The Teamsters – Tour Diaries

teamsters ilford
© The Teamsters

The Teamsters, the group in which I play had not been on the road for at least a year and a half. We’d been trying to find a full time drummer to replace original drummer, co founder and songwriter Bret Bolton, a name with which you may or may not be familiar with. His unfortunate departure was the result of an even more unfortunate turn of  events when we were supposed to board a plane to Dublin. We went anyway, drummerless and faced the music.

On our return we found ourselves in a sticky wicket. There we were with an obligation to tour Germany for the second time that year and we had no one to play with. In the meantime we settled for deps, Mike Larisch (CurleeWurlee) who accompanied us on tour, Glenn Fryatt, Connor Colford and of course Bruce Brand who was happy to step in as long as there was nothing too mind numbingly exhausting (like going on the road for 4 weeks). Even still, he was an enormous help to us, both onstage and in the studio.

In the nick of time we managed to drag somebody in, Brandon. Who learnt the set over a few practices then was off on a short 3 day tour with us in Spain two weeks later.

We got back had a few days rest and then set off again for Germany. The preparation for this tour was somewhat scantily planned with the exception of our German agent but we were quite disorganised in providing him with worthy press material. No surprise there. as we hadn’t toured properly in such a long time we thought we would push the boat out and book 4 weeks in total, spanning 4 countries  through Western Europe. (France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland).

I was very nervous about it,Especially because of the travelling arrangements, equipment and driving situation, not to mention the amount of money We needed to pay for the initial ferry.

And such like. To add insult to injury we were also in the throws of looking for a tour driver who could drive us around for the second leg in france. Fortunately Lee Sullivan was available to take some of the load. Lee had previously driven us around Germany and managed Thee Vicars where he did his fair share of tour driving all over the world. Didn’t make much of a difference though when I got a call at 6am Monday morning saying he was at my house to pick us up. The tour was supposed to start a day later.

The first stop was the 3rd of May in Kortrijk at The Pits. A well known club for punk and garage bands alike. We caught the ferry early that Tuesday morning and made our way across the Chanel in a P&O cruiser that hadn’t been decorated since the 80s. Oh, the glamour.

It only took us about an hour to get there, and once we arrived had plenty of time to spare. Nothing much to report that night, but it was a good start. We left Belgium around mid afternoon the next day and drove to Cologne where we were to play at The Sonic Ballroom and meet Hansi, our tour manager for Germany. Cologne was great, we’d played there before and it was cool to meet up with friends again, some of whom I hadn’t seen for ages.

The next day we travelled to Hamburg. Hansi went with us too and would accompany us on the rest of the german leg. The show itself was pretty crummy, we were playing the same day as a maritime festival. So compared to the other times we played the city, the gig was pretty quiet, but we still had fun.

The biggest surprise was to see our mate Blake from Burnley. He’d travelled all the way to Hamburg to come and see us, for some reason. I’ve never seen the guy sober, he’s a real laugh. He claims to be a psychiatrist or something, but seeing is believing. We retired to the hotel where a troupe of school kids were drinking in the bar, and Hansi educated us about the reckless antics of The Milkshakes.

Friday 6th May, and it was a long drive to Berlin where we were set to play in the east side at BLO Ateliers. Great show this was, a few familiar faces in the crowd and a good response. However, its not great news when you have to sleep on a 3 inch thick blood-stained mattress for your bed. I woke up at 8 after just 3 hours sleep, and tried to coerce Lee into getting up and driving to Hansi’s to meet the others so we could get to the next gig on time, Regensburg.

Regensburg is a further distance than Munich, so it was a pain in the arse drive. It was a festival called Tiki Beat. The money was good, the food was good and the beer was good and it was a great party. At about 5am we left with a posse and a crate of beers we’d relieved from the venue to walk the streets of Regensburg. Next thing we know a Bavarian girl is standing with her bicycle yodeling german folk songs from the three penny opera at the top of her voice, everyone stood still till she finished, then clapped, and on we went. While we were on the street corner, we were spotted by the bartender. ‘You dirty little liars!’ he called us. We proclaimed our innocence and he went on his way, but was still dubious whether we had taken advantage of the amount of beers that we were initially allotted.

We met a band at the show called The Royal Flares, who stayed in the same apartment as us and then played with them the day after in Munich, then travelled back to Berlin for a few days break. We wanted to recuperate but spent every night intoxicated just like we had done before. We overstayed our welcome a little bit, and the final nail in the coffin is when someone left beers in the freezer so they exploded everywhere. So we fucked off to Stuttgart for a night.

It would be arranged that after the next show in Switzerland, Lee would go home because he had to go back to work. So I would drive the van with the other 2. I took it for a test drive in the pouring rain outside town, but I felt very nervous about it. Even driving the van was pretty scary and I could see that Lee was shitting himself.

Then the windscreen wipers stopped working, which could end up being fatal if it was to rain a lot. We pulled into a Mcdonalds, called the ADAC and they told us that it would cost us 200€ to diagnose the problem, without the guarantee of fixing it. I could see Lee was in a dilemma, so I came up with a solution.

We would book a ferry back to Dover from Calais for Sunday, drive back to London, then Dan, Brandon and I would drive back out to France again in my Volkswagen hatchback. We needed to tell our French agent that we couldn’t bring a drumkit but that was the only way we could continue. Everyone agreed that was the most rational decision and we got back on the road to Switzerland. Thankfully it didn’t rain at all the whole time.

The next thing to think about was border control. We didn’t really want to have to deal with the hassle of declaring all our stuff, or the risk of getting fined because we were doing a job. Somehow we managed to get through without being stopped or checked. Lee said to me ‘remember that route on the way back Tom’ so I did. Good at navigation me, sometimes.

Except for a few difficulties with my amplifier, the show was great. We wanted to stay and hang out, but Lee was adamant to get in the van and get straight to Calais where we had to board the ferry. So we packed everything with great haste and got on our way. Managing to pass through the border again unchecked just before they could get authorities to close the gate. It was really close.

We all got some sleep apart from Lee who had to drive 17 hours back to London. I woke up at about half 6 in the morning, turned my phone on and saw that I had received a message from Bensen, the soundman at Horst Klub. He had told me that I had left a rucksack at the venue, that contained my passport, Dan’s passport, my driving license and my bank card. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!’ I put my head in my palm, and started panicking. Here we were 4 hours away from Calais, and Dan and I had no passports to get into England with. I started looking around in disbelief, trying to find my rucksack, thinking there was some sort of mistake, but no, we really were fucked.

Lee started coming up with ideas to get them back, like flying to Zurich and then flying back to England, or getting a train and back. All of which sounded like the last thing I wanted to do. When we arrived at Calais, we explained our situation to border officers who were very helpful. We managed to get a pass through without having to cancel our passports which would have been disastrous. Lee was buzzing, and jumped on me and gave me a big hug. We were on our way back.

As soon as I got home, I arranged with Bensen for a UPS van to take the passports and deliver them back to us in England. It never arrived at Bensen’s house and I started freaking out again, how the hell would we be able to go on this tour without passports?! It really was a disaster. The UPS delivery was a lost cause, but instead Bensen sent them DHL the day after and we finally got them back in time for our show in Paris.

That evening, Dan and Brandon stayed at mine and off we were again the next morning on our way to La Mecanique for the first show of the French leg. The ferry out was scheduled at half 11 and we were in a rush, so I raced down the motorway to get there in time. We got to Dover ferry port at twenty past with only ten minutes to spare, shitting ourselves that we would get there too late. But as per usual for The Teamsters there was another unforeseen problem. When we got to the booth and gave our booking reference we realised we had booked the ferries the wrong way round.

‘Ah right, you’ve booked the ferry from Calais to Dover’

‘ooooh fuck’

‘must be some sort of confusion mate’

We bluffed it and he let us changed it round at the ticket office so we got the ferry anyway.

I was worried about driving in France, especially Paris. I’d never driven there before but had been warned that its fucking mental. Everywhere you went, there was no rules or lanes that people had to get into, it’s all just about who has the biggest balls. We also had the shittiest Satnav ever, which told us directions at the last minute. So we were lost, and really low on petrol.

Finally we got to the venue, La Mecanique Ondulatoire. We filled up and loaded in for the show. When we started it was tough going, the audience couldn’t give a shit really, but it got easier when a fresh crowd came in. After, we came off stage and invited a few of the crowd up to the dressing room where they helped themselves to our fridge of beers. The club manager caught note that they were smoking in there and told them to stop. It didn’t really make a difference because one of the girls lit up in front of him and the other one called him a ‘cunt’, in French. Not a good start really. Anyway, he left, and came up 10 minutes later and chucked everyone out, even us. Not that I blame him for it.

On the 21st we drove down to Clermont to play at the Bombshell. Which was a bit of a drag because what kind of venue puts their bar right in front of the stage? An ex strip joint does. It was a crummy place, but it was a common occurrence on this tour. The thing we found in France was that, once the show was over, the venues usually turned into discotheques for the local clientele. Playing contemporary chart hits.

The next few days included shows in St Ettienne, Perpignan, Marseille and Nimes where we met our mates from Les GrysGrys. But it was a show in Grenoble where Dan had a seizure. It all stemmed from the night before in Clermont where we had drunk plenty of tequila. We all felt pretty rough in the morning, but Dan in particular felt terrible. We got to Grenoble, played the show, then packed up kit in the pouring rain and followed the promoter to the hotel where we were staying. It took us about an hour flying up and down the motorway to find a roadside hotel that had vacancies. I think we tried 5 different hotels before we found one. The promoter had obviously forgotten to book rooms for us in advance and all this faffing about was testing our patience. I also had to keep de-misting the windscreen by switching on the hot air, which just made it worse. When we got there, Dan was shaking, and rushed up the stairs straight to the room. I came in and found that the luggage was on the ground floor and thought that something must be wrong but I couldn’t find him.

I shouted his name, and could hear a whimper and found him passed out on the floor in the corridor upstairs. Dan has recent history of fits and seizures but I had never been there when it happened. He was alright in the end, he got to bed and recovered over the next 48 hours but it was pretty spooky.

It wasn’t over for Dan though, because after a show in Biarritz he was grabbed by the bouncer round the neck for allegedly pushing someone which was completely unfounded. Dan read him the riot act ‘if you knew how to do your job properly….’ And so on but these were the kind of things that kept on happening to us.

On the 29th May, we played our last show of the tour in Perigeux and drove on a 10 hour trip back to London. I spent the first hours of my birthday on a P&O ferry and to round it all off, when we arrived back in Brixton, we were greeted with emergency services trying to hose a fire down in the next door neighbour’s garden.

It was an eventful trip, probably something we will never do again for that long but we got it out of our system and it was a great test and earned us a few more jobs in Germany and France too.

Now we’re going to take a short break, record more and hopefully release something this year.

– Tom H. Wing