatees under their horn-rimmed spectacles. In their honour, we eschewed the gallon of pepsi and kilo of nachos in favour of Virgin Marys and Truffle Popcorn and sat down for the movie.
 
I am now in nine different shades of love with Marilyn Monroe, and shall inevitably write some gushing songs about her that I hope no-one ever hears.
 
Back to bro’s, sleep on sofa, end.
 
The next day I peeled myself from the couch and sat around in a general malaise for a long time, drinking extravagant coffee and perving at grand pianos on the internet. Eventually I couldn’t take the boredom and met up with Louis, fresh from a wholesome day of gallery-trawling, on the New Kings Road. We wandered around for a couple of hours, nibbling passing sandwiches and sipping macchiatos like seasoned louche timewasters. All this excitement culminated in me falling asleep on a bench outside the Saatchi gallery, while Louis sat watch over me like a mother lion. 

Glam Tramps 
 
Nap done, we rejuvenated ourselves with ice cream and set off for our date with Max and Clair at their house in Twickenham.

There it is. Magnum. 
 
Max is an old school-friend of Louis’, and he had kindly agreed to host a stop on this tour after our previous London date had fallen through. We were welcomed into his house in a flurry of pizza and Max and his fiancée Clair made us feel right at home. The rest of the guests arrived and we piled into the sitting room to crack into it.
 
This was an unusual gig for us. All the other hosts on the trip have been long-time followers of either Louis or myself, and therefore are pretty well versed in the sort of thing we do, pelting us with requests, singing along to their favourite bits and generally being awesome. These lovely folks on the other hand were complete strangers to our work, and had invited us in out of kindness, curiosity and a general sense of fun. So the pressure was on to create a good impression. But the sort of people who would invite a couple of strange musicians into their home are not the kind of people to shrink from a good time, and they sang, clapped and laughed along with us as we played. At their request, we even dusted off My Little Lusitania as a duet (our first since our Mamma Mia Singstar battle in Brighton), a song which we have never properly performed together, let alone rehearsed. It was wonderful fun, and we set off back to London with gleeful grins, our hearts bobbing contentedly in a sea of human kindness.
 
Thanks Max & Clair!


 
Next stop: NORWICH

Read Louis' account of proceedings HERE

Tour Diary - Day Three 

Surrey – Katie’s House
 
As day three of our quest dawned with a yawn, we peeled ourselves from our beds – Me enthroned like Nero in a lovely big bed, Louis bent like a drainpipe around the floor (I sense this Karmic imbalance will not go unaddressed) – we toasted, coffeed, hugged and waved our way out of the door, and bid farewell to lovely Nardia and Elly as we headed for the motorway and Katie’s House.
 
Katie is a long-time friend and confidante of the band, having hosted our first ever house gig on Mark and Karen’s beautiful Surrey farm last year. She is also in charge of the magnificent Front Room on the Farm festival that we shall be headlining in September (check out the flyer below and get in touch asap if you want to come. Tickets are nearly all gone!). But this time our venue was to be her sitting room.

This will be amazing. 
 

We got there very early, and as the work of a freelance composer never stops (but frequently rarely starts) I had to colonise the performance space to deal with a soundtrack I’ve been working on. I like the fact that there will something on TV with music written and recorded on a floor in between gigs.

I hear John Williams has a similar setup.

 
That dealt with, we tucked into sandwiches, homemade quiche, couscous and tea with Katie and her family, revelling in the warm hospitality of veteran house concert hosts. Our stage was set, demarcated and lit beautifully, and as 7.30 rolled around the hordes of guests began arriving. It was great to see so many familiar faces. This is my third gig under the Front Room Songs banner, and it was delightful to forgo the initial curious barrier that can exist between musicians and audience members and just have a lovely chat with old friends. This would be the first time many of them had seen me perform in the nude, so to speak, without the comforting blanket of six makeup-caked, groovy rock nymphs smashing away around me, and I began to get unusually nervous. Nerves are rarely a problem once you’ve faced down hundreds of crowds for years (or shown them your penis in ONE MEMORABLE CASE), but I became very aware that I was going out in front of some real connoisseurs armed solely with my voice and some songs, bringing a penknife to a bazooka fight. The pressure to nail it was palpable.
 
Louis was up first once again, and the crowd gave him the warmest of welcomes, which he earned in spades. They loved him! I knew they would.

Man caught stealing guitar
 
My turn. This was the biggest audience we’ve had so far, and I stepped out in front of a sea of expectant faces and with a deep breath, cracked into it.
 
What a crowd. It is often said that a gig is a team effort, the crowd and players working together to make something fun. And these Surrey beauties picked me up and hugged me with their loveliness. I felt emboldened and polished by them, and the gig felt bright and easy. My nerves evaporated, and I felt like I was riding this lovely wave of goodwill. This all doubtless sounds like nonsense, but when you’re sitting in the cockpit of a performance, these clouds of intangible feeling are as vivid as the sun.

"Oh! Are you taking a picture of me? I hadn't noticed."
 
We all sang, clapped and danced together, and saw off the night with a rousing, stamping group singalong to my song Molly. The tip hat had done the rounds a couple of times, and we could barely lift the bloody thing. You lovely generous kind people.  After that the guests all politely and quickly left the building, with various extravagant and lovely messages of thanks and praise.
 
Katie magicked up peanut butter and banana sandwiches from somewhere, and followed it up with huge meringues with fruit and coconut cream. It’s so hard to be a starving artist these days.
 
We chatted into the night, then I slunk away and curled up on a pile of sofa cushions, one of Katie’s Massive Cats purring away beside me.
 
This is the life. 


Next stop: TWICKENHAM

Read Louis' account of the tour HERE

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