As some of you will know I recently took part in a university tour called ‘Coffee House Sessions’ along with my drummer, Harry. The Coffee House Tour is quite popular for up and coming artists. You basically travel around the UK playing a stripped back set in the coffee shops of various universities. This was my first touring experience and my first uni experience so I thought I’d share my stories for anybody who’s interested in my travels and particularly for youngsters who are thinking about taking part in the Coffee House Tour themselves. Here are a few things to expect…
PREP: Before the tour I met with the director of the Coffee House Tour, Chris. He’s a nice guy. He gave me an itinerary (your touring bible), a big-ass banner with my face on it (trying to put that up for the first time was a laugh) and little coasters also with my face on them (which I was told to put on tables before performances). The banner and coasters have your social media on them so they’re really handy bits of promo. The staff at Coffee House are very friendly and helpful, they’re in-touch with you every morning and are always just a phone call away.
DAY 1: HIGH WYCOMBE / SURREY
Touring = early mornings.
Up at 7am and on the road at 8.30am. That’s abnormal to me. We arrived at Bucks University by 10am and on the radio by 11am which is impressive as I’m usually useless before midday. The gig was fairly quiet but the students here were really friendly.
We didn’t have much time to get to The Royal Holloway, Surrey so we quickly packed up and got back on the road. R.H.Surrey was lush. The uni is very good looking. There was no faffing around with this gig, we were loaded in, set up, sound checked and starting our gig within 10 minutes. Again, the gig was fairly quiet however the students were digging it. There was a good vibe about The Royal Holloway Surrey, apart from the parking attendant that gave us a parking ticket!
All in all, a fairly easy-going start to the tour. A nice warm up.
DAY 2: COLCHESTER
This was an interesting day. I was excited about heading to Colchester – University of ESSEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEX. Matt was our helper for the day – he’s a cool guy. The venue was busy, the students were fun, the gig was good.
Then it was time for our media session – a pre-recorded radio interview. I was excited. This was going to be great. We were shown into the studio where there were cameras and recording equipment but no presenter. We sat around and waited thinking about a great pie and mash stall we passed. Then, somewhat late, in walks in a flustered northern Irish lad who I assumed was our radio presenter. I don’t know his name but let’s call him Pete, he looked like a Pete. I said, “I like your coat.” Pete didn’t answer. Pete sat down at the sound desk and said, “I don’t know how to use any of this equipment.” So far so good. After calling for help, another student tried working the equipment and after a few minutes of, “It’s not working”… “I don’t know how to work this”… “Ermmmmmm”…she clicked a few buttons and said, “That’ll do.”
Usually with radio interviews, the presenter turns on the personality as soon as the mic is on…not in this case. ‘Watching paint dry’ would be an understatement. ‘Talking to a brick wall’ would be an understatement. It would go question – answer – no reaction – awkward silence – next question. I don’t blame Pete, I’m sure he’s a nice guy. He was probably just walking through the campus minding his own business and got bribed into doing this. But at that moment in time my options were continue with this awkward interview or spice it up a little:
Pete: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?”
Me: “5 years older”
Pete: “What would you be if you wasn’t a singer?”
Me: “A really good radio presenter.”
Pete: “What’s the name of your new EP?”
Me: “Go FUNK Yourself.”
Pete: “What are your plans now?”
Me: “Pie and Mash.”
I personally was really pleased with myself. It was one of my most favourite interviews ever. It’s a shame because I don’t think they actually clicked record. We left the studio to more awkward silence.
So we finally went and had pie and mash on top of a double decker bus which was funky. Cool Matt showed us around the campus a little. The uni looks fun and pretty. Apparently the guy who designed the campus deliberately made it all interconnected so that people would get lost and interact. Or he was just really high. We went to the Albert Sloman library as they have a famous lift there…
But just as me and H were about to step on it, it broke down. The librarian came over, bent down, arse in my face, and starts calling down for anyone who may be stuck in an extreme Essex accent, “‘Elloooooo, is there anyone down theeeeeeeere? Don’t paniiiiiiiiiic!” On that note, we headed home.
Day 2, Colchester – one to remember.
DAY 3: BATH
Bath is beautiful. It’s a trek away but it’s beautiful.
This university was great, the sound was great, the staging was great, the media was great and the students were friendly, helpful and buzzing. I thoroughly enjoyed the gig and managed to get a lot of support from Bath.
I was interviewed for SpaTV by James Allen who worked behind the bar but just changed into a really groovy shirt…
The crew were brilliant too, especially my babe Andrew…
So yeah, Bath is a beaut.
DAY 4: NORTHAMPTON / WARWICK
Northampton – who died?
This was hands down the most awkward gig I have ever done in my entire life.
I’ve been gigging for about three years now. I’ve done gigs to packed out clubs and I’ve done gigs to literally and empty room. I once did a gig to a room of 500 scary-looking skinheads at Skamouth. You start to learn how to turn a gig around a make it the best it can be. But there was no saving Northampton. The most reaction I got out of Northampton was from just one girl when I handed out the coasters – she looked at me like I shat in her coffee cup.
The camera guy seemed to silently enjoy the performance though…
Next stop was Warwick – that was better.
Their coffee shop is called, ‘Curiositea’ and it is the cutest coffee shop ever. I actually felt like Alice in Wonderland. Vintage decor galore…
Here’s me dreaming of what it would be like to live in Curiositea…
Again the crew and students were lovely. I was interviewed afterwards by Fareeha Noorani, here’s the article (Fareeha has managed to make me sound interesting)…
Warwick – lovely!
DAY 5: QUEEN MARY / UCL
We started Day 5 by going to the wrong venue. Tip – allow time to get lost.
When we made it to the right venue which was called Drapers Bar we were greeted by a really helpful team of students. The stage was set nicely, the sound was good. The Queen Mary crowd was a very small crowd but a very enjoyable crowd. They were listening, filming, dancing – I really liked this gig.
Here’s a live link to the performance for anyone who has too much time on their hands…
The gig was followed by beers, pizza and a game or two of pool (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere)…
Onto UCL which was a great venue. Technically it wasn’t really a coffee shop, it was a basement bar. I like basement bars. And this one was very #edgy.
The place was PACKED. The penny dropped that it was a Friday night so that got me all excited. The bar kept filling up with trendy youngsters ready to party, surely this gig was gonna go well.
7pm came and me and H jumped up on stage. We kicked off the set and guess what, the sound was shit. Not even shit, practically non-existent. We were pissing in the wind with this one, it was more of a ‘make do’ gig. But the sound team were absolutely lovely. It was a shame as the venue was spot on and the crowd were definitely up for it, they just couldn’t hear us. But oh well, who cares, it’s Friday!
So that’s week one over – a week of long commutes but an interesting journey so far.
Next week is up north – a week of more universities but with the addition of hotels and more pubs.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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